Category: 

What is Papain?

Papain is found in unripe papayas.
Article Details
  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 23 July 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2014
    Conjecture Corporation
  • Print this Article
Free Widgets for your Site/Blog
In the US, workers under 25 have unemployment rates that are twice the national average.  more...

July 28 ,  1945 :  14 people were killed when a US Army bomber crashed into the Empire State building.  more...

Papain is an enzyme which is found naturally in unripe papayas. This enzyme has a number of interesting uses, and it appears in a variety of settings. People have been taking advantage of its properties for centuries in Latin America, and additional uses have been discovered in the modern era with research on the enzyme and its properties.

The oldest historic use of papain is as a meat tenderizer. The enzyme helps to break down the tough bands between fibers in muscle tissue, making tough meats fall apart during the cooking process. Wrapping foods in leaves may be a stereotypical activity in fictionalizations of tropical life, but it has a sound basis in science, as green leaves can contain papain, which will soften the meat as it cooks while preserving moisture and preventing burning.

Historically, people harvested this enzyme by slashing the skin of unripe papayas and collecting the resulting sticky, latex-like sap which collected. People could also cook with upripe papayas, relying on the green papaya to break up in the cooking process and release the enzyme, or certain leaves could be added to a recipe to soften the meat.

Ad

Commercially, papain is added to many preparations which are designed to tenderize meats. It is also used in the preparation of cell cultures, as it can dissolve the bonds between cells to make them easier to separate. Medically, this substance is sometimes used in wound debridement and other procedures, and it is sometimes recommended as a dietary supplement to people who experience digestive problems. The supplement can help people break foods down so that they are easy to digest.

There are some precautions which must be observed when working with this enzyme. Some people develop an allergy to this enzyme, and they can experience severe health problems if they are exposed to it. Papain allergies can also be closely related to latex allergies, and people with sensitivity to one may develop a sensitivity to the other. Pineapples, kiwis, and cashews can also be related to a papaya allergy, as the enzymes in these foods are similar to papain.

People who are sensitive to papayas should avoid products like meat tenderizers made with papain, as they may experience allergic reactions. If allergies are experienced generically after eating tropical fruits such as the examples listed above, it can be a good idea to receive allergy testing to narrow down the cause to a specific culprit.

Ad

Discuss this Article

anon326687
Post 15

I drink shakeology and it is one of the main ingredients.

anon321527
Post 14

If papain is used to tenderize meat, might it also tenderize your esophagus, your stomach, and your intestines?

donasmrs
Post 13

I heard that papain enzymes are good for inflammation and papain supplements can be used in place of anti-inflammatory medications. Is this true? Has anyone used it this way?

ZipLine
Post 12

@fBoyle-- Yea, a lot of beauty salons use papain powder in their masks and treatments to remove dead skin. But be careful with it and don't use it too often because it can irritate your skin.

Papain is a powerful enzyme so if you use it too often, it might remove dead skin faster than your skin can produce new skin cells. The result will be irritated, red, sensitive skin. Some people also develop flakes because of it.

I do think that papain is a valuable ingredient in skin care. But it's probably best to leave treatments with papain in them to professionals to decide how and how often to use it.

fBoyle
Post 11

@TunaLine-- Oh is that why there is papain in my face mask as well?

I have this exfoliating face mask that I use once a week and I noticed that it has papaya papain in it. I didn't understand why a papaya enzyme was in there but now I get it. I guess it exfoliates by removing dead skin cells. No wonder my face has been looking a lot brighter and more even since I started using this mask.

anon252427
Post 9

Papain products have been taken off the market in the US for wound care. I'm not sure why.

anon244835
Post 8

This was a really helpful article. It just made me understand more about papain. I'm actually doing a science project about papain and was searching for some help.

anon130979
Post 5

Traditionally in East Africa, when we cook rich meat dishes (e.g. meat biryani) green raw papaya (pawpaw)is grated and added to the meat (plus spices) overnight to help tenderise the meat. Then the food is cooked the next morning, and for sure, it is guaranteed that the meat is soft and tender and very tasty too!

EarlyForest
Post 4

Has anybody actually used papain meat tenderizer? Does it have any effect on the taste of the meat?

TunaLine
Post 3

Papain is also used in combination with urea in the debridement of wounds.

Since both papain and urea are proteolytic, they combine well to break down the dead tissue in wounds.

CopperPipe
Post 2

Papain powder also comes in supplement form. A lot of people like to use it after meals that are heavy in meat.

Many of the papain tablets in fact contain a combination of papain and bromelain, a similar enzyme found in pineapples.

Of course, before taking a papain supplement, it is important to run it by your doctor just to be safe.

Post your comments

Post Anonymously

Login

username
password
forgot password?

Register

username
password
confirm
email