Last Editorial Review: 6/11/2021
Other Name(s):

Carica papaya, Concentré de Protéase Végétale, Papaina, Papaïne, Papainum Crudum, Pepsine Végétale, Plant Protease Concentrate, Protease, Protéase, Vegetable Pepsin.


Papain is taken from the fruit of the papaya tree. It is used to make medicine.

Papain is used for pain and swelling (inflammation) as well as fluid retention following trauma and surgery. It is used as a digestive aid and for treating parasitic worms, inflammation of the throat and pharynx, shingles (herpes zoster) symptoms, ongoing diarrhea, hay fever, runny nose, and a skin condition called psoriasis. Papain is also used along with conventional treatments for tumors.

Some people apply papain directly to the skin to treat infected wounds, sores, and ulcers.

In manufacturing, papain is used in cosmetics, toothpaste, enzymatic soft contact lens cleaners, meat tenderizers, and meat products. It is also used for stabilizing and chill-proofing beer.

How does it work?

Papain contains substances called enzymes that help break down proteins.


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Uses & Effectiveness

Possibly Effective for...

Possibly Ineffective for...

  • Insect bites. Some research shows that applying gauze soaked in a specific papain product (Adolph's meat tenderizer) to the skin for 20 minutes after a fire ant sting does not reduce pain or itching.

Insufficient Evidence to Rate Effectiveness for...

  • Muscle soreness after exercise. Early research shows that taking a combination of product containing papain, bromelain, trypsin, amylase, lipase, lysosome, and chymotrypsin four times in one day before a downhill run can reduce muscle soreness.
  • Jellyfish stings. Early research suggests that dunking the area affected by a jellyfish sting into a solution containing papain (Aldolph's meat tenderizer, Aldolph's, Trumbull, CT) is less effective than hot water alone for decreasing the pain of a jellyfish sting.
  • Illness caused by radiation therapy. Some early research suggests that taking a specific product (wobe-Mugose E, MucosPharma, Geretsried, Germany), containing papain, trypsin, and chymotrypsin, daily beginning 7 days before radiation therapy and continuing for 9 weeks thereafter can reduce skin reactions and other side effects of radiation therapy. However, other research suggests that this same product does not reduce complications.
  • Wound healing. Early research suggests that applying a solution containing papain plus DMSO, followed by the use of ultrasound to increase the delivery of the two agents, might improve wound healing.
  • Digestion problems.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Hay fever.
  • Runny nose.
  • Psoriasis.
  • Cancer.
  • Treating infected wounds.
  • Sores.
  • Ulcers.
  • Intestinal worms.
  • Other conditions.
More evidence is needed to rate the effectiveness of papain for these uses.

Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate (detailed description of each of the ratings).

Side Effects

Papain is LIKELY SAFE when taken by mouth in amounts commonly found in foods. It is POSSIBLY SAFE when taken by mouth in medicinal amounts and when applied the skin as a solution in appropriate amounts. It can cause irritation of the throat and stomach.

Taking large amounts of papain by mouth is POSSIBLY UNSAFE. In excessive doses, papain can cause severe throat damage. Also, applying raw papain to the skin is POSSIBLY UNSAFE. Skin contact with raw papain can cause irritation and blisters.

There have also been reports of severe allergic reactions.


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Special Precautions & Warnings

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Taking papain by mouth during pregnancy is POSSIBLY UNSAFE. There is a concern that it might cause birth defects or miscarriage. Not enough is known about the safety of using papain during breast-feeding. Do not use it if you are pregnant or breast-feeding.

Allergy to fig or kiwi fruit: One case report suggests that people who are allergic to fig and kiwi might also be allergic to papain.

Bleeding disorders: There is a concern that papain might increase the risk of bleeding in people with a clotting disorder.

Surgery: Papain might increase the risk of bleeding during surgery. Stop taking papain 2 weeks before surgery.


Warfarin (Coumadin)Interaction Rating: Moderate Be cautious with this combination.Talk with your health provider.

Warfarin (Coumadin) is used to slow blood clotting. Papain might increase the effects of warfarin (Coumadin) and increase the chances of bruising and bleeding. Be sure to have your blood checked regularly. The dose of your warfarin (Coumadin) might need to be changed..


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The following doses have been studied in scientific research:


  • For treating pain and swelling (inflammation) following an accident or surgery: 1500 mg (2520 FIP units) of papain per day.

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