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Pawpaw

Scientific Name(S): Asimina triloba (L.) Dunal. Family: Annonaceae (Sometimes confused with Carica Papaya.)

Common Name(S): Pawpaw, Custard apple, Poor man's banana

Botany: The pawpaw is a small, North American tree which grows from 3 to 12 meters high. It is common in the temperate woodlands of the eastern US. Its large leaves are "tropical looking" and droopy in nature. The dark brown, velvety flowers (≈5 cm across) grow in umbrella-like whorls, similar to some magnolia species, and can bloom for up to 6 weeks. Pawpaw fruit is smooth-skinned, yellow to greenish-brown in color, measuring from ≈ 8 to 15 cm long. It can reach up to 0.45 kg in weight. It resembles that of a short, thick banana, and is also similar in nutrient value. The yellow, soft, "custardlike" pulp is edible but sickly sweet in flavor and contains dark seeds.

History: One source states that the pawpaw was introduced to the US in 1736.3 It has been used as food for Native Americans. The thin, fibrous, inner bark has been used to make fish nets. The bark was also used as medicine because it contains useful alkaloids.

Uses of Pawpaw :

Pawpaw has historically been used for food, fishing nets, and medicine. It exhibits cytotoxic and pesticidal activities

Side Effects of Pawpaw:

May cause contact dermatitis in certain people.

Toxicology: Handling the fruit may produce a skin rash in sensitive individuals. The sensitizing potential of the pawpaw was examined in guinea pigs; the crude extract of the stem bark was found to be a weak sensitizer and to elicit allergic contact dermatitis. This report also determined the active compound asimicin to be a weak irritant.

Summary: The pawpaw is a North American plant bearing an elongated fruit. The plant parts and seeds contain acetogenins that possess cytotoxic and pesticidal actions. Certain extracts are comparable to, or are a million or over a billion times more potent than, doxorubicin. The plant may cause contact dermatitis in certain individuals.


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