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Papaya leaves to fight dengue

Dengue fever is certainly a common disease in tropical countries such as Malaysia. Beside Malaysia as one of the countries in the Southeast Asian region that have dengue cases, other countries such as in Africa and part of the America also have dengue cases. Most outbreaks of dengue occur in Asia. Asia represents 70% of the global diseases for dengue. In Southeast Asia alone, it is 18 times more likely to contract dengue compared to the American region.  In Malaysia, dengue tends to peak around May to September during the dry southwest and November to March of rainy northeast monsoon seasons. This year, which is 2023, is predicted to be the peak of a major outbreak for dengue fever.

Dengue fever is a viral infection transmitted to humans through the Aedes mosquito. It is worth noting that not all of the mosquitoes are able to transmit the disease. Only female and infected ones are able to spread the dengue virus to other humans. A mosquito is said to be infected when it bites a human with dengue virus already circulating in the blood of the human body.

However, despite the high number of dengue cases, the symptoms of dengue itself are not present in 80% of the population that has been exposed to dengue virus. This means that most people do not have any symptoms or just have mild ones. Common symptoms of dengue fever include fever that lasts for 2 to 7 days, headaches especially with pain behind the eyes (retro-orbital headaches, muscle pain (myalgia), joint pain (arthralgia), vomiting, nausea and skin rash. It is important for those with any of the dengue symptoms, even mild ones, to get checked by a doctor for dengue infection.

Some people may think they have already healed from dengue when they found themselves disappearing from the dengue symptoms on the 3rd to 7th days. This is actually known as a critical phase. Critical phase lasts for 24 to 48 hours. It is at this time that people may fall into severe dengue and life-threatening events. Hence, it is best to get checked by a doctor whenever even the dengue symptoms are mild so that healthcare professionals can anticipate if a person may be in critical phase and be provided with immediate medical support should there be any unforeseen danger to health.

Treatment for dengue fever aims to support patients but in no means to eliminate the dengue virus from the body as there is no cure for dengue fever. Treatment such as fluid replacement therapy are the common treatment given for patients with dengue infection. Medicine such as paracetamol do help to relieve symptoms such as fever, headache and muscle or joint pain. However, treatment alone is not enough to help patients recover quickly. Thus, certain foods and drinks can help patients to get better fast and to help build their body immunity to fight against the disease.

One of the foods or substances that has been actively used to help patients with dengue is papaya leaves. Papaya leaves have a high content of phytochemicals which not only has nutritional values but acts as medicinal potential. The leaves contain alkaloids, flavonoids, phenolic acids, saponin, amino acids, organic acids, vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates and carotenoids. Research has shown many beneficial effects including reduction in duration of fever, duration of the illness and hospital stay. Most importantly, papaya leaves help in preventing fluid leak and improve platelet count.

It is recommended that papaya leaf extract is used by patients as soon as the patient has fever and diagnosis is confirmed through NSI antigen test. Although, this extract can be given at any stage of the disease.  This should be taken with 30 ml three times a day before meals for an adult and 5-10 ml three times a day for a child until the patient recovers. This extract should be used in addition to the usual dengue management. Patients should take a few sips of cold water immediately after taking the extract to counter the bitter taste.

While papaya leaves extract can be found in pharmacies and easily available or bought, some may want to make their own kind of papaya leaves extract as it is cheaper and can be made at home. Here are steps on how to prepare it.

  • Pick fresh healthy mature papaya leaves from fruit-bearing trees.
  • Wash the leaves under running tap water and chop leaves into small pieces excluding the main stem.
  • Weigh 50 g of papaya leaves and use a mortar pestle to grind it.
  • Add 50 ml of boiled cool water with 25 g of sugar.
  • Pound the above mixture well for 15 minutes until uniform pulp is made. Mix the pulp well and keep it for about 30 minutes.
  • Squeeze the pulp by hand to get the papaya leaf extract.
  • The extract can be stored for 24 hours in the refrigerator of 4 Celsius and below.
  • Remember to shake the bottle well before using the extract.

In essence, papaya leaves do help patients to fight dengue. Patients can get it as a readily-available ready-to-eat extract in pharmacies or make one at home. If you are unsure on how and should you be using the papaya leaves extract, always ask the doctor or pharmacist for further information.