Papain supplements are used to improve gastrointestinal dysfunction and common digestive issues like bloating and constipation.
Like other protease enzymes, studies show that papain helps the body break down protein foods, like animal meat. But this papaya enzyme does not require the presence of acid to do its job.
This means that even people with low stomach acid, who would usually have difficulty breaking down and digesting certain types of meat, may benefit from papain supplements.
Papain has been shown to reduce inflammation in patients with asthma, arthritis and other inflammatory conditions.
Research published in 2013 in the journal Nutrition Review indicates that proteolytic enzymes, including papain and trypsin, can break down pathogenic immune complexes and even prevent their formation in the first place.
This means that papain may be able to prevent inflammation from occurring, thereby enhancing lymphatic drainage and having regulatory effects on the immune system.
A review of literature published in the Journal of Immunotoxicology found that both in vitro and in vivo studies have shown that papaya extracts and papaya-associated phytochemicals have anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory properties, but more clinical studies are needed to fully understand these effects.
Several studies indicate that the papaya enzyme works to relieve pain in a number of areas, including muscle pain from intense workouts, sore throat pain and pain associated with shingles.
A study published in the Journal of Clinical Pediatric Dentistry found that a papain-based gel called Papacarie was effective in removing infected tissues among patients with caries, or decaying teeth.
Studies show that the gel helps reduce pain and inflammation without the need for anesthesia or drilling during tooth removal.
A study published in the Journal of Sports Science shows that taking a protease supplement containing the papaya enzyme may help relieve muscle pain that’s caused by running.
The participants consumed protease tablets that contained 50 milligrams of papain, in addition to other enzymes like bromelain, trypsin, amylase and lipase. After taking two tablets, four times a day for four days, runners demonstrated superior recovery and reduced muscle soreness compared to the placebo group.
In addition, a 1995 German study evaluated the efficacy of an enzyme combination containing papain for herpes zoster, or shingles.
Researchers found that the enzyme preparation showed identical efficacy with acyclovir, an antiviral medication that’s used to treat herpes virus infections. The enzyme combination was able to reduce pain associated with shingles after 14 days of treatment.
Papain has been used in nontraditional wound care because of its antiviral and antifungal properties.
It appears that papain works to fight infections by destroying the layer of protein that protects fungi and viruses against attacks. This decreases their ability to reproduce, spread and cause infections.