Papaya
Overview
The papaya papaw, or pawpaw is the fruit
Fruit
In broad terms, a fruit is a structure of a plant that contains its seeds.The term has different meanings dependent on context. In non-technical usage, such as food preparation, fruit normally means the fleshy seed-associated structures of certain plants that are sweet and edible in the raw state,...

 of the plant
Plant
Plants are living organisms belonging to the kingdom Plantae. Precise definitions of the kingdom vary, but as the term is used here, plants include familiar organisms such as trees, flowers, herbs, bushes, grasses, vines, ferns, mosses, and green algae. The group is also called green plants or...

 Carica papaya, the sole species in the genus
Genus
In biology, a genus is a low-level taxonomic rank used in the biological classification of living and fossil organisms, which is an example of definition by genus and differentia...

 Carica
Carica
Carica is a genus of Jerry Trainor in the family Caricaceae including one species, Carica papaya, the papaya Carica is a genus of Jerry Trainor in the family Caricaceae including one species, Carica papaya, the papaya Carica is a genus of Jerry Trainor in the family Caricaceae including one...

of the plant family Caricaceae
Caricaceae
Caricaceae are a family of flowering plants in the order Brassicales, native to tropical regions of Central and South America and Africa. They are short-lived evergreen pachycaul shrubs or small trees growing to 5-10 m tall...

. It is native to the tropics of the Americas
Americas
The Americas, or America , are lands in the Western hemisphere, also known as the New World. In English, the plural form the Americas is often used to refer to the landmasses of North America and South America with their associated islands and regions, while the singular form America is primarily...

, and was first cultivated in Mexico
Mexico
The United Mexican States , commonly known as Mexico , is a federal constitutional republic in North America. It is bordered on the north by the United States; on the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; on the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and on the east by the Gulf of...

 several centuries before the emergence of the Mesoamerican classic cultures
Mesoamerica
Mesoamerica is a region and culture area in the Americas, extending approximately from central Mexico to Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica, within which a number of pre-Columbian societies flourished before the Spanish colonization of the Americas in the 15th and...

.

The papaya is a large tree
Tree
A tree is a perennial woody plant. It is most often defined as a woody plant that has many secondary branches supported clear of the ground on a single main stem or trunk with clear apical dominance. A minimum height specification at maturity is cited by some authors, varying from 3 m to...

-like plant
Plant
Plants are living organisms belonging to the kingdom Plantae. Precise definitions of the kingdom vary, but as the term is used here, plants include familiar organisms such as trees, flowers, herbs, bushes, grasses, vines, ferns, mosses, and green algae. The group is also called green plants or...

, with a single stem
Plant stem
A stem is one of two main structural axes of a vascular plant. The stem is normally divided into nodes and internodes, the nodes hold buds which grow into one or more leaves, inflorescence , conifer cones, roots, other stems etc. The internodes distance one node from another...

 growing from 5 to 10 m (16.4 to 32.8 ft) tall, with spirally arranged leaves
Leaf
A leaf is an organ of a vascular plant, as defined in botanical terms, and in particular in plant morphology. Foliage is a mass noun that refers to leaves as a feature of plants....

 confined to the top of the trunk
Trunk (botany)
In botany, trunk refers to the main wooden axis of a tree that supports the branches and is supported by and directly attached to the roots. The trunk is covered by the bark, which is an important diagnostic feature in tree identification, and which often differs markedly from the bottom of the...

.
Encyclopedia
The papaya papaw, or pawpaw is the fruit
Fruit
In broad terms, a fruit is a structure of a plant that contains its seeds.The term has different meanings dependent on context. In non-technical usage, such as food preparation, fruit normally means the fleshy seed-associated structures of certain plants that are sweet and edible in the raw state,...

 of the plant
Plant
Plants are living organisms belonging to the kingdom Plantae. Precise definitions of the kingdom vary, but as the term is used here, plants include familiar organisms such as trees, flowers, herbs, bushes, grasses, vines, ferns, mosses, and green algae. The group is also called green plants or...

