Papain is a proteolytic enzyme extracted from the latex of the papaya fruit with a digestive and anti-inflammatory action. Let’s find out better.
What is papain
Papain is a sulfhydryl protease extracted from the papaya plant (Carica papaya L.). Its main use is as an adjuvant for digestion, having a specific protein degradation action similar to that exerted by digestive enzymes (trypsin and chemotrypsin) in the stomach.
Enzymes are protein molecules capable of regulating all the chemical reactions that take place in the body: growth, transformation, reduction, death and subsequent rebirth of the millions of cells that make up our body and everything that happens inside them.
Where is papain found
Papain is extracted from papaya, a woody tree native to tropical America. The drug (the part of the plant containing the active ingredient) is the latex obtained from the not yet ripe fruit.
Latex is also present in the leaves and trunk of the plant. Raw papain is obtained by making light incisions on the pericarp (part of the fruit that covers the seed) allowing the latex to escape; this is collected, left to coagulate and dried in the sun or artificially; the powder thus obtained will undergo further processing to eliminate impurities.
Papain used commercially is a dark to light brown powder; it can have a very unpleasant odor or be odorless, depending on the quality.
Papain is commercially available purified and of different quality; moreover, it exists in different formulations: capsules, powder, in toothpaste and cosmetics.
Properties of papain
Papain has numerous biological properties, including anti- inflammatory and anti- edemic properties properties, that is, it promotes the reabsorption of edema, bruising and subcutaneous infiltrates.
Its ability to digest dead tissue without affecting the surrounding living tissue has earned it a reputation as a “biological chisel”.
Furthermore, its main used currently is linked to the digestive capacity of the molecule, therefore it is present in many preparations to improve the digestion of food, in association with other substances with proteolytic action (or protein degradation), such as bromelain and ficin.
It is also used in face creams, cleansers, wrinkle formulations, toothpastes.
At one time, it was used to treat numerous pathologies and disorders such as: infected wounds, sores, ulcers, chronic diarrhea, tumors, phlegm and psoriasis.
Currently on the market there are many products based on fermented papaya, obtained by fermentation, prolonged over time, of the fruit. The extract obtained does not only contain papain, but also other substances such as vitamins, minerals, and organic substances.
This preparation seems to have strong immunostimulating, antioxidant (“radical scavenger“) and anti-aging properties, as well as preventing neurodegenerative diseases connected with the production of free radicals. The prolonged fermentation allows the obtaining of new components that are not limited to acting as “scavengers” of free radicals but which also optimize the functions of the organism’s endogenous antioxidant system, protecting cell membranes and DNA from oxidative stress.
The fermentation process also allows to profoundly modify the protein and carbohydrate content, originating a complex of substances, called ß-Glucans, with immunomodulating properties (i.e. regulation of the immune defenses) documented.
Studies on the antioxidant properties of fermented papaya are multiple and sometimes contradictory. Here, we limit ourselves to remembering that every natural remedy must be chosen according to specific needs and not out of fashion and that a regular and healthy life is the basis of every medicine.
Contraindications of papain
Papain, in predisposed individuals, can give allergic contact reactions and can be a serious irritant and vesicant. For internal use it can cause severe gastritis. Adhering to the recommended doses and short courses can help prevent such ailments.