What is it used for?
Papaya is an extraordinarily useful plant. Physicians of nineteenth century America used papaya leaf in the form of infusions or teas taken in small doses to treat “fermentative indigestion”. The latex (sap) in the leaf stem contains a remarkable protein-dissolving enzyme called papain, which is very helpful for indigestion or heartburn, as well as effectively breaking down wheat gluten and carbohydrates for extra digestive protection. As a natural digestive aid, Papaya leaf is therefore an excellent treatment for digestive disorders and extremely useful for any disturbances of the gastrointestinal tract. It is also used to stimulate digestive acids and the production of bile, resulting in a healthier liver and pancreas. The papain in Papaya is thought to relieve acute prostate inflammation and may be very helpful in cases of benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH) and for treating the herpes simplex virus and herpes zoster (shingles). Papaya leaf is also used in herbal medicine as a vermifuge to treat worms and other parasites.
The papain in the leaf sap is included as well in commercial preparations, such as meat tenderizers, chewing gum and as a stabilizing agent for clarifying beer. Papaya leaves have been used too as a substitute for soap, and for dressing wounds. In the tropics around the world, Papaya is the most loved breakfast fruit, served either green or ripe and the juice is a popular beverage. Papaya leaf contains beta-carotene, calcium, carpaine, fats, flavonols, niacin, papain, tannins, and vitamin C in high concentrations, which is why the leaves and young stems are often steamed and served as a healthy and tasty vegetable dish.
Papaya or Carica papaya, also known as Papaw, Mamao, Pawpaw, Tree Melon, Gandul, Fan Kua, and many other local names, is native to the tropics of the Americas, and was first cultivated in Mexico several centuries before the emergence of the Mesoamerican classic cultures. It now grows abundantly in other tropical climates throughout the world, including the wetter, warmer parts of Zimbabwe, such as the Honde Valley area. In cultivation, it grows rapidly up to a height of 10 metres, fruiting within 3 years, but is highly frost sensitive. It is an herbaceous tree with a stem of spongy, soft wood marked by scars where leaves have fallen directly from it, and hollow in the centre. Papayas do not have branches. The pendulous and delicious melon-like fruit has a golden-yellow waxy skin. The flesh of the fruit is bright orange-yellow, juicy and silky smooth, with a sweet and sour flavour. The shiny grey or black seeds in the interior of the fruit have a peppery taste quite similar to that of capers and are edible. It is an interesting plant, in that the male and female parts exist in different trees.