Carica papaya, or simply papaya, is a widely known tropical fruit that is similar to melons. These fleshy, pear-shaped fruits grow in clusters and are about 6 to 20 inches in length and 4 to 12 inches in diameter. They are green when unripe and turn to orange or amber when ripe. Inside it has many, small black seeds in their hollow cavity. The papaya fruit is deliciously sweet, and is known to be an excellent source of vitamin C and folate, and a good source of vitamin A, magnesium, potassium and copper. It is also great source of fiber, which helps improve digestion and prevent colon cancer. Aside from these properties, papaya is known to have proteolytic enzymes such as papain and chymopapain, which have medicinal properties.
Papaya fruits, as well as other parts of the tree, have a latex that is rich in papain. This enzyme is especially concentrated when the fruit is unripe. Papain is typically used make dietary supplements that aid in digestion and help lower inflammation. It is also used as a meat tenderizer, an ingredient in the manufacture of toothpaste and chewing gums, and as a treatment for intestinal worms. Studies suggest that it is possibly effective for treating shingles and sore throat.
The cosmetic industry has also found some use for papaya. It has been reported that due to the anti-inflammatory and anti-septic properties of papain, it can be used to treat open wounds, skin irritations, burns, bedsores, acne, psoriasis, and bug stings. However, more evidence is needed to prove that papaya or papain is really effective for these uses.
A more popular use for papaya nowadays is as an ingredient of home-made or commercially produced skin soap. It is believed to lighten the skin because it promotes exfoliation and increased skin cell turn-over.
Commercially made papaya soap such as Likas Papaya Soap contains papaya enzyme, stearic acid, sodium cocoyl, sodium tallowate, sodium isethionate, cocamidopropyl beatine, coconut acid, sodium laureth, sodium dodecylbenzene sulfonate, sodium cocoate, sodium palm kernelate, sodium stearate, fragrance, titanium dioxide, sodium chloride, trisodium EDTA, and food coloring. Another popular brand, Silka Whitening Herbal Papaya Soap contains papaya enzyme, salycylic acid, sodium pal kernelate, sodium palmitate, fragrance, glycerin, alpha tocopheryl acetate, mineral oil, and Cl 47000.
Many people are interested in making their own natural herbal soaps such as papaya soap. Cleansing soaps are generally made of fats and oils from plants or animals, which are treated with a strong alkaline solution (lye or sodium hydroxide). Fragrances, food coloring and other ingredients are added as desired, including fruit extracts, like papaya juice. There are many articles and websites describing the process of making herbal soaps at home.
A Word of Caution
Before making your own home-made papaya soap, check if you are allergic to papaya or to latex, because some individuals are sensitive to these substances. Some people have reported a burning sensation or skin irritation after using papaya soap. Although some people claim that papaya soap makes their skin look lighter, there is no solid evidence on its safety and effectivity for this purpose.
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