Herbal Treatment of Thrombocytopenia and Natural Ways to Prevent Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever

A government campaign poster to stop dengue (photo courtesy of rooymans2000@flickr).
A government campaign poster to stop dengue (photo courtesy of rooymans2000@flickr).

Dengue Fever Virus

Dengue is an arboviral illness caused by 1 of 4 related but antigenically distinct viral serotypes and transmitted by the mosquito Aedes aegypti (L.). It is a worldwide threat to human health with Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever and Dengue Shock Syndrome causing deaths especially in children.  Managing thrombocytopenia or low platelet count is key to the patient's survival.  For an extensive discussion on the pathophysiology of this important disease, please follow this link.

Dengue Fever: Signs, Symptoms and Diagnosis

The patient experiences flu-like symptoms: fever as high as 40°C (104°F), chills, headache, pain when eyes are moved, low back ache and aching in the legs and joints. However, temperature normalizes for a day accompanied by profuse sweating, and then rises rapidly again along with the appearance of rashes starting at the extremities and spreading to the chest, abdomen and back.

The characteristic combination of fever, rash and headache is known as the “Dengue Triad”. If there is an epidemic or if your loved ones have gone to outdoor activities exposing them to mosquitoes, have them checked at the first sign of high fever accompanied by headache. Because moderate to marked thrombocytopenia with concurrent haemoconcentration is a distinctive clinical laboratory finding for dengue hemorrhagic fever (DHF), a tourniquet test can be performed even before the appearance of rash.

Tourniquet test is a test of capillary fragility or hemorrhagic tendency and identifies thrombocytopenia. The test is positive if there are more than 20 petechiae (small red or purple spot) per square inch of the body five minutes after a blood pressure cuff is wrapped and inflated. The test provides only an indication of low platelet count and increased bleeding tendency and the result is therefore followed by regular blood test for verification. Serological test or immunoassay is also performed to detect the presence of dengue virus-specific antibodies. Clinical diagnosis of dengue infection has been comprehensively described by the World Health Organization.

A safe and cost-effective technique for early detection of dengue is already being developed by Indian researchers and is called dipstick test.  The protein was incorporated into a dipstick that shows a brown dot if a patient's blood sample contains antibodies to the virus, thus indicating an infection. The earlier that this disease is diagnosed, the better are the chances of success in curing the patient. 

Information contained in this hub are based on research, common sense and success stories.  This is an attempt to spread the technique that saved my sister from becoming one of the fatalities of this life-threatening disease such that others may learn and benefit.  This is also an avenue to feature some amazing products focused on protecting humanity from debilitating insect-borne diseases while we continue to enjoy nature.  Choose what is compatible to your lifestyle and what works best for you.

Dengue Fever: Effective Treatment Strategies

When you or a family member is suspected to have contracted dengue based on symptoms, proceed to the nearest hospital for proper diagnosis.  Once the patient is diagnosed positive to dengue, continue to seek the assistance from medical professionals, hospitalization is often a must. The World Health Organization published a detailed treatment procedure for dengue patients.  This is the standard hospital procedure limited to pain and fever relief, re-hydration and blood transfusion.

There are no specific drugs for dengue. In the case of my sister, two strategies became critical to her survival from this disease.

  1. Proper re-hydration management- because the dengue virus causes an acute condition of increased vascular permeability and plasma leakage, re-hydration with intravenous fluids as well as oral re-hydration with Gatorade (a non-carbonated sports drink formulated to rehydrate and replenish fluid, carbohydrates and electrolytes) helped prevent dehydration.
  2. Herbal medication- a weed species, Euphorbia hirta Linn, commonly called tawa-tawa or gatas-gatas in the Philippines, fei-yang ts’ao or ju-chih ts’ao (milk herb) in China has worked wonders with many dengue patients including my sister.

Apparently it was her second dengue infection diagnosed as Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever, a fatal hemorrhagic disease. The first infection was not properly diagnosed because it produced a nonspecific viral syndrome and symptoms just went away with fever medicine and pain reliever. This time her platelet count went down to 17,000 (150,000 to 450,000 is the normal range and below 50,000 is fatal) and she was having severe gastrointestinal bleeding.

When she started drinking a glass of ‘tawa-tawa’ tea every hour, her platelet count rapidly went up. Preparations for blood transfusion had already been suggested by the doctor so my younger brother and another person with blood type AB were already on stand-by to be blood donors. The doctor was surprised to see the results of the next blood test. A significant increase in platelet was observed and the doctor declared that blood transfusion was no longer necessary.

Tawa-tawa - herbal medication for Dengue patients

Euphorbia hirta  Linn, commonly called tawa-tawa or gatas-gatas in the Philippines, and fei-yang tsao or ju-chih tsao (milk herb) in China
Euphorbia hirta Linn, commonly called tawa-tawa or gatas-gatas in the Philippines, and fei-yang tsao or ju-chih tsao (milk herb) in China

How To Prepare Tawa-tawa Tea

  1. Get 5 to 6 ‘tawa-tawa’ plants
  2. Remove roots and wash thoroughly
  3. Put in a pot of boiling water and boil for 1 minute (about 1.5 L)
  4. Let cool and remove the plant

For those who cannot find this weed or want to be saved from the hassle of preparation, it is already available in commercial tea bags with product name Carica Euphorbia Tea “Taua Taua”.

While researches to establish the medicinal properties of this weed are on-going, its dengue-healing properties are well-known to those who have tried it as well as those who have witnessed or read the testimonies. Tawa-tawa apparently doesn’t directly kill the dengue virus but acts by promoting the development of blood platelets, stops hemorrhage and prevent further bleeding. This herbal treatment makes the impact of dengue virus more bearable to the patient and hastens recovery.

