Papaya leaves can beat dengue
Posted on April 25th, 2016

 Courtesy The Daily Mirror

Dr. Sanath Hettige won the Presidential Award for the best medical invention for 2013 at the presidential awards ceremony held on the Feb 5, 2016 for his invention of papaya leaf syrup, tablets and capsules for the treatment of dengue fever and other medical conditions. This is the highest award for practitioners in the field of medicine. The award is generally given to inventors and rarely to doctors. Dr Hettige is a certified specialist in the field of Family Medicine and is the chairman for the Board of Study in Family Medicine of the Postgraduate Institute of Medicine in the University of Colombo. He is also the editor of the Independent Medical Association and a council member of the College of General Practitioners of Sri Lanka.  In an engaging interview with the Daily Mirror Dr.Hettige shared his experience, research results and myths associated with the positive effects of papaya leaf syrup.

Q  Please tell us about your research.

Research and invention are my keen interests. I have invented ointments such as ‘Oil of Dermae’ which is a remedy for the cracking of feet, soles and hands, dry skin, and effective for a rare  medical condition known as plantar keratosis and a hair cream for the stimulation of hair growth. They are my own preparations and are not copied formulae. Indian doctors have experienced the efficacy of this preparation and are now in the process of importing them . In 2008, the knowledge about dengue management was poor. As a result complications arose and the death rate was high. At that time I thought of a herbal medicine. I have established a medical centre, a research laboratory and a factory in Maharagama where my products are manufactured. I used to observe monkeys eating papaya leaves. I conducted research on papaya leaves and found that papaya leaves had been used by aborigines to treat malaria. At the time there were no suggestions that papaya leaves were a remedy for dengue, but as monkeys consumed it, we knew it wasn’t toxic. Four of my employees and myself consumed papaya leaves and another five did not. Then we took blood tests and found that the platelet count, white blood cells count (WBC) and the red blood cell count (RBC) of even healthy individuals had increased. Meanwhile, my clerk contracted dengue when his platelet count dropped to 70 000. As one who had participated in papaya leaves trial before insisted in taking papaya leaf syrup. Within 2 days his platelet count increased dramatically and the fever receded. He recovered without been admission to a hospital
Some three wheel drivers of the Watthegedara area close to my clinic my clerk was friendly with also took papaya leaf syrup when they contracted dengue and were cured proving the efficacy papaya leaves in treating dengue. It was then that I decided to conduct scientific research on the papaya leaf treatment. 12 patients who came to my clinic voluntarily agreed to take papaya leaves and then take blood tests when it was found that their platelet count and WBC counts had increased with improvement of their overall medical condition. So, papaya leaves not only increase the platelet count but helps to increase WBC counts and reduce fever and the duration of the illness simultaneously. This is where a lot of people misunderstood my first article. There is no isolated increase of the platelet count; we monitor the improvement through the platelet count alone.

Q  And then?

When you conduct research, there are 3 stages: First you conduct experiments using rats, then the experiment is done on human beings followed by a control experiment where we give the syrup to some and not give it to others in the experiment. The rat experiment was done in other countries after my human experiment. In late 2009 I wanted to conduct a randomised control clinical experiment. I needed approval from ethical clearance committees such as the unit at the Sri Lanka Medical Association to conduct the control trial. If they approve it, they have to take the responsibility in case something happens to the patient. In 2009 the ethical clearance unit at the Sri Lanka Medical Association did not permit me to conduct the experiment because they were not convinced [of its safety and efficacy]. They wanted me to bring evidence from Ayurveda literature and show that papaya leaves has been prescribed as a remedy.
A control experiment was conducted in Malaysia before I got the opportunity. In 2013 I applied again highlighting that Malaysia had conducted the experiment. Thereafter, the ethical clearance committee of the Sri Jayawardene University approved my application.
If the platelet count increases despite the fact that the patient’s condition(fever etc) was not improving, it becomes a complication to the physician. This is where my control experiment played a major role as it was able to clear the previous misconception that papaya leaves only increases the platelet count. As part of the experiment we reached patients who had not yet reached the critical stage warded at the Kalubowila Hospital. We divided them into two groups and checked them to ascertain how many had reached the critical phase and how many had not in the two groups. We examined the thorax of all the patients daily and found that only two patients from the treated group had fluid in their lungs compared to ten in the untreated group. We also saw that the duration of fever was reduced by 50% and the hospital stay reduced by one day. It was not only the platelet count increase we observed but also in a reduction in the conversion of dengue patients to the dengue hemorrhagic stage. The results of this study will be published soon.


