Does anyone know how to make a healing pawpaw ointment at home using their own homegrown papaya? My pawpaws are ripening and I refuse to buy any more of the commonly available pawpaw ointment since I found this out …
What? The common Pawpaw Ointment is mostly petroleum jelly?
Call me naive, but I assumed that the pawpaw ointment I was using was made up of….well mostly pawpaw, not 96% petroleum jelly. Recently I took a closer look – the only ingredient I found on the container is ‘Carica papaya 39mg/g Fresh Fermented Fruit’ and a little note on the side saying ‘Contains Potassium Sorbate 0.1mg/g as Preservative’. Nowhere does it say petroleum jelly. I thought ingredients, especially main ones, needed to be listed.
(Note: In Australia what most people call papaya, we call pawpaw.)
A-ha – only 39mg of pawpaw for every 1000mg. I should have read closer and delved deeper. Pawpaw ointment has always been put forward as a natural product so I didn’t suspect. When I first started using it back as a teenager, you could only get it in health food stores. Now the little red tubes are available just about everywhere. It’s promoted as a great all round natural healing ointment that is antibacterial and antimicrobial – good for lots of day to day issues.
Australians seem to be addicted to this stuff. So many households have it and I imagine many women (and men) would have a little tube in their bags.
As it turns out, there are lots of other pawpaw ointments around that do not contain petrochemical by-products – but I was using the little red tubes and tubs of ointment made close by in Brisbane.
I know for sure that many you have already discovered this piece of information, but if you haven’t, now you know. I must admit, I’m feeling pretty silly. For 30 years I have used it on little cuts and scrapes, on nappy rash, chaffing, insect bites… I never knew it was mostly petroleum jelly – a non-renewable hydrocarbon made from crude oil! How did I miss that?
What is Petroleum Jelly?
Petroleum jelly is a by-product of the oil industry and can contain petrolatum and mineral oil. Apparently almost all skincare products in the US have Petroleum Jelly/Petrolatum/Mineral Oil because it’s a cheap filler. It’s also used in hair care products to give shine.
It coats the skin like plastic. It’s a barrier to lock moisture in or out – preventing the skin from breathing, excreting and absorbing. It slows the skin’s natural development and can contribute to premature ageing.
Highly regarded scientist and eco-activist, David Suzuki, warns against using petrolatum on his website and explains why the EU restricts its use in cosmetics: (http://davidsuzuki.org/issues/health/science/toxics/chemicals-in-your-cosmetics—petrolatum/). His site says that :
‘petrolatum can be contaminated with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Studies suggest that exposure to PAHs — including skin contact over extended periods of time — is associated with cancer. On this basis, the European Union classifies petrolatum a carcinogen, and restricts its use in cosmetics. PAHs in petrolatum can also cause skin irritation and allergies. ‘
Additional research done by the Environmental Working Group (www.ewg.org/skindeep/2007/02/04/impurities-of-concern-in-personal-care-products)adds that:
“Many of the cosmetic industry’s chemical safety assessments reveal that common petroleum-based cosmetic ingredients can be contaminated with a cancer-causing impurity called 1,4-dioxane.”
While the pawpaw ointment company in question claims to use pharmaceutical grade petroleum jelly (petrolatum) that is not carcinogenic. They say it is also hypo-allergenic and completely safe for all the family. This said, it still is from the petroleum industry and personally, I would much rather put natural products on my skin given the choice. I ignorantly thought I was.
In actual fact, I most often reach for a big leaf of Aloe vera from my garden for burns, rashes, cuts and so on. I also strap on a chunk of Aloe gel and let it soak in – for animals too. It is wonderful and totally fresh and potent. Not so great in my bag, but my own comfrey ointment is great for this.
Since I’ve been making my own comfrey lotion (using beeswax, olive oil and comfrey leaves from my garden) I’ve not been using the pawpaw ointment that much any more, but I’m keen though to learn how to make it and use some of those pawpaws that are ripening in my food forest.