 Carica papaya, the sole species in the genus
Genus
In biology, a genus is a low-level taxonomic rank used in the biological classification of living and fossil organisms, which is an example of definition by genus and differentia...

 Carica
Carica
Carica is a genus of Jerry Trainor in the family Caricaceae including one species, Carica papaya, the papaya Carica is a genus of Jerry Trainor in the family Caricaceae including one species, Carica papaya, the papaya Carica is a genus of Jerry Trainor in the family Caricaceae including one...

of the plant family Caricaceae
Caricaceae
Caricaceae are a family of flowering plants in the order Brassicales, native to tropical regions of Central and South America and Africa. They are short-lived evergreen pachycaul shrubs or small trees growing to 5-10 m tall...

. It is native to the tropics of the Americas
Americas
The Americas, or America , are lands in the Western hemisphere, also known as the New World. In English, the plural form the Americas is often used to refer to the landmasses of North America and South America with their associated islands and regions, while the singular form America is primarily...

, and was first cultivated in Mexico
Mexico
The United Mexican States , commonly known as Mexico , is a federal constitutional republic in North America. It is bordered on the north by the United States; on the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; on the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and on the east by the Gulf of...

 several centuries before the emergence of the Mesoamerican classic cultures
Mesoamerica
Mesoamerica is a region and culture area in the Americas, extending approximately from central Mexico to Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica, within which a number of pre-Columbian societies flourished before the Spanish colonization of the Americas in the 15th and...

.

The papaya is a large tree
Tree
A tree is a perennial woody plant. It is most often defined as a woody plant that has many secondary branches supported clear of the ground on a single main stem or trunk with clear apical dominance. A minimum height specification at maturity is cited by some authors, varying from 3 m to...

-like plant
Plant
Plants are living organisms belonging to the kingdom Plantae. Precise definitions of the kingdom vary, but as the term is used here, plants include familiar organisms such as trees, flowers, herbs, bushes, grasses, vines, ferns, mosses, and green algae. The group is also called green plants or...

, with a single stem
Plant stem
A stem is one of two main structural axes of a vascular plant. The stem is normally divided into nodes and internodes, the nodes hold buds which grow into one or more leaves, inflorescence , conifer cones, roots, other stems etc. The internodes distance one node from another...

 growing from 5 to 10 m (16.4 to 32.8 ft) tall, with spirally arranged leaves
Leaf
A leaf is an organ of a vascular plant, as defined in botanical terms, and in particular in plant morphology. Foliage is a mass noun that refers to leaves as a feature of plants....

 confined to the top of the trunk
Trunk (botany)
In botany, trunk refers to the main wooden axis of a tree that supports the branches and is supported by and directly attached to the roots. The trunk is covered by the bark, which is an important diagnostic feature in tree identification, and which often differs markedly from the bottom of the...

. The lower trunk is conspicuously scar
Scar
Scars are areas of fibrous tissue that replace normal skin after injury. A scar results from the biological process of wound repair in the skin and other tissues of the body. Thus, scarring is a natural part of the healing process. With the exception of very minor lesions, every wound results in...

red where leaves and fruit were borne. The leaves are large, 50–70 cm (19.7–27.6 in) diameter
Diameter
In geometry, a diameter of a circle is any straight line segment that passes through the center of the circle and whose endpoints are on the circle. The diameters are the longest chords of the circle...

, deeply palmately lobed with 7 lobes. The tree is usually unbranched, unless lopped. The flower
Flower
A flower, sometimes known as a bloom or blossom, is the reproductive structure found in flowering plants . The biological function of a flower is to effect reproduction, usually by providing a mechanism for the union of sperm with eggs...

s are similar in shape to the flowers of the Plumeria
Plumeria
Plumeria is a genus of flowering plants of the family that includes Dogbane: the Apocynaceae. It contains 7-8 species of mainly deciduous shrubs and small trees...

