The Health Benefits and Risks of Eating Papaya

Updated on April 8, 2018
Blond Logic profile image

Living on a farm in Brazil, I've gained local in-depth knowledge of food, plants, and traditions, which I share through my articles.

Papayas
Papayas | Source

Is Papaya Healthy or Harmful?

There are few foods that can provide you with so much goodness as papaya. Rich in vitamin c and anti-oxidants this fruit is beneficial not just internally but also externally. The term superfood is thrown around a lot these days and it's difficult to know if we should eat copious quantities to ensure our good health or if it is just more useless media hype.

Before you go racing to the supermarket to stock up on this miracle of nature, you will want to know the whole truth. The papaya and/or parts of it, can lead to abortion and also lower a man's sperm count. Because of this, the FDA has requested the removal of certain products which contain derivatives of papaya.

As with so many natural products, science is still learning just how powerful they can be and how cultures, where the papaya is naturally grown, have been using them in their daily lives.

Papaya as a Digestive Aid

Where papaya is traditionally grown it is often eaten as a dessert. The reason for this is papaya contains the enzyme (papain), which breaks down meat fibers and helps the body digest meat more efficiently. For some people, their metabolism is slow to break down food, this often occurs as we age. Eating papaya will help with this, reducing that bloated feeling which sometimes happens after a meal when meat is consumed. It is a natural way to help the body's digestion work better.

Tenderize Meat With Papaya

It is said that wrapping meat in papaya leaves will tenderize it. If you check the ingredients on a jar of meat tenderizer, you will probably see papain, this is the enzyme in papaya that breaks down meat fibers. Papaya has been used for centuries in South America as a natural meat tenderizer.

Where I live in Brazil, cattle are often free-range and many are quite old before they are sent to market. Both of these contribute to beef which, although tasty, is fibrous and tough. The use of papaya leaves helps to relax and begin to break down the stringy meat. It is still a natural way to soften cheaper cuts of older beef in many parts of South America.


Papaya: Pregnancy and Abortion

The use of papaya, although healthy, should be consumed with care during pregnancy or if you are trying to become pregnant. " In India, it is applied on the uterus as an irritant to cause abortion. The unripe fruit is sometimes hazardously ingested to achieve abortion."¹

This is also used as birth control by spreading the latex from the skin of the papaya over the cervix. Moreover, eating large quantities of unripened raw fruit can lead to abortion. In the West Indies, the women who were slaves use to do this so their children would not be born into slavery.

In laboratory tests, the seeds have been found to lower a man's sperm count.

¹"Fruits in Warm Climates" by Julia Morton

Using Papaya as a Hair Conditioner

Because of the rich moisturizing properties of papaya, it's often found as the main ingredient in hair products. Although they are available to buy, you can easily make a hair treatment at home.

Using one ripe papaya, and natural yogurt. Peel the papaya and remove seeds. Cut into cubes and place in blender. Add a small pot of yogurt and enough water to make it blend. Apply this to your hair and leave for 30 minutes. You may want to use a shower cap or plastic bag over your hair during this time. Rinse with warm water after the 30 minutes.

You will be left with shiny, well conditioned and enriched hair.

Gorgeous Healthy Hair
Gorgeous Healthy Hair | Source

Using Papaya for Acne

Papaya has always been used on the skin. There are many people who claim it helps to clear acne. This would be from the enzyme papain which is sometimes used to heal wounds. Simply mash the papaya well and apply as a face mask. This should be left for 10 minutes. Rinse as normal.

There are also soaps made using papaya which are used for lightening the skin.These are a traditional type of soap that is used in many countries around the world where a lighter skin is preferred. This is something we see a lot here in Brazil as many women and men both prefer to look more European.

Although papaya can also be used on wounds to encourage them to heal more quickly, care should be taken, especially if you are sensitive to latex.*

*There are some products on the market that contain papain in topical ointments and creams. The latex is extracted from the skin of the papaya. These creams are used on open wounds to aid in the removal of dead tissue and help to clean the wound. The companies that make them have been asked by the FDA to stop as there are serious health concerns, read more about it on Wikipedia.


