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Papaya

What is it?

Papaya is a plant. The leaves are used to make medicine.

Papaya is used for preventing and treating gastrointestinal tract disorders, intestinal parasite infections, and as a sedative and diuretic. It is also used for nerve pains (neuralgia) and elephantoid growths. Elephantoid growths are large swollen areas of the body that are symptoms of a rare disorder of the lymphatic system caused by parasitic worms.

Papaya contains a chemical called papain, which is commonly used as a meat tenderizer.

How effective is it?

Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate.

The effectiveness ratings for PAPAYA are as follows:

Insufficient evidence to rate effectiveness for...

  • Cancer. Research suggests that consuming papaya is linked to a reduced risk of developing gallbladder and colorectal cancers.
  • Diabetes. Early research suggests that consuming fermented papaya daily for 2 months can reduce blood sugar levels in people with diabetes.
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection. Research suggests that consuming papaya is linked to a reduced risk of HPV infection.
  • Stomach and intestine problems.
  • Parasite infections.
  • Other conditions.
More evidence is needed to rate the effectiveness of papaya for these uses.

How does it work?

Papaya contains a chemical called papain. Papain breaks down proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. That’s why it works as a meat tenderizer. However, papain is changed by digestive juices, so there is some question about whether it could be effective as a medicine when taken by mouth.

Papaya also contains a chemical called carpain. Carpain seems to be able to kill certain parasites, and it might affect the central nervous system.

Are there safety concerns?

Papaya is LIKELY SAFE for most people when taken by mouth in amounts commonly found in foods.

Papaya is POSSIBLY SAFE when taken by mouth as medicine.

Papaya is POSSIBLY UNSAFE when taken by mouth in large amounts or when applied to the skin as papaya latex. Taking large amounts of papaya by mouth could damage the esophagus, which is the food tube in the throat. Applying papaya latex to the skin can cause severe irritation and allergic reactions in some people.

Special precautions & warnings:

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Papaya is POSSIBLY UNSAFE when taken by mouth during pregnancy. Do not take papaya by mouth in medicinal amounts if you are pregnant. There is some evidence that unprocessed papain, one of the chemicals found in papaya, might poison the fetus or cause birth defects. Not enough is known about the safety of papaya during breast-feeding. It is best to avoid taking it in amounts higher than normal food amounts.

Diabetes: Papaya that has been fermented can lower blood sugar. People with diabetes who are taking medications to lower their blood sugar should pay close attention to their blood sugar as adjustments to medications might be needed.

Low blood sugar: Papaya that has been fermented can lower blood sugar. Taking this form of papaya might make blood sugar too low in people who already have low blood sugar.

Papain allergy: Papaya contains papain. If you are allergic to papain, avoid eating papaya or taking products that contain papaya.

Latex allergy: If you are allergic to latex, there is a good chance you are also be allergic to papaya. If you have a latex allergy, avoid eating papaya or taking products that contain papaya.

Surgery: Papaya that has been fermented can lower blood sugar. In theory, this form of papaya might affect blood sugary during and after surgery. If you are taking papaya, you should stop 2 weeks before surgery.

Are there interactions with medications?

Moderate
Be cautious with this combination.
Medications for diabetes (Antidiabetes drugs)
Papaya that has been fermented might decrease blood sugar in people with type 2 diabetes. Diabetes medications are also used to lower blood sugar. Taking fermented papaya along with diabetes medications might cause your blood sugar to go too low. Monitor your blood sugar closely. The dose of your diabetes medication might need to be changed.

Some medications used for diabetes include glimepiride (Amaryl), glyburide (DiaBeta, Glynase PresTab, Micronase), insulin, pioglitazone (Actos), rosiglitazone (Avandia), chlorpropamide (Diabinese), glipizide (Glucotrol), tolbutamide (Orinase), and others.
Warfarin (Coumadin)
Warfarin (Coumadin) is used to slow blood clotting. Papaya might increase the effects of warfarin (Coumadin) and increase the chances of bruising and bleeding. Be sure to have your blood checked regularly. The dose of your warfarin (Coumadin) might need to be changed.

Are there interactions with herbs and supplements?

Herbs and supplements that might lower blood sugar
Papaya that has been fermented might lower blood sugar. Using fermented papaya along with other herbs and supplements that have the same effect might cause blood sugar to drop too low in some people. Some of these products include devil's claw, fenugreek, guar gum, Panax ginseng, Siberian ginseng, and others.
Papain
Papaya contains papain. Using papain (in meat tenderizer, for example) along with papaya might increase your chance of experiencing unwanted side effects of papain.

Are there interactions with foods?

There are no known interactions with foods.

What dose is used?

The appropriate dose of papaya for use as treatment depends on several factors such as the user’s age, health, and several other conditions. At this time there is not enough scientific information to determine an appropriate range of doses for papaya. Keep in mind that natural products are not always necessarily safe and dosages can be important. Be sure to follow relevant directions on product labels and consult your pharmacist or physician or other healthcare professional before using.

Other names

Banane de Prairie, Caricae Papayae Folium, Carica papaya, Carica peltata, Carica posoposa, Chirbhita, Erandachirbhita, Erand Karkati, Green Papaya, Mamaerie, Melonenbaumblaetter, Melon Tree, Papaw, Papaya Fruit, Papayas, Papaye, Papaye Verte, Papayer, Papita, Paw Paw, Pawpaw.

Methodology

To learn more about how this article was written, please see the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database methodology.

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Last reviewed - 02/16/2015