, but are much smaller and wax
Wax
thumb|right|[[Cetyl palmitate]], a typical wax ester.Wax refers to a class of chemical compounds that are plastic near ambient temperatures. Characteristically, they melt above 45 °C to give a low viscosity liquid. Waxes are insoluble in water but soluble in organic, nonpolar solvents...

-like. They appear on the axils of the leaves, maturing into the large 15–45 cm (5.9–17.7 in) long, 10–30 cm (3.9–11.8 in) diameter fruit. The fruit is ripe
Ripening
Ripening is a process in fruits that causes them to become more palatable. In general, a fruit becomes sweeter, less green, and softer as it ripens. Even though the acidity of fruit increases as it ripens, the higher acidity level does not make the fruit seem tarter, which can lead to the...

 when it feels soft (like a ripe avocado
Avocado
The avocado is a tree native to Central Mexico, classified in the flowering plant family Lauraceae along with cinnamon, camphor and bay laurel...

 or a bit softer) and its skin has attained an amber to orange hue.

Carica papaya was the first fruit tree
Fruit tree
A fruit tree is a tree which bears fruit that is consumed or used by people — all trees that are flowering plants produce fruit, which are the ripened ovaries of flowers containing one or more seeds. In horticultural usage, the term 'fruit tree' is limited to those that provide fruit for...

 to have its genome
Genome
In modern molecular biology and genetics, the genome is the entirety of an organism's hereditary information. It is encoded either in DNA or, for many types of virus, in RNA. The genome includes both the genes and the non-coding sequences of the DNA/RNA....

 deciphered.

Common names

Carica papaya plants, and their fruits, are generally known as papayas. However, the papaya is also commonly called pawpaw or papaw, although in North America
North America
North America is a continent wholly within the Northern Hemisphere and almost wholly within the Western Hemisphere. It is also considered a northern subcontinent of the Americas...

 the term pawpaw usually refers to plants in the unrelated North American genus Asimina, especially A. triloba
Asimina triloba
Asimina triloba, the pawpaw, paw paw, paw-paw, or common pawpaw, is a species of Asimina in the same plant family as the custard-apple, cherimoya, sweetsop, ylang-ylang and soursop...

,
which produces large, edible fruits. The papaya is also sometimes called mugua, a name used in traditional Chinese medicine
Traditional Chinese medicine
Traditional Chinese Medicine refers to a broad range of medicine practices sharing common theoretical concepts which have been developed in China and are based on a tradition of more than 2,000 years, including various forms of herbal medicine, acupuncture, massage , exercise , and dietary therapy...

 for Chaenomeles speciosa
Chaenomeles speciosa
Chaenomeles speciosa is a thorny deciduous or semi-evergreen shrub native to eastern Asia. It is taller than another commonly cultivated species, C. japonica, usually growing to about 2 m...

(flowering quince) or Pseudocydonia sinensis (Chinese quince). In the Dominican Republic
Dominican Republic
The Dominican Republic is a nation on the island of La Hispaniola, part of the Greater Antilles archipelago in the Caribbean region. The western third of the island is occupied by the nation of Haiti, making Hispaniola one of two Caribbean islands that are shared by two countries...

, the papaya is usually called "lechoza", a name associated with the plant's milky sap.

Cultivation

Originally from southern Mexico (particularly Chiapas
Chiapas
Chiapas officially Estado Libre y Soberano de Chiapas is one of the 31 states that, with the Federal District, comprise the 32 Federal Entities of Mexico. It is divided in 118 municipalities and its capital city is Tuxtla Gutierrez. Other important cites in Chiapas include San Cristóbal de las...

 and Veracruz
Veracruz
Veracruz, formally Veracruz de Ignacio de la Llave officially Estado Libre y Soberano de Veracruz de Ignacio de la Llave , is one of the 31 states that, along with the Federal District, comprise the 32 federative entities of Mexico. It is divided in 212 municipalities and its capital city is...

