By • Published: June 21st, 2010
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

For centuries, folk cultures in Asia and Australia have recognized the cancer-fighting power of the humble papaya. Now, Western science is backing them up.

In the lab, University of Florida researchers have documented a dramatic anticancer effect of papaya tea, an extract made by drying the large, broad leaves of the plant. The papaya tea was potent against a broad range of lab-grown tumors, including cancers of the cervix, breast, liver, lung and pancreas. The extract either slowed the growth of cancer cells or stopped the growth altogether… and the effects were stronger when cells received larger doses of the tea.

The tea also revved up the activity of immune cells. That suggests papaya tea could help the body’s immune system fight off certain cancers and other diseases.

Fighting cancer with a natural product like papaya offers an advantage that conventional cancer therapies don’t have. The papaya tea does not appear to have any ill effects, either in the lab or among people who have been drinking the extract for years.

Papaya has been long-recognized for its health-promoting abilities, especially against digestive problems. The source of these powers is believed to be papaya’s signature enzyme, papain [puh-PAY-in], and it is found in both the fruit and the leaves.

So far, research into the cancer-fighting ability of papaya tea has been limited to the laboratory, and the results don’t promise that people who drink papaya tea will see the same effect. Investigators now are working to isolate the active ingredient in papaya tea and test it in cancer patients. For now, papaya’s standing as a healthy food choice just continues to grow.