Papaya tree is nature’s gift to mankind. Entire papaya tree – including its roots, leaves and fruits has medicinal value. In this article we focus on medicinal properties and benefits of Papaya leaf. The leaf is as nourishing and healing as the papaya fruit itself. Rich in phytonutrients, these slightly bitter leaves have therapeutic benefits. Traditionally, papaya or pawpaw leaves have been used for medicinal purposes. Papaya leaves are used for treatment of tropical diseases like malaria, dengue and jaundice. It offers properties to boost your immunity and protect against various virus. It exhibits medicinal properties like removes free radicals, reduces inflammation, reduces blood sugar, prevents pregnancy, protects kidney, heals wound, reduces blood pressure, prevents tumors and cancer.
Other names of Papaya – Pepe, Papita, Papai, Omakai (Malyalam), Pappali (Tamil), Pharangi (Kannada), Tree melon, pawpaw.
Nutrient content of papaya leaves
Papaya leaves contain key macro and micro nutrients for our body including calcium, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, manganese, Vitamin A, Vitamin B1, Vitamin C and Vitamin E. But what makes papaya leaves special is its phytonutrients. Phytochemical profile includes flavonoids (kaempferol, myricetin quercetin), Alkaloids (carpaine, pseudocarpaine, dehydrocarpaine), Phenolic compounds (ferulic acid, caffeic acid, chlorogenic acid, anthraquinones) Cynogenetic compounds (benzylglucosinolate), Carotenoids (β- carotene, lycopene) and Papain and other saponins.
Health Benefits of Papaya Leaves
Studies show that these rich phytonutrient compounds in papaya leaves offer varied health benefiting properties. Some of the papaya leaves health benefits are outlined here:
Papaya leaves improves Platelet Count
Each cell of our body has a particular function. Platelets, tiny cells in our blood are essential for clotting of blood. Low platelets leads to impaired blood clotting and excessive bleeding. Dengue is mosquito borne viral disease which affects production of platelets in body and lead to fall in platelet count. Dengue fever has taken large number of deaths in poor tropical nations. But Mother Nature has solutions of problems it poses. Papaya leaves have been found ability to increase platelet count in blood and thus helpful in treating Dengue and other conditions arising from low platelets in blood. Various studies have found that flavonoids and other phenols in leaves of papaya have resulted in rapid increase in platelet count in lab conditions. It has potential for treatment of such fatal diseases like dengue. Drinking papaya leaves juice twice a day for consecutive 5 days is considered home remedy for dengue.
Did you know? Research has also found fenugreek plant effective for dengue treatment. Read more about benefits of fenugreek seeds
Papaya leaves for diabetics
In Mexican folk medicine, papaya leaves are used in treatment of diabetes and other diseases. Recent studies have shown positive results about ability of papaya leaves in reducing blood sugar and cholesterol in diabetic rats significantly. Papaya leaves extract enhances insulin sensitivity, helps regeneration of islet cells in pancreas and protects them from damage from free radicals. It also protects liver, kidney and improves its function. Papaya leaf tea can be considered good drink for treating and preventing diabetes.
Suffering from diabetes? Here are 50 natural foods for diabetes.
Cancer protection using pawpaw leaves
Papaya Leaf Tea is considered powerful cancer healing agent. Aboriginal people in Australia have been reported to use pawpaw leaves for treating cancer. Phytonutrients in papaya leaves are powerful antioxidants and help prevent damage of body cells from oxidation and resulting in cancerous growth. It can help prevent us from cancer of cervix, breast, liver, lungs and pancreas. Studies show that papaya leave extract lead to enhanced production of Th1 type of cytokines in white blood cells which may potentially treat and prevent diseases like cancer and other allergies. Components like tocopherol, lycopene, flavonoid, and benzylisothiocyanate present in papaya have been reported to have anti-tumor properties.
Papaya leaf tea made from brewing dried papaya leaves is said to contain active ingredients which act as cure for cancer.