), Central America
Central America
Central America is the central geographic region of the Americas. It is the southernmost, isthmian portion of the North American continent, which connects with South America on the southeast. When considered part of the unified continental model, it is considered a subcontinent...

, and northern South America
South America
South America is a continent situated in the Western Hemisphere, mostly in the Southern Hemisphere, with a relatively small portion in the Northern Hemisphere. The continent is also considered a subcontinent of the Americas. It is bordered on the west by the Pacific Ocean and on the north and east...

, the papaya is now cultivated in most tropical countries. In cultivation, it grows rapidly, fruiting within 3 years. It is, however, highly frost sensitive, limiting papaya production to tropical lands
Tropics
The tropics is a region of the Earth surrounding the Equator. It is limited in latitude by the Tropic of Cancer in the northern hemisphere at approximately  N and the Tropic of Capricorn in the southern hemisphere at  S; these latitudes correspond to the axial tilt of the Earth...

.

Pests and diseases

Papayas are susceptible to the papaya ringspot virus
Papaya ringspot virus
Papaya ringspot virus is a plant pathogenic virus in the genus Potyvirus and the virus family Potyviridae.The virus is a non-enveloped, flexous rod-shaped particle that is between 760-800 nm long and 12 nm in diameter. It is transmitted between plants by mechanical activities like...

, which causes premature molting and malformation of the leaves. In the 1990s, the papaya ringspot virus
Papaya ringspot virus
Papaya ringspot virus is a plant pathogenic virus in the genus Potyvirus and the virus family Potyviridae.The virus is a non-enveloped, flexous rod-shaped particle that is between 760-800 nm long and 12 nm in diameter. It is transmitted between plants by mechanical activities like...

 threatened to wipe out Hawaii
Hawaii
Hawaii is the newest of the 50 U.S. states , and is the only U.S. state made up entirely of islands. It is the northernmost island group in Polynesia, occupying most of an archipelago in the central Pacific Ocean, southwest of the continental United States, southeast of Japan, and northeast of...

's papaya industry completely. Genetically altered plants that have some of the virus's DNA incorporated into the DNA of the plant are resistant to the virus. Cultivars that had been genetically modified
Genetically modified food
Genetically modified foods are foods derived from genetically modified organisms . Genetically modified organisms have had specific changes introduced into their DNA by genetic engineering techniques...

 to be resistant to the virus (including 'SunUp' and 'Rainbow'), were then introduced there. Phillipine researchers have recently developed conventionally bred, non-genetically engineered papaya that are proving resistant to the papaya ringspot virus
Papaya ringspot virus
Papaya ringspot virus is a plant pathogenic virus in the genus Potyvirus and the virus family Potyviridae.The virus is a non-enveloped, flexous rod-shaped particle that is between 760-800 nm long and 12 nm in diameter. It is transmitted between plants by mechanical activities like...

. In 2004, it was found that papayas throughout Hawaii had experienced hybridization with the genetically modified varieties and that many seed stocks were contaminated. By 2010, 80% of Hawaiian papaya plants were genetically modified.

The papaya is also susceptible to the fruit fly
Drosophilidae
Drosophilidae is a diverse, cosmopolitan family of flies, which includes fruit flies. Another family of flies called Tephritidae also includes fruit flies. The best known species of Drosophilidae is Drosophila melanogaster, within the genus Drosophila, and this species Is used extensively for...

, a small wasp-like insect that lays its eggs in young fruit.

Cultivars

Two kinds of papayas are commonly grown. One has sweet, red (or orangish) flesh, and the other has yellow flesh; in Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

 these are called "red papaya" and "yellow papaw", respectively. Either kind, picked green, is called a "green papaya."

The large-fruited, red-fleshed 'Maradol', 'Sunrise', and 'Caribbean Red' papayas often sold in U.S.
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 markets are commonly grown in Mexico
Mexico
The United Mexican States , commonly known as Mexico , is a federal constitutional republic in North America. It is bordered on the north by the United States; on the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; on the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and on the east by the Gulf of...

 and Belize
Belize
Belize is a constitutional monarchy and the northernmost country in Central America. Belize has a diverse society, comprising many cultures and languages. Even though Kriol and Spanish are spoken among the population, Belize is the only country in Central America where English is the official...

