Papain: Nature’s Own Digestive Aid
The papaya (also called papaw, pawpaw, mamao, or tree melon) is believed to have originated in southern Mexico, Central America, or the West Indies, but is now grown in tropical and subtropical areas around the world. It is a pear-shaped fruit with skin that turns from green to a bright orange-yellow as it ripens. It is also the source of one of nature’s own digestive aids: papain.
What is Papain?Papain is a milky latex that is collected by making incisions in unripe papayas . It is one of a group of proteolytic enzymes found in papayas, pineapples, and certain other plants. Proteolytic enzymes help you digest the proteins in food.
Where Does Papain Come From?Papain comes from the papaya, a tropical fruit that is about six inches long and can range from 1-20 pounds in weight, depending on the variety. Inside, the papaya has silky smooth, orange-yellow flesh and a large center cavity full of shiny grayish-black seeds. The flesh is juicy and has a subtle, sweet-tart or musky taste, somewhat like a cantaloupe.Papaya is now widely cultivated in tropical and subtropical countries. There are about 45 species of papaya. The most common variety in the United States is the Solo papaya, which is grown in Hawaii and Florida. Mexican papayas are much larger than the Hawaiian types and may be more than 15 inches long.To extract papain latex from a papaya, the skin of an unripe papaya is cut. After the latex is collected, it is dried either by the sun or in ovens and sold in powdered form.Pineapple stems are also a rich plant source of proteolytic enzymes.