This hairy herb is commonly used in the Philippines as an alternative treatment for dengue fever.
Also known as gatas-gatas or by its scientific name Euphorbia hirta, it is said to increase the platelet levels in dengue patients.
A 2012 animal study conducted by pharmacy students from the University of Santo Tomas, Manila, showed that a decoction of tawa-tawa did indeed increase platelet levels and decrease bleeding time in rats with induced thrombocytopenia (i.e. an abnormally low platelet level).
The Philippine’s Department of Science and Technology is currently researching the effect of this plant on dengue fever, and have stated their concern over possible toxicity resulting from overdosing on tawa-tawa.
Meanwhile, Philippine Star columnist Dr Willie T Ong said in a 2009 article that Filipino doctors in general allow dengue patients to take tawa-tawa as long as they clear it with them first.
He also explained how to prepare the herb: “Take five whole tawa-tawa plants. Cut off the roots, then wash and clean.
“Boil tawa-tawa in a pot of clean water. Pour the liquid and then let cool. Sip one glass three to four times a day.”Papaya leaf juice
This is probably the most well-known alternative treatment for dengue.
Several small scientific studies have been carried out in dengue-endemic countries like India and Malaysia, looking into the efficacy of this herbal remedy.
While the results cannot be said to be definitive, due to their small study size, they are certainly promising.
The main effect of this juice lies in raising the level of platelets in dengue patients – a critical aspect of this viral infection.
One study, conducted by the Institute for Medical Research and Hospital Tengku Ampuan Rahimah, Klang, Selangor, reported that patients given papaya leaf juice showed a significant rise in their platelet levels 40 hours after first receiving the juice, compared to patients in the control group who were only on standard supportive therapy.
The open-label randomised controlled trial, published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine last year, had a total of 228 participants recruited from the hospital’s dengue ward, divided almost equally between the control group and the juice group.
The patients in the juice group took the pure fresh juice extracted from 50gm of clean papaya leaves of the sekaki variety once daily for three consecutive days.
Pharmacist and holistic medicine practitioner Datuk Dr Rajen M adds that a blend of raw young papaya and papaya leaves made into a juice, taken two to three times a day, is one of the alternative therapies for dengue in Ayurvedic medicine.
He notes that consuming papaya in general is safe, and taking it does not contradict medical advice.