Tawa tawa, Gatas gatas, Dengue cure

Using Tawa Tawa for simple Fevers or Dengue Fever

By: Frank Maletsky

  1. Pick the fresh tawa-tawa leaves (8 inches long stems and about a dozen). Simply cut the stem which will normally come with the leaves and flowers. Do not pick the ones with brown leaves. Wash them with fresh water to remove dirt. Pound what you have collected in a mortar and pestle. Prepare boiling hot water. Pour the boiling water (10oz.) directly into the mortar (container). Let it cool down, then pour the contents using a strainer into a bowl or tall glass (10 oz.), squeeze out all the juice from the solids. Make enough to last the whole day. One glass every 4 hours.
    • The first 10 oz. glass will produce immediate positive results within 2 hours. Fever will be reduced. Maintain hydration.
  2. Tawa-Tawa Tea: Cleaned and Dried tawa-tawa leaves can be made into tea. Dry the tawa tawa leaves and store them in a clean sealed glass container. You can use the dried leaves as is or crushed.
Where can Tawa Tawa be found?

Tawa Tawa grows in all tropical areas as a wild weed. I was in Orlando, Florida and i saw tawa tawa growing wild. I always keep a few growing in my garden. I even use tawa-tawa as an add-on to some of my potted plants.

Other names for Tawa-tawa:
From the Republic of the Philippines
Department of Agriculture Bureau of Plant Industry

  • Euphorbia capitata Lam.
  • Euphorbia hirta Linn.
  • Local names: Bambanilag (If.); botobotonis (Tag.); bolobotonis (Pamp.); bobi (Bis.); botonis (Ilk.); bugayau (S.L. Bis.); butobutonisan (Tag.); gatas-gatas (Bis., Tag.); magatas (Pamp.); malis-malis (Pamp.); maragatas (Ilk.); pansi-pansi (Bik.); patik-patik (Sul.); piliak (Sub.); saikan (Tag.); sisiohan (Pamp.); soro-soro (Bik.); tababa (Bis.); tairas (Iv.); tauataua (P. Bis.); teta (Bon.); Australian asthma weed, snake weed, cat’s hair (Engl.).

Gatas-gatas is usually very abundant throughout the Philippines in waste places, open grasslands, etc. It is pantropic in distribution.

The plant is an annual, hairy herb, usually much – branched from the base – these branches being simple or forked and ascending or spreading – up to 40 centimeters long, and often reddish or purplish. The leaves are opposite, distichous, elliptic-oblong to oblong-lanceolate, 1 to 2.5 centimeters long, toothed at the margin, and usually botched with purple in the middle. The involucres are very much numerous, greenish or purplish, about 1 millimeter long, and borne on dense, axillary, stalkless or short-stalked clusters or crowded cymes. The capsules are broadly ovoid, about 1.5 millimeters long or less, hairy, and three-angled.

According to Power and Browning, Jr., who conducted chemical studies of the plant, from the portion of the alcoholic extract which was soluble in water the following substances were isolated: (1) Gallic acid; (2) quercetin C15H10O7; and (3) a new phenolic substance, C28H18O15.

The aqueous liquid contained, furthermore a considerable quantity of amorphous glucosidic material, together with a laevorotatory sugar which yielded d-phenylglucosazone (m.,p. 218-220°). There were also indications of the presence of an exceedingly small amount of alkaloidal substance, but this did not permit of being further characterized.

The portion of the alcoholic extract, which was insoluble in water consisted of soft, resinous material, amounting to about 3.2 percent of the weight of the air-dried plant. From this material there were isolated: (4) Triacontane, C30H62, with apparently a little (5) ceryl alcohol, C27H56O; and (6) a new monohydric alcohol, euphosterol, C25H39OH (m.,p. 274-297°), which yielded an acetyl derivative (m., p. 295-297°) and a bromoacetyl derivative (m., p. 183-186°). Euphosterol is evidently closely related to the compounds designated respectively as androsterol, homoandrosterol, taraxasterol and homotaraxasterol, all of which appear to be members of a series of monohydric alcohols represented by the general formula, CnH2n0-10 O. Also present are (7) a phytosterol ( m., p. 132-133°); (8) a phytosteroin (phytosterol glucoside); (9) jambulol, C16H3O4 (OH); (10) melissic acid, C30H60O2; and a mixture of acids which appeared to consist chiefly of palmitic, oleic and linolic acids.

