Papain may help with heartburn

The People's Pharmacy

Q: I have read your articles about various ways to treat heartburn naturally. What I have found most helpful are chewable papaya enzymes.

A: We have heard from other readers that chewing a tablet with papain, an enzyme from the tropical fruit papaya, can help with heartburn. Although we could find no recent scientific research supporting this natural approach, we did locate an article in the British Medical Journal from April 3, 1886. A physician writing about acid reflux (dyspepsia) noted that “this drug papain is extremely valuable in this form of indigestion.”

Papain is found in powdered meat tenderizer because it breaks down proteins. Anyone who is allergic to latex should steer clear of papaya enzymes, though, as they might cause an allergic reaction.


Q: I take several medications, so I was pleased to learn that the herb milk thistle may reduce the liver toxicity of certain drugs.

When purchasing the herb, however, I got confused. It’s available in various strengths, and the dosing instructions seem inconsistent. I don’t want to take too much.

A: The dosage varies depending upon the purpose for which milk thistle is being used. For general liver protection, 200 milligrams of an extract standardized to 80% silymarin (the active ingredient) is taken two or three times a day. recently found that relatively few milk thistle products meet the claims on their labels. Details are available for a fee at

Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist, and Teresa Graedon is an expert in medical anthropology and nutrition. www.peoples