Papaya leaves aids in gluten digestion
Papaya contains enzyme caricain which helps in digestion of gliadin / gluten which leads to gluten intolerance. Drinking papaya leaf tea is good way to treat celiac disease and digest gluten. It also offers anti-inflammatory property to soothe colon inflammation in irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
Papaya leaf as antiseptic
Fresh and green papaya leaf offers strong antiseptic properties. Studies suggest that bio active components in alcohol extract of papaya leaves, including alkaloids, flavonoids and terpenes have strong broad spectrum antifungal action. This property is effective in protecting wounds from infection.
Strong antioxidant activity of papaya leaf
Leaves of papaya have found to have strong antioxidant activity. This property can help control oxidative stress related disorders including cancers, strokes, diabetes, aging, etc. Bioactive phytochemicals are believed to attribute this property to fight free radicals. Lab studies have confirmed this free radical scavenging abilities of papaya leaf and suggested its used for pharmaceutical and nutritional purpouses. Animal studies found papaya leaf extract offering antioxidant and strong protective action over liver damage of rats.
Anti-inflammatory properties of papaya leaf
In folk medicines, papaya leaves have been suggested for used to reduce inflammation and pain. In some countries, papaya leaf tea is used to treat benign prostate enlargement. It has been found effective in treating inflammatory conditions like insect bite. Recent Lab studies have suggested anti-inflammatory activity of papaya leaves in treating edema and arthritis in rats. Studies have found that steroids and flavanoids in papapya leaves helps reduce inflammation in body. This makes papaya leaves effective in treating various inflammatory diseases in body including common cold, arthritis, rheumatism and others.
Papaya Leaf extract for eye problems
There is insufficient evidence that papaya leaf helps in relieving eye problems. However it offers strong antioxidant properties which may protect damage of eye cells from oxidative stress and leading to disorders like cataracts. The leaf of a papaya would also help people suffering from cataracts at an early stage.
Anti malarial properties of Papaya Leaves
In parts of Indonesia, papaya leaf juice or papaya leaf tea is used to cure malaria. It is used as prophylactic or as remedial measure to prevent onset of malaria. Research suggests that malaria can prevent growth of mosquito larvae spreading malaria.
Papaya leaf for chikungunya
While there are reports that papaya leaf juice can cure chikungunia, however there is insufficient evidence in this regards. However Papaya offers analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties which are helpful in relieving some of the symptoms of chikungunya such as fever and joint pain. Latest study has established insecticidal properties of papaya leaf extract on larvae of Aedes aegypti mosquity which is chikungunya vector. Research suggests for eco-friendly and cost effective means for controlling spread of the disease in tropical countries.
Papaya Leaves aids digestion
There are various ways in which papaya leaf juice or papaya leaf tea can help digestion. In many countries it is used as a tonic. Commercially papaya leaf extract is used as meat tenderizer. Bio activie compounds like papain and chymopapin works as enzyme in digestion of protein. This makes papaya leaf helpful in treating digestive disorders including indigestion, bloating and flatulence. Proteolytic activity of papain enzyme derived from papaya leaf is an area of research. It is found to be effective on gluten intolerance and treatment of celiac disease. Papaya leaf also offers other bio active chemicals which have anti-microbial action on gastric and colic microbes interfering in digestive action. Papaya leaf tea is also found to have pH regulating properties which makes it useful for treating acid reflux and heart burn. With its mild laxative action, it can help cure constipation.
[Read more: Natural ways to treat flatulence]
Papaya leaves to treat ulcers
Recent studies have found potential benefits of papaya leaf extract in treating gastric ulcers. Animal studies show that aqueous extract of papaya leaf reduces gastric ulcer index in rats significantly. In vitro studies show strong antioxidant properties of papaya leaves in protecting gastric lining from oxidative stress and thus potentially offer therapeutic properties over gastric ulcer. Papaya leaf tea can help treat gastric ulcers caused by infection or side effects of medicines.
Anti-Parasitic action of papaya leaf
Many times papaya tea will be given to those that suffer from intestinal parasitic infections. The properties of this herbal tea can help the body to quickly eliminate certain worms and parasites. If you suffer from intestinal parasites, drink this tea regularly preferably in the mornings on an empty stomach. Drinking papaya tea can also prevent further parasites in the future as well, making it a good tea to keep handy if this type of infection is a common problem for you.
