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Tawa tawa

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Tawa Tawa Leaves
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Tawa Tawa Leaves and flowers


Tawa Tawa or Gatas Gatas

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;
(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.

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.
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What Tawa Tawa is used for

  • Reduce Fever
  • Herbal remedy for Dengue Fever.
  • Relief for Asthma
  • Bronchitis
  • emphysema

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.

News About Tawa Tawa

Tawa-tawa pill maker dead serious about dengue

By Jocelyn R. Uy (Philippine Daily Inquirer)

This is no laughing matter.

A dead-serious, small-time herbal supplement manufacturer has started exploring ways to make the plant called “tawa-tawa” (Euphorbia hirta) an acceptable cure for dengue in the absence of science to back claims of its many healing properties.

Shirley Su-Alampay, who came up with the idea of encapsulating powdered tawa-tawa six years ago, told the Inquirer that her group has been collecting and collating testimonials and blood test results of dengue patients who took the capsules to build a case study that will prove the plant’s curative powers.

“We have to gather these records from various patients so we can proceed with Phase 2 of the clinical study on the efficacy of tawa-tawa plant on dengue fever cases,” said Alampay, sales head of Opti-Life Innovations.

The start-up company has recently obtained a certificate of product registration from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which allows the group to put the encapsulated tawa-tawa extracts on the shelf.

The coveted FDA certification classified the product, named “Tawa2 Plus,” as an over-the-counter drug under the pharmacologic category of traditionally used herbal product, but merely for the relief of asthma symptoms.

Tawa-tawa, alternatively known as “gatas-gatas,” has been traditionally used in Asia and Australia to treat asthma, coughs, diarrhea and dysentery and in Nigeria for eye and ear infections, asthma, bronchitis and diarrhea, according to a 2012 publication of the National Drug Information Center.

DOH stand

The Department of Health (DOH) has repeatedly indicated the absence of validated scientific study that would back claims of its effectivity in curing dengue cases.

In 2011, the DOH reported that an initial research by the Department of Science and Technology showed that the local plant appeared to have “some effects” on rehydration and the agency was trying to “isolate” the active substance responsible for this.

But it was quick to add that the results were “very preliminary” and it could not make any official recommendation about the plant’s possible dengue-fighting properties.

On Friday, Health Secretary Janette Garin reiterated the DOH’s stand that “there is no validated scientific study or results” on the efficacy of tawa-tawa—leaves or capsules—as treatment of dengue.

“If the claims are true, there is no substantiation. And they need to register it with FDA as treatment,” she told the Inquirer in a text message.

She said the Philippine Institute of Traditional and Alternative Health Care has yet to make a position on such health intervention.

“There may be potential but there is no scientific evidence yet and the DOH cannot endorse such claims,” Garin said.

Second phase

Alampay said the members of her group are aware of the DOH’s stand on tawa-tawa, which is why they are pushing to proceed with the second phase of the product’s clinical trial.

“We started it already with Bulacan … we were able to talk to some (private) doctors who tried it on their patients and it worked,” she said. “We also asked them to get testimonials and the platelet count records of these patients.”

The DOH has reported a surge in the number of dengue cases in the past nine months in the Ilocos region, Cagayan Valley, Central Luzon, Calabarzon, Central Visayas, the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, the Cordillera Autonomous Region and Metro Manila.

The provincial governments of Cavite and Bulacan have recently declared a state of calamity due to the increasing number of cases of the mosquito-borne disease.

“Because of the rising number of dengue cases, the advise to us is to get as many records because these can be case studies that can be used in the clinical trial,” Alampay said.

The herbal product underwent a clinical trial for safety and toxicity in 2012. Documents provided to the Inquirer showed that this was conducted by the Research and Biotechnology Division of the St. Luke’s Medical Center in Quezon City for clinical research services group, Rainiers Contract Research Services Inc.

How it began

The interest in the local plant began in 2009 following Tropical Storm “Ondoy” that inundated large swaths of Metro Manila. One of Alampay’s brothers, who lives in Marikina, one of the many areas surrounded by stagnant water, contracted dengue.

A brother in the United States referred her to a Davao-based relative of a Filipino office mate who had access to the tawa-tawa leaves. It eventually became the subject of a thesis of students of Ateneo de Davao University.

Alampay had the tawa-tawa leaves regularly shipped to Manila, and made fresh tea from the herbal plant for her sick brother to drink every hour. Overnight, her brother’s condition improved and his platelet count increased.

Two nieces also contracted the dengue virus and the tawa-tawa concoction helped them overcome the mosquito-borne disease.

Convinced of its healing properties, Alampay said she thought of making tawa-tawa available in capsules to make it more accessible and tolerable for dengue patients.

“Tawa-tawa tea tastes bad, it’s like drinking soil. So we thought, rather than discourage people from taking tawa-tawa, we might as well come up with an alternative that is more convenient,” she said.