.

'SunUp' and 'Rainbow' are genetically modified cultivars developed in Hawaii that are resistant to the papaya ringspot virus.

Uses

Papayas can be used as a food, a cooking aid, and in traditional medicine
Traditional medicine
Traditional medicine comprises unscientific knowledge systems that developed over generations within various societies before the era of modern medicine...

. The stem and bark may be used in rope
Rope
A rope is a length of fibres, twisted or braided together to improve strength for pulling and connecting. It has tensile strength but is too flexible to provide compressive strength...

 production.

Nutrients, phytochemicals and culinary practices

Papaya fruit is a rich source of nutrients such as provitamin A carotenoid
Carotenoid
Carotenoids are tetraterpenoid organic pigments that are naturally occurring in the chloroplasts and chromoplasts of plants and some other photosynthetic organisms like algae, some bacteria, and some types of fungus. Carotenoids can be synthesized fats and other basic organic metabolic building...

s, vitamin C, B vitamins, dietary minerals and dietary fiber
Dietary fiber
Dietary fiber, dietary fibre, or sometimes roughage is the indigestible portion of plant foods having two main components:* soluble fiber that is readily fermented in the colon into gases and physiologically active byproducts, and* insoluble fiber that is metabolically inert, absorbing water as it...

. Papaya skin, pulp and seeds also contain a variety of phytochemical
Phytochemical
Phytochemicals are biologically active chemical compounds that occur naturally in plants . Phytochemicals are the molecules responsible for the color and organoleptic properties . For example, the deep purple color of blueberries and the smell of garlic...

s, including polyphenol
Polyphenol
Polyphenols are a structural class of natural, synthetic, and semisynthetic organic chemicals characterized by the presence of large multiples of phenol structural units...

s.
The ripe fruit of the papaya is usually eaten raw, with or without skin or seeds
SEEDS
SEEDS is a voluntary organisation registered under the Societies Act of India....

.

The unripe green fruit can be eaten cook
Cooking
Cooking is the process of preparing food by use of heat. Cooking techniques and ingredients vary widely across the world, reflecting unique environmental, economic, and cultural traditions. Cooks themselves also vary widely in skill and training...

ed, usually in curries
Curry
Curry is a generic description used throughout Western culture to describe a variety of dishes from Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Sri Lankan, Thai or other Southeast Asian cuisines...

, salad
Salad
Salad is any of a wide variety of dishes, including vegetable salads; salads of pasta, legumes, eggs, or grains; mixed salads incorporating meat, poultry, or seafood; and fruit salads. They may include a mixture of cold and hot, often including raw vegetables or fruits.Green salads include leaf...

s, and stew
Stew
A stew is a combination of solid food ingredients that have been cooked in liquid and served in the resultant gravy. Ingredients in a stew can include any combination of vegetables , meat, especially tougher meats suitable for slow-cooking, such as beef. Poultry, sausages, and seafood are also used...

s. Green papaya is used in Southeast Asia
Southeast Asia
Southeast Asia, South-East Asia, South East Asia or Southeastern Asia is a subregion of Asia, consisting of the countries that are geographically south of China, east of India, west of New Guinea and north of Australia. The region lies on the intersection of geological plates, with heavy seismic...

n cooking, both raw and cooked. In Thailand
Thailand
Thailand , officially the Kingdom of Thailand , formerly known as Siam , is a country located at the centre of the Indochina peninsula and Southeast Asia. It is bordered to the north by Burma and Laos, to the east by Laos and Cambodia, to the south by the Gulf of Thailand and Malaysia, and to the...

