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Unpacking THAT TikTok Trend: Can Papaya Seeds Kill Parasites?

A new TikTok trend has seen numerous adventurous influencers downing large doses of papaya seeds with the goal of eliminating internal parasites – but does it actually work? We’ll be unpacking the effects of papaya seeds, plus why you might need to proceed with caution when trying the home remedy for yourself. 

Internal parasites are a common ailment around the globe with nearly a third of us infected, and while improved hygiene and living conditions have reduced the incidence of parasites like tapeworms, others like threadworm infections remain widespread. These organisms feed off of their host – that’s us – by sapping nutrients from them, resulting in a number of health issues, from gut health to mental health. The common threadworm infection we mentioned is estimated to affect anywhere between 10 and 50% of Aussie kids, and they’re one of the most common types of parasitic infections in Australia and around the globe.

There’s an estimated 1 billion people living with these worms, and while children are the most common hosts, adult infections aren’t uncommon and these infections are easily spread through close contact with others. Take a look at some of the symptoms of these parasitic infections:

  • Fatigue
  • Brain fog
  • Bloating and constipation
  • Diarrhoea
  • Stomach pain
  • Muscle or joint pain
  • Sleeping difficulties
  • Irritable moods and mood changes - the toxins these parasites release can even cause anxiety!
  • Itchiness around the anus
  • Rashes and skin irritation
  • Weight loss with no known explanation
  • Visible worms in your stool

While most doctors will prescribe medications like mebendazole, a number of TikTok users have started a trend around eating papaya seeds instead, with some reporting a mixed bag of results. While these seeds have long been considered a potential parasite remedy dating back centuries, that doesn’t mean you should down a papaya’s worth of seeds – in fact, overdoing it on this stuff can cause a range of uncomfortable symptoms. One user, @ramenasaidwow filmed herself trying the papaya seed trend, consuming “half a papaya worth of seeds”. What followed was a host of painful digestive issues like “really bad heartburn” and nausea.

This is because these seeds contain what’s known as benzyl glucosinate, and too much of this can cause food poisoning in the form of diarrhoea, nausea and vomiting. The safest dose of papaya seeds is around 1 teaspoon – but it’s worth noting that these claims around the fruit’s benefits are not completely unfounded. Research suggests this fruit may be holding powerful anti-parasitic properties, along with a number of other benefits:

  • Antioxidant and anti-cancer properties:  Research shows the papain enzyme in papaya seeds may be responsible for fighting cancerous cells.
  • Lowers blood sugars: Papaya seeds may also help stabilise blood sugars due to their flavonoid content – these are antioxidants which help regulate levels and prevent spikes.
  • Boosts immunity: The antioxidants and vitamin A and C dose from papaya seeds are a powerful immune-booster.
  • Reduces inflammation: The anti-inflammatory properties of papaya seeds help reduce gut and joint inflammation.

While there’s no doubt that papaya seeds pack some impressive nutritional boosts – in moderation of course, unless you like the sound of nausea and diarrhoea! – the research is still lacking around its reliability for use as a parasite treatment – so, if you suspect an infection, your best course of action is to head to your doctor for an assessment. 

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