Q Are there any side effects in this treatment?

The syrup (papaya leaf extract) can also be taken in the form of a capsule which contains only pure papaya leaf extract. There are no side effects. The only problem is the bitter taste in the syrup. However, patients must take the medicine in the first spike of fever, and they must take it regularly to obtain optimum results.

Q Is the papaya syrup more of an Ayurveda product?

A Herbal medicine is generally categorised as Ayurvedic but most western medicines are derived from plant material or originally identified in plant extracts. Quinine, for instance, was discovered from the cinchona tree. Ayurvedic preparations are not proven by clinical research. However, before western medicine enters a market extensive research is done to prove its efficacy and safety. But, when considering the papaya leaf juice, substantial research has been done locally and internationally proving its safety and efficacy.

Q  Why are doctors reluctant to use the papaya leaf medicine on dengue patients?

The papaya leaf syrup is a herbal medicine and therefore not categorized as an allopathic drug (as in western/modern medicine) and doctors usually refrain from using herbal medicine on patients. However, this is the first time in Sri Lanka a herbal medicine which is not allopathic was used in a clinical trial in a tertiary care hospital for a potentially serious illness. Clinical trials are rarely conducted in herbal medicine.

Q  Can papaya leaf extract be used for other diseases?

Papaya syrup is also effective in the treatment of cancer as it improves their blood counts. Papaya leaf also has cancer curing properties.

Q  What was the response from the international community?

After my research was published in Lankapuwath, it received international acclaim even from BBC and CNN. BBC correspondent Chris Howell visited my lab and did a documentary. As a result the research results spread and people from around the world started using it as a remedy. In many countries it was found to be effective and as consequently there was research conducted in India, Pakistan, Malaysia and even in the University of Florida. We have more than 20 research projects conducted worldwide with regard to this subject. Articles on the preparation of the papaya leaf medicine and its effectiveness have been discussed in length in the British Medical Journal.
The institute of medical research Malaysia encourages and recommends the use of papaya leaf syrup. They even have a video on their website, where they present how the juice is prepared. It should also be noted that this is the first time in the world history that a herbal medicine is being promoted by the government Medical Research Institute.

Q  What advice would you give dengue patients?

Dengue is  potentially a serious illness. You must consult your doctor immediately if there are signs of fever, headache and body pain, you can request for an NS1 antigen test. Through this test you can diagnose dengue on the very first day of the illness. If results are positive you can take papaya leaf syrup, in addition to the usual dengue management. Papaya leaf syrup should be taken as early as possible, preferably at the first spike of fever and continued until the patient has recovered fully. Papaya leaf is only a supportive treatment and is mandatory  that you take advice and treatment from an allopathic doctor or from a government hospital. You should not take any type of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen, mefenamic acid or diclofinac sodium for fever or body pain.
Listed below are some links and websites where one can receive precise details on the preparation of the syrup and its effectiveness.
•     Guidelines in using carica papaya leaf extract for dengue- An article by the British Medical Journal ( link address-
•     Institute of Medical Research Malaysia (  

Pics by Pradeep Dilrukshana

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16 Responses to “Papaya leaves can beat dengue”

  1. Senevirath Says:

    බෝධි ධනපාල තුමෝ මේකත් කියවන්න බෙහෙත නම් තිත්තය් . ඇත්ත ඔහෙලට තිත්තය් එහෙත් ලෙඩේ සනීපය්

  2. NAK Says:

    First tried on his clerk and then on the rats!
    Things always don’t work according to the rule …eh Mr.Dhanapala?
    Still, how come the lady doctor from Ambalngoda who came with the idea first is left out?

  3. Nimal Says:

    I love this papaya plant. At the age of 10 I earned more money than my father who was the superintendent engineer of the government electrical dept.
    I and my few mischievous dared to plant hundreds of papaya plants in the then thick forests of the Bahirwa mountain in Kandy.We made the dried gum or dried milk of the papaya and one ounce was sold for nearly Rs100(in 1953),which was the monthly salary of labourer of the department.
    I and my pitiless friends went to see almost every film and the cinema manager himself served us with the sweets, snacks and cool drinks in the first class during the interval, while my elder brothers who were sitting in the lower class and accused me of having a complex, thanks to the papaya trees.
    They made a meat tenderizer called papain and this papaya dried milk in the form of a latex was exported by the bottle shop traders.

