The Health Benefits of Papaya Leaves
Most people will be familiar with the tropical papaya fruit and may also be familiar with its range of excellent health benefits. It is likely however that fewer people know that the papaya leaf is also home to a wide range of medicinal compounds that can be used to treat a number of different illnesses ranging from improving digestive health to curing dengue fever.
Papaya fruit also known as pawpaw or papaw and the leaves come from the papaya tree known scientifically as Cariba papaya which belongs to the family Caricaceae. The attractive tree is originally native to the Central American tropics and was possibly cultivated first in Mexico. These days papaya grows in many tropical areas of the world.
I must admit that I am not a fan of the ripe fruit but it is full of healthy vitamins and minerals and extremely rich in antioxidant beta carotenes. The seeds and oil from the fruit are also incredibly healthy and are loaded with nutritious fatty acids.
While the fruit is incredibly popular and a staple part of the Asian diet, the leaves are also gaining notoriety and papaya leaf juice is becoming an extremely popular choice of beverage. Like the papaya fruit, the leaves of the tree also offer a range of therapeutic goodness.
They are rich in certain enzymes like chymopapain and papain which help to improve digestive health. Alkaloid compounds found in the leaves such as karpain are known to help improve the health of the hair including conditions like dandruff. Papaya leaves are also rich in vitamin A, C and E and also contain a healthy dose of vitamin B and K. Papaya leaves are also home to an assortment of essential minerals such as magnesium, calcium, iron and potassium.
The Health Benefits of Papaya Leaves
1) Digestive Health
Papaya leaves are rich in papain and chymopapain, which studies have demonstrated aid digestion, cleanse the colon and help to prevent constipation. There is also some evidence that papain can help to prevent stomach ulcers from developing.
Papaya leaves also contain several other enzymes including amylase and protese which help to break down carbohydrates, proteins and minerals. This helps us to get more nutrients from our food and also improves digestion.
Several studies on humans and animals have demonstrated that papaya leaves can enhance glucose sensitivity and reduce glucose levels making them a good choice for people with type 2 diabetes. (1)
One study done on adults in Mauritius and published in 2012 found that a supplementary preparation made with papaya leaves helped to decrease certain bio-markers related to type 2 diabetes and also helped improve insulin sensitivity. (2)
Researchers believe that the antioxidants found in papaya leaf are responsible for its effect on glucose levels. The same antioxidants may also have a positive effect on many of the complications brought on by diabetes including organ damage caused by oxidative stress. They may also help to accelerate wound healing which is often hindered in patients with diabetes.
3) Cold and Flu
You can use papaya leaves to make a tea that is suitable for preventing and treating colds, flu and fever. The antioxidants and nutrition found in the eaves can help to boost the body’s immune system helping to stave off these illnesses. According to experts, papaya leaves can help regenerate the platelets and white blood cells which help you to fight illness.
4) Menstrual Pains
Papaya leaf tea or juice may help women to deal with the pain caused by menstruation as well as helping to ease menstrual flow. It may also help to balance the female hormones and to treat many of the symptoms of PMS.
Recent studies have demonstrated that papaya leaves may have a role to play in the fight against various types of cancer.
Research published in 2010 showed that papaya leaf tea had promising effects against several types of cancer cell in the laboratory. These included breast, lung, cervical and pancreatic cancer cells. (3)
The researchers believe that these anti-cancer effects might be down to the way in which papaya leaves stimulate the immune cells responsible for fighting harmful cancer cells.
The researchers also noted that papaya leaf tea was safe and non-toxic and had the potential as an alternative form of treatment for several types of cancer.
6) Dengue Fever
Dengue fever is a dangerous mosquito born disease transmitted by a mosquito called the Aedes mosquito. It causes a number of nasty symptoms including severe headaches,very high fever , joint pain, muscle pain and a rash. It can even prove fatal in the most severe cases.
Up to now, the only treatment is with painkillers such as ibuprofen or aspirin but recent studies have demonstrated that a traditional remedy in the form of papaya leaf extract and juice may be effective. According to researchers, it works by significantly raising the platelet count of patients. (4)
7) Skin Health
Papaya leaves contain a number of compounds that can help keep your skin looking and feeling young and fresh. Papaya leaves contain as many as 50 amino acids including glucine, glutamate acid, tyrosine, tritophan and alanine. Many of these compounds are used by the cosmetic industry for beauty and skin products.
- You can try taking a few dried leaves and adding them to some water in a blender. Blend up the leaves to make a nice smooth paste.
- Apply the finished paste to your face like a mask.
- Let it sit on your skin for at least 30 minutes before washing it off.
Papaya leaf juice can also be used to cleanse the skin because it contains karpain compounds which can inhibit bacteria and toxins.
8) Hair Health
Papaya leaves can also be used to give your hair a treat. As we already mentioned, the leaves contain karpain which can help remove grime and oil from the scalp. It may also help treat dandruff and is often found as an ingredient in over the counter dandruff shampoos.
Papaya leaf extracts are also used in many commercial hair products such as conditioner and shampoo. Some people even suggest that it is effective against balding but there is no evidence to back up these claims.
How to use Papaya Leaves.
Papaya leaf is available in supplementary form from many health shops and online stores. The leaves can also be used to make a delicious healthy tea or juice. Papaya leaf juice is becoming more widely available these days but if you can get hold of some papaya leaves, why not try this delicious papaya leaf tea recipe?
How to Make Papaya Leaf Tea
- First off, dry your leaves. Gather around 6 and secure them together with string. Hang these bunches of leaves in a cool and dry area. It may take several weeks before they dry.
- Alternatively, you can dry your leaves in the oven. Put your leaves onto a baking tray and place it in a preheated oven at 220 degrees Fahrenheit. Check them every 10 minutes until they are fully dry but be careful they are not burnt.
- Crush your dried leaves and crumble them up with your hands. You could make your own tea bags but it is far easier and just as healthy to use them as loose tea,
- Put a few teaspoons of the crushed leaves in a teapot and cover with boiling water.
- Flavor with honey to taste if you desire and drink up.