Carica papaya • Mamaõ


In Brazil, the common name of Carica papaya is mamaeiro, and the edible fruit is called mamaõ. The fruit, flowers, latex, bruised seeds and roots are all traditionally known for their medicinal applications (1,2). Juice from the fruit is shown to have antioxidant potential similar to vitamin E (3). A compound with anthelmintic properties was found in the seeds (4); however, extracts of papaya seeds are also capable of causing functional modification of some tissues/organs (5). With respect to its application on wounds, the fruit with its seeds showed antibacterial activity against common wound organisms (6).

The latex from the bark, leaves and unripe fruit is a source of the enzyme papain (2). This protein-cutting enzyme protects papaya trees from herbivorous insects (7). It also has anthelmintic effects against gastrointestinal nematodes (8). However, the latex can produce uterine contractions, which means that unripe or semi-ripe papaya could be unsafe in pregnancy (9). Because the enzyme papain is present in the latex of the leaves, they can be used to wrap meat so as to tenderise it (9). The leaves also contain an alkaloid called carpaine, which in small doses slows down the heart and reduces blood pressure (1).

(1) Mors, WB, Rizzini, CT and Pereira, NA (2000) Medicinal Plants of Brazil. Reference Publications Inc: 501 p.

(2) Estrella, E (1995) Plantas Medicinales Amazonicas: Realidad y Perspectivas. TCA: 302 p.

(3) Mehdipour S, Yasa N, Dehghan G, Khorasani R, Mohammadirad A, Rahimi R, Abdollahi M (2006) Antioxidant potentials of Iranian Carica papaya juice in vitro and in vivo are comparable to alpha-tocopherol. Phytother Res 20(7): 591-4

(4) Kermanshai R, McCarry BE, Rosenfeld J, Summers PS, Weretilnyk EA, Sorger GJ (2001) Benzyl isothiocyanate is the chief or sole anthelmintic in papaya seed extracts. Phytochemistry 57(3): 427-35

(5) Adebiyi A, Adaikan PG (2005) Modulation of jejunal contractions by extract of Carica papaya L. seeds. Phytother Res. 19(7): 628-32

(6) Dawkins G, Hewitt H, Wint Y, Obiefuna PC, Wint B (2003) Antibacterial effects of Carica papaya fruit on common wound organisms. West Indian Med J 52(4): 290-2

(7) Konno K, Hirayama C, Nakamura M, Tateishi K, Tamura Y, Hattori M, Kohno K (2004) Papain protects papaya trees from herbivorous insects: role of cysteine proteases in latex. Plant J 37(3): 370-8

(8) Stepek G, Buttle DJ, Duce IR, Lowe A, Behnke JM (2005) Assessment of the anthelmintic effect of natural plant cysteine proteinases against the gastrointestinal nematode, Heligmosomoides polygyrus, in vitro. Parasitology 130(Pt 2): 203-11

(9) Adebiyi A, Adaikan PG, Prasad RN (2002) Papaya (Carica papaya) consumption is unsafe in pregnancy: fact or fable? Scientific evaluation of a common belief in some parts of Asia using a rat model. Br J Nutr 88(2): 199-203

(10) Maesen, van der, J (2003) pers. comm.