Health benefits of papaya fruit
Description of papaya
The papaya has been regarded as one of the most valuable of tropical fruits. It is large, fleshy, hollow berry upto 50-60cm. in diameter and usually weighs from ½ kg to 2kg. It is cylindrical or pear-shaped.
The central cavity is surrounded by hundreds of small seeds, though sometimes seedless varieties of the fruit are also found.
The fruit has a thin smooth skin. It is dark green in colour at first, but as the papaya ripens, it changes to bright yellowish or orange.
Inside, the thick juicy flesh has a soft melting quality, and may be yellow or pink. It has a delicate aroma and delicious flavour.
Origin and Distribution of papaya
Papaya appears to have originated in southern Mexico and Costa Rica. It was taken by the Spaniards to Manila in the mid-16th century and gradually spread to all tropical and subtropical countries.
It is now widely cultivated in India, China, Sri Lanka, Malaya, Mexico, Brazil, Peru, Venezuela, Central and South Africa, Philippines, Australia and on most of the Pacific islands.
Papaya is regarded as a wholesome fruit. The daily requirements of some of the essential nutrients like proteins, mineral and vitamins can be met from this fruit.
The vitamin C contents in papaya increases as the maturity progresses. Its carbohydrate content is mainly of invert sugar which is a form of predigested food.
Curative properties and health benefits of papaya fruit
The papaya has remarkable medicinal virtues which were fully recognized even in ancient times. It is not only one of the most easily digested fruits, but it also aids the digestion of other foods.
Ripe papaya is excellent tonic for growing children, for pregnant women and nursing mothers. It is an energy giving food.
Modern scientific investigations into the properties of the papaya have confirmed many of the ancient beliefs in its virtues.
The most important of these virtues in the discovery of a protein-digesting enzyme in the milky juice or latex, which is carried in a network of vessels throughout the plant.
The enzyme is similar to pepsin in its digestive action and is reputed to be so powerful that it can digest 200 times its own weight in protein.
Its effect is to assist the body’s own enzymes in assimilating the maximum nutritional value from food to provide energy and body-building materials.
Papain in the raw papaya is highly beneficial in the deficiency of gastric juice, excess of unhealthy mucus in the stomach, in dyspepsia and intestinal irritation.
The ripe fruit, if eaten regularly, corrects habitual constipation, bleeding piles and chronic diarrhoea. The juice of the papaya seeds is also useful in dyspepsia and bleeding piles.
The digestive enzyme papain in the milky juice of the unripe papaya is powerful anthelmintic for (i.e.which has the power to destroy) roundworms.
A tablespoonful of the fresh juice and equal quantity of honey should be mixed with three to four tablespoonful of hot water and taken as a dose by an adult.
This dose should be followed two hours later by a dose of 30 to 60 ml. of castor oil mixed in 250-375 ml. of luke warm milk. This treatment should be repeated for two days, if necessary.
For children of 7 to 10 years, half the above doses should be given. For children under three years, a teaspoonful is sufficient.
Papaya seeds are also useful for this purpose, they are rich in a substance called caricin which is a very effective medicine for expelling roundworms.
The alkaloid carpaine found in the leaves has also the power to destroy or expel intestinal worms. They are given with honey.
The juice of the raw papaya, being and irritant, is useful in several skin disorders.
It is applied with beneficial results to swellings to prevent pus formation or suppuration and to corns, warts, pimples, horn, an excrescence or an abnormal outgrowth of the skin and other skin diseases.
The juice as a cosmetic, removes freckles or brown spots due to exposure to sunlight and makes the skin smooth and delicate. A paste of the papaya seeds is applied in skin diseases like ringworm.
The unripe papaya helps the contraction of the muscle fibres of the womb and is thus beneficial in securing proper menstrual flow.
It is especially helpful in case of cessation of menstruation due to exposure to the cold or due to fright in young unmarried girls.
Cirrhosis of the liver
Black seeds of papaya are highly beneficial in the treatment of cirrhosis of the liver caused by alcoholism, malnutrition etc.
A tablespoonful of juice obtained by grinding the seeds, mixed with ten drops of fresh juice, should be given once or twice daily for about a month as a medicine for this disease.
Fresh juice of raw papaya mixed with honey can be applied with beneficial results over inflamed tonsils for diphtheria and other throat disorders. It dissolves the membrane and prevents infection from spreading.
Ripe papaya is highly valuable in enlargement of the spleen. The fruit should be skinned, cut into pieces and immersed in vinegar for a week.
About 20grams of the fruit thus preserved should be consumed twice with meals in the treatment of this disease.
Slices of peeled raw fruit with cumin seeds and pepper can also be used once daily to cure enlargement of the spleen due to malaria.
Common uses of papaya
Papaya is used in a variety of ways. The ripe fresh fruits are eaten throughout the tropics for breakfast and dessert, and in fruit salads.
They are used for making soft drinks, jams and ice-cream flavouring. They are also canned in syrup. Unripe fruits are generally taken as a vegetable.
Papain, prepared from the dried latex of immature fruits is used in meat-tenderizing preparation, manufacture of chewing-gum, in cosmetics and as a drug for digestive ailments.