Saturday, April 2, 2011

Healing Values of A Papaya

Papaya (Botanical name Carica Papaya), grows in the tropics with high humidity, like the Cook Islands. It is called 'nita' in Rarotongan, or Vi Puaka in Maukean. Papayas can be used as a food, a cooking aid, or in medicine.

Planting was in our blood as youngsters growing up in the Cook Islands. You can guarantee to be picked up after school and taken to the taro patch, or head up hill to plant some arrowroot, or take care of the papaya plantation next to our home. We worked six days a week and rested on a Sunday, where all of us young ones headed off to church, while the adults prepared a umu kai (earth oven cooked feast).

The Fruit

The unripe green fruit of papaya can be cooked, usually in stews. It has a relatively high amount of pectin, (a structural heteropolysaccharide contained in the primary cell walls of terrestrial plants).

The Benefits

In human digestion, pectin goes through the small intestine more or less intact. Pectin is thus a soluble dietary fiber. Consumption of pectin has been shown to reduce blood cholesterol levels).
The parts of a papaya that are used medicinally are the fruits, the seeds, stems and leaves. The black seeds are edible and have a sharp, spicy taste. They are sometimes ground and used as a substitute for black pepper, and the young leaves are steamed and eaten like spinach.

There are many papaya plantations in the Cook Islands, especially on the main island of Rarotonga. The photo above is of a plantation in Arorangi.

Papaya is an excellent source of dietary fiber, folate, vitamin A, C and E. It also contains a small amount of calcium, iron, riboflavin, thiamine and niacine. It is also very rich in antioxidant nutrients, flavonoids and carotenes, it is very high in vitamin C, plus A, and low in calories and sodium.

It is also rich in enzymes called papain and chymopapain, which helps with digestion, particularly as it breaks down the proteins from the food we eat, into amino acids.

As we age we produce less of the digestive enzymes in our stomach and pancreas, which leads to ineffective digestion of proteins. Due to this we end up with excess amount of undigested protein, which leads to overgrowth of bad bacteria in our gastrointestinal system. This is where the papaya enzymes can be very beneficial.

Papain enzymes repels insects during a papaya's ripening stage.

Eating papaya after a meal prevents bloating, and chronic indigestion. It can also lower the inflammation in the body, alleviates the pain and edema caused by sport injuries. Because of its anti-inflammatory properties papaya can relieve the severity of Rheumatoid Arthritis and osteoarthritis. Because of its high antioxidant content, papaya can prevent cholesterol oxidation and can be used in preventative treatments against atherosclerosis, strokes, heart attacks and diabetic heart disease.

Papaya strengthens the immune system, prevents recurrent colds and flu. Eating the fruit after treatment with antibiotics or drinking it's juice replenishes the good intestinal bacteria, which is destroyed by the antibiotic treatment. I am actually surprised that they don't provide papaya with meals in the hospitals. It would really help a patient recover much more quickly.

Green papaya fruit and the tree's latex are both rich in an enzyme called papain, a protease which is useful in tenderizing meat and other proteins. Its ability to break down tough meat fibers was used for thousands of years by indigenous Americans.

Papain is found to destroy intestinal parasites. It is a proteolitic enzyme, which means that it digests inert (non-living) proteins. Intestinal parasites are largely protein, the papain attacks and kills the parasite.

The leaf and bark extract, are used to deal with mouth gums and toothaches, which is practiced in many cultures around the world.

  • Increases quality of proteins in the organism.
  • Revitalize the body, maintain energy and vitality.
  • Encourages the renewal of muscle tissue.
  • Supports cardiovascular system.
  • Boosts the immune system.
  • Very effective in breaking down the proteins and supporting production of digestive enzymes.
  • Can be use also externally as a treatment for skin wounds that don’t heal quickly, for this you can use papaya peel or ointments made out of papaya.
  • Prevents cataract formation.
  • It's high level of vitamin A lowers the risk of emphysema in smokers and passive smokers.
  • Alleviates inflammation.
  • Helps with nausea and constipation.
  • Benefits people suffering colon cancer and other forms of cancers and aliments of cardiovascular and gastrointestinal systems.

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