As if tangy, tropical refreshment weren’t reason enough to celebrate National Papaya Month, new research provides yet more incentive to fete this fabulous fruit: Faster healing. A study from the International Wound Journal looked at how the application of papaya seed extract might affect the rate of skin regeneration in a lab rat model. Over the course of two weeks, the papaya-treated wounds healed faster by 37%.

While papaya is loaded with collagen-building vitamin C (over 100% of daily value per cup), it also packs papain — an enzyme that speeds healing by clearing away dead protein matter and calming inflammation. This study uncovered another papain property: It doubled production of another protein needed to reknit skin. Other tropical fruit enzymes may have similar benefits. Bromelain, found exclusively in pineapples, shows promise in helping heal tendonitis and  speeding wound healing. Dole Nutrition Research Lab scientists just discovered this enzyme paradox: While pineapple’s bromelain is concentrated in the edible flesh, papain in papaya peel is ten times higher than in the flesh.

Party with papaya by brushing with canola oil then tossing on the grill or dicing it up with cilantro, ginger and hot peppers for a unique salsa. If you’re in the mood for a refreshing summer drink, try Mango Papaya Lemonade – which goes great with our Imitation Crab, Papaya and Walnut Salad. 

Published June 1, 2012