Health Benefits of Papaya
What Is a Papaya?
A papaya (also known as a papaw or pawpaw) is a tropical fruit native to South America. Papayas grow on trees and the fruits are large and soft with a thin skin that is usually yellow, orange, or peach in color. The flesh of the papaya fruit is a pinkish orange color, and the center is filled with many slippery black seeds. The fruit has a sweet, somewhat mild flavor. Both the seeds and skin of the papaya are edible, but the skin is traditionally removed before consumption; it doesn't taste very good.
History of Papaya Cultivation
Papayas most likely originated in southern Mexico. They have been cultivated by humans for hundreds of years as a food and for medicinal purposes. The first historical record of papaya cultivation dates from the 1500s when papaya seeds were brought to Panama and the Dominican Republic1, but it is likely that cultivation goes back much, much farther. Papayas are often claimed to be part of Aboriginal Australian traditional medicine, but this claim is incorrect; papayas were only introduced to Australia about 200 years ago.2 Today papayas are grown in almost every tropical region of the world including the Americas, Africa, and India.
Along with its delicious taste, papaya is such a popular fruit due to its many health properties and nutritional benefits.
Papaya fruit also contains many necessary minerals. A papaya's mineral concentration is ultimately determined by the type of soil it is grown in, but these are the minerals most commonly found in papayas3:
The papaya fruit is rich in many important vitamins that benefit the human body. The vitamin content varies depending on the ripening stage and handling of the fruit, but these are some of the main vitamins papayas contain3:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin B1
- Vitamin B2
- Vitamin B3
- Vitamin B6
- Vitamin E
- Folic Acid
Papaya fruit is extremely high in antioxidants including carotene and provitamin A.4 Antioxidants are molecules that inhibit oxidation reactions and fight free radicals in your cells (both of which can cause severe damage to your cells and are a contributing factor in many human diseases).
Amino Acid Content
Papaya fruit contains many amino acids as well. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins and are necessary for the human body to perform digestion, growth, and repair. These are the amino acids found in papaya fruit5:
- Aspartic Acid
- Glutamic Acid
Papaya Home Remedies
Along with being extremely nutrient-rich, papaya is used in a number of natural and home remedies for a variety of conditions and ailments. listed below are several common papaya treatments.
For Sore Throats
Fresh papaya juice can be gargled and swallowed as a home remedy for sore throats and throat infections.
Papaya for Diarrhea
Fresh, raw papaya fruit is eaten as a natural remedy for diarrhea.
Papaya for Eczema, Ringworm, and Rashes
Fresh papaya juice and/or a mash of fresh papaya seeds can be applied to irritated skin to sooth itches, flaking, and mild rashes.
Women's Health Benefits
Fresh papaya can be eaten as a home remedy to boost breast milk production for nursing women. It may also aid in regulating menstruation for some women.
Fresh, raw papaya juice taken daily for 2 weeks is a natural remedy for jaundice.
For High Blood Pressure
The fresh fruit or juice of papaya is helpful in lowering blood pressure if consumed regularly.
Easy Papaya Recipes
Since papaya is such an incredibly healthy, beneficial superfood, why not try to incorporate more papaya into your diet? Below are a couple of my favorite fun, easy papaya recipes.
Healthy Papaya Peach Coconut Creamsicle Recipe
- Remove seeds from papaya.
- Process all ingredients in a blender until smooth. Blend more or less depending on how chunky you want your fruit.
- Pour mixture into popsicle molds.
- Let popsicles set in the freezer for 4 hours before eating.
- 1 cup coconut milk
- 1 cup Greek yogurt
- 1/2 papaya, cut into cubes
- 1 peach, cut into cubes
- 1/3 cup shredded coconut
- 2 tbsp honey
Papaya Blueberry Smoothie Recipe
- Remove seeds from papaya
- Process all ingredients in blender until smooth. Blend more or less depending on your desired consistency.
- Drink in a chilled glass (optional).
- 1 cup soy, rice, or almond milk
- 1/4 papaya, cut into cubes
- 1 cup blueberries
- 1 tsp Greek yogurt
- 1/2 tsp flax seed meal (optional)
Papaya Tropical Fruit Salad Recipe
- Remove the skin from the papaya, kiwi, and mango and discard.
- Dice all the friuts.
- Mix together and enjoy.
- Top with a sprinkle of shredded coconut if desired.
- 1/4 papaya, chopped
- 1 kiwi
- 1/2 mango
- 1/2 cup chopped pineapple
- sprinkle of shredded coconut (optional)
Papaya seeds look weird, slimy, and inedible, but don't throw them away! Papaya seeds are actually edible, and they contain many of the same health benefits that can be gained from eating the fruit. Papaya seeds are also used to remove and prevent intestinal worms of all sorts.4 In fact, eating a teaspoon of fresh papaya seeds after every meal is recommended as a method of parasite prevention when visiting tropical countries.
You can eat papaya seeds fresh. A spoonful is typically chewed and swallowed for health benefits and as a parasite cleanse.
Papaya seeds can also be dried and eaten as a spice that resembles a mild peppercorn flavor. Simply dry the seeds, place them in a pepper grinder, and use them as a seasoning for meats, fish, and roasted vegetables.
Papaya for Beauty
As well as being delicious and healthy to eat, papaya is also excellent for skin and hair, and is great for enhancing your natural beauty. The vitamin E and C present in papaya nourishes hair and skin. The enzyme papain helps to remove dead skin from the face and scalp, and works to soothe acne. Check out the fun papaya face mask below and try it at home! (Or just massage papaya pulp into your scalp for shining hair and as a dandruff cure.)
Papaya Face Mask Recipe
- Wash your face before applying the mask.
- Puree all ingredients in your blender and apply to your face.
- Leave the mask on for 10-15 minutes and rinse away with warm water.
1 cup cubed fresh papaya
1 tbsp plain yogurt
1 tsp honey
1 tsp papaya seeds (optional)
Rate My Papaya Recipes
- Morton, Juila F. Fruits of Warm Climates. Florida Flair Books: Miami, FL. 1987.
- Tietze, Harald W. Papaya the Medicine Tree. Harald W. Tietze Publishing: Bermagui, Australia. 2006.
- Terry, Leon A. Health-promoting Properties of Fruits and Vegetables. CABI: Cambridge, MA. 2011.
- Somonsohn, Barbara. Healing Power of Papaya. Lotus Press: Twin Lakes, WI. 2000.
- Dr. Rajiv Sharma. Improve Your Health With Papaya & Bengal Quince. The Book Factory: Noida, U.P. 2006.
- Dr. Rajiv Sharma. Improve Your Health With Fruits & Flowers. The Book Factory: Noida, U.P. 2006.