, papaya is used to make som tam
Som tam
Som tam or som tum also known as tam bak hung is a spicy salad, the standard form of which is made from shredded unripened papaya. Som tam is similar to the Laotian dish tam mak hung and the Cambodian dish bok l'hong...

 when still not fully ripe. Papayas have a relatively high amount of pectin
Pectin
Pectin is a structural heteropolysaccharide contained in the primary cell walls of terrestrial plants. It was first isolated and described in 1825 by Henri Braconnot...

, which can be used to make jellies
Fruit preserves
Fruit preserves are preparations of fruits and sugar, often canned or sealed for long-term storage. The preparation of fruit preserves today often involves adding commercial or natural pectin as a gelling agent, although sugar or honey may be used, as well. Prior to World War II, fruit preserve...

. The smell of ripe, fresh papaya flesh can strike some people as unpleasant.

The black seeds of the papaya are edible and have a sharp, spicy taste. They are sometimes ground and used as a substitute for black pepper
Black pepper
Black pepper is a flowering vine in the family Piperaceae, cultivated for its fruit, which is usually dried and used as a spice and seasoning. The fruit, known as a peppercorn when dried, is approximately in diameter, dark red when fully mature, and, like all drupes, contains a single seed...

.

In some parts of Asia
Asia
Asia is the world's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the eastern and northern hemispheres. It covers 8.7% of the Earth's total surface area and with approximately 3.879 billion people, it hosts 60% of the world's current human population...

, the young leaves of papaya are steamed
Steaming
Steaming is a method of cooking using steam. Steaming is considered a healthy cooking technique and capable of cooking almost all kinds of food.-Method:...

 and eaten like spinach
Spinach
Spinach is an edible flowering plant in the family of Amaranthaceae. It is native to central and southwestern Asia. It is an annual plant , which grows to a height of up to 30 cm. Spinach may survive over winter in temperate regions...

. In some parts of the world, papaya leaves are made into tea as a preventative for malaria
Malaria
Malaria is a mosquito-borne infectious disease of humans and other animals caused by eukaryotic protists of the genus Plasmodium. The disease results from the multiplication of Plasmodium parasites within red blood cells, causing symptoms that typically include fever and headache, in severe cases...

, although there is no scientific evidence for the effectiveness of this treatment.

Meat tenderizing

Green papaya fruit and the tree's latex
Latex
Latex is the stable dispersion of polymer microparticles in an aqueous medium. Latexes may be natural or synthetic.Latex as found in nature is a milky fluid found in 10% of all flowering plants . It is a complex emulsion consisting of proteins, alkaloids, starches, sugars, oils, tannins, resins,...

 are both rich in an enzyme called papain
Papain
Papain, also known as papaya proteinase I, is a cysteine protease enzyme present in papaya and mountain papaya .-Papain family:...

, a protease
Protease
A protease is any enzyme that conducts proteolysis, that is, begins protein catabolism by hydrolysis of the peptide bonds that link amino acids together in the polypeptide chain forming the protein....

 which is useful in tenderizing meat
Meat
Meat is animal flesh that is used as food. Most often, this means the skeletal muscle and associated fat and other tissues, but it may also describe other edible tissues such as organs and offal...

 and other proteins. Its ability to break down tough meat fiber
Fiber
Fiber is a class of materials that are continuous filaments or are in discrete elongated pieces, similar to lengths of thread.They are very important in the biology of both plants and animals, for holding tissues together....

s was used for thousands of years by indigenous
Indigenous peoples of the Americas
The indigenous peoples of the Americas are the pre-Columbian inhabitants of North and South America, their descendants and other ethnic groups who are identified with those peoples. Indigenous peoples are known in Canada as Aboriginal peoples, and in the United States as Native Americans...

 Americans. It is now included as a component in powdered meat tenderizers.

Folk medicine

Papaya is marketed in tablet form to remedy digestive
Digestion
Digestion is the mechanical and chemical breakdown of food into smaller components that are more easily absorbed into a blood stream, for instance. Digestion is a form of catabolism: a breakdown of large food molecules to smaller ones....

 problems.

