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Papaya Leaves and Dengue

Recently Dengue has spread havoc all over the country thanks to "News" channels and papers. Looks like every time a disease breaks in, Media gets all excited and hyper about it. Its festive mood all over the media houses. Thats what I feel, its my opinion. Now coming to the point, I would like to share a simple tip which I personally found useful while dealing with Dengue patients. Dengue can cause simple viral fever which subsides on its own over a few days or it can turn into the dangerous Dengue Hemorrhagic fever. Conventional medicine does not have much to offer to treat this condition except for giving supportive care and waiting for the body to overcome the infection.

 I had first heard about this Papaya leaf tip for dengue from a patient while I was working in a tertiary care hospital few years back. This patient was an old man who was admitted because of Pneumonia or Acute exacerbation of COPD (I dont remember the exact diagnosis, but it was lung related disease). He was in step down ICU (HDU) and the patient next to him was admitted for dengue with platelet counts 20,000. Traditionally, a platelet count less that 20,000 is considered lethal (causes all sorts of internal bleeding, hypovolemia, clotting etc and eventual death). So the doctors were observing this Dengue patient - to give platelet transfusion should the platelets go down further, or, if the platelets start improving, to observe him another 2 days or so and discharge him after platelets go up to satisfactory levels. This old bearded man looked at me when i was on the rounds and told me that Papaya leaf juice helps Dengue patients get better. He told me how his brother's son got out of Dengue fever by using papaya leaf juice/extract. I went home that night and gave a thought about what the old man said and the possible mechanism, if any. I googled and found out that quite a few people were getting better with this simple home remedy. I left it there.

Now in 2015, when Dengue is back, the most famous PR getting short ad/show for the news media (sorry but thats how I feel about "news" channels), I got an email from doxplexus website, where a doctor relayed his story of how papaya leaf cured his son and wife of Dengue fever. A few days later, one of my old patients told me that he has got fever and that his platelets were on the lower side. I asked him to keep checking his CBP daily and call me if the the platelets were going down further. The next day he called me and said that his platelets were 1 lakh. I hesitantly told him to eat good diet and take Papaya leaf extract daily and keep checking platelet counts. I gave him Paracetemol for fever and some multivitamin capsules. In 2 days, his platelets were back to normal. But this case did not really confirm that Papaya leaf was the active ingredient which lifted up the platelet count. May be it was the natural course of disease and fever subsided on its own and platelet count increased?  After this, I advised this papaya leaf extract to 3 more patients of fever with platelet low patients. All improved. But still evidence was not convincing.

Few months later, I got a call from my brother in law saying that his relative, a young girl was diagnosed Dengue and the platelet count was around 10,000. She was admitted in a hospital in Bangalore. Now I advised the same Papaya leaf extract to this girl. In 3 or 4 days, her platelets were 75,000 and she was discharged.

To this day, to be frank, I am not fully convinced if this Papaya leaf extract really works for Dengue or is it just the natural course of disease for those particular patients. Neither could I find any scientific evidence or trials on this. But anyhow, trying it is not a sin. A fresh papaya leaf, not in excess quantity, thoroughly washed and freshly prepared extract, would not harm the patient in anyway. Either it does good or does nothing. So no harm in trying in my opinion. Actually there was an article published in dnaindia about this topic.

Finally if anyone of you suspect Dengue in you or your friends and family, please contact a Doctor before trying anything at home by yourselves.

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