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Malaria is one of the oldest and deadliest diseases in the world, infects millions every year and claims lakhs of lives across the globe. Caused by five known species of the protozoan parasite Plasmodium, malaria is transmitted via the female Anopheles mosquito. When the carrier mosquito bites you, the parasites enter the bloodstream, get activated, thrive and cause havoc on all the major organs.

The incubation period of malaria is seven to 30 days, which means if bitten by a carrier today, you might begin to show symptoms at least a week later. Quick diagnosis and timely treatment is the best way to deal with malaria. This is because although the primary symptoms of malaria - fever, chills, headaches, body pain and joint pain - might seem manageable, internally the damage the malaria parasite does to your body can have a deadly effect.

Read more: Malaria and COVID-19

Diarrhoea, jaundice, anaemia, nausea and vomiting follow these symptoms and then have the potential to lead to kidney failure, seizures, liver failure, mental confusion, coma and death. It’s because of these effects that malaria is known as a life-threatening disease, and the World Health Organization (WHO), India’s National Health Portal and other global institutions have been attempting to reduce the burden of this disease for decades now.

The development of medications or anti-malarial drugs like chloroquine, hydroxychloroquine, etc and their easy availability has made eliminating malaria a possibility on the global scale - just as much as widespread implementation of preventive measures and the use of rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs) have helped. However, the WHO’s goal is to make every community empowered enough to eliminate malaria by themselves, and home remedies for malaria - which have been popularly used in many cultures and nations across the planet - are a good way to achieve this.

  1. Why are home remedies for malaria needed?
  2. Home remedies for malaria

You might wonder why humankind needs to depend on home remedies or natural treatments for malaria when drugs like hydroxychloroquine are so easily available at every pharmacy. Despite effective drugs being available, the one thing everyone needs to remember is that the malaria parasite - like all living things - is also learning to adapt to its environment like the rest of us. 

Read more: 10 most frequently asked questions about malaria

This is the main reason why all five malaria parasites have mutated to become resistant to the most prevalently used antimalarial drugs. According to the WHo and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), antimalarial drugs like chloroquine, sulfadoxine, mefloquine, quinine, etc stopped working on Plasmodium falciparum - one of the deadliest types of malaria - since the 1950s and 1960s. Similarly, Plasmodium vivax - the predominant form of malaria in India - has become resistant to chloroquine.

And while pharmaceutical companies as well as organisations like the WHO are trying to constantly counter this spread of drug-resistant malaria parasites all over the world, it’s perhaps time to also evaluate other avenues of treatment so that this life-threatening disease can be eliminated for good.

A number of studies conducted by scientists across the world have shown that natural remedies used to treat malaria for thousands of years can still be effective against these parasites. A study published in the British Medical Journal in 2004 mentions how many of these traditional medicines are actually the sources of the two main types of antimalarial drugs available today: artemisinin and quinine. 

Keeping this in mind, the Research Initiative on Traditional Antimalarial Methods (RITAM) was launched in 1999 with the collaboration of 200 members across 30 countries to standardise the herbal and plant-based methods of dealing with malaria. The following are some of the most well-known plant-based home remedies for malaria.

Ginger as a home remedy for malaria

Ginger, also known as Zingiber officinale Roscoe, is used in the traditional medicine of most Asian and African nations because of its antimicrobial and antiinflammatory effects. A study published in the Journal of Applied Biomedicine in 2013 found that ginger is effective against many parasites. 

Another study published in the International Journal of Scientific & Engineering Research in 2013 describes that the consumption of dried ginger mixed with water thrice daily can relieve some symptoms of malaria. A study published in a journal called Chinese Acupuncture and Moxibustion in 2011 also indicated that 42 malaria cases in Congo were treated successfully by ginger moxibustion - or the burning of dried ginger around the patients’ skin.

Read more: Ginger powder: Health benefits and side effects

How to prepare: Take half teaspoon of dried ginger powder, and mix it well into a glass of water. Consume thrice daily.
 