Papain is also applied topically (in countries where it grows) for the treatment of cuts, rashes, stings and burns. Papain ointment is commonly made from fermented papaya flesh, and is applied as a gel-like paste. Harrison Ford
Harrison Ford
Harrison Ford is an American film actor and producer. He is famous for his performances as Han Solo in the original Star Wars trilogy and as the title character of the Indiana Jones film series. Ford is also known for his roles as Rick Deckard in Blade Runner, John Book in Witness and Jack Ryan in...

 was treated for a ruptured disc
Spinal disc herniation
A spinal disc herniation , informally and misleadingly called a "slipped disc", is a medical condition affecting the spine due to trauma, lifting injuries, or idiopathic, in which a tear in the outer, fibrous ring of an intervertebral disc allows the soft, central portion A spinal disc herniation...

 incurred during filming of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom is a 1984 American adventure film directed by Steven Spielberg. It is the second film in the Indiana Jones franchise and prequel to Raiders of the Lost Ark . After arriving in India, Indiana Jones is asked by a desperate village to find a mystical stone...

by papain injections.

Women in India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and other countries have long used green papaya as a folk remedy for contraception
Contraception
Contraception is the prevention of the fusion of gametes during or after sexual activity. The term contraception is a contraction of contra, which means against, and the word conception, meaning fertilization...

 and abortion
Abortion
Abortion is defined as the termination of pregnancy by the removal or expulsion from the uterus of a fetus or embryo prior to viability. An abortion can occur spontaneously, in which case it is usually called a miscarriage, or it can be purposely induced...

. Enslaved women in the West Indies were noted for consuming papaya to prevent pregnancies and thus preventing their children from being born into slavery.

Preliminary medical research in animals has confirmed the potential contraceptive and abortifacient capability of papaya, and also found that papaya seeds have contraceptive effects in adult male langur monkeys, and possibly in adult male humans. Unripe papaya is especially effective in large amounts or high doses. Ripe papaya is not teratogenic and will not cause miscarriage
Miscarriage
Miscarriage or spontaneous abortion is the spontaneous end of a pregnancy at a stage where the embryo or fetus is incapable of surviving independently, generally defined in humans at prior to 20 weeks of gestation...

 in small amounts. Phytochemicals in papaya may suppress the effects of progesterone
Progesterone
Progesterone also known as P4 is a C-21 steroid hormone involved in the female menstrual cycle, pregnancy and embryogenesis of humans and other species...

.

Allergies and side effects

Papaya is frequently used as a hair conditioner, but should be used in small amounts. Papaya releases a latex fluid when not quite ripe, which can cause irritation and provoke allergic reaction in some people. The papaya fruit, seeds, latex, and leaves also contains carpaine
Carpaine
Carpaine is one of the major alkaloid components of papaya leaves which has been studied for its cardiovascular effects. Circulatory effects of carpaine were studied in Wistar male rats weighing 314 +/- 13 g, under pentobarbital anesthesia...

, an anthelmintic
Anthelmintic
Anthelmintics or antihelminthics are drugs that expel parasitic worms from the body, by either stunning or killing them. They may also be called vermifuges or vermicides .-Pharmaceutical classes:...

 alkaloid
Alkaloid
Alkaloids are a group of naturally occurring chemical compounds that contain mostly basic nitrogen atoms. This group also includes some related compounds with neutral and even weakly acidic properties. Also some synthetic compounds of similar structure are attributed to alkaloids...

 (a drug that removes parasitic worms from the body), which can be dangerous in high doses.

It is speculated that the latex concentration of unripe papayas may cause uterine contractions, which may lead to a miscarriage. Papaya seed extracts in large doses have a contraceptive effect on rats and monkeys, but in small doses have no effect on the unborn animals.

Excessive consumption of papaya can cause carotenemia, the yellowing of soles and palms, which is otherwise harmless. However, a very large dose would need to be consumed; papaya contains about 6% of the level of beta carotene found in carrots (the most common cause of carotenemia).

