What we can do to fight dengue | Inquirer Opinion

What we can do to fight dengue

/ 09:47 PM August 27, 2011

Nearly two years ago, Christine E.V. Gonzalez, a naturopathic medicine practitioner with a Ph.D. in natural health and holistic nutrition, faced death from dengue.

At the wake of two young girls – ages 11 and 14 – who died of dengue, she embarked on an advocacy on the prevention and control of the viral disease through health education. She has written her third book—“Dengue Fever on the Rise” – from which this article is excerpted.


Gonzalez emphasizes that there is no single cure-all plant or drug in the management and control of dengue fever. While there is no vaccine (yet) to prevent infection or drug treatment for those infected, early diagnosis and a combination of measures will and can prevent dengue death.

In addition, she issues this advisory:


Don’t take the Tylenol brand of paracetamol or acetaminophen when you have dengue, but take Biogesic which is a milder form of paracetamol instead.

Tylenol has been found to be toxic to the liver, and since dengue virus causes transitory hepatitis, using it has caused sudden, severe and medicinally induced hepatitis, which is believed to have caused some deaths.

Avoid acetylsalicylic acid like aspirin and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) like ibuprofen. They can increase the risk of bleeding.

Whenever possible, it is best to go to the hospital if you have dengue. Dengue may require blood and/or platelet transfusion and often intravenous hydration.

Climbing back to health

By Christine E.V. Gonzalez, ND, Ph.D.

I never thought for a moment that I would be deeply involved with a campaign to stop dengue mortality until I was infected with the virus. Five days before Christmas of 2009, I woke up feeling as though I just came out from the mouth of a volcano.


My body was burning with high fever. Every bone, muscle and organ in my body hurt, my glands were swollen and my pulse was racing. Headache and sore throat added to the symptoms.

I took homeopathic remedies, started a vitamin C drip, sponge bathed with essential oils several times a day, took fluids (organic vegetable juices and soups, coconut water, herbal teas, etc.) every 30 minutes and immediately did a CBC (complete blood count).

I was very confident that whatever it was that attacked my system would go away in less than a day. Instead, the nightmare began!

On the third day, I felt that something was very wrong. Due to the high fever, I was in and out of consciousness. The result of my urinalysis indicated that my kidneys were beginning to fail.

We added creatinine and BUN to the daily CBC tests. My platelet count was down. My hemoglobin, RBC (red blood cells) and WBC (white blood cells) numbers were fluctuating almost every day. All my lab tests and a doctor friend confirmed that I had the dengue virus.

On the fifth day, my body was numb from pain. I remembered back in 2005, as a herbologist, I processed a lot of local herbs. One of them was tawa-tawa (Euphorbia hirta). I started drinking it as a tea every hour. I included sweet potato tops and moringa (malunggay) leaves in all my soups and juices.

On the seventh day, I was just waiting for something to happen. There must be a reason for this debilitating condition. What was it? All of the sudden, full realization hit me.

How can the people, especially children, fight this nasty virus? I was still vulnerable to it, despite my vibrant health. What more for the rest of the community, who rarely pay attention to their health unless there are symptoms?

Thus began my campaign for zero-dengue communities.

How to fight and contain it

Keep hydrated

Patients need to replenish lost body fluids to help lower body temperature and to avoid the occurrence of hypovolaemic shock, a condition in which severe blood and fluid loss makes the heart unable to pump enough blood to the body.

What to drink:

Purified water, coconut water and other healthy water preparations: lemon water, turmeric water, herbal water (with tarragon, lemon grass, mint)

Coconut water was my main source of fluid when I had the dengue fever. Coconut juice replenishes electrolytes, minerals and other trace minerals lost by the body to dehydration.

Vegetable juices – carrots, cucumber, sweet potato tops, papaya leaves, moringa juice and other green leafy vegetables.

Studies show that pure organic vegetable juices can provide all the basics of human nutrition.

Fruit juices – guyabano, papaya, pomelo, oranges, guava, dalandan

Food nutrition

Adequately feeding your immune system boosts its fighting power.

Top eight nutrients to add to your family’s diet

1. Vitamin C may be the single most important nutrient for the immune system essential for the formation of adrenal hormones and the production of lymphocytes. It also has a direct effect on bacteria and viruses. It’s best to get Vitamin C from food sources.

