Unfortunately, tropical travel does come with a downside – tropical diseases. While lush rainforest, still lakes, humid nights and rolling thunderstorms may make for pristine holiday conditions, they can also be the perfect breeding grounds for a few nasty bugs.
One such disease to befall the common traveller, disrupting surf trips and cancelling trek plans across the tropical and sub-tropical world, is Dengue Fever. A mosquito-born virus of the Flavivridae family, Dengue jumps from human to human through the itch of a passing mozzie bite.
There are four strains of Dengue, DEN-1, DEN-2, DEN-3 and DEN-4, and while contracting one of the four gives you immunity to that strain for life, you are still susceptible to the remaining three. A bit depressing, we know.
Depending on the person, Dengue’s symptoms can vary from mild to severe, with the classic combination of fever, rash and headache being somewhat affectionately referred to as ‘The Dengue Triad’.
If the fever worsens, travellers and locals alike complain of nausea, vomiting, appetite loss and depression. If the fever gets worse still, it can lead to bleeding beneath the skin, nose and gums, and liver and heart problems – a sign you are heading into hemorrhagic and shock territory. Without keeping the illness in check, Dengue’s mild flu-like symptoms can quickly become life threatening.
While there is no known cure for Dengue, there are two ways to counter the disease – firstly, in its prevention and secondly, in its treatment. Luckily for us, there are a few super effective, and natural, ways to do just that.
Dengue Fever: Natural cures
Besides covering up, sleeping beneath a mosquito net and embracing the beauty of citronella, preventing Dengue can stem from your own body.
You want to maintain a healthy, happy and thriving immune system. After all, it’s the greatest natural disease preventative we have. Inside each of us is a legion of white blood cells, an anti-viral army, all willing and able to combat the plethora of sickness headed our way during the course of one’s life.
To help our bodies do the best job possible, we want to stimulate the active production of these cells. But how?
- Echinacea – This herb, hailing from the daisy family, is not only an amazing source of all things healing but is also an immune stimulant. Taking Echinacea regularly is known to reduce the risk of contracting a common cold by 58% and reduce the duration of your infection by almost two days. Pretty incredible.
- Astralagus – This staple in Chinese medicine is also known as Huang Qi for its energy balancing properties. It also goes down well in a tea – good for reducing the length of the pill popping party we all seem to be enduring on a daily basis.
- Vitamin C – Everyone knows this fella. When you’re down and out, one of the best things for you body is to dose up on vitamin c. By taking it regularly, you can actively prevent viruses, speed up recovery and enhance the immune system.
- Zinc – This is the main nutrient required to boost your body’s protections, as the mineral assists in T Cell and Natural Killer Cell activity.
So, you remember being a touch itchy just over a week ago and this morning you’ve woken up with a killer headache and this weird rash on your elbows.
I’m sorry for the bad diagnosis, but it looks like you’ve got Dengue.
Now, the last thing you want to do once you’ve contracted the fever is take aspirin as a pain killer. We know you’re hurting, but aspirin has blood-thinning properties and is not good in cases of dengue shock.
In treating the rash there are plenty of natural oils and balms out there that are brilliant at soothing and healing skin ailments. Depending on what you’ve got handy, and where in the world you are, calomine lotion, chickweed, peppermint oil (with a little corn flour to make a paste) and witch hazel all provide welcome relief.
Next up, the fever. While you’re sweating through your villa bed sheets, you need to remember that having a fever is actually great news. It’s a sign that your body is actively working to combat the disease, meaning your immune system is kicking in.
In the meantime, these are our recommendations for surviving your extreme temp:
- YEP Tea – This tea, made of yarrow, elderflower and peppermint, is a blend of diaphoretic herbs, meaning they induce sweating to lower the body’s temperature.
- Acupuncture – This seems a little crazy, right? Well, acupuncture (by a trained professional) has been seen to drastically lower the body temperature.
- Fenugreek Tea – Again, another herbal blend working to remove fever symptoms. It is also soothing and cleansing for your insides.
- Bloodwort – Traditionally used as a part of Ayurvedic medicine, when used in a hot infusion this herb brings on a sweat, which expels toxins from the body.
- Orange Juice – This one’s easy to come by at the breakfast buffet. OJ helps with digestion, increases urinary output and promotes antibodies for faster healing and recovery.
The humble papaya leaf
Finally, we need to pay homage to the papaya leaf. Across much of India and Southeast Asia, locals hail papaya leaves as the closest thing they’ve got to a miracle dengue cure. Not only do they help fight dengue symptoms, but according to 2010 research in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology, many enzymes found in papaya leaves are also known for anti-cancer and anti-malarial properties.
When it comes to ingesting the leaves, there are two options – juicing or pasting. For both of these methods, the leaves have got to be fresh and raw (but don’t include any sap or stems).
Surprisingly, for this natural medicine, brewing a tea is out of the question.
When juicing, you want to extract the juice from the leaves by crushing them, with some people using a cloth as an added filter. Generally, you need about two leaves per treatment, taking two tablespoons of the juice every six hours, three times a day.
The paste method involves using a food processor/grinder/mortar and pestle to turn the leaves into a paste. It can be super bitter, so it’s a good idea to mix it with some juice to sweeten. The dosage differs slightly with the paste, calling for four teaspoons, twice a day. Within a week, you should be feeling a difference.
Just remember, before modern medicine our ancestors were countering and treating many of the same diseases that we struggle with today. Before you dive headfirst into a series of over-the-counter pharmacy drugs, why not try a little healing using natural ingredients? It could surprise you, for the better.
Note: If symptoms persist, or worsen, please see a doctor.