Papain is a proteolytic enzyme extracted from the raw fruit of the papaya plant. Proteolytic enzymes help break proteins down into smaller protein fragments called peptides and amino acids. This is why papain is a popular ingredient in meat tenderizer.
You can get papain from eating raw papaya. Papain is also available in topical, chewable, and capsule forms. You can purchase papain-only supplements or supplements that pair papain with other enzymes, such as bromelain.
Papain is a popular folk remedy to reduce pain, inflammation, and swelling. It has also been used to improve digestion and to treat infections, diarrhea, and allergies. It’s also being studied for potential use in cancer and other diseases.
1. It may help ease sore throat
Papain may help relieve sore throat symptoms, such as swelling, pain, and redness. According to very dated research on 100 people with pharyngitis or tonsillitis, throat lozenges containing 2 milligrams (mg) of papain, 5 mg of lysozyme, and 200 international units (IU) of bacitracin helped relieve sore throat symptoms better than a placebo.
It’s not known if the beneficial effects are due to papain itself, the other ingredients, or the specific combination of ingredients. Recent scientific research is lacking, however.
2. It may reduce pain and inflammation
According to an article in Nutrition Review, research has shown proteolytic enzymes help reduce inflammation as well as or better than some anti-inflammatory drugs. However, clinical research in people is limited.
Because of these potential beneficial effects papain and other proteolytic enzymes are sometimes use to help with wound healing and to decrease swelling after an injury or trauma.
3. It aids digestion
Papain may also ease digestive symptoms like constipation and bloating. According to one 2013 study a whole papaya preparation called Caricol significantly improved constipation and bloating in people with chronic gastrointestinal dysfunction.
Research also suggests that papain may be used as a natural remedy for skin ulcers, wounds, and other skin conditions.
For example, a 2010 animal study found a papain-based wound cleanser helped promote wound healing in rats. A 2012 systematic review of studies also concluded papain is effective and safe in treating many types of wounds in various stages of healing. Most of the research is still preliminary.
Despite these positive findings, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)Trusted Source ordered companies to stop marketing unapproved topical papain products due to some people experiencing a life-threatening allergic reaction upon use. You should talk with your doctor about your individual risk of allergic reaction before use.
5. It eases muscle soreness
Protease supplements may relieve muscle pain caused by intense exercise, according to a 2004 study. In this study, 10 matched pairs of male participants were given either a placebo or a protease supplement containing papain and other protease enzymes.
The treatment was given prior to and after downhill running for 30 minutes at 80 percent of their maximum heart rate. The enzyme group experienced better muscle recovery and less muscular pain than the placebo group.
How to use: Take a daily protease enzyme supplement that includes papain.
6. It may help relieve shingles symptoms
Proteolytic enzymes such as papain may help shingles symptoms such as pain, skin lesions, and neuralgia.
According to a 1995 controlled study of 192 people with shingles, a proteolytic enzyme preparation was as effective in treating shingles symptoms as the antiviral medication acyclovir. More current studies are lacking, however, and more evidence is needed to confirm these findings.
Written by: Omojo Emeje