'Tawa-tawa' studied in fight against dengue

Manila (Philippine Daily Inquirer/ANN) - Here's something to smile about: the tawa-tawa plant ( Euphorbia hirta L.) may contain a substance that could help prevent dehydration among dengue patients.

Health Secretary Enrique Ona said at a forum on Friday that, based on initial research work, the local plant "appears" to have "some effects" on rehydration.

But in the same breath, Ona stressed that this was "very preliminary" and that the Department of Health could not and was not making any official recommendation about the plant for its possible dengue-fighting properties.

The DOH has asked the Department of Science and Technology to look into plants, including "tawa-tawa," that may help in the treatment of the mosquito-borne disease, which has downed hundreds of children nationwide.

Ona said researchers at the DOST have begun trying to "isolate" the substance in the local plant that have potential in fighting dehydration.

The health agency earlier said that dehydration, aside from hemorrhage, is one of the common causes of death among dengue patients.

"Initial results in terms of isolation shows that there is an active component... however, very preliminary," said Ona. "So let's hope. Maybe there really is [and] we should be very happy with that."

But instead of experimenting with "tawa-tawa"-some dengue patients have brewed and drunk "tawa-tawa" tea-Ona stressed the importance of immediately seeing a doctor.

"Don't depend on tawa-tawa," warned the health chief. "As much as possible, consult your doctor."

Last year, the health department raised concerns about the growing interest in the local plant as an alternative remedy for dengue. The DOH warned the public against experimenting with the plant in the absence of an official study on its reputed anti-dengue properties.

Instead of drinking "tawa-tawa" tea, the health agency advised patients to drink oral rehydration solution (Oresol) to prevent dehydration.

The DOH has so far recorded 321 deaths nationwide from January 1 to August 20, lower than last year's count of 517 fatalities due to the disease.

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