Not A Laughing Matter: Though Tawa-Tawa Can Help, It Is Not Yet Scientifically Proven!

By: Jeacoh Pineda Durban

Tawa-tawa: Not a Laughing Matter, After All

Euphorbia hirta or locally known in the Philippines as “Tawa-Tawa”  or “Gatas-gatas” is an herb covered  with very tiny hairs and has small round-shaped flowers  which grows most of the time,  in the street sides and pathways.  This aboriginal plant is considered as an herbal medicine in some places in the country as it is helpful in eradicating illness such as Dengue according to people living particularly in provinces where the growth of such herb is abundant. As to these people, boiling up the herb to tea can help a Dengue patient recover from severe bleeding and eventually puts his immune system back  in a  normal condition.

In particular, Tawa-tawa is merely accessible to rural areas where confinement of a Dengue victim seems unfeasible to be done in hospitals. One reason is that, some rural areas are situated far from the central society where as a first aid and probably for a long-term medication which is less expensive and no hassles in preparation of the medicinal tea,  Tawa-tawa could be a great a help.

It is clearly a verity that since then until now, thousands of families who have at least one victim of Dengue chooses to settle for a cheaper cost of finding cure for their infected family member. One finds bunches of Tawa-tawa from the neighbor and then experimentally prepares the plant for the patient’s consumption. Ironically speaking, people tend to do the procedures themselves without even consulting the nearest hospitals or registered local doctors in the community. In a psychological context, because a family is financially disputed, they find the use of Tawa-tawa as an immediate source of alternative medicine. This situation usually occurs in many cases of Dengue in the Philippines.

Euphorbia Hirta. Taken from Janiuay, Iloilo.

Euphorbia Hirta. Taken from Janiuay, Iloilo.

Usually grows in the street sides and pathways.

Usually grows in the street sides and pathways.

Dengue: Something to Ponder

On the other hand, the World Health Organization tagged dengue as a “pandemic threat” infecting an estimated 50 million people around the world. In the Philippines, dengue has been on and off the list of the top 10 leading cause of death among Filipinos since 1991. Duenge as commonly defined to be a viral disease brought by mosquito’s bites containing genus Flavivirus is increasing in number of cases in the country since Philippines is a tropical state. The disease is oftentimes characterized by headache, high fever, rash, and rigorous muscle and joint pain. In scientific explanations, once a victim is infected with Duenge, the disease may develop into a critical dengue hemorrhagic fever that may result in bleeding, low levels of blood platelets and blood plasma leakage, or into dengue shock syndrome, where precariously low blood pressure occurs.

One of the best examples of the increased number of Dengue cases in the country can be found in the province of Iloilo. Cases of dengue hemorrhagic fever alone in Iloilo prvine rose to 1,805 from the period January 1 to June 29 this year. In an interview with the Philippine News Agency last July, 2013, Dr. Ma. Socorro Quinon, assistant provincial health officer of the Iloilo Provincial Health Office, said that Dengue’s death toll stood at 10 with the death of three children recently. Quinon said that all of Iloilo’s 42 towns and one constituent city have cases of dengue which includes the top 10 municipalities with high prevalence of dengue cases that are Janiuay, Cabatuan, Maasin, San Miguel, Banate, Badiangan, Oton, Calinog, Lambunao and the component city of Passi.

The municipality of Janiuay comprised  the highest number of Dengue cases in the province of Iloilo.

The municipality of Janiuay comprised the highest number of Dengue cases in the province of Iloilo.

In a visit in the Janiuay Rural Health Unit, they conferred that among other Iloilo towns, Janiuay has the highest cases of dengue recorded at 275 with one death this year. The reason is that the town is particularly into farming and that in rainy seasons, the spread of Dengue carrying mosquito’s such as genus Aedes, predominantly A. aegypti increases. Janiuay, in terms of geographical structures, comprises communities or barangays far from the nearby hospital in the town.

Going back to the use of Tawa-tawa, this is an example in which some Janiuaynons who are situated in far-flung areas would rather prefer the use of  such herb because it can be found  anywhere even though one would just meander in the backyard.

Though helpful, medical assistance is first encouraged by the DOH if one has Dengue.

Though helpful, medical assistance is first encouraged by the DOH if one has Dengue.

What the higher health departments say?

In a national interview of GMA News last February, Dr. Lyndon Lee Suy, DOH manager for the Dengue Control and Prevention Program said that they are not stopping people from using Tawa-tawa because it was evaluated to have no toxic substance or any chemical in it. Drinking Tawa-tawa juice is fluid replacement, which is basically the thrust for dengue.

