Papain is a proteolytic enzyme, of the class of hydrolases which, in nature, is present and extracted from the immature fruit of papaya (Carica papaya L.).
Papain performs a catalysing action of protein hydrolysis, especially for peptide bonds, but with preference for amino acids with bulky side chain in position P2.
Moreover papain is able to act indifferently at any pH, therefore not having an optimal pH range as it happens for other enzymes.
Among the most famous properties of papain we recall that of having a digestive action superior to pepsin and pancreatin, behaving in the same way as pineapple bromelain.
For this reason, papain is considered an ideal supplement for those suffering from digestive problems.
In fact, if papain is taken during the protein digestion process, it dissolves the albuminoids converting them into peptones (which are easily soluble and diffusible substances, therefore able to be absorbed and assimilated), thus acting as a catalytic agent in any pH. For this reason, papain can play an interesting role for those suffering from digestive problems due to the lack of enzymes in the body and low production of hydrochloric acid in the stomach.
In addition, papain has numerous biological properties, including anti-inflammatory and anti-edemic properties, ie it favors the reabsorption of edema, ecchymoses and subcutaneous infiltrates.
His ability to digest dead tissues without affecting the surrounding living tissues has earned him the reputation of a “biological chisel”.
Due to these properties, including the digestive ones, papain is present in many preparations to improve food digestion, in association with other proteolytic (ie protein degradation) substances, such as bromelain and ficin.
It is also used in face creams, detergents, anti-wrinkle formulations, toothpastes.
It is also used in cosmetic products for hair removal having the power to gradually delay the regrowth of body hair.
At one time, it was used to treat numerous diseases and disorders such as: infected wounds, sores, ulcers, chronic diarrhea, tumors, phlegm and psoriasis.
Currently on the market there are many products based on fermented papaya, obtained by prolonged fermentation of the fruit. The extract obtained does not only contain papain, but also other substances such as vitamins, minerals, and organic substances.
The prolonged fermentation allows the obtaining of new components that are not limited to acting as “scavengers” of free radicals but which also optimize the functions of the endogenous antioxidant system of the organism, protecting cell membranes and DNA from oxidative stress.
The fermentation process also allows a profound change in the content of proteins and carbohydrates, creating a complex of substances, called ß-Glucans, with documented immuno-modulating properties (ie, regulation of immune defenses).
However, these studies have yet to be verified with careful research.
As regards instead the contraindications of papain, it is underlined how this proteolytic enzyme, in predisposed subjects, can give allergic contact reactions and can be a serious irritant and blistering. For internal use it can give serious gastritis.
Warning: The information given is not medical advice and may not be accurate. The contents are for illustrative purposes only and do not replace medical advice.