There may be something to the claims, but as with all alternative remedy claims, they should be taken with a grain of salt.
Here is a collection of folk remedies concerning papaya, or pawpaw, some with seemingly scientific explanations. I offer these for consideration only. Without some way of ensuring consistency of concentrations and amounts of active ingredients, and double blind tests to establish efficacy, there is no way to know if the claims are valid, or just another example of anecdotal evidence and placebo effect. If they do work, dose control may be an important issue. This was stated also in this informative page at the Cornell University website. You will note this page has some credibility because it lists references.
So here is a quick summary of the more interesting alternative pages:
seeds pulverized or chewed help expulsion of parasites as worms and
other ascarides, and they are beneficial in case of dysentery caused by
amoebae (reference??). The Plasmodium, causal agent of malaria, transmitted by
mosquitoes, is a parasite. (Luis from Cali, Colombia)
In 1997 i read an article
in a local weekly by a Mr David Simpson (i think) who said he had been
taking pawpaw pips as an anti-malarial for 20 years and had not had
malaria since, despite being in a bad malaria area of Zambia. I have
taken half a dozen pawpaw pips a day since then and have not had malaria
again.(Jamie from Lusaka, Zambia)
The leaves and fruit of green Papaya can cause miscarriage early in
pregnancy. Papain or vegetable pepsin is found in Papaya’s latex and
leaves. Researchers have noted that unripe papaya latex acts like
prostaglandin and oxytocin. Synthetic prostaglandin and oxytocin are
commonly used to start or strengthen labor contractions, therefore
unripe papayas may cause severe complications in pregnancy or may even
cause miscarriage. Women in different parts of the world have long used
green papaya and papaya seeds as a folk remedy for contraception and
abortion. (Tim from Chicago)
Papaya Leaf is an excellent treatment for
digestive disorders and extremely useful for any disturbances of the
gastrointestinal tract. Papain, the powerful enzyme in Papaya, helps to dissolve and digest protein,
thus easing stomach ailments and indigestion. (Because papain breaks
down tough meat fibers, it is often used in restaurants and is the major
ingredient in (some)commercial meat tenderizers!) (True). Papaya has been effective
in easing heartburn and is given to treat dyspepsia and gastric catarrh.
In the lab and in clinical studies papain has proven to be a cancer-fighting enzyme. Papain is found in the papaya leaf and in many cultures is brewed in a tea to fight and prevent cancer.
Papain has been proven in labs and in clinical studies to eat away the
protein fibrous coating on cancer cells so that your body can kill the
cancer. (I have grave doubts about this – can’t find any reputable studies, only claims on alternative medicine sites, except this one, and this, which appear to be discussing another genus of plant altogether: Asimina triloba).
The enzyme in the papaya leaf, papain, is a
protein-eating enzyme like your pancreatic enzymes and can substitute
for a weak pancreas if you have cancer or insure against cancer by
digesting proteins from your food so that they do not become toxic,
undigested food in your intestines.
The papaya is a small tropical tree with a straight stem marked by scars
where leaves have fallen directly from it. Papayas do not have
The papaya fruit is pear-shaped with a bright
golden-yellow skin. The flesh of the fruit is a brighter orange-yellow,
juicy and silky smooth, with a sweet and sour flavor. The shiny gray or
black seeds in the interior of the fruit have a peppery taste and are
edible, although they are usually discarded.
The papaya is an extraordinarily useful plant. In the
tropics around the world papaya is the breakfast fruit, served either
green or ripe. The juice is a popular beverage, and the leaves and young
stems are steamed and served as a vegetable. The fruit yields an
enzyme, papain, best known as a digestive aid but most commonly used to
"clear" freshly brewed beer. The latex is used as a freckle remover, and
the seed has antibacterial action against Bacillus cereus, Escherischia
coli, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Staphylococcus aureus, and Shigella
flexneri. (evidence/reference?) The leaves have been used as a substitute for soap, and for
dressing wounds (Mountain Rose Herbs).
That’s enough for now. I have things to do.