Carica papaya

scientific name: 
Carica papaya L.
Botanical family: 

Botanical description

Small tree, short-lived, soft-wooded, single-stem with milky sap, rarely with branches; Leaves alternate, palmate, seven-lobed, bunched at the top with petioles, 20-60 cm long; male flowers born on long pendant racemes or panicles ca.10 cm long; female flowers 1-3 in short cyme with greenish-yellow corolla, petals in spiral; fruit globose or subglobose ca 30 cm in diameter, yellow to orange, with milky sap numerous black seeds with a pulpy coat.




green fruit, crushed or baked, applied locally1


root, macerated, orally2

The ripe fruit of Carica papaya is widely used for human consumption; when unripe, it is eaten without peel, cooked in various dishes.

For boils:

Wash the injury with boiled water and soap.  Wash the green fruit, grate it, and apply 5-10 grams of vegetal material on the affected area twice a day.  Cover the injury with a dressing or clean cloth.

For urethritis:

There is no available information concerning preparation and dosage other than that referred to by the traditional use.

According to published and other information:

The use for boils and urethritis is classified as REC, based on the significant traditional use documented in the TRAMIL surveys, toxicity studies, scientific validation and available published scientific information.

For topical application, strict measures of hygiene should be observed in order to avoid contamination or additional infection.

Due to the health risks involved with urethritis, an initial medical evaluation is recommended.  The use of this resource can be considered complementary to medical treatment, unless it is contraindicated.

Do not use root maceration during pregnancy, lactation or in children under 12 years of age.  Do not use for more than 7 consecutive days in any kind of patient.

TRAMIL Research35

The aqueous root extract obtained by maceration, administrated orally to mouse (2000 mg/kg) daily during 14 days, did not show evident signs of toxicity.

TRAMIL Research36

The application of grated fresh green fruit applied on the back (2 g/5 cm2) of 3 New Zealand rabbits for 5 consecutive days did not cause evident irritation of the skin.

The ethanolic extract from the green fruit by intraperitoneal administration to mouse showed an LD50 = 325.2 mg/kg37.

The aqueous extract from the seed caused irreversible sterility in male albino rats, by decrease of sperm motility and motion interference in deferent vessels38.

The latex is irritant and its ingestion may lead to gastritis10.

The LD50 of chymopapain by intravenous administration in mice was 79 mg/kg; in rats, 120 mg/kg, in rabbits, 15 mg/kg, and in dogs, 16.7 mg/kg39.

Papain by inhalation (presumably as an aerosol) caused lung emphysema in dogs, hamsters and rats40.

With in situ instillation of chymopapain for treatment of disk hernia, anaphylactic shock was reported in 1% of patients on whom this procedure was practiced34.

There are several pharmaceutical specialties based on papain for oral, external and intradisk administration, all of which have one contraindication: allergy to papain.

There is no available information documenting the safety of medicinal use in children or in women during pregnancy or breast feeding.

The fruit has been extensively studied and contains, among other components, lipids: a-linoleic acid; benzenoids (0.03 µg/mg)3-4: benzaldehyde, methyl salicylate; sulfur compounds (green fruit 291 µg/kg5 and ripe fruit 1.4 µg/kg3), benzyl isothiocyanate5; protein: papain6.  Additionally, it contains vitamins: particularly, C, E2, A7; mineral salts: mainly potassium8, calcium, iron, phosphorus5; alkaloids: carpaine, pyridine9; carotenoids: b-carotene, e-carotene, cryptoxanthin, lycopene10 and tannins7.

The fruit contains essential oil:linalool, 6,7-epoxy-linalool, cis and trans linalool oxides, b-cis-ocimene, 2,6-dimethyl-octanetriol and four isomers of 2,6 dimethyl octadienediol11.

The fruit latex contains the proteolytic enzymes: papain, chymopapain A10,12, w-protease8, and sulfur compounds: benzyl glucosinolate10.

The root contains alkaloids: carpaine13, isocarpaine, dehydrocarpaine I and II14-15.

Proximate analysis of 100 g of green fruit18: calories: 26; water: 92.1%; proteins: 1%; fats: 0.1%; carbohydrates: 6.2%; fibers: 0.9%; ash: 0.6%; calcium: 38 mg; phosphorous: 20 mg; iron: 0.3 mg; sodium: 7 mg; potassium: 215 mg; carotene: 15 µg; thiamine: 0.02 mg; riboflavin: 0.03 mg; niacin: 0.30 mg; ascorbic acid: 40 mg.

TRAMIL Research19-20

The hydroalcoholic extract (1:1) from the root (50 µL/disk) showed, in vitro, 100% inhibition of Neisseria gonorrhoeae, on an agar plate.

Purified proteic fractions obtained separately from the freshly grated of endocarp, epicarp, fruit seed and fresh leaf (2 mg/mL) showed in vitro activity against Bacillus cereus, Escherichia coli, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Shigella flexneri andStaphylococcus aureus, on an agar plate, MIC (minimum inhibitory concentration) = 1.5-4 mg/mL for gram - bacteria, and MIC = 0.2-0.3 mg/mL for gram + bacteria21.

