The 'medicine tree'

The 'medicine tree'

Your Health Your Wealth

Sunday, November 29, 2020

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KNOWN as mamão in Brazil, la fruta bomba in certain parts of the Caribbean, el melon zapote in Mexico, or pawpaw to Australians, this succulent melon-shaped fruit papaya — which comes from the Latin Carica papaya — continues to delight the fancy of many locally. Are you a pawpaw fan? Wait till you hear the benefits of this year-rounder. 

The medicine tree

Called the “medicine tree”, every part of this plant is good.

The hollow fleshy stem abounds with calcium, phosphorous and iron along with vitamins A, B and C. The trunk of a female tree contains 1-1/2 per cent protein with seven to 10 per cent sugar. The stalks, leaves and unripe fruit are rich in 'milk' — a strong anthelmintic or a killer of intestinal worms. And the little black seeds help digestion and the elimination of unwanted intestinal parasites. 

Good for men

Contrary to local superstition that males should stay clear of papaya because it cuts “nature”, this fruit is rich in arginine, known for increasing blood flow in the vessels around the penis and increasing nitric acid in the blood. 

Papain — cheapest worm medicine

This enzyme makes papayas unique in digesting proteins. Found only in papayas, the greatest amount of papain lies right under the skin of the fruit when unripe.

Papaya aids in digesting meat, egg, and milk protein, alleviating indigestion, guarding against infection and is also a medicinal aid for diabetics and patients of hepatitis.

Papain attacks and removes the epidermis of most parasites, such as hookworms, that may get stuck in our colon and intestines. 

Chewing leaves and seed

Try eating papaya when green and bitter. If you can't, chewing and ingesting a piece of the leaf or a tablespoonful of the seeds after each meal may prove beneficial. The latter thought may also be unpleasant, given the pungent taste of the seeds, but when weighed against the health benefit of eradicating harmful parasites, one may consider ingesting them.

We eat a lot of crap because they're tasty, so we should try breaking ourselves into the habit of eating things that may not be tasty, but are healthy.

A slice of the ripe fruit works very well in preventing indigestion, which may accompany a meal high in protein. The fruit is nice for snacking and making a refreshing juice or smoothie. 

Natural tenderiser

Try wrapping raw meat overnight in papaya leaves. You will be amazed how tender it becomes.

Hunters in some countries do this after they kill an old animal, and by the next day the meat becomes tender as that of a young animal's. A similar effect can be seen by rubbing tough meat with papaya juice. 

That bad cold or sore

Every once in a while, a bad cold overtakes us.

Cook papaya flowers in water, add brown sugar, then strain off the syrup for a fine cough mixture.

Curative benefits also come from tying papaya leaf on sores, and a poultice of papaya flesh works well as a topical treatment for skin blemishes.

This tree is a local wonder. Little wonder, in the onslaught of the chikungunya virus, many attributed medicinal value to the leaves of the tree. So, why not take up a pound or two of the fruit when next you go to the market? They'll likely see you before you see them. And be sure to drop a seed or two in the backyard and reap the benefits of this tall medicine tree. 

Warrick Lattibeaudiere, PhD, a minister of religion for the past 23 years, lectures full-time in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Technology, Jamaica, where he is also director of the Language, Teaching and Research Centre. E-mail him at

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