Papaya as a Medicinal Plant

  • Timothy J. O’HareEmail author
  • David J. Williams
Part of the Plant Genetics and Genomics: Crops and Models book series (PGG, volume 10)


Papaya has been used medicinally to treat an extremely broad range of ailments including intestinal worms, dengue fever, diabetes, hypertension, wound repair, and as an abortion agent. Although papaya is most commonly consumed as a ripe fruit, the plant tissues used as curatives are mainly derived from the seeds, young leaves, latex, or green immature fruit. The agents responsible for action have not been conclusively identified for all uses, but there is increasing evidence that activity may be attributable to benzyl isothiocyanate (BITC) in the case of anthelmintic and abortifacient action, and to the protease papain, and possibly chymopapain, in relation to wound repair. The location of these compounds in papaya tissues is likely to explain why different tissues are used for different ailments. Seeds, young leaves, and latex are good sources of BITC and are consequently used as a curative for intestinal worms. Immature green fruit is a good source of protease and is used as a topical application for burn wounds to accelerate tissue repair. The type of papaya tissue used may therefore provide a clue as to the active agent in ailments where papaya extracts have exhibited some activity (diabetes, hypertension, dengue fever). However, the compound(s) responsible for action remains to be identified. Modes of action of papaya extracts vary, but may include lowering blood glucose levels (diabetes), vascular muscle relaxation (hypertension), increasing blood cell count (dengue fever), stimulation of cell proliferation (wound healing), spasmodic contraction of uterine muscles (abortion), and induction of phase 2 enzymes (cancer chemoprevention). Although there has been increased study over the last decade into the physiological mode of action of papaya extracts, further increase in the knowledge of the compounds responsible for curative action will help to transfer the use of papaya from folklore remedies to mainstream medicinal use.


Dengue Fever Unripe Fruit Cyanogenic Glycoside Anthelmintic Activity Intestinal Worm 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.QAAFI, Centre for Nutrition and Food SciencesUniversity of QueenslandGattonAustralia
  2. 2.Agri-Science Queensland, Department of AgricultureFisheries and ForestryBrisbaneAustralia

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