Pawpaw is botanically known as Carica papaya L. of the family Caricaceae. It has synonyms such as Carica hermaphrodita Blanco and Carica mamaya Vellon. Common names include Pawpaw; melon tree, mummy apple, Papaya (English),Papayer (French).
In Ghana it is known in Akan as Brofre, borofere, boroferedua, buruku-mani, Ga-Dangbe as Akpakpa, and Ewe as adiba.
Pawpaw is a soft-wooded, straight, generally unbranched tree which grows up to 5 to 6 meters high with conspicuous leaf scars on a hollow stem. The leaves are large, palmate, sometimes reaching a metre in diameter and grouped at the top of the stem with a long, hollow and robust petiole. It has unisexual flowers white or greenish dioecious. The flowers are occasionally hermaphrodite, unisexual male and female flowers on different plants. the male flowers are gamopetalous and tassel while the female flowers are large, polypetalous and sub-sessile. Pawpaw fruits are oblong or oblong oval up to 30 cm long and 7-11 cm wide with fleshy mesocarp, yellow or gold when ripe and green when unripe.
Pawpaw has many uses in Ghana and beyond. In Ghana, the boiled fresh or dried leaves is used to treat febrile conditions. The leaf decoction is also used to treat hernia, malaria, urogenitalpain, gonorrhoea and cancer. The root paste is dissolved in warm water and used as an enema to treat abdominal pain. The root paste also mixed with palm oil and used as a poultice to treat whitlow. The root is macerated in cold water and used as a mouthwash against dental caries. The roots are used in the treatment of urethritis (painful urination), typhoid, fever, and as a laxative. The roots and leaves are used as diuretics. The decoction of the unripe fruit is used for jaundice, sickle cell anaemia and hepatitis. The crushed unripe fruit is applied topically to treat boils and clean diabetic wounds. The are used as an anti-helmintic.
Chemical constituents of Carica papaya
It contains Phenyl-propanoids (caffeic acid), alkaloids (carpaine 9 dihydrocarpaine I and II, pseudo-carpaïne, cotinine, myosmine, nicotine, choline, pyridine, carpasamine) and cyanogenic glucoside. It was found to contain nicotine, xylitol and saponins, carotenoids (β-carotene, ε-carotene, cryptoxanthin), lycopene, annins; α-linolenic acid, benzenoid, benzaldehyde, benzyl glucosinolate, methyl salicylate, sulfur compounds, isothiocyanate benzyl; protein: papain, chimopapaine A, ω-protease, vitamins A, C and E2, minerals: potassium, mainly calcium, iron, phosphorus; sterols (β-sitosterol; dehydroavenosterol, compesterol, cholesterol, stigmasterol); fatty acids (palmitic, stearic, oleic, linoleic acids); phosphatides; pectin, citric acid
Therapeutic actions include analgesic, anticonvulsant, antibacterial, amoebicidal, antifungal, antihelminthic, antiulcer, antinflammatory, diuretic, and vulnerary.
Therapeutic indications include jaundice, intestinal helminthiasis (pinworm, tapeworm), Colitis, toothache, chronic constipation, dysentery, hypertension, pharyngitis, urinary skin ulcer, guinea worm, irritable bowel syndrome, retention, ascariasis, urinary retention, kerosene poisoning, wounds, amoebiasis and fever.
Ways by which pawpaw fruits may help you:
- Pawpaw is a good source of: folate, vitamin A, magnesium, copper, pantothenic acid and fiber. They also have B vitamins, alpha and beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin, vitamin E, calcium, potassium, vitamin K, and lycopene, the powerful antioxidant most commonly associated with tomatoes.
- Great for your eyes: Pawpaw is rich in Vitamin A which helps protect your vision from degenerating.
- Boosts your immunity :The rich content of Vitamin C makes it great for your immunity since it helps prevent infections.
- Pawpaw is rich in fibre, Vitamin C and antioxidants which prevent cholesterol build up in your arteries Lowering cholesterol.
- Improves digestion: The digestive enzyme known as papain in pawpaw along with fibre helps improve your digestive health. It also high in fiber and water content, both of which help to prevent constipation and promote regularity and a healthy digestive tract.
- Good for diabetics: Pawpaw is an excellent food option for diabetics as it has a low-sugar content even though it is sweet to taste. Also, people who don’t have diabetes can eat papaya to prevent it.
- Protects against arthritis: Eating pawpaw are good for your bones as they have anti-inflammatory properties along with Vitamin C which helps in preventing various forms of arthritis. Adequate vitamin K consumption is important for good health, as it improves calcium absorption and may reduce urinary excretion of calcium, meaning there is more calcium in the body to strengthen and rebuild bones.
- Prevents signs of ageing: Pawpaw is rich in Vitamin C, Vitamin E and antioxidants like beta-carotene which helps prevent your skin from free radical damage keeping wrinkles and other signs of ageing at bay.
- Prevents cancer: Pawpaw is a rich source of antioxidants, phytonutrients and flavonoids that prevent your cells from undergoing free radical damage. Consuming the antioxidant beta-carotene, found in papayas, may reduce cancer risk. Diets rich in beta-carotene may play a protective role against prostate cancer in younger men, according to a study published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology and Prevention Biomarkers.
- Helps in weight loss since it is very low in calories. The fibre content in pawpaw makes you feel full and also clears your bowel movement.
PREDICTED ADVERSE EFFECTS OF PAWPAW IN PREPARATIONS
Toxicity may induced kidney failure.
Yellowing of palms and soles since excessive consumption leads to carotenemia.
Papain can induce asthma and rhinitis.
The latex can cause severe gastritis when taken internally.
Decreases fertility since papain is known to cause abortion shortly after conception.
Ghana Herbal Pharmacopoeia (1992), 120-122. The Advent Press: Accra, Ghana.
Mshana, N.R., Abbiw, D.K., Addae-Mensah, I., Ahiyi, M.R.A. et al (2000). Traditional medicine and pharmacopoeia. Contribution to the revision of Ethnobotanical and Floristics Studies of Ghana. Organisation of African Unity/Scientific, technical and research committee.
Nahrstedt, A. (1987). Recent developments in chemistry, distribution and biology the cyanogenic glycosides. In: Hostettmann, K., Lea, P.J. (Eds). Biologically active natural products.
What are the health benefits of papaya? Medical news today. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/275517.php. Accessed May 24, 2019