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What is Papain?

Your protein-dissolving, papaya-extracted enzyme.

pə-ˈpā-ən , -ˈpī-ən

Papain is a proteolytic (protein-dissolving) enzyme that is extracted from the fruit or leaves of papaya. Its protein-dissolving ability makes papain particularly ripe for targeting inflammation, pain, and damaged tissue.

In fact, research published in the Pakistan Journal of Biological Sciences has shown that this papaya enzyme promotes wound cleansing and debridement (i.e. the removal of unhealthy, infected, or dead tissue) to promote healing.

Let’s take a closer look at the research that has shown the anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory benefits of papain!

Inflammatory Invader

The papaya is a beloved tropical fruit, but its papain enzyme is a strong contender against inflammation. In fact, the enzymatic action of papain stimulates the breakdown of pro-inflammatory substances, such as certain white blood cells (monocytes), proteins (cytokines), and enzymes (caspase).

When these substances remain at elevated levels, due to damaged tissue at an injury site, the healing process can be hindered and prolonged. Painful swelling may also occur if fluid that seeps out of blood vessels accumulates when moving toward the injury site.

But because of papain’s ability to break down pro-inflammatory substances as well as degrade protein molecules in unhealthy tissue, this fruity enzyme helps the body to remove damaged tissue and accelerate wound healing. Two thumbs up for papain!

Wound-healing Warrior

A study of 18 participants analyzed the effect of papain on venous ulcers (open skin sores that typically occur in the lower leg). For 12 weeks, ten participants applied a 2% papain-based topical gel to their venous ulcers, while the other eight applied a 2% carboxymethyl cellulose gel to their ulcers.

The results showed that there was a significant reduction in the open sores for the group who applied the papain-based gel to their lesion areas. Furthermore, considerable growth of new connective tissue was noticed as the wound healed in addition to lower levels of fluid in the lesion area, suggesting that swelling and inflammation should also decrease. This study, published in a 2016 edition of Circulation Journal, confirms that papain supports wound healing.

In fact, an article in the Journal of International Medical Research explains this benefit of papain through a process of ephithelialization, which is prompted by the degredation of protein molecules in unhealthy tissue. This represents an early stage of wound healing where skin cells migrate across an injury site and begin to close the wound and restore function.

Additionally, research has shown that a papain-based formula increases the concentration and organization of collagen skin cells at the site of a wound when it is introduced to the lesion area.

By supporting the growth of new tissue and breaking down unhealthy tissue, papain is an all-star at facilitating wound repair and healing. But that’s not all!

Wound-cleansing Wonder

Papain also has anti-bacterial properties, which assist with cleansing wounds that have become infected. But how does this fruit-derived enzyme actually cleanse wounds?

Papain assists with the removal of fluid, enzymes, protein, and bacteria that exacerbate inflammation and pain while simultaneously breaking down damaged or dead tissue (i.e. debridement). By assisting in the excretion of the harmful substances from the wound, healing is accelerated, thereby reducing the painful symptoms sometimes associated with healing.

In a study where animals were administered increasing amounts of a mature leaf concentrate of carica papaya for three consecutive days, reduced swelling and inflammation were noted as well as increased levels of platelets, white blood cells, and red blood cells – all beneficial for wound healing.

But the biggest perk of this papaya enzyme? The study found through a pharmaceutical evaluation that a 20 mL dosage of the mature leaf carica papaya concentrate is also beneficial for adults. Viva, papain!