The Benefits of Papain

close up of a halved papaya on a reflective surface
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Papain is an enzyme found naturally in the papaya plant (Carica papaya). Available in dietary supplement form, papain has been found to promote the breakdown of certain proteins. Proponents claim that use of papain supplements can provide a variety of health benefits.

Uses

In alternative medicine, papain is typically touted as a natural remedy for the following health problems:

In addition, papain is said to reduce inflammation and relieve pain. Papain is also thought to promote healing from wounds and burns when applied to the skin.

Benefits

Although research on the health effects of taking papain supplements is fairly limited, there's some evidence that papain may offer certain benefits. Here's a look at some key findings from the available research on papain.

Wound Healing

Papain shows promise for the treatment of wounds, according to a 2012 report published in the Portuguese journal Revista Gaúcha de Enfermagem. Looking at a number of studies on the use of papain in the wound-healing process (including only one clinical trial), the report's authors found that papain may help promote the healing of wounds. However, the report's authors point out that papain might cause side effects such as burning and pain.

Shingles

There's some evidence that papain may help treat shingles. In a 1995 study published in the German journal Fortschritte der Medizin, for instance, researchers found that papain may offer effects similar to those of acyclovir (a medication commonly used in treatment of shingles).

For the study, 192 patients with shingles took either acyclovir or a formula containing a variety of enzymes (including papain) for 14 days. In their analysis of study findings, researchers found no significant differences between the two treatments in terms of their effects on the pain and skin lesions caused by shingles.

Sore Throat

Several studies published in the 1970s and 1980s indicate that papain may be useful in the treatment of sore throat. However, more recent research on papain's effectiveness as a sore throat treatment is lacking.

Caveats

Due to a lack of research, little is known about the safety of long-term use of supplements containing papain. However, there's some concern that papain can irritate the stomach and throat.

In addition, some individuals may experience allergic reactions when consuming papain. Papain should also be avoided by women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Learn more about how to use supplements safely.

Alternatives

Another fruit-derived enzyme, bromelain may possess a number of health-enhancing properties. Extracted from the fruit and stems of pineapple and available in supplement form, bromelain has been found to reduce inflammation. Studies indicate that bromelain may help treat such conditions as indigestion, sinusitis, and osteoarthritis.

Where to Find It

Widely available for purchase online, supplements containing papain can be found in many grocery stores, drugstores, natural-foods stores, and stores specializing in dietary supplements.

A Word From ​Verywell

Due to the limited research, it's too soon to recommend papain as a treatment for any condition. It's also important to note that self-treating a condition with papain and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences. If you're considering the use of papain for any health purpose, make sure to consult your physician before starting your supplement regimen.

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