Claim about papaya leaf curing dengue is misleading

Pravin Bhatta / September 15, 2022

Dengue is getting out of control. Ministry of Health and Population has confirmed 11,065 cases across Nepal as of September 14. Bagmati Province tops the list with 8,390 cases, followed by Lumbini Province with 1,421 cases. 

As patients queue up at hospitals for tests and treatment, many opt for home remedies to cure this viral infection. Several media have reported patients taking allopathic anti-inflammatory drugs without consultation with doctors, leading to severe ailments and emergencies. There is no shortage of those going for ayurvedic treatment, again following the advice of quacks and home remedy enthusiasts claiming something or the other as a remedy, social media helping amplify such claims. 

An screenshot of Sirjana Gopal’s Tiktok Video.

One such claim is that papaya leaf extract helps cure dengue. This argument has not only taken social media by storm but has also spread widely through word-of-mouth communication.

A TikTok video by Sirjana Gopal claims, “Papaya leaf extract is an infallible cure for dengue. I was infected with dengue… If you are infected, you can drink this juice and recover quickly. You don’t need to visit the hospital as juice works well.” The video has been watched over 817,000 times, liked by 33,000 users, and shared over 5,700 times.

To ascertain the veracity of the claim, South Asia Check spoke with health professionals who have experience dealing with dengue cases. 

Dr. Prakash Gyawali of the Department of Ayurveda and Alternative Medicine told South Asia Check that papaya leaf juice does not cure dengue. However, Dr. Gyawali said it slightly increases platelet count in the human body. “Papaya leaf is not an antiviral property,” he added. 

According to an article published in the journal Frontiers in Pharmacology, papaya leaves have been found “effective to improve the platelet count in investigations on dengue patients and in vivo animal models besides having larvicidal potential. Furthermore, several reports have suggested that papaya leaves have the ability to inhibit destructive effects on platelets by the dengue virus and increase the expression of ALOX 12 gene responsible for elevating platelet count.” However, the paper adds, “Very few investigations were done to explore the mechanism(s) behind the role of papaya leaves to improve the platelet count.”

In an article published in Swasthya Khabar Patrika, Dr. Sher Bahadur Pun, Chief of the Clinical Research Unit at Sukraraj Tropical and Infectious Disease Hospital, said there is no special anti-dengue medicine, and one should not use papaya leaf extract haphazardly.

According to the World Health Organization, dengue is a self-limiting febrile illness. It can be severe in the critical phase, where a patient needs close observation and proper medical attention. 

In such a case, as the experts say, depending on papaya leaf extract can prove dangerous.

Papaya leaves, thus, are not a cure for dengue; while they might help increase the platelet count, as experts say, it would be foolish to depend on the leaves for the treatment, especially if the infection is severe. 


Claim: Papaya leaf extract is an infallible cure for dengue.

Claimed by: TikTok user

Fact-check: Misleading; Papaya leaf extract might be helpful only to increase platelet count; one cannot depend on it as a cure for dengue.

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