Your Use Of Papaya

How do you use papaya?

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Papaya Growing on Tree
Papaya Growing on Tree | Source

A Papaya Tree

Here in Brazil, which is the largest exporter of papaya, most people who have a small amount of land have at least one tree growing. The papaya is a popular fruit here in Brazil.The plant is well suited to this area and is quite easy to grow. In fact, you will often see them near the back door where seeds have fallen and sprouted. Brazilians love to have it in a drink with milk and it is called a vitamina. I also have done this and made it into a nutritional smoothie. The recipe is included below.


Papaya Smoothie

Prep time: 3 min
Ready in: 3 min
Yields: 1 glass
3 stars from 13 ratings of Papaya smoothie

Ingredients

  • 1/4 ripe papaya, cubed (no seeds)
  • 1 teaspoon flax seed, ground
  • 1/4 cup oatmeal or oat flour
  • 450ml milk, Nonfat, lowfat, or whole
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, ground
  • 1 teaspoon honey, optional

Instructions

  1. Place all the ingredients in a blender and mix until papaya has broken down. The time will vary depending on how big you cut the pieces and how ripe it was.

Nutritional Value for Papaya

Nutrition Facts
Serving size 140g ~Calories 55~ Daily value %
Total Fat 0%
Cholesterol 0%
Sodium 4mg
total carbohydrate 14g ~ 5%
Sugars 8g
Protein 1 g
Vitamin A 31%
Vitamin C 144%
Calcium 3%
Iron 1%

Eating Papaya Helps Hemorrhoids

Hemorrhoids are a painful condition which is aggravated by trying to eliminate firm stools. Eating papaya will help as it creates a mucous lining making it easier on the body to pass hard stools. Also by increasing fruit in your diet, you will be getting more fiber which is also beneficial for elimination. Without the pressure of straining, you may find the hemorrhoids become less of a problem.

Papaya for Dogs

Although this article is about the benefits of papaya for human use and consumption, dogs also benefit from it.

Papaya can safely be given to dogs in small quantities. There are a few caveats here.

  • Don't give dogs the seeds, just the peel fruit.
  • Don't give papaya to dogs which are diabetic
  • Don't give them dried papaya, only fresh. (Dried fruits have a higher sugar concentration and they could be sprayed with a fungicide much the same as raisins are.)

Questions & Answers

    © 2012 Mary Wickison

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      • Blond Logic profile image
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        Mary Wickison 4 weeks ago from Brazil

        Hi Liz,

        Thanks for your question. I was surprised to read about the fungus on your papaya. I thought that only occurred here and was a lack of use of a fungicide.

        If I were you, I wouldn't eat it. Many types of mould have deep roots and although you may not see them, they can still be dangerous.

        This is something that happens quite often here, as a bit of mishandling when being put on the shelf can lead to a damaged area.

        Regarding the seeds, I have read stories about this too. I know they have used the seeds as a pepper replacement at times. If I were to have intestinal parasites, I personally would buy an over the counter treatment. Where I live, natural home remedies are widely used but for worms etc, they go the the pharmacy.

        When I lived in California, I saw canned papaya. I don't know if it is still the case but Del Monte used to do a tropical fruit cocktail and papaya was one of the ingredients.

        I see that you are in Southern California, depending on where, you may have the climate to grow them yourself.

      • LizBizCA profile image

        LizBizCA 5 weeks ago from Southern California

        Recently bought my first papaya. In fact I dont believe Ive ever (knowingly) eaten it. Unsure of what they looked like but believing I could spot one, I scoured the produce section & came up empty handed, so asked for assistance. Same went for the clerk. She wound up going tothe produce mgr. I was surprised at just how large the are. I figured something the size of a mango. Its been a couple of days and ive kept it in the plastic produce bag. Went to cut it a few min ago and found 1 inch elongated blk spots abt 7 of them. Is it still edible if i cut the spots out? Im really anxious to try my first papaya!

        I dont remember who it was.. Maybe dr oz.. Or 'The Drs" said papaya seeds are an effective natural treatment for intestinal parasites. Interestingly its just the seeds.

