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Papaya: the wonder fruit

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by Barbara Simonsohn

"Dismiss maya, eat papaya!" (David Wolfe)

It was about 14 years ago, when I was on Maui, Hawaii, that I first enjoyed the sweet taste of a sun-ripe, organically grown papaya. And this began my love affair with the wonderful, oblong tropical fruit with skin coloring ranging from yellow to orange and green, a delicious creamy orange inside, and a center filled with round, dark seeds.

Hawaii is also where I discovered the benefits of papaya seeds. In the health food store in Paia, I found dried papaya seeds. These were about $5 per glass-sized container, and were labeled "Papaya Enzymes." I was surprised that the papaya seeds were for sale. This was because, in my experience, I had always thrown the seeds away. But, after I tasted these dried seeds, I wondered why anyone would ever throw the seeds away. The next time I ate a papaya was with my then fiancÈ, Aeoliah, and this time I ate the entire papaya, including the seeds. This surprised Aeoliah. He told me that this was not the way a person eats papayas. Despite his mini-lecture, I continue to eat papayas this way, skin, seeds and all.

I have now done enough research on the papaya to the extent that I have written a 200-page book about this amazing fruit that has a Latin name of Carica Papaya. Now I know why papaya seeds are so healthy, and why you also should eat the skin.

The people on Cuba call the papaya "Fruta de Bomba." Through my research I have found that the papaya is a "bomb." But not of danger. Instead, the papaya is a bomb of vital nutrients. In fact, one papaya is packed with a cornucopia of enzymes, vitamins, minerals, and other beneficial elements.

Because of the abundance of nutrients found in the seeds of the papaya, I advise people to dry the seeds in the sun, in a food dehydrator, or by spreading them on a tray where they may dry at room temperature. The seeds may then be used as a type of decoration on top of other foods. By using the seeds within other food concoctions, those who find the seeds too bitter to eat by themselves may gain the nutritional benefits of the seeds without having to taste something they donít care to taste. Some may even compare the taste of the dried papaya seeds to that of black pepper. And this will give them ideas of how to use the seeds in recipes.

The papaya grows in many parts of Central and South America. In Venezuela there is a type of papaya they call the lechosa. This variety of papaya may grow to as long as 120 centimeters. In Costa Rica and Mexico, the natives refer to the papaya tree as, "tree of good health." In the right conditions, the papaya tree grows very quickly. The trees provide both shade and food, and do not require much care or attention.

In South America, papaya trees seem to grow like weeds. The natives of South and Central America use the papaya not only for food, but also as medicine. Among their many uses for the papaya is as a balm on wounds and skin inflammations. They also believe that it is a medicine for a weak liver, and for constipation. And they consider it to be effective in ridding the body of worms and parasites.

Those of us who live on a raw vegan diet know that many common plant foods may be used to treat various ailments. The papaya is certainly one food that is effective in soothing the digestive tract. The meat of a perfectly ripe papaya is so filled with juice that it may satisfy not only hunger, but thirst. And what could be better to hydrate your body than the pure liquids found in organic, sun-ripened fruit? Next time you feel sluggish, try eating one or more papaya, and then see how you feel. You may well find that this fruit is a great tool to help purify and nourish both your mind and body.

There are a lot of anti-oxidants in the papaya. Scientists have found that papayas contain more betacarotine than carrots, and more vitamin C than kiwi fruit. Papaya also are abundant in bioflavonoids. Substantial minerals found in papaya include potassium, magnesium, and calcium.

The papaya is useful in aiding digestion because the enzymes of the fruit help to digest proteins, fats, and starches. The fiber of the fruit is helpful in streamlining the digestive tract. Papaya is a very alkaline fruit, and this is one reason that it is often useful in soothing an upset stomach. So, if you know somebody suffering from the effects of cooked food, or feeling off center after consuming sugar or meat, advise them to eat a papaya. Dried papaya is especially effective in ridding the digestive tract of constipation. But, be warned, if you eat a lot of dried papaya at one time, do not travel too far from the bathroom because dried papaya can really clean you out.

Some history books tell that one of the foods Christopher Columbus found satisfying is the papaya fruit. Some stories say that, when the natives greeted the Columbus party, they were served so much food that some experienced digestive pains. To cure this, it is said that the natives took them into the forest and fed them papaya to cure their indigestion.

