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Carica papaya: Potential Implications in Human Health

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Background: Carica papaya, a tree-like herb, is cultivated in more than 50 tropical and subtropical countries worldwide. The parts [leaves, fruit (ripe and unripe), seeds and latex] are used as food as well as traditional medicine in several ways for a number of diseases. Papaya, with a variety of phytochemicals like carotenoids, polyphenols, benzyl isothiocynates, benzyl glucosinates, prunasin (cyanogenic substrate), papain and chymopapain, alkaloids, phenolic compounds, flavonoids, vitamins (A, C, E), carotenoids, cyanogenicglucosides, cystatin, and glucosinolates exhibits significant health benefits ranging from digestive to immune modulation. These compounds have antioxidant, chemoprotective, anti-diabetic, anti-bacterial, anti-plasmodial and anti-fungal activities. Papaya aqueous leaf extract was evaluated for immunomodulatory and anti-tumor activities through cytokine modulation with Th1 type shift in human immune system through molecular studies. The platelet augmenting potential of aqueous leaf extract has been reported in numerous clinical studies and deserves special mention.

Objective: The scientific knowledge of carica papaya in the post-genomic era including molecular studies and clinical trials is discussed in the review.

Methods: The published literature on botany, chemical composition, ethnopharmacology, and uses of papaya in food and medical industry was searched through databases like Pub- Med, Scopus, and Google scholar to comprehend the benefits of Carica papaya for human use with around more than 600 published peer- reviewed papers.

Results: Many traditional and novel uses of Carica papaya for the human benefit are detailed in the review that significantly adds to the scientific knowledge of curious readers.

Conclusion: Each component of the papaya plant is rich in phytochemicals and is economically important. Most of the phytochemicals are linked to biological functions and influence a variety of cellular processes; hence they have implications in refining human health.

Keywords: Carica papaya; anti-diabetic; anti-plasmodial; chemoprotective; human immune system; phytochemicals

Document Type: Review Article

Publication date: December 1, 2019

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