Have you ever wondered how the human forebears effectively treated common ailments, including worm infection? Well, the answer is not far to seek as researchers have come up with the discovery that paw paw stem, leaf and particularly seed, yes, the common paw paw seed, can with a near magical effect deworm or extract worms from the human system.
In a new study which turns paw paw seed up as the most effective worm expeller, researchers noted that all extracts of paw paw leaves, stem and seeds were more effective than albendazole, a commonly prescribed worm expeller, in either paralysing or killing a worm as observed under laboratory conditions.
The researchers used adult earthworms, Pheretima posthuma (Pheretimidae) in the study given their anatomical and physiological similarities with the human intestinal round worm, Ascaris lumbricoides. Eight groups of test agents, were administered on 22 groups of adult earthworms, each containing three earthworms of approximately equal size.
The test agents, albendazole and normal saline, which served as positive and negative control groups and the six crude extracts, from the leaves, seeds and stem, were administered on the earthworms in the respective groups and observed over the time taken for paralysis and death of individual worm.
The result of the anthelminthic activity testing as published in the journal, Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, showed that “all crude extracts prepared were more effective than albendazole in reducing” paralysis and death time. The result also indicated that pawpaw seed extracts were more effective than those from either the stem bark or leaves in reducing time of paralysis and death.
More than that, it was also discovered that the effects of the extracts on either time of paralysis or death depended on the concentration of extracts. In other words, For instance, increasing the concentration of the extract from 1-5 mg/ml caused a significant decline in both the time of paralysis and death of the worms.
“These observations, thus, confirm and authenticate the folkloric use of the plant parts in the expelling parasitic worms,” the researchers pointed out.
Preliminary phytochemical investigation indicates the presence of alkaloids, saponins and reducing sugar of glycosides present in all the crude pawpaw extracts. Whereas tianins were only observed to be present in leaves extracts, only seed extracts contained fixed oil
According to the researchers, the outcome of the study provides a scientific justification for the preference of pawpaw seeds in the treatment of helminth infections, adding that the outcome also proves that the fixed oils present in the seeds could be responsible for such activity.
Pawpaw is well understood to possess huge nutritional values. In particular, the various parts of the plant, stem bark, leaves, fruit and seeds are used for the treatment of different health conditions. For instance, while the leaves are believed to increase breast milk and treatment of tonsillitis, urinary tract infection, with different preparations used in the management of hemorrhoids, asthma, the fruits are used for the treatment of indigestion, chronic diarrhoea, ringworm infection and amoebic dysentery.
The study and subsequent outcome may have open a new vista in dealing with parasitic worm infections over which conventional drugs, including albendazole, ivermectin, piperazine and niclosamide enjoyed a near exclusive monopoly. But due mainly to their cost, toxicity and reported incidents of resistance, the need for alternatives became imperative. As it is, it appears that herbal medicine, as represented by pawpaw extracts, has come to the rescue.