A person who is experiencing acid indigestion (acidosis, heartburn), may also find themselves to be irritable and depressed. This is the perfect occasion to eat a papaya. A person who often experiences heartburn (usually because of eating cooked food) may find it helpful to begin and end their day by eating a papaya. Those who are familiar with this treatment recommend that it be continued for up to four weeks. This is what some refer to as the "papaya cure." Some swear that this not only cures their acidosis, but it also helps their mood, results in better sleep, and gives them energy.

One of the fruits cherished by many raw foodists is the durian. And many have experienced eating this fruit abundantly. But the durian is a fatty fruit, and to assist in its digestion, I suggest that it be eaten along with papaya.

Moreover, the papaya helps to nourish our endocrine system, as Norman Walker wrote at length in his book on juicing. Papaya helps the body to produce more arginin. This is an essential amino acid that activates human growth hormones. These hormones are important for cell rejuvenation and for rebuilding the cells in the liver, muscles, and bones. Also, the skin benefits from arginin. This is because the effects of it help to regenerate skin cells.

Women in the tropics are known to use unripe papaya juice on their skin. They believe it gets rid of wrinkles and old skin cells. This is likely to be true because unripe papaya juice can be very acidic. I tried this while visiting the Canary Islands, and found it to be quite painful. My skin is probably much thinner than the skin of these women, who have spent much more time in the sun than I have. Since my experiment, I recommend that the papaya juice should be diluted before applying it to the skin. I have included several recipes for skin masks and creams in my papaya book.

The aborigines in Australia and the Kahunas on Hawaii use the papaya as a remedy for cancer. Their treatment uses papaya that are half ripe.

I have a friend, Halima Neumann, who believes she was healed from stomach cancer by drinking half a liter of papaya juice and eating a half ripe papaya every day for half a year. She believes the enzymes of the papaya in these stages of ripeness are the key to the treatment. She believes that the unripe papaya alkalizes the body. After that cure, she decided to change her diet and become a raw-foodist. She began to meditate and to rid herself of the psychological scars she carried since childhood. Now, she is 50 years old, enjoys vibrant health, and has written some books in German about her experiences. She lives on the Canary Islands, and gives seminars on how to live healthy with raw foods and organically grown papayas.

On Maui, there is a funny guy living in Paia who calls himself "Papaya John." He is a surfer, an organic farmer, and has turned into a virtual papaya messiah. His normal name is John McCollum, and he has a little shop named "Papaya John." It is there that he sells only papayas and papaya products. He regards the papaya as medicine, and has been quoted in the Maui News as saying, "A Papaya a day keeps the doctor away." He refers to the papaya as "the tropical miracle fruit," and believes getting its enzymes into his body on a daily basis are key to his health.

Papaya John learned the secrets of the papaya through Dr. Koesel, one of the original California health food advocates, who moved to Maui in the ¥60s. Papaya John describes his first meeting with Dr. Koesel as "magic." He says that he knew right then that he "had some type of lifetime karma with this man." There the two men met, and for John, the encounter was "magic:" Papaya John went on to study the health benefits of the papaya with Dr. Koesel, who died in 1990, one week before his 90th birthday. Papaya John has said that he has "a commitment with God, and Dr. Koesel. I believe in the papaya, and it is my task to spread the good news." After introducing the papaya into his regular diet, Papaya John has said that he has experiences a level of radiant health that he thought only existed in dreams. Now he grows papaya fruits of up to 22 pounds in his garden, and says he would not live in a country where papaya does not grow. He says that he is "addicted to papaya enzymes." Every morning, he drinks a lot of papaya juice, and says this makes him feel great. His surfboard is decorated with a huge papaya, and he takes his self-made "enzyme-active" papaya bars wherever he travels.

Unlike Papaya John, you do not have to center your life on the papaya in order to benefit from it. And, you may start trying out how much better you can feel, even as a rawfoodist, by including papayas in your daily food choice. If you live in a warm climate, you can easily grow papayas in your garden. I happen to live in a cold climate, so I take my papaya trees inside during the winter. This seems to work for me, and I enjoy caring for this plant that gives me fruit that I have found so beneficial to my health.

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