Among the various above-mentioned constituents of Euphorbia pilulifera there are none to which any specific physiological action may be ascribed. Such therapeutic virtues as the plant has been presumed to possess would therefore not appear to depend upon any single substance of a definite chemical character. Dutt remarks that recent chemical research shows that some of the constituents of the plant are similar to those of the jambul (Syzygium cumini) seeds.

Marsset, who studied the pharmacological action of this euphorbia extract, found that it had a depressant action on the heart and respiration and produced a relaxation of the bronchioles by its central action. She continues by saying that intravenous injections do not produce any vomiting, showing that the drug is a true local irritant. Its pharmacological action so far investigated indicates that its use in spasmodic conditions of the respiratory tract at least is rational. She continues that it has produced good results in dyspnoea due to asthma and emphysema.

In the Philippines the leaves are mixed with Datura metel leaves and flowers in the preparation of “asthma-cigarettes”. Father Alzina reports that the latex is prescribed in asthma. According to Guerrero, the entire plant is used as an antidote, being considered haemostatic, sedative and soporific. In decoction it is very efficacious for allaying the dyspnoea of asthmatics. Its haemostatic action had been previously reported by Father Alzina, Father de Sta. Maria, Father Blanco, and Tavera. In addition, Father de Sta. Maria says the latex is esthetic.

According to Nadkarni, Dymock, Warden and Hooper, and Bocquillon-Limousin the fluid extract or the tincture is most suitable in dyspnoea due to asthma, in bronchitis of old people, in emphysema, and in the pulmonary cardiac disease, angina pectoris. Its action is not cumulative. Nadkarni adds that it should be given after meals. It is a very useful remedy for acute and chronic dysentery. The tincture is anthelmintic and is applied for cure of ringworm.

It is popularly used in Australia and other places for asthma and pectoral complaints. In India the plant is used largely in affections of children, chiefly in bowel complaints and chest affections. The milky juice is dropped into the eyes for conjunctivitis and ulcerated cornea.

It is said to be used in a decoction for gonorrhea in Brazil, possibly because it acts as a diuretic, and it is also used for asthma.

The root is given by the Santals to allay vomiting, and the plant is given to nursing mothers when the supply of milk is deficient or fails. In the Gold Coast it is ground and mixed with water for use as an enema for constipation. The herb is very much used in La Reunion as an astringent in chronic diarrheas and dysenteries. The roots are employed in intermittent fevers.

News About Tawa Tawa

Davao students wins first prize for research on antidengue property of papaya and tawa-tawa


Student-researchers bagged first prize at the Gruppo Medica Award for their research on the anti-dengue property of papaya (Carica papaya) and tawa-tawa (Euphorbia hirta) during the 8th Philippine National Health Research System (PNHRS) Week celebration in Cebu City on 12-14 August 2014.

Topping 21 research entries from all regions in the Philippines, the research done by Pharmacy students at the San Pedro College in Davao City revealed that tea concoction from tawa-tawa can increase blood platelet counts in rabbits by 194% in just 24 hours.

Results on tests done on tea concoctions from papaya leaves only and mixture of papaya leaves and tawa-tawa plant also significantly increased platelet counts in rabbits within 24 hours.

Further laboratory tests on papaya and tawa-tawa revealed that both plants contain quercetin, a plant pigment known to naturally increase the platelet counts.

Recommending the continuation of the research, especially with the isolation of quercetin, the students stressed that the study is significant in the effort to develop treatment for the management of dengue. They said, “This research can benefit the society because it will pave the way to the development of new drug that is affordable, accessible, and effective against dengue.”

The Gruppo Medica Award is conferred annually by the Philippine Council for Health Research and Development of the Department of Science and Technology (PCHRD-DOST) to give recognition to undergraduate researches on the practical or commercial application of herbal plants for health.