  4. Susantha Wijesinghe Says:


    THIS IS WHAT HAPPENED IN THE 1980S WHEN I WAS LIVING IN KANDY. I had two dogs then. One day when our servant boy was returning from the Co-operative which was at the back of our house, he saw a small brown puppy aside our back fence. Apparently, somebody has come and left him there. When my wife heard about this, she asked the boy to bring the pup home. My wife and children love dogs. We fed him (Teddy Putha) and looked after him, and one day he got a fit and was frothing from his mouth, and then calmed down. Next day we took him to the Peradeniya Veterinary Hospital. The Vet diagnosed him as an Epileptic, and asked us to give a MYSOLENE tablet everyday. We did so, and he grew up beautifully.

    Now he was about three years. He was playing with the other dogs in our small lawn in front. We were seated and was watching them play. Suddenly, he walked upto a papaya tree along the hedge which was about two feet in height, broke it from the mouth, right from the bottom, and started eating it. We were watching in amazement. It is so bitter he ate the WHOLE TREE. Can someone PLEASE explain the PHENOMENON why this Teddy Putha ate the whole papaya tree. ??

    When we were small our Grand-mother gave us raw matured Papaya cut into small pieces and boiled with turmeric. That was our 3.00pm snack on week ends with grated coconut. We ate with relish.

  5. Susantha Wijesinghe Says:

    THE TASTIEST PAPAYA IS ** SOLO HAWAII RED OR ORANGE** Granmother fed us with boiled Papaya, saying it was good for worms.

  6. Ananda-USA Says:


    What I remember are the par-boiled (with turmeric) papaya (papol) slices in the Sinhala Pickle (Achcharu) my grandmother and my mother used to make by the barrel. They were stored in huge porcelain jars each 25 gallons in volume, for a full year!

    The papol was picked from our own trees that we planted in our back garden. After about 4 months the Achcharu was ready to be served with almost every rice meal!

    We also picked Limes by the barrel, with red/green chile and various spices and salt. These could be preserved for years; older the better!

  7. Dham Says:

    Never heard about 25 gallon ( 110 litres ? ) jars. What were the dimensions ?
    Accharu is very yummy.

  8. Ananda-USA Says:


    The jars were about 1.5 ft in diameter and about 2 ft tall.
    They were made from porcelain/ceramic with thick walls and screw in flat lids, and
    were two tone in color and glazed. The bottom 3/4 of the way up the jars it was white in color, the top 1/4 including the lid was brown in color.

    We had many of these jars with all kinds of pickles stored in them, because Achcharu was a favorite in our family.

    These were in our family as long as I can remember from my childhood days. My sisters who inherited most of my mother’s stuff may still have them … I must ask them when I go to Sri Lanka.

    As kids, we all had to pitch in to make the pickles, and we all learned how to do it along the way. It was always a festive fun activity that we loved in my large family of eight children and literally hundreds of close relatives.

  9. Dham Says:

    It is amazing to me. I am form Colombo, never heard or seen about that sizes jars , with screwed lid !
    You must be from a rich family in the South.

    Only thing I remember similar was a bath tub we had. It is about 1.5 m long x 1. 0m at top with tapering down to 1.2m x 0.7 m and oval shape. Wall thickness was about 70 mm. It was placed next to our well. light green interior, light brown exterior with some carved decorations. When I was around 15 years old we sold it due to hardships.

  10. Susantha Wijesinghe Says:

    ANANDA !! What you say above brings back old memories to me. Yes, the sliced Papaya was put into Sinhala Achchaaru. It was a rice puller. Probably, we are of same vintage. It was my Grand-mother who made all these. She used to also make Puhul Dosi. Then we had Fried DEL CHIPS by the load, all made by my grandmother. Some were fried with salt and chilli powder, and some with sugar. We had two Del Trees fully loaded during season.

    DHAM !! You have been a SMALL FELLA THEN. What Ananda says is quite correct. We had the same Jars, 3/4 up white and balance brown. We had the Half gallon, one gallon, and the five gallon. In the Half gallon, we had the Achchaaru, and in the one gallon, we had Kitul Treacle. In the Five gallon, the DEL Chips. Available right through the Year.

