The Great Indian Obsession with Goat Milk & Papaya Leaf Juice in Dengue

In my recent stint with dengue fever, I learnt two virtuous lessons in life.

  1. Never underestimate the power of ‘milk’, especially the milk of other mammals beyond cow and buffalo
  2. Google & WhatsApp has made everyone ‘virtual’ medical expert

Here’s a sketch on how people around me reacted to my dengue.

Help (mainly in the form of advice and instructions) started to pour in and gave stiff competition to the ongoing Kerala flood relief.

My mom – Hai meri bacchi. I have been telling you to eat 3 soaked almonds in the morning ever since. Nahi khaya na, isi liye immunity kam ho gai. Now do two things – get bakri ka doodh and drink juice of papaya leaves. Bus wohi ilaj hai dengue ka.

Inki mummy – Oho, chalo bus ab papeete ki pattiyan mangao aur uska juice do isko. Aur haan, bakri kaa doodh bhi dhondh ke lao. That helps in increasing the platelet count.

Maid 1Didi, bakri ka doodh piyo. Aur papite ki pattiyon ka ras. Dekhna 2 din main platelets badh jaege. Meri baju wali ko hua tha dengue pichle saal. Yehi kiya usne. Ekdam theek ho gai.

Maid 2Deva… mai kal hi lati bakri ka doodh mere ghar ke pass se. Wohich peene ka. Aur papappya chi patti ka ras. Wohi aushadh hai dengue ka.

Family friend – Oh you got dengue! But how? How did the mosquito bite you? Tumahre yahan toh macchar hai hi nahi. How much is the platelet count? Accha listen, drink papaya leaf juice. Get fresh leaves and grind them in a mixer. Add little water and drink several times in the day. It work wonders in increasing the platelets. Sure shot! We will visit you soon.

Best friend – Chalo…now this is a good idea to get attention. Dengue hi kar liya. I have heard goat’s milk, kiwi fruit and juice of papaya leaves help in increasing platelet count. Aur sun, status toh daal FB pe. You will feel better with all those wishes and ‘get well soon’ messages!

NeighbourAre… tune bataya hi nahi….dengue ho gaya tujhe. You must drink papaya leaf juice daily. Neeche laga hai na apne garden main. I will get you some from there. And yes, goat’s milk also. Thoda expensive hota hai in days main per ab kya karein. You must drink. Aur haan, batana mujhe kisi cheez ki zarorat ho toh.

Person sitting next to me in the path labBlood test karane aai hain? Dengue hua hai aapko bhi? Mujhe bhi. Platelet kitna hai abhi? Mera toh kafi better ho gaya with goat milk and papaya leaf juice. Aap bhi use karo.

Security guard of society gardenMadam papite ke patte lene aai hain? Dengue hua hai kya? Are bahut badhiya hai ye dengue main… le jaiye, le jaiye.

And the highlight of this whole ‘goat’s milk-papaya juice-dengue’ madness was when after following up daily with me twice, sometimes even thrice, my mom calls me pretty late at night and sounded super excited to share her new-found remedy of dengue (to increase the platelet count to be precise).

“Beta, do you get kiwi fruit in your area? That is very very good in dengue. It increases platelet counts immediately. Today me and your father were having a fruit ice cream sundae in a restaurant and the person making it told us that this fruit, kiwi, is expensive because it is being used in the treatment of dengue widely. Beta, chahe jitne ka bhi mile, have at-least 2-3 of them daily.”

I have nothing against the good and nutritive qualities of goat’s milk or that extremely bitter juice of papaya leaves; even for kiwi, but them playing a role in increasing the platelets in blood, I seriously doubt!

Scientifically speaking, Dr. S K Sharma, retired Head of Medicine Department at AIIMS has this to say –

“We don’t recommend these herbal cures like aloe vera, papaya leaf and goat milk. We would also advise people not to scramble for these as there is no scientific evidence or research based on which it can be conclusively said that these herbs and fruits can be effective in the treatment of dengue.”

I also did my own research but could not find any study or controlled trial which confirmed the correlation of increase in platelets with the consumption of goat’s milk, papaya leaf juice or any other herbal remedy.

Dengue which is a viral disease transmitted by mosquitoes  severe dehydration occurs due to which blood becomes thick, leading to haemoconcentration (increased concentration of cells and solids in the blood usually resulting from loss of fluid to the tissues) and decreased blood pressure, which in turn leads to multi-organ failure.

Some drop in platelet count does happen but should not be a factor of worry in dengue cases unless there is active bleeding. Platelet transfusion is considered when the counts are less than 10,000.

Adequate hydration, intake of plenty of liquids is the best management approach to dengue while keeping a tab on the hematocrit levels.

99 per cent of dengue cases are manageable at home and do not require admission, if the platelets are monitored on a regular basis. For fever and body ache, mild antipyretic like Crocin is the only treatment needed.

My platelet count was 2.5 lac at the time of diagnosis and rose to 4 lac in 7 days of infection. And I did not have  any bakri ka doodh, papaya leaf juice or kiwi.

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