Don't laugh, tawa-tawa is a cure for dengue


Take it from me. If any of your loved ones gets afflicted with dengue, ask a friend in Davao to send you a bunch of tawa-tawa ASAP. And while waiting for it, have the dengue victim take a decoction of camote tops and a papaya-leaf paste.

I've been kicking myself in the head for not having written this up nearly a year ago, or soon after my 21-year-old son was stricken with dengue. We successfully licked the medical problem by relying on herbal stuff other than hospital facilities.

Now that the dengue outbreak remains unabated, it's time for everyone to know about these effective traditional cures — and for medical authorities to acknowledge the same, however grudgingly.

Just the other day I caught a DOH official on TV news dismissing the use of tawa-tawa, and recommending instead the 181 solution of oral rehydration salts. Hearing him perorate on the subject just strengthens the suspicion that most doctors, and hospitals, will always insist on sanctioned pharmaceuticals instead of acknowledging the many tried and true benefits we can get from our local flora.

About a year ago, when my son started running a fever, having general body aches, and worst, losing his usual gargantuan appetite, I worried enough to take him to Medical City on Ortigas Avenue. Tests were conducted, and the diagnosis handed down hours later. His platelet count had gone down severely; it must be dengue.

The attending physician, an articulate and pleasant young man, suggested that I begin trying to reserve a room. But I found out that we could only join a waiting list, and that it might take at most another day before we could be assigned one.

Known as snakeweed by Native American tribes, tawa-tawa has been used for a wide assortment of ailments. Krip Yuson I went back to the doctor and asked him what we could do in the meantime. What medication should the boy take, other than Biogesic to keep his fever down? He suggested a lot of juice and water. He had to avoid dehydration.

I then asked, if we managed to get a room the next day, exactly what treatment would my son get? He may be put on suero if his platelet count dropped further. And what would that suero do? Basically, it was for rehydration. Bed rest and lots of liquids were the essential needs.

But he can have those at home, I said. The doctor agreed. It seemed that one simply had to run out the course for dengue. There was no outright cure. The only advantage of hospitalization would be the daily tests on blood and platelet counts.

Since my age and inherent philosophical drive to nitpick any problem privileged me with kakulitan, I then proposed: What if I just kept him at home, where he can rest all day in an airy bedroom (and still indulge in his usual computer games when he's up), and I also make sure he gets juiced up, besides taking antipyretics and receiving that old folks' treatment (done to me as a kid) of getting wiped with a vinegar-soaked towel? Then take him back for tests every morning for as long as necessary?

The equally charming doc smiled and said yes, it was up to us, but more than that, my alternative to getting a room was entirely workable. Fine, I said, thanks, doc, see you again tomorrow. We drove home, only five minutes away, and I immediately buckled down to help my son do battle with dengue.

Off to SM Hypermarket I went, to stock up on jugs and cartons of apple juice, cranberry, grape, orange, guava, the works, local and imported. Then it was Watson's for Biogesic and analgesics. Back home, whenever his fever rose high enough to debilitate him away from his PC and send him back to bed, I gave him the suka fever-sopping treatment.

Then I did the next best thing, which was to go on the Internet and also text friends about the matter. The S.O.S. call produced instant results.

Believe me, a friend from Davao City texted back, here everyone just takes tawa-tawa for dengue. What's that, a hallucinogenic herb? It's not for me, but for my son, I added. The lady explained that it was a common shrub that grows in patches of idle land. I'll LBC you some, just wash up the bunch, and boil everything, including the roots, and give him a cup 3-4 times a day. Oh, Okay. Great, thanks.

Now, I've always trusted in old folks' remedies. Tell me that a man's gotta believe in something, and I'll nod and point out the herbal wisdom of the ages. I guess I'm genetically predisposed to that sort of abiding faith, having had an herbolario, or so I was told, as a paternal grandfather.

I've also been quite a researcher on flora, their beauty and benefits. When I found out that eucalyptus leaves were good for pulmonary problems, I made sure to grow my own eucalyptus tree (a blue gum smuggled home from Oz-land). And when we had to leave it behind, I quickly recognized similar species standing tall inside our new village. Every time the kids suffered from bad colds and coughs, I'd have 'em soak in a hot tub with sprigs of gum leaves. They enjoyed the soothing whiff and fragrance, and were back to being insufferable balls of energy in no time.

So tawa-tawa was acceptable to usually non-gullible me. But I researched on it, and found out that in the American Southwest, it's called snakeweed. Here's what Googling came up with, by way of info from the USDA NRCS National Plant Data Center, which also supplied snakeweed's official nomenclature, Gutierrezia sarothrae:

"Broom snakeweed was used by numerous Native American tribes for a variety of reasons. The Blackfoot use the roots of broom snakeweed in an herbal steam as a treatment for respiratory ailments. The Dakota use a concentrate made from the flowers as a laxative for horses. The Lakota took a decoction of the plant to treat colds, coughs, and dizziness. The Navajo and Ramah Navaho rubbed the ashes of broom snakeweed on their bodies to treat headaches and dizziness. They also chewed the plant and applied it to wounds, snakebites, and areas swollen by insect bites and stings. The Comanche used the stems of broom snakeweed to make brooms for sweeping their residences."

