Papaya is rich in an enzyme called papain, a protease that is useful in tenderizing meat, and other proteins. Its Utility is in breaking down the tough meat fibers and it has been utilized for thousands of years in its native South America. It is included as a component in powdered meat tenderizers. Papaya enzyme is also marketed in tablet form to remedy digestive problems. Papain is extremely useful since it retains proteolytic activity over a wide pH range, unlike other proteases. Thus, it is in more widespread use than bromelain, the proteolytic enzyme found in pineapple juice. Latex is extracted on a commercial scale in East Africa, where the green fruit are “tapped” by making incisions on the fruit surface in the morning, and catching the exuding latex over a period of days. The latex is then dried, and ground into powder. The most popular use is a meat tenderizer.
The black seeds are edible, and have a sharp, spicy taste. They are sometimes ground up and used as a substitute for black pepper. The papaya is high in digestive properties and has a direct tonic effect on the stomach. It is used in the treatment of stomach ulcers and fevers, and has a high mucus solvent action.
All organs of the plant contain laticifers, and white latex flows freely from any cut surface. Long ago, natives learned that papaya latex is a very effective meat tenderizer. Tough meat was wrapped in fresh leaves for several hours to make it tender. The active tenderizing ingredient is a protein-digesting enzyme called papain, which is very similar to human stomach pepsin. Interestingly, some of the early crude studies of plant protein structure were done by digesting the proteins into pieces with the use of papain.
When choosing a papaya, look for one that is fairly large, half yellow or more, and slightly soft. It should yield to gentle palm pressure. Avoid papayas that are too soft, or those that have scars or blemishes.
If the skin has no yellow, the papaya will ripen if left at room temperature for a few days. If a papaya is less than half ripe, do not store it in the refrigerator. Cool temperatures shut off the ripening process. A papaya that is one-quarter to one-half ripe should keep for one to two weeks. Completely ripe papayas should be refrigerated and eaten as soon as possible.
Papain has been commercially produced by scoring unripened fruits with longitudinal cuts and then collecting the copious latex in containers set on the ground below. The latex is sun- or oven-dried into a powder; the papain powder most commonly is marketed in the United States as Adolph’s Meat Tenderizer. Much of the papain is produced in Tanzania. There are a variety of other uses for this interesting enzyme, which is fairly similar to another proteolytic enzyme found in pineapple, bromelin.
As we can see the uses for papain are diverse and thus it makes it an extremely valuable enzyme. Papain has been employed to treat ulcers, dissolve membranes in diphtheria, and reduce swelling, fever and adhesions after surgery. With considerable risk, it has been applied on meat impcted in the gullet, chemopapain is sometimes injected in cases of slipped spinal discs or pinched nerves, Precautions should be taken because some individuals are allergic to papain in any form and even to meat tenderized with papain.
As medicinal product, papain is used in some localities to remedy gastrointestinal and similar ailments. The ripe fruit, when eaten fresh, improves food digestion and is reported to have a complimentary laxative effect.. Its proteolytic enzymes work together to break down complex proteins to produce small peptides and amino acids that cn be better utilized or transported to other parts of the body. One focus of contemporary biomedical research is determining the most appropriate applications of these bioreactive natural papaya plant products.
Benefits or uses of Papaya include
Digestive enzyme for protein
Tonic effect on the stomach
Has solvent effect on mucous
Helps stomach ulcers
Aids in fevers
The papaya is a good source of vitamins A and C, as well as folate and fiber. In addition, it’ fat-free. Cholesterol-free and low in sodium. And an average serving (1/2 papaya) has only 70 calories.
Source:biolife magazine September-october 2008