Medicinal potential

  • The juice has an in vitro
    In vitro
    In vitro refers to studies in experimental biology that are conducted using components of an organism that have been isolated from their usual biological context in order to permit a more detailed or more convenient analysis than can be done with whole organisms. Colloquially, these experiments...

    antiproliferative effect on liver cancer cells, probably due to its component of lycopene
    Lycopene
    Lycopene is a bright red carotene and carotenoid pigment and phytochemical found in tomatoes and other red fruits and vegetables, such as red carrots, watermelons and papayas...

     or immune system stimulation.
  • Papaya seed could be used as an antibacterial agent for Escherichia coli
    Escherichia coli
    Escherichia coli is a Gram-negative, rod-shaped bacterium that is commonly found in the lower intestine of warm-blooded organisms . Most E. coli strains are harmless, but some serotypes can cause serious food poisoning in humans, and are occasionally responsible for product recalls...

    , Staphylococcus aureus
    Staphylococcus aureus
    Staphylococcus aureus is a facultative anaerobic Gram-positive coccal bacterium. It is frequently found as part of the normal skin flora on the skin and nasal passages. It is estimated that 20% of the human population are long-term carriers of S. aureus. S. aureus is the most common species of...

    or Salmonella typhi, although further research is needed before advocating large-scale therapy.
  • Papaya seed extract may be nephroprotective (protect the kidneys) in toxicity-induced kidney failure.

Cultural significance

The paw paw appears in the lyrics of the song "The Bare Necessities
The Bare Necessities
"The Bare Necessities" is a song, written by Terry Gilkyson, from the animated 1967 Disney film The Jungle Book sung by Phil Harris as Baloo and Bruce Reitherman as Mowgli. Originally, it was written for an earlier draft of the movie that was never produced. The Sherman Brothers, who wrote the...

" from Disney's
The Walt Disney Company
The Walt Disney Company is the largest media conglomerate in the world in terms of revenue. Founded on October 16, 1923, by Walt and Roy Disney as the Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio, Walt Disney Productions established itself as a leader in the American animation industry before diversifying into...

 animated film, The Jungle Book
The Jungle Book (1967 film)
The Jungle Book is a 1967 American animated film produced by Walt Disney Animation Studios. Released on October 18, 1967, it is the 19th animated feature in the Walt Disney Animated Classics series. It was inspired by the stories about the feral child Mowgli from the book of the same name by...

(1967). Baloo
Baloo
Baloo is the fictional bear featured in Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book from 1894 and The Second Jungle Book from 1895.-Name and species:He is described in Kipling's work as "the sleepy brown bear"...

, the bear, sings the song and contrasts the smooth fruit of the "big paw paw" with the spiny, prickly pear. Given the jungle setting, this refers to the Carica papaya, rather than the paw paw native to North America, Asimina triloba
Asimina triloba
Asimina triloba, the pawpaw, paw paw, paw-paw, or common pawpaw, is a species of Asimina in the same plant family as the custard-apple, cherimoya, sweetsop, ylang-ylang and soursop...

.

See also

  • Asimina triloba
    Asimina triloba
    Asimina triloba, the pawpaw, paw paw, paw-paw, or common pawpaw, is a species of Asimina in the same plant family as the custard-apple, cherimoya, sweetsop, ylang-ylang and soursop...

    , pawpaw (of North America)
  • Chaenomeles speciosa
    Chaenomeles speciosa
    Chaenomeles speciosa is a thorny deciduous or semi-evergreen shrub native to eastern Asia. It is taller than another commonly cultivated species, C. japonica, usually growing to about 2 m...

    , flowering quince, which, like Carica papaya, is sometimes called mugua
  • Pseudocydonia
    Pseudocydonia
    Pseudocydonia sinensis , the only species in the genus Pseudocydonia, is a deciduous or semi-evergreen tree in the family Rosaceae, native to eastern Asia in China. It is closely related to the east Asian genus Chaenomeles, and is sometimes placed in Chaenomeles as C...

    , Chinese quince, also sometimes called mugua

External links

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