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TikTokers Try Eating Papaya Seeds to Treat Parasites. Does It Work?

Image of a Papaya.

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Key Takeaways

  • A new TikTok trend recommends people eat papaya seeds to help treat or prevent possible intestinal parasite infections.
  • While data is limited, experts say the seeds may actually be beneficial in treating parasites.
  • If you're going to eat the seeds, start small to avoid upsetting your stomach.

When we think about stomach trouble, many of us never imagine that we may have an actual parasite living in our gut. But parasites entering our gastrointestinal tract—causing some unsavory side-effects—are more common than you may think.

Parasites are living organisms that live off of another organism to survive. When you are infected with a parasite, that organism sets up its home inside of you and depends on what your body offers in order to survive.

“Most people think that parasitic infections are rare, but they're actually very common, even in the United States, even among people who’ve never left the country,” Robin Foroutan, MS, RDN, HHC, integrative medicine dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, tells Verywell. “The idea that parasites are only a problem in underdeveloped countries is entirely flawed."

Without proper treatment, being infected with a parasite can lead to nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting. While there are some tried-and-true ways to prevent parasitic infections, trendy home remedies continue to surface on social media. One of the newest parasite-combating home remedies on TikTok is eating papaya seeds.

Yes, those little black circles that are typically scooped out and tossed in the trash are now finding their way on people’s spoons to get rid of parasites they may not know they have.

What Are Papaya Seeds?

Like most seeds, papaya seeds are loaded with nutrients like fiber, antioxidants, and healthy fats. And while human studies are lacking, animal and test-tube studies show that eating these seeds may improve kidney health and reduce inflammation.

Some data suggests that a potential downside to eating these little pips could be possible reduced fertility. But this effect was found in research conducted on rats given high doses of papaya seed extract.

Can Papaya Seeds Prevent Parasites?

“Papaya seeds are a traditional parasite remedy that’s safe and seems to be pretty effective against certain types of parasites, though there isn’t a ton of published data,” Foroutan explains.

In one 2007 study published in the Journal of Medicinal Foods, 71.4% of children who were given a combination of dried papaya seeds and honey had their stool cleared of parasites compared with 0 to 15% of children who only took honey after seven days.

And in a trial conducted in school-aged children based in Kenya, a daily serving of porridge that included papaya seeds resulted in a reduction in the Ascaris lumbricoides egg count (indicating a parasitic roundworm infection) by 63.9% after two months. As an added benefit, ringworm was reduced from a 54.4% infection rate to a 34% infection rate.

“The real problem is that most stool tests for parasites are highly unreliable and the majority of them miss most infections, making parasites difficult to find,” Foroutan says. 

She adds that natural remedies, like using papaya seeds to combat and prevent parasitic infection, withstand the test of time and may end up being valid. Papaya seeds, after all, contain fiber, which helps pass stool and other components through the digestive tract. 

What This Means For You

Eating papaya seeds, in moderation, likely won't harm you. And they may even be effective at treating intestinal parasites. But if you think you might be infected, your best bet is to seek medical treatment. Effective treatments exist and delaying treatment can cause harmful side effects like vomiting and diarrhea.

How to Include Papaya Seeds in Your Diet

Foroutan shares that there are two main ways papaya seeds are used:

  1. Drying and grinding the seed to a powder and mixing it with water 
  2. Rinsing the whole papaya seeds and eating them with a spoon. 

If you plan on eating them whole, Foroutan advises being prepared for a taste that is nothing like papaya flesh. She advises to start small—take 1 tablespoon on your first day and work your way up as your digestive system gets used to the fiber boost.  

Looking at the big picture, until there is clinical data to support the use of papaya seeds to prevent parasitic infections, it may be best to save your efforts. If you're worried about a possible intestinal parasite, reach out to a doctor who can help diagnose your stomach issues.

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5 Sources
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