2. Vitamin E is an important antioxidant and immune booster that stimulates the production of natural killer cells.

3. Carotenoids. Beta carotene increases the number of infection-fighting cells, natural killer cells and helper T-cells. It is also a powerful antioxidant that mops up excess free radicals. Caution: Too much vitamin A supplements can be toxic to the body. There is no toxic amount if beta carotene (carrots, squash, etc) is obtained from foods.  Most vitamin and mineral supplements in the market are synthetic.

4. Bioflavonoids – A group of phytonutrients that aids the immune system by protecting the cells of the body against pollutants.

5. Zinc.  This mineral increases the production of white blood cells that fight infection and helps them fight more aggressively.

Caution: Too much zinc in the form of supplements (more than 75 milligrams a day) can inhibit immune function. It’s safest to stick to getting zinc from your diet.

6. Garlic. This stimulates the multiplication of infection-fighting white cells, boosts natural-killer cell activity and increases the efficiency of antibody production.

7. Selenium. Essential for a healthy immune system, it assists the body in defending itself against harmful bacteria and viruses. Selenium helps activate prostaglandins that are important in regulating blood pressure and dealing with inflammation, and is vital in the production of the enzyme, glutathione peroxidase, which helps detoxify the body.

8. Omega-3 fatty acids. A study found that children taking a half teaspoon of flax oil a day experienced fewer and less severe respiratory infections. Tuna and salmon are among the other sources of omega 3 fatty acids.

Herbal teas

Herbal teas are considered pure water with a plus (vitamins, minerals). They have been used for thousands of years to help cure all types of afflictions.

Herbal teas can be prepared hot and steamy or chilled, with a little honey, a slice of kalamansi, coconut sugar or molasses. Below are herbal tea blends for dengue fever and/or dengue hemorrhagic fever. They are not just for fever but also for joint pains and liver/kidney/lymph detoxification.

Ingestion of tawa-tawa tea increases platelet count. Working with a rural village doctor, we had 14 dengue patients in a small facility.  We gathered tawa-tawa plants, roots included, and prepared tea outside the facility.

How to prepare tawa-tawa tea

Take seven to nine whole tawa-tawa plants.  Wash thoroughly. (You may include the roots).

Bring to a boil one liter of purified water. Turn down the heat to the lowest setting, add the tawa-tawa plants and boil for one to two minutes in a slow rolling boil. Cool.

The dengue fever patient should sip 1 to 1.5 glasses of the concoction every hour for 24 hours.

Other herbal infusions:  neem (Azadirachta indica) leaves tea, olive (Olea europaea) leaf tea, gotu-kola (Centella asiatica) tea.

Aromatherapy (essential oils)

Aromatherapy uses natural distilled extracts from aromatic plants in healing the body, mind and spirit. As a holistic medicine, it is both a preventive approach and an active treatment during acute and chronic stages of illness or disease.

The extracts are powerful antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal and are very effective in repelling harmful insects.

Steam inhalation – Eucalyptus, rosemary, tea tree and lavender. The warmth of steam inhalation can be very helpful for a child suffering from a fever combined with chills.

Direct application.  Gentle essential oils like tea tree and lavender can be applied directly to the skin and have a very cooling effect. Wet a washcloth with cool water, add a drop of essential oil on the cloth and use it to wipe a feverish child’s head, chest and abdomen to relieve a hot or sweaty fever, providing a cooling relief that may help a restless child settle down to sleep.

Bath.  Bathing, using essential oils (peppermint, lavender or tea tree and oregano [for adults]), is one of the best remedies for fever and can tremendously increase therapeutic effects.

Sponge bath with the same essential oils. In the absence of a bath tub and/or presence of a very high fever, sponge bath the child/patient three to four times a day.

Inhalation of two to three drops of essential oil – peppermint, lavender or eucalyptus – on a tissue helps in any upper respiratory problems, nausea and/or dizziness.

Diffusing essential oils – peppermint, lavender, geranium, orange or tea tree –using a clay, terra cotta, ceramic, metal or candle diffuser. A nebulizer is, perhaps, the best type of essential-oil diffuser.

