Sweet and juicy, with a butter-like texture, papayas are easy fruits to grow and, because they bear fruit year round, they’re in plentiful supply. They are also great for your health, hair and skin.
Rated among the top five most beneficial fruits in the world, papayas are packed with powerful antioxidants and vitamins A, C and E, which boost immunity, and decrease the risk of various disease associated with ageing. However, it’s the protein papain, found in papayas, that makes this fruit stand out among others. Papain, found in the skin and fruit, is a powerful digestive enzyme, which acts much like the enzymes produced in the human stomach. It’s, therefore, a great digestive aid that breaks down fibres which can cause bloating, and can also be used as a natural meat tenderizer. Another enzyme, bromelain, found in papaya, is known to reduce mucus and can therefore alleviate sinus problems.
Eating the fruit is, of course, the best way to get the nutrients into one’s system, but the smell and flavour of papaya is not to everybody’s liking. A squeeze of fresh lime juice can, however, cut through the sweetness and make it more palatable for those who don’t enjoy it straight from the tree. Alternatively, you can add green (unripened) papaya to salads, curries and stews, as is common in South East Asian cuisine.
Papaya is packed with alpha-hydroxy acids, known for anti-ageing properties and the papain enzyme is a potent exfoliator, so a paste of papaya applied to the face is said to tighten and rejuvenate skin. The low-sodium quality of papaya helps the skin to retain water and therefore keep it hydrated.
Papaya can be mashed or blended to a paste and applied to topically in various forms, or the juice can be strained from the pulp and applied as you would a toner, although it is recommended that you rinse it off after 10 minutes.
Papaya paste is a great way to treat cracked and painful heels, pimples, ringworm, skin discolouration and more. Rubbing a thin slice of the fruit on mosquito bites will also alleviate the itch.
Both consuming the fruits regularly and using hair-care products that contain papaya can result in a fuller, healthier head of hair.
Papaya is purported to prevent balding, clear up dandruff and remove chemical build up.
Extracts from the papaya leaf can also be used as a hair conditioner.
To make a papaya hair mask, blend one cup of diced papaya, one cup of diced banana, 1 tbsp molasses, 1 tbsp coconut oil and one cup of yoghurt.
Apply the blended ingredients to damp hair, cover with plastic of a shower cap and leave for half an hour to work its magic. Rinse thoroughly.