I moved to the beach in Costa Rica and immediately contracted another tropical bone breaking fever. Whether it was Chikungunya or Dengue Fever, I’m not sure and didn’t need a doctor to tell me because the prescribed treatment is the same and super lame: rest, drink coconut water or suero (electrolytes), and take acetaminophen for the intense pain. Most doctors say there is no cure, but there is a cure for the symptoms of Dengue and Chikungunya in the juice of green papaya leaves.
The remedy is easy to make, inexpensive, and positive results have been noted in many scientific studies (see references below) and countless word of mouth stories here at the beach in Costa Rica.
Scroll down to read about how I made the juice and to get papaya leaf juice recipe ideas. It’s labor intensive and has to be done in a specific way to get the benefits.
What is Dengue Fever?
Dengue fever is a mosquito-borne tropical disease caused by the dengue virus. Symptoms include an intense recurring fever, a splitting headache, extreme muscle and joint pain, and a very noticeable skin rash, followed by weeks of extreme fatigue caused by low white blood cell and platelet counts. The disease is spread by one of those black and white striped mosquitos, Aedes aegypti.
What is Chikungunya?
Chikungunya is an infection caused by the chikungunya virus and also spread by mosquito bite. It is so similar to Dengue Fever that the descriptions of each could easily be interchanged, especially since so little is really known about either and symptoms vary from person to person.
I’ve heard more than one person say “Everyone’s Dengue is different.” The only commonality is that it sucks.
What it feels like to have tropical bone-breaking fever
I woke up in the middle of the night with a pain so intense behind my eyeballs that I couldn’t see, my joints felt like they were being stabbed with knives and pried apart, and my body temperature was wavering between hot as lava and cold as ice. The fever kept me in bed, but I had a tiny bit of energy to walk around and do routine things like shower, at first.
After a few days of gorging on coconut water and taking the only medicine that helped, acetaminophen, the fever broke but the body pain remained. Every day that I woke up offered up a different painful surprise. One day my joints were in so much pain that I couldn’t walk, another day the blinding headache was back, and another day my muscles were so tight that I couldn’t straighten my legs to stand up. As the body aches subsided, funky side effects crept in like the chicken pox-like rash which quickly spread from head to toe, 2 more nights of sweaty painless fever, giant swollen lymph nodes on the entire left side of my head, and unbearably itchy hands.
As the weird body sensations subsided, exhaustion set in. About a week in to it, I barely woke up. I had absolutely no energy. The only thing that roused me from bed was a bursting bladder. Walking down the stairs to the bathroom caused my legs to burn with exertion, my heart rate to soar, and my head to swim with the promise of passing out. I would fall asleep after eating because my body couldn’t handle the energy required to be awake and digest food at the same time.
After watching me decline instead of improve, one of my roommates suggested I try the juice from papaya leaves, both of us skeptical, but I was desperate to try anything.
The effects were almost instantaneous. I drank a couple shots of the extremely bitter leaf juice, passed out for a couple of hours, and then woke up feeling a spike in my energy level. The juice increases levels of red and white blood cells as well as platelets. I want to call it a miracle cure, but that feels a little ridiculous because it’s juice from a plant that grows like a weed in many parts of Costa Rica. It’s a natural cure and it’s free.
How to make papaya leaf cure for Dengue and Chikungunya
First, find someone to help you. If you have Dengue, you don’t have energy to do this.
- To start, you’ll need at least 12 big papaya leaves (for 2 days of treatment), grab more if you have a fridge or freezer to store the rest of the juice in. The more the better, especially if you have a juicer that doesn’t juice greens very efficiently. It’s very important that they are green (not young or dry yellow leaves) and fresh. Do not boil or cook them to make a tea. You need to extract the juice for maximum potency.
- Cut the inside sections of the leaves away from the stems. You’re only going to use the leaf part, no stems.
- There are 2 ways to get the juice out of the leaf:
- Juicer: Put the papaya leaf in first under other fruits and veggies. The other ingredients are to push the leaves all the way through the juicer and to mask the bitter taste. At first, I only added carrots and cucumber and shot the gag reflex-inducing bitter juice like it was cheap, nasty liquor. After gaining some energy back from the papaya leaf treatment, I experimented with papaya leaf juice recipes by adding apples, beats, carrots, cucumber, ginger, and pineapple. That made a bigger, better-tasting, nutrient-packed smoothie.
- Blender: Blend the leaf sections as fine as your blender will allow. Pour all of that in to a coffee sock or cheesecloth and squeeze the juice out. Then shoot it, mix it with other juices, or make a smoothie with it.
- Take between 1 and 2 tablespoons of pure juice 3 times a day (morning, noon, night) until you feel like you’re 100% again. After I started feeling better, I made a big batch of pure papaya leaf juice and poured it in to an ice cube tray and froze it. To drink, I added 2 cubes to a smoothie with ginger and other fruits and veggies. For me, ginger was the key ingredient in masking the bitterness.
I felt better within a few hours and back to 100% in a few days. Everyone’s body chemistry is different, so results should be different although I haven’t heard a story yet of papaya leaves not helping. The papaya leaf reportedly works by increasing the immune system’s response to the virus, not by directly attacking the virus. This is super cool because that implies that papaya leaves could be effective on other viruses, too. I am going to test it out next time I get a cold.
UPDATE: I had the opportunity to test the papaya leaves on a regular cold – I was coming down with a cold. I could feel my energy levels decrease and my tonsils swell up in the telltale sign that I was about to get sick. I immediately started the papaya leaf treatment. I took it twice a day for 3 days and I did not get sick.
Disclaimer: Doctors and health organizations do not recognize papaya leaves as a cure or treatment, despite positive results from scientific studies. I’m sure they’ll recognize it when the pharmaceutical companies figure out a way to profit from it. In the meantime, try this at your own risk. I’m not a doctor.