      • Blond Logic profile image
        Author

        Mary Wickison 7 months ago from Brazil

        There is no problem with that amount. I eat papaya most days as a dessert after lunch. It is wonderful for the digestion.

        Thank you for reading and your comment.

      • Blond Logic profile image
        Author

        Mary Wickison 12 months ago from Brazil

        Hi Betty,

        Glad you enjoyed it. The name of the book is Plantas Medicinais no Brasil. Nativas e Exoticas by Henri Lorenzi.

        It is in Portuguese though. I am not sure if they offer it in English.

      • profile image

        Betty, from Texas 12 months ago

        Found your artical by searching -PAWPAW. Really enjoyed the variety of information on this interesting fruit as well as your presentation. Would love to read the book your ex Red Cross nurse friend shared with you. Can you share title/author? Great article. Thank you.

      • Blond Logic profile image
        Author

        Mary Wickison 3 years ago from Brazil

        I was just speaking to my friend here in Brazil about the difference between tree ripened and supermarket fruit. There is a huge difference.

        Glad you found this page useful.

        Have a great weekend.

      • aesta1 profile image

        Mary Norton 3 years ago from Ontario, Canada

        I love papaya and wish I have those plants in my backyard. The ones they sell in the supermarket are not as sweet. Good to know some of the harmful effects of eating papaya.

      • Blond Logic profile image
        Author

        Mary Wickison 3 years ago from Brazil

        Hi Sweetpikez,

        In the Philippines as here in Brazil, the people know of these advantages of various fruits, plants and herbs. I find it amazing that some newly termed 'superfoods', the benefits have been known for years.

        Thanks for reading, glad you enjoyed it.

      • sweetpikez profile image

        Pinky de Garcia 3 years ago

        The side effect of eating too much papaya is like the old adage I remembered which states that "too much of everything is not good". Whether a certain fruit like papaya is tagged as healthy food, moderation of intake must still be observed.

        Anyway, I commend the way you discussed the good and bad effects of papaya. This me conclude the reason why people who are observing sexual abstinence always have papaya on their menu. Great article!

      • Blond Logic profile image
        Author

        Mary Wickison 3 years ago from Brazil

        Hi Dougalbunny,

        This was actually mentioned to me from a friend of mine here in Brazil. She is an ex Red Cross nurse and has studied many traditional ways of curing many ailments.

      • Dougalbunny profile image

        Zoe 3 years ago from London, England

        This was a great read with a lot of useful information. The papaya for piles was particularly relevant for me....unfortunately!

      • Blond Logic profile image
        Author

        Mary Wickison 4 years ago from Brazil

        Hello Archa,

        In fact before I started researching it, I wasn't aware of many of the effects either. I do still eat them at least weekly as they are grow abundantly here.

        Thanks for your comment.

      • Archa Ghodge profile image

        Archa 4 years ago from India

        Nice interesting facts about papaya... I wasn't of most of them.

      • Blond Logic profile image
        Author

        Mary Wickison 4 years ago from Brazil

        Hi Anatomynotes,

        For pregnant women and those that wish to become pregnant, papaya should be limited. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment, have a great day.

      • anatomynotes profile image

        Edmund Custers 4 years ago

        This is interesting! I didn't know there was any danger in eating papaya. Thanks for sharing this with us. Voted up!

      • Blond Logic profile image
        Author

        Mary Wickison 4 years ago from Brazil

        Hello Rose-the-planner,

        I am pleased you found it interesting. Besides the irritants, it can be hazardous for pregnant women.

      • Blond Logic profile image
        Author

        Mary Wickison 4 years ago from Brazil

        Hi mercuryservices,

        There are so many natural remedies, and homeopathic medicines. I think science is still just scraping the surface.

        Thanks for your comment.

      • rose-the planner profile image

        rose-the planner 4 years ago from Toronto, Ontario-Canada

        Wow!!!! I know that papayas have many healthy advantages, however, I did not know about the dangers of papaya. Great information, thanks for sharing.

      • mercuryservices profile image

        Alex Munkachy 4 years ago from Honolulu, Hawaii

        I'd be interested to learn more about papaya and birth control.