Hmm. Davao's snakeweed might take a day or two to make it to our place. So I did more Net-surfing on dengue. A Pinoy based in Indonesia swore by papaya leaves. He recounted how a friend's daughter whose platelet count had gone dangerously low recovered quickly after being given "papaya juice."

Actually, it's not juice, but a paste, judging from the informant's detailed narrative: "They got some papaya leaves, pounded them and squeezed the juice out for her. The next day, her platelet count started to increase, her fever subside. We continued to feed her with papaya juice and she recovered after 3 days!!! Amazing but it's true. It's believed one's body would be overheated when one is down with dengue and that also caused the patient to have fever. Papaya juice has cooling effect. Thus, it helps to reduce the heat in one's body, thus the fever will go away. I found that it's also good when one is having sore throat. Those of us staying in Subang Jaya are lucky as we can get papaya juice easily from the Penang Cendol stall in Giant! One cup is only RM1."

Another friend SMS'd that camote tops would be the surefire antidote. And another Web entry seemed to verify that. A Bernardo Rocha told the story 

of how "Computer technician Wenceslao Salesale Jr., 27, was 
downed by dengue. His platelet count plunged from 180
 to 80. He was rushed by ambulance from Novaliches to
 Manila. Inside the ambulance, a relative, acting upon 
the advice of a missionary priest, made him drink soup
 made from camote tops. The following day, his platelet
 count was normal. 

Dengue attacked the seven-year-old daughter of engineers
 Mar and Lita Budlongan of Kaloocan City. Her platelet
 count read 80. The same treatment was used. The 
following day she was back to normal...." Etc.

Mr. Rocha also provides the following info that he picked up from Wikipedia: "In 1992, the Center for Science in the Public Interest compared the nutritional value of sweet 
potatoes to other vegetables. Considering fiber
 content, complex carbohydrates, protein, vitamins A
 and C, iron and calcium, the sweet potato ranked 
highest in nutritional value. According to these
 criteria, sweet potatoes earned 184 points, 100 points 
over the next on the list, the common potato (NCSPC).

"... Sweet potato tops are excellent sources of 
anti-oxidative compounds, mainly polyphenolics, which 
may protect the human body from oxidative stress that
 is associated with many diseases including cancer and 
cardiovascular diseases. Sweet potato greens have the
 highest content of total polyphenolics among other
 commercial vegetables studied."

His instructions I quickly followed upon getting bunches of talbos ng kamote from the supermarket:

"Camote tops are boiled in water to extract the juice.
 The boiling lasts for about five minutes. A little
 salt is used to give flavor to it. The patient is made 
to drink slowly and gradually. The body's immunity 
system is thus revived, making dengue helpless against
 the body's natural defenses. Camote enables the body
 to heal itself. 

... (P)eople are needlessly dying
 all around us from dengue, while their very cure is
 also all around us. 

In the past, many were fond of using the derogatory 
statement, 'Go home and plant camote.' Now, camote is 
big news. It can save lives!"

Indeed, I made my son drink camote tops tea every three hours, and the very next day his decreasing platelet count was arrested at 100. On the third day it went up to 105. I also gathered papaya leaves from the neighborhood, and pounded them into tablespoons of paste. But he refused a third tablespoon even after I had mixed in some honey; he just couldn't take the bitterness.

Finally the cavalry arrived from Davao. I did as I was told with the tawa-tawa. My son willingly took the tea. The next day his platelet count was up to 120. And on the fifth day that I took him to Medical City, the doctor smiled when he gave us the final results. My son was back to normal.

It took only two days of camote tops decoction, two tabelespoons of papaya-leaf paste, and another two days of more talbos ng kamote and tawa-tawa tea to win the battle against dengue.

Eventually I would find that tawa-tawa has already been commercialized. Bottles of tawa-tawa capsules are now sold at a Tiendesitas stall. I can't say that they're as effective as a fresh bunch of leaves, twigs and roots that have been boiled, as had proved effective for my son. And as it did for a writer-friend who had been hospitalized for nearly a week until I told her about tawa-tawa. Like me, she asked for a friend in Mindanao to send her a bunch. And she came out of that hospital in three days.

There should be no harm in trying tawa-tawa capsules. We should all recall how lagundi, among all our other herbal concoctions, has now been accepted as a pharmaceutical, although it certainly took some time. Like the truth, the herbal cures are out there, just in our own backyards.

Mr. Rocha of the "Go-home-and-plant camote!" injunction should have the final say here, as he had blogged on the Net:

"I asked a doctor of medicine about herbal cures and he
 said that many, if not most, medicines come from 
plants. He also said that under the Hippocratic Oath,
 doctors are bound to encourage anything that can cure a 

Pictures of Tawa Tawa or Euphorbia Hirta

  • Pictures taken by Frank Maletsky
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