Cornucopia of cures
Its luscious orange-red colour is perfect for the breakfast table. Rich in minerals and vitamins, papaya is a good cure for many ailments, including diabetics.
THE PAPAYA, with its luscious orange-red flesh and musky tang, is the classic breakfast fruit of the tropics. Rich in papain, an enzyme very similar to the body's own protein-digesting enzyme, pepsin, it is an ancient preventative and antidote for indigestion.
Rich in pectin, it preserves jams and jellies. From cures for cancer to chewing gum manufacturing, the root, bark, leaves, milky latex, seeds, flowers and fruit raw and ripe have all found use over the ages as food, medicine and industrial raw materials. Physicians in ancient India were among the first to note the blood-sugar-lowering property of the fruit. Long before plastic surgery and laser therapy, unripe papaya juice was an efficient treatment for wrinkles and freckles. The Javanese, for whom the flowers are a delicacy, believed the fruit prevented rheumatism.
African tribes drank the root decoction as a cure for syphilis, and the root paste was an ointment for piles. The aborigines of Australia and the Kahunas and mystic seers of Hawaii use half-ripe papaya to treat cancer, corns and warts. Smoking papaya leaf was an old remedy for asthma and leaf poultices for elephantoid limbs.
Throughout history, ancient peoples used the seeds to induce abortion, cure constipation, expel gut worms, and to promote menstrual flow.
Starting your day with a slice of papaya will take care of your daily requirement of Vitamin A. Apart from holding more Vitamin A and carotene than the carrot does, the salmon-coloured fruit flesh is full of enzymes, minerals like potassium, magnesium, calcium, phosphates and Vitamins B, C and E. The high orange-carotene and Vitamins C and E content give it its anti-oxidant and anti-cancer properties.
Diabetics will be thrilled to hear that apart from having an initial, brief hypoglycaemic effect, the fruit is in itself low in calories. Fruit and seed extracts fight flesh-eating bacteria, microbes preying upon burnt skin, and food poisoning organisms. Tonics containing papain give a digestive fillip to weak stomachs and reduce inflamed, swollen tonsils.
Papain also has a milk-clotting action that makes it useful in cheese making. Like pineapple extract, it is an excellent tenderiser of meat.
The cosmetic industry uses it in shampoos, tooth-cleaning dentifrices and in face-lift packs. The beer industry uses papain to dissolve protein fragments clouding beer, and the silk and wool industries use it to clean fabrics before dyeing. Chymopapain, related to papain, is now a cutting-edge treatment for the pain and inflammation of prolapsed vertebral discs.
Like all medicine, it is poisonous when used incorrectly and in high doses. Go overboard with using the milky latex for wrinkles, and you will end up with red, peeling and boil-covered skin.
Taken internally, it will cause severe gastritis, and drops of it in the eyes will cause severe, painful conjunctivitis. Young leaves contain a bitter alkaloid, carpain, which can depress the heart.
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