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Papaya leaf extract – wonder drug for dengue patients?

While the dreaded disease, dengue has reached epidemic proportions with a countless number of patients infected by it islandwide and the death toll mounting unabated, creating a national crisis - a cure for this dreaded disease however is still in wanting.

Dr. Sanath Hettige, an MBBS doctor - a consultant family physician-has affirmed that papaya leaf extract has definite beneficial effects on dengue patients. It prevents dengue patients from going in to dengue haemorrhagic state, he says.

The first ever scientific bio-medical study conducted to discover the salutary effects of Carcia papaya leaf extracts in patients suffering from dengue fever by Dr. Hettige was reported in the Sri Lanka Family Physician magazine in his article on the said subject in 2008.

The report further states, “The pilot study has shown the effects of papaya leaf juice in dengue patients of elevating the total white cell counts, platelet counts and recovery without hospital admission.”

This was followed up in the IMPA newsletter of June 2009 volume 14, issue 6, in which he has written on his preliminary observations of his study to his colleagues for their consideration with the view to establishing a scientifically sound study. In the same article he has also said that “a delay in formal research and publication may result in many deaths if we were to wait for results of a study without making information available to patients during the present epidemic.”

Dr. Hettige’s latest research on randomised controlled clinical trial that is on going with more than 70 dengue patients including children has found that all patients who consumed papaya leaf extracts recovered fully with no hospital admission. The results had been highly significant when compared to the control group who did not consume papaya leaf extract. Meanwhile Dr. Hettige has submitted an application for patent rights for its use and has received a patent number, but is awaiting approval.

The Sunday Observer met Dr. Hettige to find out more details of his decision to reveal his findings related to this wonder juice to the public, the details on how he initially started his research and how this papaya leaf extract could be administered to a patient.

“I have found this method of treatment for dengue patients to be very effective. Although the study is not fully completed, I decided to release this information at a time dengue has reached a national crisis situation and the public would benefit from this information”.

Q: What prompted you to initially do research on this disease?

A; It was in fact my wife, a Senior Medical Officer at the Intensive Care Unit, Sri Jayewardenepura Hospital, who would see the helpless dengue patients among many others, coming in to her unit and she would call me to inform of their suffering, and how most often than not the patients succumbed to this infection. She would constantly ask if there is nothing we could do. This prompted me to do something about it.

Q: How did you first start off your research?

A: Initially, I had a number of patients - relatives of those who work for me, friends and relatives infected by dengue who gave their consent to carry out the research on them. The pilot study consisted of 24 patients in total. Twelve who were given the juice and 12 as controls (who were not given the juice). We found that the 12 who consumed the papaya extract had good results. It was significant to observe that the platelet count increased in all 12 patients with two doses of papaya leaf juice and they all recovered with no hospital admissions, as per the details given in the pilot study that was published.

Preparation

Q; How is the papaya fruit leaf juice prepared for consumption for the purpose of treatment of dengue?

A: Leaves from a fruit-bearing tree can be taken (the Red Lady Papaya variety which is more effective), it has to be washed with clean water and then crushed in a wooden pestle without water or salt. The crushed leaves are then to be squeezed by hand to extract the juice which can be consumed fresh once again, without water, salt or sugar.

Q; What is the quantity of the leaf extract that has to be taken for an adult and child respectively?

A: A quantity of 10 ml is prescribed for adults twice a day and 5ml twice a day for children aged between five and 12 years.

Q: Could you give the scientific explanation as to how papaya leaf extract is effective in curing dengue?

A: It does three main services - the leaf extract increases the white blood cells and blood platelets and normalises the clotting profile which are the main aspects affected when infected with dengue. The most important factor is that it improves liver function too. The juice helps repair the damage caused to liver cells by dengue fever.

Q: At what stage should a patient consume papaya leaf extract?

A: It is best to consume it in the early stages of dengue haemorrhagic fever when the platelet count (PLT) drops below 150000 cu mm or when the packed cell volume is increased by 10 percent even though the World Health Organization (WHO) criteria to diagnose DHF is PLT of 100000 cu mm or Packed cell volume increase by 20 percent.

Papaya leaf juice has definite beneficial effects even when given to patients with very low platelet counts, altered clotting profiles and bleeding tendencies. But in the final stages of dengue, where multi-organ failure has set in, the beneficial effects are minimal. This is why the patients are advised to take papaya leaf juice early. When it is given early to patients, they recover fast, thus preventing the need for hospital admission. Most importantly, patients who have been identified as dengue-infected should first seek medical attention and take the juice along with the prescribed medication.

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