Pawpaw, botanically known as Carica papaya is a short-lived, fast growing, woody, large herb. It is about 10-12ft in height. It branches only when injured. All parts contain latex. The hollow green or deep purple trunk is straight and cylindrical with prominent leaf scars. Its diameter may be from 2 or 3 inches to over a foot bases, belonging to the family Caricaceae (Morton, 2007). In sunny locations, it's trees typically assume a pyramidal habit, straight trunk and lush, long drooping leaves that turn brown and gold in colour during the fall.
It's Flowers emerge before leaves in mid spring. The blossoms occur singly on previous year’s wood and may reach up to 5cm in diameter. Flowers are strongly protogynous and require cross pollination although some trees may be self-compatible. Pollination by insect is consistent with the presentation appearance of the flower dark-coloured petals and waxy. Fruits are oblong, cylindrical berries that are typically 3-15cm long, 3-10cm wide and weigh from 200-400g. This fruit has a ripe taste that resembles a creamy mixture of banana, mango and pineapple. Shelf life of a ripened fruit stored at room temperature is 2-3 days, within the fruits, there are two rows of numerous black seeds encased in mucin coat, they may be up to 3cm long.
Pawpaw is believed to have originated from temperate woody lands in the eastern US. The American Indian is credited with spreading the pawpaw across the eastern US to the Gulf. Fossils prove that pawpaw is indigenous to the US.The seed was also distributed to the Caribbean and south-east Asia during the Spanish exploration in the 16th century where it spread rapidly to India, the pacific and Africa. Pawpaw is grown in all the tropical countries and many sub-tropical regions in the world. In Nigeria, it is locally known as 'Ibepe', 'ojo' and 'gwanda' and it's leaves, seeds and fruits are used in the treatment of diseases like Gonorrhoea, syphilis, amoebic dysentery, malaria, convulsion and also papain enzyme as meat tenderizer.
TAXONOMY OF PAWPAW
Botanical Name: Carica papaya
Economic importance of pawpaw
1) The ripe fruit which is soft to thumb pressure is usually delicious and rich in taste.
2) The unripe pawpaw has been used in centuries by women as natural contraceptive when eaten in large quantities (Oderinde et al.,2005)
3) The young leaves of pawpaw are consumed as vegetable in many Asian and pacific regions.
4) The black seeds which resemble pepper corn when grinded can be used as substitute for black pepper.
5) Papain which is a proteolytic (protein-digesting) enzyme derived from papaya is very important in breweries just because of its ability to hydrolyse protein during fermentation process. Papain is used in pharmaceutical industry in production of dugs and in food industries in production of jellies and candies (Timesis, 2000).
6) Papain is also used in textile industry.
7) The bark of pawpaw tree is used in fishing net and rope production.
8) The cultivation of pawpaw serves as source of income for farmers.
9) Use of pawpaw in cosmetics: papain which an enzyme derived from papaya fruit serves as ingredient in the production of papaya soap, papaya body cream and papaya facial cleanser. It is rich in vitamins that help the skin remain clear, spot-free and soft. Vitamin C which is an antioxidant present in the fruit is known to exfoliate dead skin cells. It is also used for natural face lift, it reduces premature ageing in skin. The fruit also contains vitamin A which accelerates formation of new cell in skin. The fruit is also used in treating skin problems like pimples and eczema, papaya ointment is used for the production of lip balm which known to prevent the lip from drying and chapping (Timesis, 2000).
Medicinal Importance of Pawpaw
Pawpaw is packed with medicinal virtues which were fully recognized even in ancient times. It helps in digestion and breaking down of protein from the food we eat to amino acid;
1) Pawpaw is excellent for digestive movement: It is loaded with dietary fibres which regulate bowel movement and prevent constipation. It helps to remove toxins out of the digestive tract and keep the system healthy, dietary fibres are known to prevent all types of diseases that have to do with digestive system and because this fruit is so rich in dietary fibres, it can serve as an alternative. So, eating pawpaw will not only give you a healthy digestive system but can also prevent the risk of digestive diseases.
