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What Are the Uses of Papaya Leaves?

By Amanda R. Bell
Updated Feb 09, 2024
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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.

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Discussion Comments
By ZipLine — On Nov 22, 2013

My roommate is from Indonesia and she cooks with papaya leaves a lot. She usually sautes the leaves with spices, garlic and onion. I think it's used similarly to curry leaves in Indian cuisine.

By stoneMason — On Nov 21, 2013

@literally45-- I'm sorry to hear about your friend.

I'm a cancer survivor and I did eat a lot of fresh papaya, as well as drink papaya leaf tea when I was diagnosed. It didn't shrink my tumor, but I believe that it increased my blood cell count. My blood cell count was very low for a while when I was getting radiotherapy. Around that time, I added papaya leaf tea and papaya fruit to my diet. My blood count went up considerably. Even my doctor was surprised about it.

I have no idea if other people will experience the same benefits I did. And I'm sure that the quality and freshness of the papaya leaves and fruit is important too. But it's definitely worth a try.

By literally45 — On Nov 21, 2013

A friend has breast cancer and she is drinking tea made from papaya leaves regularly. She told me that she read a lot about the anti-cancer properties of papaya, especially papaya leaves. She even sent me a link of a study that was done with this tea. The study concluded that tea made from papaya leaves can prevent cancer cells from spreading and can actually shrink them as well.

I have no idea if it can be a cure for my friend, but it has definitely given her additional hope. Of course, she is getting her regular treatments. She's receiving chemotherapy. But there is no harm in adding natural remedies to her current treatment.

Has anyone else tried papaya leaves for cancer and have you actually received benefits?

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