Papaya Leaf to relieve menstrual cramps
Papaya leaf has analgesic action. Papaya leaf juice is often used to relieve menstrual pain. Warm infusion made from papaya leaf flavored by tamarind and salt can reduce painful menstruation.
Papaya Leaf benefits for skin
Papaya fruit and its extract are common for topical applications for skin care. Papaya leaves also contains same phytochemicals which are found in fruit and helpful for skin. Compound Karpain has anti-microbial action and used in treatment of skin problems. Poultice made from papaya leaves is used for treating eczema. Drinking papaya leaf tea is considered beneficial for skin as it offers antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Leaf is also used to heal wounds, sores, scars, freckles, feet corn/wart and acne. As an antioxidant it slows down aging of skin. Papaya leaf is traditionally used in treating insect bite and sting.
Homemade papaya leaf mask can be used for skin care. Paste made from clean green papaya leaves can be used to scrub skin and considered home remedy for acne. Papaya leave can be dried and powdered. This dried powder mixed with yogurt, honey or water to make a home made papaya leaf face pack which works great on acne and pimples.
Did you know? Amla or Indian gooseberry has amazing benefits for skin
Papaya Leaf benefits for hair
Papaya leaf with its medicinal properties is good for hair and scalp. Not much research is available confirming benefits of papaya leaf for hair, however it has been traditionally used for hair conditioning and treatment of dandruff. Soak dried papaya leaves along with dried basil leaves in water, leave it overnight. Wash your hair with this water next morning.
Papaya leaf and Obesity
Studies on rat showed that papaya leaf extract reduced absorption of fat, improved the lipid profile in body and reduced risk of obesity. More research is required to establish more facts in this particular benefit of papaya leaf.
Potential treatment of Sickle cell anemia
Some studies in Nigerian universities have found antisickling effect of dried papaya leaves. This established the indigenous traditional knowledge of use of dried papaya leaves in sickle cell anemia treatment. The lab results show that papaya leaf extract maintained integrity of the blood cells and inhibited formation of sickle cells. Results are promising in use of papaya leaves for treatment of Sickle cell anemia. This is attributed to the bioactive phytochemical ingredients in papaya leaf.
Other benefits of papaya leaves
Papain contained in leaves is teeth whitener. Papaya leaf extract is often used in toothpastes and gums. Papain present in papaya leaves is useful in treating Shingles or rash caused by chickenpox virus. Papain is also good for relief from sore throat and throat swelling. Papaya leaf tea has diuretic properties. Leaf decoction is used for treatment of urinary complaint. It also acts as detoxifying drink and helps flush toxins from body. Smoke of papaya leaves is used for treatment of asthma in some regions. Past made from young papaya leaves is used for treatment of jaundice. Infusion made from papaya leaves is traditionally used for curing beriberi and resulting abortion.
Side effects of Papaya leaf
Some people are allergic to papain present in papaya leaves. Papaya leaves may result in abortion and should be avoided by pregnant or to be pregnant ladies.
How to use papaya leaves?
If you are thinking of taking papaya leaf juice, you should know that it is quite bitter in taste. It has to be consumed with other juices or flavorings. Tender papaya leaves can be used as leafy vegetable. Papaya leaf tea is most common form of enjoying its benefits. Fresh clean papaya leaves are cut and boiled in water for a while. The liquid is stained and can be directly consumed or stored. Dried papaya leaves can be brewed in hot water using a tea bag. Honey or lemon can improve the flavor. This tea can also used for other topical application. These days you should not be surprised if you find papaya leaf extract capsules and organic papaya leaf supplements in your store nearby.
Just like papaya fruit, benefits of papaya leaves are many. You can pass on benefits of this wonderful tree by regular consumption of fruit and making best use of papaya leaves. So if you have a papaya tree in garden, remember this article.Image Credits: Flickr - Minh Khoa