      • Blond Logic profile image
        Author

        Mary Wickison 4 years ago from Brazil

        Hi Casimiro,

        I have heard that the seeds were used in place of black peppercorns due to the high price of pepper at times. It is a remarkable plant. Thanks again.

      • profile image

        Casimiro 4 years ago

        Also, the seeds have a unique flavor, so can be used on their own.

      • Blond Logic profile image
        Author

        Mary Wickison 4 years ago from Brazil

        Hi Casimiro,

        Thanks. I didn't know even the trunk could be used! Thanks for that information.

      • profile image

        Casimiro 4 years ago

        Great hub. Actually, *any* part of the plant can be used as a meat tenderizer. Here in Costa Rica, it is common to also save the trunk of the tree, peel it, dice the core and use it in pico de gallo.

      • IslandBites profile image

        IslandBites 4 years ago from Puerto Rico

        Oh, I forgot the coconuts! LOL We're lucky, indeed.

      • Blond Logic profile image
        Author

        Mary Wickison 4 years ago from Brazil

        We are so lucky, aren't we.

        Here on our little farm we too have mangoes, bananas, passion fruit, acerola, cashew, graviola if we are very lucky, a fruit called sapoti, siriguella (these are Portuguese names) and lots of coconuts.

        In fact, until I moved here, I didn't realize how many types of fruits there were that I had never heard of!

      • IslandBites profile image

        IslandBites 4 years ago from Puerto Rico

        That's true. It's great to have fresh fruit all the time. At my parents we always had mangoes, bananas (and plantains), guava, papayas, passion fruit, pomegranate, acerolas, avocados, breadfruit and custard apples.

      • Blond Logic profile image
        Author

        Mary Wickison 4 years ago from Brazil

        Now it is funny that you mention that. When I first arrived here in Brazil, there were papaya trees in the garden. However, they were the variety that I didn't care for so we pulled them out. I liked the smaller and sweeter variety. Recently I went to a friends house and they brought some cubed papaya out and I loved it. Would you believe it, it was the larger variety that I had removed. If you have the trees, fresh is always better. That is one of the benefits living where we do, an abundance of fresh fruit. Del Monte do a canned tropical mix I believe for those who aren't lucky enough to have trees. My sister in the States makes a wonderful ambrosia with it. Thank you for your comment.

      • IslandBites profile image

        IslandBites 4 years ago from Puerto Rico

        Good information. I have never liked papaya. IMO it tastes/smells like perfume. But my dad loves it, specially in smoothies. There are some papaya trees at my parents' so I have never seen it canned.

      • Blond Logic profile image
        Author

        Mary Wickison 4 years ago from Brazil

        Hello Rumana,

        The meat here in Brazil can be tough. I think they slaughter the animals when they are quite old and as such it is akin to chewing a boot sole! We use papaya and also meat tenderizer and I pound it to break up the fibers.

        I also tend to marinate a lot.

        Thank you for the vote.

      • rumanasaiyed profile image

        Rumana 4 years ago from Sharjah, UAE

        Hi Blond Logic,

        You have given a lots of information on Papaya. We do use unripe papaya as a meat tenderizer. But you have given brief information on it benefits.

        Voted up Useful !

      • Blond Logic profile image
        Author

        Mary Wickison 5 years ago from Brazil

        Hello Dancing Water,

        I too eat often although not daily. No I have never tried it as a face mask. It is relatively low-priced for the large mangoes over here .

        I haven't tried it as a face mask but it is something I will try.

        Yes, with lime juice it is very nice. Yum.

        Glad you enjoyed the hub.

        Thanks for the comment.

      • Dancing Water profile image

        Dancing Water 5 years ago

        I lived in Thailand for 20 years, and ate papaya daily. Also, I used it as a face masque. Lovely hub with excellent information. Papaya is a wonderful fruit, and I thank you for enlightening us about its many uses. By the way, do you eat it with lime juice squeezed on it? Delish! Again, a great hub! Thank you!

