Papaya seeds are the source of a prized extract thought by many herbalists to have a range of medicinal uses — from anti-cancerous and antibacterial properties to easing the pain of arthritis and even burns. Though edible, the seeds have a bold peppery taste, so consuming them might be an unpleasant way to ingest this potentially valuable supplement. While many purchase a tincture made of papaya seeds to get the concentrated effects, papaya seeds also can be used to grow more papaya trees, of course. With the right know-how, this bounty of seeds can then be used to make papaya extract or flour at home.
Papayas have a storied reputation, both as a fruit and as a medicine. Christopher Columbus famously dubbed it the "fruit of the angels" when he was introduced to the food by indigenous people who already revered it. The tree, Carica papaya, grows throughout the tropical regions of the world in 2011, though Mexico is considered its native home. A smaller variety, the Hawaiian papaya, is more commonly found in produce sections.
Many use slightly dried papaya seeds to cultivate their own trees, which can thrive in warm weather with just moderately moist, yet well-fertilized, soil. Any below-freezing weather is likely to kill a papaya plant, so potted specimens should be brought indoors during cold spells. It will take a year or more for the trees to actually flower and bear fruit, typically once they have reached the height of a full-grown man or higher.
Many supplement with papaya merely by eating the fruit or drinking its juice. Some buy tinctures made from the seed extracts, while others dry and grind the seeds into flour for use in breads or desserts. Since herbalists often recommend a concentrated dosage to get the most effects, many recommend a manufactured tincture made from thousands of seeds. No specific dose has been set by an official institution though, since the seeds have proven safe for most people at all doses, except those with allergies to latex.
The medicinal benefits are starting to stack up in favor of tinctures made of papaya seeds. A 2008 study by researchers at Ethiopia's University of Gondar found that papaya seeds had a marked antibacterial effect. Another study in 2010, by University of Florida scientists, discovered that cancerous tumors were detrimentally affected by a leaf extract from the papaya plant. Though as of 2011 further study is still required to verify all of the uses of this plant, healers for centuries have used it as oral contraception, to ease digestive disorders, as an antiseptic, and to fight pain and parasitic infections.