    Actually these Jars were Acid Jars, sold by the Bothal Karaya. They had to be washed very well with soap and hot water, before use. I have seen the 25 gallon. All these Jars ( acetic acid) came from Rubber Estates, who sold when empty to the Bottleman. Dham , well Iam from the south, Galle. Our Mahagedera was on Nawala Road. It was a six bedroom house, and that was the only largest house between Welikade junction and Nugegoda junction, in the 1940s. Nawala road was jungle at that time with no buses on the road. We had to walk to Raindapola junction, ( Ayurvedic junc) to take bus to go to school. At this time, we had the Bola Morris Eight Car, and also a Rickshaw, with a Rickshawman, Govinda, who also looked after two cows. Milk in the morning, milk in the afternoon, and milk in the night. SEE HOW OLD IAM ?

  11. Nimal Says:

    Are you Joe Wijesinghe’s(late) son who lived at Chapel road Nuggegoda?He was my cousin. I think he had a similar name. Lost contact over years.

  12. Dham Says:

    Your Nawala Road house not far from my house. I have probably seen it ( should be close to Koswatte ). Our house was one of the oldest in Kalubowila partially collapse recently and demolished. We too had Kos, Del, Lavulu ( I hated this) , Nang Nang , Jambu and Mango trees. We too used to keep Del chips.
    However, I have never see those size big jars. May be you rich people had those.
    We never travelled along Nawala Road towards Welikada in sixties, first time was to visit Kalapaluwave Gothama Thapovanaya. Kudawelle Wangeesa Thero was the head then. I went there with my uncle who was probably 12 years older than you. He was a devout Buddhist. He spent meditating at Kanduboda Arannaya 1 month of the year. I went to Kanduboda with him for my first meditation retreat ( but only for 5-7 days ) with him just after A/L results before Uni. People accusing me of quoting Buddhism here, but you will appreciate how difficult for me not to.
    Buddhism is the greatest treasure we have – solution to everything. Problem is 99% Buddhist do not understand- they treat it as any other religion. Greed , Hatred and Delusion are the root of all problems including the totally unwarranted “Tamil Problem”.

  13. Susantha Wijesinghe Says:

    DHAM !! A little this side of Koswatte on the left was where the ‘ little girl ‘ was living. At their gate was a large Sapodilla tree. Her father used to bring us bags full. Her father never fails to invite my Nangi, when he takes his girls and family on vacations. The little girl and my Nangi are good friends. Well if I tell you that Park Lane is our property, you will know our house. It was a foot path earlier. Our house name was *NIMAL*. Our house was right opposite the UC, now MC. The house is no more. A large building has come up in its place. It is a long story. Those jars were available in the Botal Karaya’s shop. Anybody could buy it. Didn’t have to be rich. I cannot remember the day I have been to a TEMPLE. Nevertheless, I am a Buddhist.

  14. Dham Says:

    Where is the “little girl” ? In Louisiana now ?

    May I ask you to read one book, the only book I ask you to read. You must and you stop reading or need not go to a Temple. Any question you can always ask me. I am the “little boy” , 5 years old, read the story of ” Vatu Kurulla” ( a Jathaka Story) and determined to speak the TRUTH from that day.

    Please entre ” four noble truths sumedho ” on Google. See the first one a PDF download from BuddhaNet. Read very slowly. YOU MUST

  15. Susantha Wijesinghe Says:

    NIMAL !! My Father was ALBERT WIJESINHE, CCS, All CEYLON BOXER, Retired from the GENERAL TREASURY as Deputy Controller of Establishments. My Father was a Scout and when he went to the WEMBLY Scout Jamboree in 1924, He was the FIRST to win the coveted GILLWELL WOOD BADGE AWARD FOR CEYLON, which is the highest award for a Scouter. He received his GILLWELL WOOD BADGE AWARD FROM NO OTHER THAN the great, late King GEORGE, AT THE WEMBLY STADIUM. I lived a short period too at Chapel Road, close to another house of the ”little girl”.

    Dham, you know who the ” little girl” is. How can she be in Louisiana. Your memory has eclipsed you. Go back to old comments and I made it very clear who she was. To make it easy for you, I told you that Maithree was known to me as a ** little girl ** living within a mile from our house. Then I told you that I bought her elder sisters Chocalate coloured Renault TS 25, which she had brought from UK. That was my last car before I came to USA. Go back and read the comments. REFRESH YOUR MEMORY. Now its my bedtime. will talk again.

  16. Dham Says:

    Before I read the clues I recalled that. Sorry. Read that book at bedtime tomorrow.

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