Pharmaceutical interest

Papain: The latex of Carica papaya L. contains a mixture of cysteine proteinases, chiefly represented by papain, chymopapain and papayoproteinase^. Cysteine proteinases, which are responsible for a variety of cellular processes including the cartilage degradation in arthritis, the progression of Alzheimer's disease and cancer invasion, are of immense pharmacological Fig. 109. Carica papaya L.

Carica Papaya
Fig. 110. Carica papaya L.

Uses: In Burma, the latex of Carica papaya L. is used to expel intestinal worms and to remove the false membrane of diphtheria. In Cambodia, the seeds are used to counteract insect poison, and a poultice of the roots is used to treat uterine tumors. The roots are used to control excessive menses and to expel urinary stones. In Indonesia, the latex is used to expel intestinal worms and to counteract snake-poison. The roots and the seeds are used to expel intestinal worms. In China, the pulp of the fruit is applied to swollen and inflamed feet. In Malaysia, a paste made from the roots is rubbed all over the body after childbirth, and the seeds are ingested in the early months of pregnancy to abort it. The latex is used to remove skin patches. In the state of Kelantan, the latex of the unripe fruit was used as a poison for criminal purposes. In Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam, the latex is used to expel intestinal worms, remove warts and corns, and to treat eczema and psoriasis. The tree was spread all over the tropics by early Portuguese and Spaniards who discovered it in South America.

importance. Papain is a protein consisting of 212 amino acids with a molecular weight of about 23000 Dal-tons. Pure chymopapain is a protein consisting of 218 amino acids whose structure and properties closely resemble those of papain. Chymopapain, currently available lyophilized, is injected into the intervertebral disc in order to cleave the proteoglycans to treat sciatica due to herniated lumbar disc when it resists other medical treatments. Papain, alone or in combination, is used to treat digestive gastric or duodenal insufficiency such as postprandial disorders or bloating (Digestozym®). Externally, it is used to treat mouth infection (Lysopain®) and peripheral venous disorders (Tromshin®), soothe inflammation (Panafil-White®), heal wounds, and to kill germs.

The anthelmintic property of the latex of Carica papaya L. is confirmed experimentally. Administration of a water suspension (2 g/Kg-8 g/Kg) of Carica papaya L. reduces by 55.5%-84.5% the number of Heligmosomoides polygyrus nematodes in necropsied Balb/c mice (Satrija F et al., 1995). The plant abrogates the survival of Haemonchus contortus cultured in vitro (Hounzangbe-Adote MS et al., 2005).

Antimicrobial properties: The ability of Carica papaya L. to inhibit the proliferation of Candida albicans in vitro (Giordani R et a/., 1996) is potentiated with fluconazole (Giordani R et a/., 1997). Papain taken per os reduces herpes Simplex Virus infection as efficiently as aciclovir (Zovirax®); (Kleine MW et a/., 1995).

Note that the leaves of Carica papaya L. contain carpaine, a piperidine alkaloid which reduces cardiac activity and annihilates amoeba.

References Carpaine

Giordani R, etal. (1996) Mycosis 39(3-4): 103-110. Giordani R, etal. (1997) Mycosis 40(11-12): 429-437. Holsinger JW, etal. (1968) J Am Med Ass 204, 734.

Hounzangbe-Adote MS, etal. (2005) Research in Veterinary Science (78)2: 155-160.

Lohiya NK, etal. (1992) Int J Pharmacog 3(4): 32-38.

Satrija F, etal. (1995) J Ethopharmacol 48(3): 161-164.

Warning: In high doses, papain is lethal. Death from hemorrhage following extensive destruction of the esophageal wall and the descending thoracic aorta resulted from the use of a papain suspension (1.2 g of papain over 12 hours period) to treat an obstruction caused by impacted meat (Holsinger JW et a/., 1968). The effect of the latex of Carica papaya L. on pregnancy is still a subject of controversy. A number of experiments conducted in animals in the seventies demonstrated that the latex of Carica papaya L. abrogated a pregnancy, but a standardized papain (800mg/Kg) given per os to Wistar rats (800mg/Kg) during blastogenesis (day 0-day 6) or embryogenesis (day 6-day 15) did not show any anti-implantation properties nor embryonic toxicity (Schmidt H., 1995). Induction of the reversible antifertil-ity with crude ethanolic extract of the seeds of Carica papaya L. in albino male rats was however observed (Lohiya NK et a/., 1992). The same rats fed with 100 mg of the seeds of Carica papaya per kilogram of body weight developed degeneration of geminal epithelium, germ cells, and Leydig cells (Udoh P etal., 1999).

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