Tawa-tawa and Dengue Fever

(Green Hearts)

My son was diagnosed with Dengue fever a couple of weeks ago. With normal results for platelet count being 140,000 – 400,000 per microliter (mcL), his was at 131,000 on the second day of his fever.

Before panic could rise, I got reassuring advice from friends and kasambahays to try out this herb known as tawa-tawa. They said that tea made from this common plant had been featured in the news as a promising cure for dengue.

When we went home to pack for my son’s confinement in the hospital, I snuck in a quick internet search. From the website of the Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (PCHRD), I learned that in 2012, students of the University of Santo Tomas (UST) – Faculty of Pharmacy had conducted a study entitled “Investigation of the anti-thrombocytopenic property of euphorbia hirta linn (Tawa-Tawa) decoction in rat models.” In layman’s terms, they used a cocktail of chemicals to duplicate dengue hemorrhagic fever in rats. It was to test widespread anecdotal evidence of tawa-tawa’s ability to heal people with dengue, thus turning into it the Philippines’ most popular folkloric treatment against this life-threatening disease.

In a nutshell, the study proved that tawa-tawa can increase platelet count, reduce bleeding time and decrease blood clotting time. The UST students’ conclusion: Tawa-tawa can, indeed, help improve the healing mechanism. At least, among rodents.

On the other hand, GMA News Online reported in a post dated Sept. 2010 that Dr. Eric Tayag of the National Epidemiology Center of The Department of Health (DOH) had cautioned that drinking tawa-tawa could “potentially aggravate” the condition by inducing peeing which could lead to further dehydration.

But a year later, in Aug. 2011, Philippine Daily Inquirer reported that, according to Health Secretary Enrique Ona, “very preliminary” results from initial research work show that tawa-tawa “appears” to have “some effects” on rehydration. But he made it clear that the DOH was not making any official recommendations and stressed the importance of immediately seeing a doctor. “Don’t depend on tawa-tawa,” Ona had said.

I Googled further and found an even more recent post, also from GMA News Online dated Feb 2013, saying DOH had stated that although the tawa-tawa herb has not been proven to cure dengue, it may be taken along with effective medication and had been evaluated free of toxic substances, so it was deemed safe. In addition, Dr. Lyndon Lee Suy, DOH manager for the Dengue Control and Prevention Program had explained that drinking steeped tawa-tawa is “fluid replacement, which is basically the thrust for dengue [medication].” In another article on the PCHRD website, Ona said that the DOH does not endorse tawa-tawa “but at the same time we are not prohibiting it”.

All right, so with a gap of three years, the herb had gone from “potentially aggravating dehydration” to “fluid replacement”. And the DOH was neither endorsing nor prohibiting.

I sighed and looked up from my computer and realized it was time to leave for the hospital. As I rushed towards the door, concerned kasambahays stood by, thermos in hand. At their own initiative, they had gathered tawa-tawa from our backyard and made my son enough infusion for a day. My husband and I took the thermos gratefully.

At the hospital, I asked a resident about the use of tawa-tawa and the response was pretty much seated on the fence right next to DOH. They see no harm in us having our son drink it, if it will make us feel better. On-going studies, she said, had deemed it to be safe. (But not exactly helpful, I believe, was her unspoken last sentence.)

Before my son’s first drink of tawa-tawa could take effect, medical personnel took another CBC. His platelet count had gone down to 101,000. For the rest of the day, my son finished the contents of his thermos. The next day, his platelet count went down to 100,000, a drop of only 1,000! We continued with the tawa-tawa, and on the next day, his platelet count even went up to 110,000. I was convinced the tawa-tawa was working. But later, I realized, I was looking at the wrong factor.

Keeping a “platelet count watch” is not the point of dengue treatment. What matters is his hematocrit count, which, in essence gives the doctors a reading of the patient’s dehydration level. Dengue is a disease of dehydration. Metaphorically, it’s “diarrhea of the blood vessels”.Fluids are not lost visibly, as with vomiting or LBM, but rather through insensible plasma leakage. And based on the blood tests, my son’s hematocrit level was not looking good. His blood was getting too thick.