      • Blond Logic profile image
        Author

        Mary Wickison 5 years ago from Brazil

        Hell LemonKerdz,

        Thank you for your vote. I have heard of people using the seeds. Sometimes as a replacement for black pepper. I have never tried it. The leaves are supposed to be great for wrapping meat to tenderize it as well. A truly amazing plant.

        Thank you for your added information.

      • lemonkerdz profile image

        lemonkerdz 5 years ago from LIMA, PERU

        thanks for the hub. it is very true papaya has some very good uses. living in peru we have used it so many times especially the black seeds blended into yogurt to help kill parasites, but the leaves of the papaya are even stronger if you put them in a salad. it's not my favorite fruit but ithas some great benefits. voted up by me.

      • Blond Logic profile image
        Author

        Mary Wickison 5 years ago from Brazil

        Hello Robie2,

        I am glad you found it interesting. You will find a papaya smoothie will keep you feeling full until lunch time.

        Thanks for your comment.

      • robie2 profile image

        Roberta Kyle 5 years ago from Central New Jersey

        What a fascinating compilation of papaya history and lore-- there is a lot I didn't know about papayas and I certainly didn't know that it had soooo many varied uses.... I think I just might have to try a papaya smoothie-- thanks for the heads up on papaya. Thumbs up from me.

      • Blond Logic profile image
        Author

        Mary Wickison 5 years ago from Brazil

        I read this in a book my friend loaned to me. She is a retired nurse and the book was about the plants we have in Brazil. It was fascinating the plants I thought were weeds, the natives have been using them to cure all sorts of maladies. When I speak to my neighbors, they say things like, "this is good for the hair" etc.

        There is still so little we know about the natural world.

        I am pleased you found it useful.

        Thanks for stopping by.

      • healthylife2 profile image

        Healthy Life 5 years ago from Connecticut, USA

        Very useful information! I had no idea there were any adverse effects from papaya such as causing abortion and lowering the sperm count but I have heard it is good for hair. Voted up!

      • Blond Logic profile image
        Author

        Mary Wickison 5 years ago from Brazil

        Hello Teaches12345,

        I have been reading a friend's book about tropical plants in Brazil. It is so interesting the different trees and shrubs they use here. I think people don't realize just how potent some plants can be.

        Always a pleasure to hear from you.

      • Lipnancy profile image

        Nancy Yager 5 years ago from Hamburg, New York

        I took Papaya for years to aid in digestion. I had no idea that it could also be used for birth control.

      • teaches12345 profile image

        Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

        I didn't know it could possibly harm pregnancy, this is good information for those who are expecting, or planning for it. I like the face mask idea for teens, this would be a natural remedy for them, much safer. Great post and well done.

      • Blond Logic profile image
        Author

        Mary Wickison 5 years ago from Brazil

        Hello Thelma,

        Thank you for the vote. I am glad you found out something that was useful to you and your family.

      • Thelma Alberts profile image

        Thelma Alberts 5 years ago from Germany

        WoW! This is an informative hub. I know most of the positive health benefits of papaya but not the negative sides of it. I have to tell my sister-in-law to not eating much of papaya because she is pregnant. Thanks for sharing. Voted up and useful.

      • Blond Logic profile image
        Author

        Mary Wickison 5 years ago from Brazil

        Hello Btrbell,

        I am pleased you found it interesting. I normally have a ripe one that we are eating, in the refrigerator, and one in the fruit bowl.

        Thanks for stopping by.

      • Blond Logic profile image
        Author

        Mary Wickison 5 years ago from Brazil

        Hello Bill,

        Before arriving in Brazil, I believe I only had it in canned form or dried. I believe some granolas have these as an ingredient. Here, they are everywhere.

        As for the sperm count, well I am not going to touch that with a barge pole or perhaps even a pencil. : )

      • btrbell profile image

        Randi Benlulu 5 years ago from Mesa, AZ

        We love papayas in our house and while I was aware of many of it's great qualities and benefits, you have opened my eyes to many more! Thank you for an interesting and informative hub!

      • billybuc profile image

        Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

        Great information! I have never had it, and at my age, I guess the sperm count thing isn't important. LOL

      working