In 2012, the Department of Science and Technology’s Philippine Council for Health Research and Development was doing a study on dynamic ingredients of Tawa-tawa which were reportedly being used by some people as to cure dengue. The plant reportedly contains anti-viral, anti-inflammatory properties and has the ability to increase blood platelets. However, the use of such herb is not yet scientifically proven and that people are encouraged to seek first medical assistance before experimenting with the plant. They might give the wrong amount of dosage that would riskily lead to the utilization of large doses as it may cause gastrointestinal irritation, nausea, and vomiting. One must know that excessive and long-drawn-out intake of Tawa-tawa may impede iron absorption. It can also potentially worsen the condition of dengue patients as it could induce peeing, which could lead to further dehydration.

The Department of Health itself, gave a statement last September, 2010 via Dr. Eric Tayag of the DOH’s National Epidemiology Center that, “This is not the right time to experiment on Tawa-tawa. We need a controlled environment to observe the benefits of Tawa-tawa among patients,” he said. “We don’t want mothers to concoct any formulation to any patients who may suspect to have dengue because we have the standards for treatment at home and they can easily go to hospitals for expert advice,” Dr. Tayag added.

In an ambush interview of The Philippine Star in last June, 2013, Health Secretary Enrique Ona said they do not endorse Tawa-tawa but at the same time they are not prohibiting it. According to him, “We cannot promote Tawa-tawa because if we do that, we must have proof that it is really medically effective and, at the same time, safe and there must be a study on that before we can be able to endorse it”.

What is the DevCom’s Role To This?

In Development Communication Science, it is very important that people should be able to get access with right information of the use of medicinal plants or newly-discovered species  of plants that may able to help contribute in the innovation of the various medical fields.

Tawa-tawa is not a new discovery since it was already used by people way back long time ago, but the thought here is that between discovery and invention, people must know that not all the times, one must invent or experiment medicinal inventions and try it without medical assistance from the experts who are into chemistry, biology and other related fields of Science. Indeed, Tawa-tawa could help lessen the state of suffering of a patient but it can never put the number of Dengue cases in the country to a decreased number unless it is already prescribed by the doctors that it is scientifically proven and  is safe for any ages who are infected with the such perilous disease.

As ordinary citizens in the community, everyone is encouraged to get back in the precautionary measures that is to prevent thrive of Dengue carrying-mosquitoes which can cause an alarming rate of Dengue cases in the population.                Here are some tips to prevent the breeding of mosquitoes in your place:

  • Dispose properly of any unused tires. It can be a breeding ground for thousands of mosquitoes.
  • Clear roof trough of debris. Mosquitoes oftentimes breed in wet, moist areas of the house.
  • Regularly change water from home ornaments which are container-like such as flower vases and figurines.
  • Check and empty children’s toys.
  • Repair faucets that leak.
  • Change the water in mini ponds at least once a week.
  • Apply mosquito repellent every night, if possible.
  • Clean regularly stagnant water in aquariums.
  • Empty water collected in tarps around the yard or on woodpiles.
  • Eat healthy foods to gain a better immune system.
  • Empty containers such as trash can lids, barrels, and buckets, etc. even if they contain small amount of water for Mosquitoes can still manage to breed on it.

Before Dengue strikes and people become desperately in need of any alternative use to heal Duenge such as Tawa-tawa, it is best that everybody must practice these things not only to prevent the spread of mosquitoes but also to avoid from Duenge.



Janiuay Rural Health Unit, Janiuay, Iloilo

More than 1,800 dengue cases recorded in Iloilo, July 5, 2013. Philippine News Agency. Retrieved August 30, 2013 from

Sisante J., 2013. GMANews.TV: DOH: Don’t experiment with ‘tawa-tawa’ as dengue cure. Retrieved August 30, 2013 from

Dinglasan R., 2013. GMA NEWS: Tawa-tawa not proven dengue cure, but can be taken on the ‘side’ – DOH. Retrieved August 30, 2013 from

Philippine Star: DOH not promoting tawa-tawa use in dengue treatment, June 2013. Retrieved August 30, 2013 from



One thought on “Not A Laughing Matter: Though Tawa-Tawa Can Help, It Is Not Yet Scientifically Proven!

  1. Dengue Fever! Never is best… Once is unfortunate– Never again is possible! I’m sending this link and hope it will post. A naturopathic practitioner personally contracted dengue fever and tells how she discovered natural remedies that work:

    Philippine Daily Inquirer, 27 August 2011

    My wife’s teen son contracted dengue fever and we received the doctor’s okay for him to drink camote (sweet potato) tea. Wash sweet potato leaves, bring at least three cups of water to a boil, put in leaves, lower heat to a simmering boil, 5/minutes. If fever is present, let cool, drink without adding anything to the tea. Drink 3x/day for as many days as necessary. I drink a cup of camote or papaya leaf tea every morning for breakfast. This is the simplist known cure. It and other natural cures are ignored and often advised against by doctors.

    I am not qualified to give medical advice and should not be taken as such. Reading the link above, you will learn what a medical professional did to cure her personal experience with dengue fever. /Nicasio Martinez

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