For the first three days, I had my son drink the herbal infusion several times a day. But this was done only as additional fluid replacement, on top of the IV, oral rehydration solution, and lots of water. On the fourth day, his platelet count went down again and, despite massive intake of fluid, his hematocrit level didn’t improve. On the fourth day, his nose bled. By the fifth day, when we were all expecting the fever to break, I stopped the tawa-tawa and let his body take over. But the fever didn’t break, and his CBC showed that things were not improving. He was moved to ICU. By the eve of the seventh day, his fever finally ended. But by then, it had affected his heart.

The official diagnosis: Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever, Grade 2, with myocarditis. Thankfully, there would be no lifelong after-effects of the disease. His heart will fully recover.

What is my personal, unscientifically-backed conclusion from this experience? I believe the tawa-tawa was working wonders in preventing platelet destruction. But like I said, that should not have been the point. These days, doctors don’t consider blood transfusions for dengue anymore, even if the platelet count plummets to 10,000, provided there is no excessive bleeding. I think that even though the tawa-tawa tea was somehow assisting with fluid replacement, it was also masking the greater damage being wrought. For all I know, it might have actually been stimulating increased urination, as Dr. Tayag had suspected back in 2010. My son may have been more dehydrated than was suspected and the “good results” being generated by the tawa-tawa might have made the doctors less aggressive in managing his dehydration in the first few days.

Other Uses and Medicinal Benefits of Tawa-tawa/Gatas-gatas Plant

(Marvin Food Recap)

The potency of tawa-tawa as dengue cure is proven not only by studies but by a series of people testimonies. It can cure dengue fever even at its late stage, stage four.

Tawa-tawa is also known as gatas-gatas and with a scientific name of Euphorbia hirta. Its uses never stop at treating dengue fever cause it can be used to relieve variety of illness.

1) Antibacterial / Antimicrobial. It is antibacterial and noncytotoxic (not toxic to cells). Plant ethanol extracts are found to inhibit bacterial growth. Also effective against amoeba and fungal infection. Prepare 25 grams plant per two cups water. Boil for three minutes. Take three to five cups a day.

2) Antiasthmatic. The herb is good for asthmatic persons. It breaks up mucus and relaxes spasm. It is combined with bronchial sedatives in inhaler preparation. Steep one teaspoon of leaves per cup of water for ten minutes. Take three to four glasses a day. May also be form into cigarette – burn and inhale smoke.

3) Antidiuretic. Drinking coffee and alcoholic beverages promotes excretion of body fluids, diuretic effect. Rapid loss of body fluids is also experienced by person suffering from diarrhea or loose bowel movement. Too much dehydration can be fatal.

Gatas-gatas is different. It has antidiuretic effect. It contain active extracts of phytochemical tannins and flavonoids that promote water adsorption and electrolyte re-absorption. Indication is similar to antibacterial.

4) Anthelmintic effect. Tawa-tawa is an effective worms and its eggs killer, dewormer. Application is same as antibacterial.

5) Antihypertensive. It counteract high blood pressure by inhibiting the activity of angiotensin converting enzyme and increasing urine output and electrolytes. Steep one to three teaspoons of leaves in one cup water for five minutes. Drink two glasses as tonic.

6) Sedative. Help in threating anxiety. Mode of application is the same as antibacterial.

7) Antidysentery. Dysentery – an infection of the intestines marked by severe diarrhea. Taking in small quantities calm the digestive system but large doses has purgative effect. Steep one teaspoon leaves in one cup water for ten minutes. Take four glasses a day.

8) Antispasmodic. It contains shikinic acid and choline that are responsible for stopping early and late stage allergy. Application is similar to antibacterial.

9) Treatment of skin diseases. Good for treatment of sores, boils, warts, fungi and open wounds. Threating open wounds will turn skin to bluish black. Apply fresh latex to sores, boils, warts, fungi and open wounds. Sprinkle dried or fresh powdered leaves as wound dressings.

10) Galactagogue. A breast milk stimulant. Massage fresh latex to breast to increase milk flow. Root decoction maybe taken – preparation is same as antibacterial.

Tawa-tawa is indeed effective but should be taken with caution. Large doses may cause gastrointestinal reaction, nausea and vomiting. Prolonged intake may interfere with iron adsorption. Not recommended for pregnant women.