The juice of the green fruit pulp and seed (MIC = 500 µg/mL) showed bacteriostatic effects in vitro against Bacillus subtilis, Enterobacter cloacae, Escherichia coli, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Proteus vulgaris, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Salmonella typhae and Staphylococcus aureus on agar plate22.

The 95% ethanolic extract from the root showed antibacterial activity in vitro against Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus aureus in agar plate culture23.

The aqueous extract from the dried root showed in vitro activity against Candida albicans, on an agar plate24.

The latex showed antifungal activity in vitro against Candida albicans (LC100 = 138 µg/mL)25.

The latex and the aqueous and petroleum ether extracts from the root were active in vitro against Candida sp.  The aqueous extract from the leaf was also active against Mycobacterium tuberculosis10.

The proteic fraction extracted from the fruit pulp showed in vitro activity against Proteus vulgaris, Salmonella typhimurium and Streptococcus faecalis10.

The butanol and isoamyl alcohol extracts from the dry leaf showed spasmolytic activity on isolated guinea pig ileum (0.2 mg/mL), an activity not shown by the chloroform extract26.

The pure methanolic extract from the fruit (2 mg/ear), showed an anti-inflammatory effect in the mouse ear topical application of 12-O-tetradecanoylphorbol-13-acetate (TPA)model27.

The latex from the green fruit protected against experimentally induced gastric ulcer and decreased the secretion of acid induced by intravenous histamine, in rat with chronic gastric fistula28.

The ethanolic extract from the dried leaf by intraperitoneal administration to rat showed analgesic activity (20 mg/kg), anticonvulsive activity (20 and 100 mg/kg), relaxation of skeletal muscle (50 mg/kg), positive chronotropic activity (200 mg/kg) and sedative effects (10 mg/kg)29.

In the clinical context, crushed fruit pulp applied daily on infected burns helped eliminate necrotic tissue, control infection and promote tissue granulation.  The possible mechanism is related to the activity of the proteolytic enzymes (chymopapain and papain), and antimicrobial activity30.

Carpaine in vitro inhibited Mycobacterium tuberculosis strains.  It is claimed to have anti-tumor promoting activity, uterine relaxation effects, bronchodilating effects in guinea pig31 and amebicidal activity32.  When applied topically, it is claimed to accelerate the healing of injuries10.  Papain is claimed to have the following effects: proteolysis of pineworms and trichocephalus33, promotion of protein digestion, and antitoxic effects on diphtherial and tetanic toxins31.  Chymopapain permits treatment of disk hernias by chemonucleolysis34.


1 CHARLES C, 1988 TRAMIL survey. Movement for Cultural Awareness MCA, Roseau, Dominica.

2 WENIGER B, ROUZIER M, 1986 Enquête TRAMIL. Service Oecuménique d'Entraide SOE, Port au Prince, Haïti.

3 MAC LEOD AJ, PIERIS NM, 1983 Volatile components of papaya (Carica papaya L.) with particular reference to glucosinolate products. J Agric Food Chem31(5):1005-1008.

4 JINDAL KK, SINGH RN, 1975 Phenolic content in male and female Carica papaya: Possible physiological marker for sex identification of vegetative seedlings. Physiol Plant 33:104-107.

5 TANG CS, 1971 Benzyl isothiocyanate of papaya fruit. Phytochemistry 10:117.

6 HASHEM FM, HAGGAG MY, GALAL AMS, 1980 A phytochemical study ofCarica papaya L. growing in Egypt. Egypt J Pharm Sci 21(3/4):199-214.

7 SILVARAJ Y, PAL DK, 1982 Changes in the chemical composition of papaya (Thailand variety) during growth and development. J Food Sci Technol 19:257-259.

8 PICKERSGILL R, SUMNER I, GOODENOUGH P, 1990 Preliminary crystallographic data for protease omega. Eur J Biochem190(2):443-444.

9 GIMLETTED JD, 1939 A dictionary of Malayan medicine. New York, USA: Oxford University Press.

10 ARGUETA A, CANO L, RODARTE ME, 1994 Atlas de las plantas de la medicina tradicional mexicana. Tomo II. México D.F., México: Instituto Nacional Indigenista. p1117-1119.

11 IDSTEINS H, BAUER C, SCHREIER P, 1985 Volatile acids in tropical fruits: cherimoya (Annona cherimolia Mills.), guava (Psidium guajava L.), mango (Mangifera indica L. var. alphonso), papaya (Carica papaya L.). Z Lebensm Unters Forsch 180(5):394-397.

12 KERHARO J, ADAM J, 1974 La Pharmacopée sénégalaise traditionnelle. Paris, France: Ed. Vigot Frères.

13 DUKE JA, 1992 Handbook of phytochemical constituents of GRAS herbs and other economic plants.Boca Raton, USA: CRC Press.

14 HEGNAUER R, 1973 Chemotaxonomie der Pflanzen. Basel, Schweiz: Birkhauser Verlag. 6:882.

15 TANG C, 1979 New macrocyclic piperideine alkaloids from papaya leaves: dehydrocarpaine I and II. Phytochemistry18(4):651-652.

