Papaya leaves come from the papaya tree, which also produces a fruit of the same name. Although the fruit is well-known, the lesser-known leaves are believed to have several different uses. For culinary purposes, they can act as a meat tenderizer. They are also believed to be several health benefits of papaya leaves, including removing intestinal parasites. They can also aid in correcting digestion problems and can potentially reduce inflammation in several parts of the body.
The leaves of the papaya tree are commonly utilized in a variety of cuisines, and are a well-known meat tenderizer. For hundreds of years, several different cultures have wrapped meat in a single papaya leaf and let it rest, allowing the natural fibers and enzymes of the green to tenderize the meat. Although this method is less common in some areas today, whole papaya leaves are still frequently used for this purpose. Commercially, the leaves can be ground, dried, and sold as a spice intended to break down the fibers of tougher cuts of meat.
An enzyme found in papaya leaves, known as carpain, is believed to kill certain intestinal parasites and worms that could potentially cause several different digestive issues and other health problems. The leaves can be eaten whole or the essential enzymes can be extracted and used with other parasite treatments in a medication or tincture. In some cases, this occurs simply because the leaves help to clean out the digestive tract, removing parasites and worms; however, the enzymes may break these down in the same manner that they do other things in the digestive tract.
Papaya leaves are perhaps best known for their use as a digestive aid. The enzyme papain found inside the leaves is one of the primary properties of this green that can help to break down protein and carbohydrates in the digestive tract. Some theorize that this same enzyme also increases the production of beneficial acids, which can help to regulate the digestive system. Eating sautéed leaves, or using commercially-prepared papaya supplements made from them, can often provide these benefits. Typically, the leaves or supplements are consumed prior to a meal to help aid the body in processing the foods.
In some cultures, papaya leaves are believed to reduce inflammation, specifically in the prostate. The combination of papain and chymopapain, another enzyme found in papaya leaves, are believed by some to reduce inflammation in several other parts of the body. Some patients with prostate issues, arthritis, and other inflammatory diseases have noticed an improvement in their symptoms when consuming this product on a regular basis.