Papaya (Papaw) the fruit of the angels

by Dr. D. P. Atukorale
Papaya, sometimes called papaw (not to be confused with the North American papaw or custard apple) is known as the melon of health. In Costa Rica and Mexico the natives refer to papaya tree as "the tree of good health".

It is an exotic fruit which is commonly available in village markets (pola) green-groceries and super markets in Sri Lanka. It looks like a pear-shaped melon and has a pink flesh when ripe with the melting texture of avocado and delicate aroma of freesias. The papaya is native to Central American and now it is cultivated in the tropics world wide. But the majority of the world’s produce is now grown in Hawaii and South Africa.

According to Christopher Colombus the original Carib name for this fruit "ababi" means the fruit of the angels. Some history books tell that one of the foods Columbus found satisfying is the papaya fruit. Some stories say that when the natives greeted Columbus party, they were served so much food that some experienced digestive pain and it is said that the natives took them into the forest and fed them papaya to cure their indigestion.

In Sri Lanka some of the papaya available especially in our "poles" and super markets have a watery flavour and needs to be enlivened by sprinkling of lime juice. In most of the restaurants and hotels in Sri Lanka, papaw is often served with a piece of lime. Some people in the West sprinkle a little rum to improve the flavour. In Mexico they serve papaya with lemon or lime juice and in Florida, they serve papaya with cottage cheese. You can make papaya aspic by cutting it up, blending it in your blender, adding lemon or lime juice and putting in your refrigerator to gel. It is delicious this way.

The aerogelatinous mess of black seed should be discarded (They have a peppery taste and are sometimes dried and used as a mild spice) Papaw are sometimes used as an ingredient in fruit salads all over the world including Sri Lanka.

Papaw leaves and the milky latex exuded by the unripe fruit are used to make south meat more palatable. Until the practice was banned certain Western slaughter houses would inject papain (which is an enzyme having the ability to breakdown muscle structure of flesh) into live animals to make the tough meat softer and more palatable.

Clinical uses of Papaya

Papaya helps to breakdown proteins, fats and carbohydrates. Papaya is primarily used to treat chronic diarrhoea, coeliac disease, gastro-intestinal discomfort and intestinal parasites. Papaya is used as a sedative and diuretic. It fights allergies, infections, inflammations, treats soft tissue injuries, strains, sprains, haematomas, contusions, abrasions and pulled muscles. In short some of the beneficial effects this fruit provides are

1. It stimulates the stomach to increase secretions,

2. It releases histamines from body tissues.

3. It depresses the central nervous system.

4. It kills some intestinal parasites.

As a digestive

By nature the human beings are frugivores/vegetarians (as I have mentioned in one of my earlier articles) although most of us have fumed carnivorous. But unlike the other carnivores we have weak hydrocloric acid (HCI) secretions in our stomach not acidic enough to digest animal proteins. Furthermore human gut cannot secrete uricase, the enzyme that breaks down animal proteins (all carnivores have uricase unlike vegetarians). This is where papaw comes in. Being rich in enzymes it can digest food in acid, alkaline and netural environment. Thus papaya takes care of our HCI deficiency breaking down animal protein in a better way. Thus the body can use the totally digested protein particles. The changes of toxin build up are also minimised. Papaya is also frequently used to treat mild constipation in most of the Asian countries including Sri Lanka.

As an antiseptic

Papaw is said to be having antiseptic properties too, preventing over growth of harmful germs in the intestine. Together with good bugs (lactobacillus) papaw help in normalizing the pH(acidity) of the gut, keeping these harmful bugs at bay.

As a cleansing agent

Papaw is known for its detoxifying/cleansing ability as well. It is referred to as surgical scalpel, selectively but gently scraping mucus, pus, dead tissue, injured tissue, hardened tissue and other debris from the body and yet sparing the normal living tissue. Also with the finding that proteolytic enzymes like papain enhances the immune function, building the immune system through papaya intake makes sense. So everyone with weak stomach or poor digestive function and constipation can greatly benefit from regular intake of papaya.

Nourishing the endocrine system

Papaya helps to nourish the endocrine system. It helps the body to produce more arginine which is a semi-essential amino-acid that activates the human growth hormornes. These hormones are important for cell rejuvenation and rebuilding the cells of the liver, muscles and the bones. Arginine also exerts an anti-atherogenic effect as it improves small vessel endothelial function.

Other miscellaneous uses

The women in the tropics are known to use unripe papaya juice on their skin. When scientifically researched. It also had a peeling effect on freckles and sunspots and also receiving the itchy exzema. It has been found that it has an effect of staving off wrinkles in women. Papain is one of the ingredients of some skin ointments prescribed for the treatment of severe wounds and skin ulcers. Papaya has also been used in leprosy.

For the heart

According to Dr. Kesheva Bhatt, Professor of Medical Botany at the University of Caracas, he cured remarkably, cases of heart disease simply by prescribing a weeks fast on papaya fruit and water. The author is said to have cured scores of cases of angina by this amazingly simple prescription.

In Cancer

In a study made by Herbert Fraut, Professor of Medicine at the University of California, papain solution was used to diagnose cancer. It was found that by administering this enzyme solution, those who had cancer became sick and nauseated due to the ingestive action of the enzyme on the tumour.

In pregnancy and bleeding disorders

Avoid papaya preparations during pregnancy, lactation and bleeding disorders. Although there is no scientific proof, it is advisable to avoid papaya by those who have miscarriages.

Nutritional value of papaya

One fresh papaya (304g) has 118K. calories, 0.43gm of fat, 0 .12g of saturated fat, 29.82g of carbohydrates, 1.85g of protein, 2.34g of fibre, 85.12 RE of vitamin A, 187.87mg of vitamin C, 0.08mg of thiamine (B1), 0.10mg of riboflavin, 1.63mg of nicotinic acid, 0.66mg of pantothenic acid, 0.06 mg of vitamin B 6, 115.52mg of folic acid, trace of vitamin D, a trace of vitamin K, 73mg of calcium, 0.30mg of iron and 0.21mg of zinc. Thus one average raw papaya contains 3 times the daily recommended dose of vitamin c, two thirds of vitamin A requirement and over a third of the potassium requirement.
(Courtesy Peter Cox)