The People's Perspective on Medicine

Why Papaya for Heartburn Is Surprisingly Helpful

PPIs like Prilosec, Prevacid and Nexium are popular for indigestion. They have side effects, though. What about papaya for heartburn? Why was this remedy ignored for a century?

Papaya was once considered an exotic fruit. You had to visit a tropical country to find it. Now, fresh papaya can be found in most food markets. You can purchase papaya enzymes in tablet form in health food stores and pharmacies. We always love it when one of our readers stumbles upon a home remedy and shares his success. In this case, though, papaya for heartburn has been appreciated for more than 100 years. Even doctors have reported success with papaya.

Papaya for Heartburn and Indigestion

Q. I’ve found that a couple of slices of ripe papaya calms heartburn. They also provide a little fresh fruit to the diet. Papaya enzyme tablets work, but the fresh papaya is a better choice for me.

A. A doctor first reported the benefits of papain, an enzyme from papaya fruit, for treating heartburn in The British Medical Journal on April 3, 1886.  Dr. George Herschell was a physician practicing in London during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He was an expert on heartburn. His book, INDIGESTION: The Diagnosis and Treatment of the Functional Derangements of the Stomach, was published in 1905.

Dr. Herschell’s Use of Papaya for Heartburn:

Dr. Herschell noted that powder prepared from the juice of Carica papain (the papaya fruit) was helpful against “acid dyspepsia” (reflux). He characterized papain as “extremely valuable in this form of indigestion.” He went on to describe his experience this way:

“Cases where Severe Gastric Pain coming on Shortly after Eating is the Prominent Symptom—”

“I have tried the drug upon twelve cases of this nature. Complete relief was given in ten, one case was partially relieved, and one completely failed to derive any benefit.”

Papaya for Heartburn: Forgotten by Gastroenterologists:

Sadly, there has been very little well-controlled research regarding papaya for heartburn over the subsequent decades. It would appear that the gastroenterology community pretty much ignored Dr. Herschell’s report in the British Medical Journal.

A few years ago, though, we heard from a reader who reported that chewable papaya enzymes worked “GREAT!”

Another shared that papaya helped him get off Prilosec:

How to Stop Prilosec by Taking Papaya

Others Report Papaya for Heartburn is a winner.

Nancy in Spartanburg, SC also had success:

“Thank you, thank you for the papaya enzyme recommendation. I have been taking omeprazole for about 20 years and when I tried to stop, always had to go back to the medicine.

“I take 4 papaya enzyme tables and have started eating papaya fruit. I feel a lot better and am happy to have something to help me get off the omeprazole. Too many bad effects with these medicines.”

CMC had trouble getting off lansoprazole (Prevacid):

“I’ve been taking Prevacid for years. I also have hives. Then I found out that a rash could be a serious side effect of this drug.

“I tried once to stop taking Prevacid with terrible painful results. Then I became aware of papaya enzyme tablets. I started taking them and cutting back on Prevacid. So far so good. I have had a minor recurrence but if I take a few papaya tabs that seems to work.

“I am going to try adding pineapple, ginger tea and apple cider vinegar (if symptoms show up). I will cut back on carbohydrates and lose some extra weight. Thanks for all the great tips. This site is the first time I’ve heard of fennel seed for flatulence.”

A Word of Caution About Papaya for Heartburn:

As long as people are not allergic to papaya, this remedy may be worth a try. Some people with latex allergy are also sensitive to papaya, mango, banana and avocado (Allergy, April, 1997).

Share your own experience with papaya in the comment section below.

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.” .
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Is it best to take the papaya tablets before of after a meal?

As I have written here before, I experienced terrible indigestion & heartburn when I was pregnant 30 yrs ago until I tried chewable (delish!) papaya pills. Told the couples in my birthing class and brought some in for the ones with digestive distress to try out. Great results ensued. Only prob is that they taste like tropical candy so you can go through them very quickly! Stock up!

I noticed a very long time ago that cold pressed flax seed oil (organic) helps me if my stomach is upset. I suggested this to several friends of mine and they agreed after trying it. Flax seed oil was and is a staple in our European household. But, please never heat it, for the Omega benefits are lost.

I think there are GMO free papayas available, besides the organic ones :)

My husband and I use papaya enzyme for indigestion. It even worked after we ate a sausage pizza. The tablets have a pleasant taste. We haven’t tried the fruit yet.

We’ve used the ginger extract tablets to prevent seasickness. It works great. It’s probably effective for other types of motion sickness too. I read somewhere that Chinese firsherman have chewed ginger root for hundreds of years to ward off seasicknesss. Follow the instructions on the bottle for the most benefit.

I have taken papaya enzymes from a General Nutrition Center (hint) & they work GREAT! Taste good too.

We have used chewable papaya enzymes for years. My husband woyld experience gastric reflux and/or indigestion, and this was a surefire remedy every time, and continues to be.

As a physician I have prescribed digestive enzymes for years successfully treating GERD and getting people off PPI’s. Facilitating digestion which often is inefficient especially in my older population (I’m an older Internist-Integrative MD) seems to help most of my Gerd patients. I also have them decrease the stomach acid-enzyme dilution that happens in the stomach with drinking water from 1.5 hrs before meals to 30 minutes after.

Papaya tablets before or after a big meal. If I have tomato sauce I take it before the meal, and it works well. Thanks to a young woman working for the dentist who told me it was her mother’s solution for years. Thanks to her I’m off all those pills doctors prescribed for me, and my digestive system is in very good condition now.

I hate medications but I have to use them because of a lack of alternatives. But papaya is the real helper. Mexican, Thai, Chinese Restaurants…no problems: 3 little pills of papaya, and discomfort is gone.

My go-to aid for indigestion is ginger. I keep little ginger tablets in my purse as well as in the kitchen. Sometimes I make ginger tea after dinner if I feel too full. I use commercial tea bags or make it with fresh ginger slices steeped in a cup of hot water.

We have used papaya for heartburn regularly for about 10 years, and have been able to avoid ever having to take a conventional heartburn medication. It works extremely well. We’ve shared it with several friends who have also found relief with it. Do yourself a favor and try it.

My teacher friend and I have used papaya pills for years for indigestion. It works better than antacid. If you haven’t tried them, please do. You’ll be very happy.

Since living in Guadalajara for a period of time, early 1960’s, I have used papaya for almost any intestinal upset. It always works for me, and was a wonderful learning experience for me!!! Was recommended by many citizens.

A FNP friend of mine introduced me to the papaya enzyme tablets at our local health food store. I was skeptical at first but her recommendation was to chew up one tablet after each meal. I was shocked and surprised at how well it helped to manage the GERD and take away that full feeling in my upper esophageal area. My husband started trying it, and it is now his “go to” and firmly believes in it as I do. Thanks for this article as I hope that it will help others as much as it has helped us!

I learned about papaya many years ago and members of my family chewed the tablets for indigestion or feelings of GI distress after a meal. Everyone felt relief almost all of the time. We did not try fresh papaya, mostly because the tablets were easy to have with us when we were not at home. I am glad information about this remedy is being more widely distributed. Thank you!

My acupuncturist told me about papaya many years ago for general digestive use, and it works well for me. I also dehydrate it to take on trips. Papaya is also alkalizing and benefits bone density as opposed to drugs that damage it.

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