Another natural medication for dengue that is gaining popularity in the Philippines is Camote tops tea or tea from sweet potato greens. About 20 tops, 1-ft in length should be boiled for 5 minutes in a pot, after thorough washing. Let the patient drink the fluid as juice or tea every hour. A little salt or sugar can be added. Relative to ‘tawa-tawa’ camote tops tea is more pleasant to the taste. Camote tops tea revives the natural immune system enabling the body to heal itself. However, please note this warning from the Philippines' Department of Health.

The efficacy of papaya leaf extract in curing dengue is well known in India. This hub provides the procedure for extraction and administration of this herbal remedy.

Dengue Prevention Strategies

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”

                                                           - Benjamin Franklin

1. Prevent vector breeding and proliferation- though dengue is caused by a virus, this causal organism will not reach human blood system if not for its mosquito vector, Aedes aegypti. Removing breeding grounds of these mosquitoes will halt their proliferation and consequentially diminish disease transmission.

Mosquitoes require stagnant water for oviposition and larval development so better

  • turn those pails and watering cans over
  • discard items that can collect rain or run-off water like coconut shells, old tires, milk cans and glass jars
  • keep water drums tightly covered
  • loosen the soil of potted plants to prevent stagnation of water due to hardened soil
  • avoid propagation of plant types that collect water like the Bromeliads
  • change water of your flower vases every other day
  • clear fallen leaves in roof gutter
  • regularly check your house and surroundings for any stagnant water and immediately remove them

Managing the population of adult mosquito is also a strategy and there are several techniques worth discussing in another hub.

2. Avoid Mosquito Bites- mosquito bites should be avoided by healthy persons to prevent them from becoming infected and by dengue-infected people to stop further spread of the virus. This can be done by applying insect repellents on exposed skin, either in lotion, pump spray or herbal wipes formulation, which are commercially available. You also have the option of making your own insect repellent concoction from essential oils.  Insect repellent patch and wristbands are also available for a more convenient application. Mosquito coils and electric vapor mats are options to those less sensitive to smoke and vapor.

Wearing Insect Shield repellent clothing is the most recent revolutionary phenomenon in preventing insect bites.  The brand is registered by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and provides effective and odorless insect protection that lasts the expected lifetime of the garment.  These products allow you to continuously enjoy the outdoors with reduced risk of acquiring mosquito-borne diseases.

A rather old-fashioned but effective way of preventing insect bite is the use of mosquito nets. When you are inside a house that is not screened or staying outdoors, sleeping under a mosquito net helps protect you from mosquito bites as long as your skin doesn’t touch the net to allow the mosquito to still insert its proboscis. Mosquito net for your bed or for your hammock? Now, you have a choice.

If your family loves outdoor activities like backyard parties, picnics, barbecues and camping, it is worth to invest on an effective outdoor mosquito trapping system like the SkeeterVac Mosquito Eliminator System. This is a baiting system that transforms clean-burning propane into CO2 to attract mosquitoes into its trap. Once the bugs are attracted, the Vac&Tac trapping system utilizes a powerful vacuum and sticky paper traps to securely capture them. The mosquitoes get attracted to the trap and away from your skin.

3. Vaccine- there is currently no commercially available vaccine for protection against all four types of dengue viruses but researches on this aspect are rapidly progressing and could be the ultimate solution to this mosquito-borne illness. Sanofi Pasteur, the company working on the most promising vaccine against dengue, is on its phase II clinical trials and it is speculated that phase III could begin by the end of 2010.

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jejemon 6 years ago

ito na un

Lita C. Malicdem profile image

Lita C. Malicdem 6 years ago from Philippines

My goodness, Mama Sez! How practical are your alternative cures for dengue and I'm so innocent about these plants' therapeutic benefits! I'm intrigued by the quick spread of tawa-tawa in my backyard garden and nip them in the bud as soon as they show their tops. LOL! I love this now! Got lots of camote vines, too. Hmmm, interesting! Thanks!

Mama Sez profile image

Mama Sez 6 years ago from Canada Author

@jejemon- yes this is it, lol.

@Ms. Lita- in Davao, some people intentionally leave a small patch of tawa-tawa in their backyard for emergency. In this case, tawa-tawa is no longer a weed. Thanks po :)

brightlight 6 years ago

Hi, Mama Sez, I thank you so much for this article of yours. I know a kid who is in dire need of type AB blood, our hospital ran out of it, even the Red Cross. The parents are asking everybody who has this blood type to donate. I'm going to suggest "tawa-tawa" immediately. I spotted some in our backyard (thanks to your photo) but their flowers have red spots in the middle. I believe they're the same but only they are more matured. Am I correct? I'm an herbal fanatic, and I believe in their efficacy. Thanks again.

Mama Sez profile image

Mama Sez 6 years ago from Canada Author

Hello brightlight, it's my pleasure to be of help. The child should be well by now. Going back to basic (natural) really makes a lot of sense. Thanks :)

brightlight 6 years ago

I was told she's going to be released from the hospital tomorrow. From the 3 units that she was ordered to have, one unit became sufficient with the help of tawa-tawa and gatorade. I hope the DOH should now approve the tawa-tawa especially so that the Red Cross Philippines in our place is now worried...they still have to request blood from La Union and Manila to address the need. Your article was very helpful.

Mama Sez profile image

Mama Sez 6 years ago from Canada Author

That was great news brightlight! I am also hoping for DOH endorsement of this medicinal plant to come soon. Thanks for the update :)

HANZ 5 years ago

Damo ko natutunan ah...Thank you sa article na to...

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