Massage using an antiseptic and anti-inflammatory massage oil blend will help reduce muscle/joint pains, itching, inflammation and swelling. Use basil, chamomile, lavender, peppermint or tea tree essential oils, added to a base oil like virgin coconut oil, olive oil or moringa (malunggay) oil.

Choose a base oil that is light, soft and cooling to the skin. I use virgin coconut oil because of its healing properties both for internal and external benefits.

Botanical insecticides

Insecticides of botanical origin have been reported as useful for the control of mosquitoes.  Neem and its derived products as well as citronella, lemon grass, basil, geraniums (malvarosa) and eucalyptus have shown a variety of strong insecticidal properties.

Avoid mosquito bites with an effective, toxin-free mosquito repellent.

Homeopathic remedies

Homeopathy is an advanced system of natural medicine that has been bringing healing to the world for over 200 years.

The homeopathic system of medicine can treat and prevent dengue fever and dengue hemorrhagic fever by immune modulation of the patients without any side effects.

Herbal supplements

Health practitioners, nutritionists and scientists agree that the best sources of multivitamins and minerals are organic foods.

However, obtaining enough of any particular nutrient from food presents a challenge due to processing or cooking food and the depletion of nutrients in the soil from overapplication of pesticides and/or genetic modification.

To aid those who want to know the best multivitamins and minerals on the market, we have put together a thorough research on some whole-food supplements.

Rest and sleep

Rest is the best way to treat headache, fever and lethargy associated with dengue fever. The illness usually lasts 10 to 14 days, but symptoms, most notably lethargy, can last up to a month.

Sleep is the best way to recharge the body. Research shows that the immune system needs 9.5 hours of sleep in total darkness to recharge completely.

About the book: “Dengue Fever on the Rise” will be available soon in National Book Stores nationwide.  For inquiries, please call The Healing Station 02-6317794 / 02-7265301 / 0917-525-HEAL (2273), or visit www.dengueprevention.com.

Anti-dengue awareness campaign in comics

1. Some 100 million people around the world get dengue every year, according to the World Health Organization. Dengue cases grow by 90 to 300 percent annually in various parts of the Philippines. Dengue is an acute infectious viral disease that can kill. The virus is transmitted by aedes mosquitoes.

2. Symptoms:  Headache, vomiting, high temperatures that persist, muscle and joint pain, pain around the eyes and skin blotches.  The disease is usually mistaken for the flu, that’s why it is not treated on time. Don’t delay, consult a medical practitioner.

3. Early treatment is important to prevent death from dengue. Have a CBC so that your platelet count can be determined. You have dengue when your platelet count is low. If this happens, go immediately to a hospital. Don’t take aspirin and NSAID as these help increase bleeding.

4. Make tea from tawa-tawa (Euphorbia hirta) and young kamote (sweet potato) leaves. Make juice from two papaya leaves and drink it. Plant eucalyptus, neem and citronella in your backyard so you can use their leaves for incense. [Note: The Department of Health has not declared tawa-tawa a dengue cure.]

5. Clean surroundings. Ensure that there is no stagnant water in flower pots, plastic bags, tires, cans, bottles and gutter where mosquitoes can breed. Ensure that water channels are not clogged. Fill up potholes so that they won’t collect water.

6. Rest. Take nutritious food (soft diet like congee). Take paracetamol and have a sponge bath so that the fever would subside. Go to a hospital to find out whether you have dengue hemmorhagic fever. Your liver could be affected if your platelet count drops precipitously. Protect yourself with mosquito nets, screens and nontoxic insect repellents.

7. Boost the immune system by eating vegetables and fruits. Drink copious amounts of water, coconut juice and herbal tea. Also take supplements like M+ to get vitamins A, B, C, K, folic acid and minerals. A weak body is susceptible to disease.

8. Dengue super heroes. Frogs, birds, fish and dragonflies that kill thousands of kiti-kiti (mosquito larvae) and mosquitoes are adversely affected by herbicides, pesticides and other poisonous chemicals. DEET, a potent poison, poses a threat to children. The best way to fight dengue is to kill mosquito larvae.

Illustrations by Jerry Macatuno from the Anti-Dengue campaign by the Wellness Club and Herbiotics

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