Home Health & Wellness Sri Lankan Plants Offer Natural Solutions for Dengue Treatment, Reveals New Study

Sri Lankan Plants Offer Natural Solutions for Dengue Treatment, Reveals New Study

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The resurgence of dengue fever, a mosquito-borne viral infection prevalent in tropical regions like Sri Lanka, has prompted a reevaluation of traditional medicinal practices involving local flora.

A new study explores the efficacy of several medicinal plants used in Sri Lankan traditional medicine to combat dengue, highlighting their potential as alternative treatments amid ongoing research challenges and the absence of effective antiviral drugs. The findings were published in the journal Microbiology Research.

Dengue fever poses a significant public health challenge globally, particularly in tropical countries such as Sri Lanka. Characterised by high fever, severe headache, and muscle pain, its severe forms can lead to hemorrhagic fever and shock, often requiring intensive medical care. The Western Province of Sri Lanka, including densely populated areas like Colombo, experiences the highest incidence of the disease, emphasising the need for effective management strategies.

Dr Anchala Kuruppu, a senior lecturer at the General Sir John Kotelawala Defence University in Sri Lanka, provided insight into the specific context of Sri Lanka: “Sri Lanka boasts a wealth of medicinal plants and a deep-rooted traditional medicine heritage. Consequently, we frequently use various plant extracts to alleviate dengue symptoms.

“Our goal was to raise awareness among the public regarding the efficacy of medicinal plants in dengue treatment. Numerous patients have experienced recovery through the consumption of the plant extracts outlined in our review. Regrettably, there are currently no globally recognised treatments for dengue due to its viral nature.”

The role of medicinal plants in traditional dengue treatment

Historically, Sri Lankan traditional medicine has utilised a variety of plants known for their medicinal properties to treat the symptoms of dengue fever. Among these, the following plants have been documented for their antiviral activities and traditional usage:

  • Munronia pinnata. Known locally as “bim-kohomba“, this plant has shown promise in inhibiting several dengue virus serotypes in laboratory studies, suggesting potential for drug development.
  • Azadirachta indica (neem). Widely recognised for their broad medicinal applications, neem leaves have been used to reduce fever and enhance the immune response in dengue patients.
  • Carica papaya (papaya). Studies suggest that extracts from papaya leaves can increase platelet counts, a critical aspect of dengue management, due to their complex biochemical makeup.
  • Curcuma longa (turmeric). With its main compound, curcumin, turmeric has demonstrated anti-inflammatory and antiviral effects against the dengue virus, offering a supportive role in treatment regimens.

Challenges and future directions

While the antiviral properties of these plants present promising avenues for treatment, significant challenges remain in integrating traditional remedies with modern medical practices. The efficacy and safety of plant-based treatments need rigorous validation through clinical trials to ensure they meet the standards of contemporary medicine.

The sustainability of plant resources must be considered, ensuring that these traditional practices do not lead to overharvesting or the loss of biodiversity.

Dr Kuruppu hinted at future research directions: “Key findings and implications were mentioned in the review. We may write similar papers in the future and we hope to conduct some research on some of those plants for dengue in the lab.”

This integrative approach, combining traditional knowledge with modern research, could pave the way for new, effective treatments for dengue fever, offering hope in the fight against this challenging disease.

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