FF: Be wary of taking herbal concoctions to treat dengue – health officials

For Flashback Friday today, here’s a health news I filed for People’s Tonight eight years ago.

Please note that Health Assistant Secretary’s (then NEC chief) Dr. Eric Tayag’s advisory on taking herbal preparations to manage dengue fever is still applicable. But with recent developments, they (health experts) are now studying the potential of Tawa-tawa herb to improve the condition of dengue patients.

Papaya leaf extract, other herbal plants won’t cure dengue – DOH

THE Department of Health yesterday advised the public against the health risk posed by intake of papaya leaf extract and other common herbal plants to treat dengue fever.

Dr. Eric Tayag, director of the National Epidemiology Center of the DOH, issued the advisory following an anecdotal report from Singapore that papaya leaf extract could cure dengue fever.

“It’s not true. We should warn them (public) kasi baka mamaya maniwala ang mga tao and they would take it upon themselves na pigain ang papaya, inumin, hindi po ganoon ‘yon,” Tayag warns.

Based on the report, papaya juice was said to have improved the platelet of a dengue patient who also had blood transfusion.

“The blood transfusion could have caused the improvement of the platelet count, coincidental lang ang papaya juice,” Tayag told People’s Tonight.

The epidemiologist said the cornerstone of dengue treatment remains fluid replacement and blood products (if there is a need) not any herbal preparation like papaya leaf juice.

Tayag also issued a general precaution against taking other herbal preparations not only for dengue but for other reasons.

“May mga bata na maaaring allergic sa herbal as some of the herbal products available in the market do not pass the BFAD standards and may be contaminated.

“Some herbal may contains toxic ingredients ‘di nating alam kung anu-ano ang mga ito unless they are analyzed by BFAD we can give ample precautions,” Tayag said.

Dengue patients who recover from the virus approach the normal platelet level.

However, doctors should ensure that platelet count of patients would not reach 20,000 cubic per millimeter, an indication of a possible internal bleeding.

“Kahit anong inom mo ng papaya leaf juice if you’re prone to bleeding mag-bibleed ka talaga sa utak, that’s it. Sa level ng 20,000 cubic per millimeter, whether you like it or not, kahit wala pang bleeding kailangan itransfuse na ang pasyente. No amount of papaya juice will save you,” Tayag pointed out.

The normal platelet level of a healthy person is 100,000 per cubic millimeter.

Aside from papaya leaf extract, the DOH also warns against ingestion of “Gatas-gatas” or “tawa-tawa” plants, which reportedly contains substance that stop bleeding and oil extract from Neem tree that has repellant factor and is applied directly to the skin.

Tayag said that neem tree extract if eaten may cause encephalopathy, a disease in which the functioning of the brain is affected, especially by viral infection or toxins in the blood.

Another example of herbal plant that may cause death if ingested is coriander or “Kulantro”. “Pamahid ‘yon (kulantro) to relieve the pangangati ng mga may tigdas eh biglang ininom eh corrosive ‘yon kaya namamatay ang mga bata,” Tayag said.

The public is advised to check on the ingredients, look for the BFAD seal, and correct application of any product especially herbal products, Tayag said.

“But we are not saying na walang role ang herbal. Ang sinasabi lang namin ay baka magkaroon ng false sense of security. Huwag makipagsapalaran,” he said.

Feeling better after herbal doesn’t mean something good happened against that particular condition or disease, the NEC chief noted.

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