2) Pawpaw keeps the lungs healthy: It keeps the lungs healthy by providing vitamin A which could help to reduce the effect of toxins found in cigarette.
3) Pawpaw contains anti-oxidants: One of the benefits of eating pawpaw is that it prevents cholesterol oxidation, it is used as preventive treatment against strokes, diabetes and heart disease. It also prevents oxidation of cancerous cells. So, adding daily serving of pawpaw to your meal lessen your risk of developing cancer and heart diseases.
4) Eliminates intestinal parasites: There is evidence that papaya seeds eradicate intestinal parasites and the seeds are effective against E. coli, salmonella and staph infections because of its anti-bacterial properties.
5) Pawpaw boosts male virility: Another great benefit of pawpaw is to boost male virility. An enzyme called arginine which is present in pawpaw is known in the medical community to boost blood flow around the penis. Arginine boosts nitric acid in the body to relax the muscles surrounding the blood vessels that supply blood to the penis. A more concentrated form of arginine which is found in pawpaw is used to treat erectile dysfunction.
Pawpaw leaf is useful in the treatment of malaria.
6) Unripe pawpaw has been used in centuries past by women as a natural contraceptive and induce abortion when eaten in large quantities.
7) Remedy for acne: Pawpaw is used to prevent formation of puss and swelling of skin disorder such as acne. This is done by applying the juice of papaya to the affected area, also application of the juice to wound will help speed up the healing process.
8) Kidney protection: Research has been found that extract from pawpaw seeds may protect the kidney from toxins that induce kidney failure.
9) Papain which is an enzyme found in pawpaw can be applied tropically in an ointment to treat burns, rashes and cuts.
In conclusion, Carica papaya is a wholesome fruit which is known for its nutritional, digestive and medicinal properties. Nutritionally, pawpaw is an excellent source of vitamin A, C (Ascorbic acid) and E. It is also rich in essential B-complex such as folic acids, pyridoxin (vitamin B6). It is also a rich source of calcium and anti-oxidant such as beta-carotene and lycopene. Pawpaw contains enzymes such as papain and chymopapain which increase the quality of proteins in the whole organism, pawpaw also boosts immune system due to the presence of dietary fibres which replenish and play a vital role in metabolism. Pawpaw revitalizes the body to maintain an healthy body system. Hence, it is important to add pawpaw as part of our meal.
References for further reading
- CRFG., (1998). California Rare Fruit Growers. Fruit facts (3) 22-30.
- Danielone, E.F., Torres F., Quinones, W., Cardona, G., Archbold, R., Roldan, J., Brito I., Luis, J.G. and Lahlou, U. E. (1997). A phytoalexin from papaya fruit. Phytochemistry, 1997, vol. 44, no2, pp. 255-256.
- Lohiya, N. K., Manivannan, B., Mishra, P.K., Pathak, N., Sriram, S., Bhande, S.S. and Panneerdoss, S. (March 2002). "Chloroform extract of Carica papaya seeds induces long-term reversible azoospermia in langur monkey". Asian Journal of Andrology 4 (1): 17–26. PMID 11907624. Archived from the original on October 18, 2006. Retrieved 2006-11-18.
- Morton, J.F. (2007). Papaya. In: Fruits of warm climates. pp. 336–346.
- Oderinde, O., Noronha, C., Oremosu, A., Kusemiju, T., Okanlawon, O.A. (2002). "Abortifacient properties of Carica papaya (Linn) seeds in female Sprague-Dawley rats". Niger Postgrad Medical Journal 9 (2): 95–8.
- Timesis, A., (2000). Technology Innovation Management and Entrepreneurship Information Service. Papain from pawpaw Tanesen Mag. Pg. 25-42.
- Titanji, V.P., Zofou, D., Ngemenya, M.N. (2008). "The Antimalarial Potential of Medicinal Plants Used for the Treatment of Malaria in Cameroonian Folk Medicine“ . African Journal of Traditional, Complementary and Alternative Medicines 5 (3): 302–321.