18 DUKE JA, ATCHLEY AA, 1986 Handbook of proximate analysis tables of higher plants. Boca Raton, USA: CRC Press. p36.

19 CACERES A, 1992 Antigonorrhoeal activity of plants used in Guatemala for the treatment of sexually transmitted diseases. Informe TRAMIL. Facultad de Farmacia, Universidad de San Carlos, Guatemala, Guatemala.

20 CACERES A, MENENDEZ H, MENDEZ E, COHOBON E, SAMAYOA BE, JAUREGUI E, PERALTA E, CARRILLO G, 1995 Antigonorrhoeal activity of plants used in Guatemala for the treatment of sexually transmitted diseases. J Ethnopharmacol 48(2):85-88.

21 EMERUWA AC, 1982 Antibacterial substances from Carica papaya fruit extract. J Nat Prod 45(2):123-127.

22 OSATO JA, SANTIAGO LA, REMO GM, CUADRA MS, MORI A, 1993 Antimicrobial and antioxidant activities of unripe papaya. Life Sci 53(17):1383-1389.

23 GEORGE M, PANDALAI KM, 1949 Investigations on plant antibiotics. Part IV. Further search for antibiotic substances in Indian medicinal plants. Indian J Med Res 37:169-181.

24 GUNDIDZA M, 1986 Screening of extracts from Zimbabwean higher plants II: antifungal properties. Fitoterapia 57(2):111-113.

25 GIORDANI R, SIEPAIO M, MOULIN-TRAFFORT J, REGLI P, 1991 Antifungal action of Carica papaya latex: isolation of fungal cell wall hydrolysing enzymes. Mycoses (Marseille)34(11/12):469-477.

26 KAMBU K, TONA L, KABA S, CIMANGA K, MUKALA N, 1990 Antispasmodic activity of extracts proceeding of plant antidiarrheic traditional preparations used in Kinshasa, Zaire. Ann Pharm Fr48(4):200-208.

27 YASUKAWA K, YAMAGUCHI A, ARITA J, SAKURAI S, IKEDA A, TAKIDO M, 1993 Inhibitory effect of edible plant extracts on 12-O-tetradecanoylphorbol-13-acetate-induced ear oedema in mice. Phytother Res 7(2):185-189.

28 CHEN CF, CHEN SM, CHOW SY, HAN PW, 1981 Protective effects of Carica papaya Linn on the exogenous gastric ulcer in rats. Am J Chin Med 9(3):205-212.

29 GUPTA A, WAMBEBE CO, PARSONS DC, 1990 Central and cardiovascular effects of the alcoholic extract of the leaves of Carica papaya.Int J Crude Drug Res28(4):257-266.

30 STARLEY IF, MOHAMMED P, SCHNEIDER G, BICKLER SW, 1999 The treatment of pediatric burns using topical papaya. Burns 25 (7):636-639.

31GRANDVAUX J, 1986 Carica papaya, plante médicinale d'actualité. Thèse pharmacie nº 6/86, Paris XI, France.

32 PHILLIPSON J, O'NEILL M, 1987 Antimalarial & amoebicidal natural products. In: HOSTETTMANN K, LEA PJ, (Eds). Biologically active natural products. Oxford, USA: Oxford Science Publications. p49-64.

33 POUSSET JL, 1989 Plantes médicinales africaines. Paris, France: ACCT Ed.

34 MONERET VAUTRIN DA, BENOIST M, LAXENAIRE MC, CROIZIER A, GUEANT JL, 1985 Allergy to chymopapain: value of predictive tests before chemonucleolysis. Ann Fr Anesth Reanim4(3):313-315.

35 SOUZA BRITO A, 1988 Acute toxicity of the aqueous extract of Carica papaya.(Toxicidad aguda del extracto acuoso de raíz de Carica papaya). Informe TRAMIL. Dep. de Fisiología y Biofísica, Universidad de Campinas, Campinas, Brasil.

36 GarcIa-GonzAlez M, Coto MT, GonzAlez CS, Pazos L, 2001 Repeated dose dermal irritability of the grated fresh fruit of Carica papaya. (Irritabilidad dérmica del fruto fresco rallado de Carica papaya dosis repetida). Informe TRAMIL. Laboratorio de Ensayos Biológicos LEBI, Escuela de Medicina, Universidad de Costa Rica, San Pedro, Costa Rica.

37 ENO AE, OWO OI, ITAM EH, KONYA RS, 2000 Blood pressure depression by the fruit juice of Carica papaya (L.) in renal and DOCA-induced hypertension in the rat. Phytother Res 14(4):235-239.

38 CHINOY NJ, GEORGE SM, 1983 Induction of functional sterility in male rats by low dose of Carica papaya seed extracts treatment. Acta Eur Fertil14(6):425-432.

39 EINARSON TR, BOOTMAN JL, SMITH GH, 1980 Chymopapain. Drug Intell Clin Pharm18:560-568.

40 BADIN R, CASSAIGNE R, CHRISTIE RB, 1978 Papain in pharmaceutical enzymes.Gand, Belgium: Ed.D.Rüyssen & A.Lauwers.


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