Bitter gourd as a home remedy for malaria

Bitter gourd, scientifically known as Momordica charantia and commonly referred to as karela in India, might not be a popular vegetable because of its bitter taste. However, it’s medicinal properties have proved to be highly effective in treating malaria, as is indicated in a study published in the Journal of Medicinal Plants Research in 2016.

The study shows how bitter gourd is a composite collection of phytochemicals like antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Both the vegetable and the leaves of this medicinal plant are chock full of a steroid saponin called charantin and a polypeptide called gurmarin. All these compounds were proved by the study to have an ameliorative effect on albino mice with malaria. The study indicated that consumption of this vegetable and its leaf extracts can help treat malaria in humans as well.

How to prepare: Roughly chop a bitter gourd and place it in a blender. Add a glass of water, salt to taste and half a teaspoon of lemon juice. Blend everything until your get a smooth juice. Consume at least once daily for best benefits.

Mango as a home remedy for malaria

No, just eating a plate full of mangoes won’t cure you of malaria. Eating mangoes and using the bark and leaves of a mango tree, also known as Mangifera indica, has many medicinal properties, and most of them work wonders against parasitic infections.Many studies conducted in mango-growing nations like India and Tanzania have shown that mango leaf extracts particularly have antimalarial effects. 

Two separate studies published in the International Journal of Pharmaceutical Research and Bio-science and the International Journal of Pharmaceutical Science and Drug Research in 2018 list mango leaf extracts as validated cures for malaria. Even burning mango leaves around areas affected by malaria outbreaks can reduce the growth of mosquitos.

How to prepare: Place 10-12 properly washed mango leaves in a pan with two litres of water. Boil the mix for about 20 minutes, then cool it and add the juice of one lemon. Drink once daily for best results. Burning mango leaves around the house and especially the patient's room can reduce mosquito infestation.

Fresh fruits as a home remedy for malaria

Most fruits are packed with bioactive compounds like anthocyanin, vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin B complex and vitamin D. They’re also full of vital minerals and fiber. Not only are fresh fruits nutrient dense, but are also a great source of fluids which can replenish the body. 

The study published in the International Journal of Scientific & Engineering Research in 2013 describes how fresh fruits and fruit juices of oranges, grapes, grapefruit, apple, pineapple, and papaya can help alleviate the symptoms of malaria and replenish the body enough to help it recover faster.

How to prepare: It's best to cut the fresh fruits and consume them as they are. However, if the malaria patient is facing issues with swallowing or digesting food, then juice the fruits and consume immediately.

Castor seeds as a home remedy for malaria

Ricinus communis, more commonly known as castor, is known among the scientific community to be highly effective against malaria. Now, before you think you have to consume castor seeds or castor oil to cure malaria, stop. Castor seed and leaf extracts are potent against the vectors of malaria, i.e. the female Anopheles mosquito, and mosquitoes in general. 

A study published in the Journal of Vector Borne Diseases in 2018 showed that the hexane extracts of castor leaves and seeds, when mixed with methanol and dichloromethane, creates an effective insecticide that can stop the breeding of mosquito larvae. The study, in fact, insists that not only is this plant extract useful in preventing the spread of malaria, but also other diseases like dengue fever, chikungunya and Zika.

Read more: How to stop mosquito bites from itching

How to prepare: Use castor oil or readymade castor extracts as mosquito repellents. Dab castor oil or extracts onto clothes, mosquito nets, curtains, etc to make sure mosquitoes do not grow or spread. Do not consume castor oil or extracts, as they can lead to diarrhoea and miscarriage.

Cinnamon as a home remedy for malaria

Earthy and sweet in taste and packed with a refreshing aroma, cinnamon is used as a spice in most Indian kitchens. What you may not have known is that cinnamon is a great home remedy for malaria as well. The study published in the International Journal of Scientific & Engineering Research in 2013 mentions that mixing a teaspoon of powdered cinnamon, a pinch of black pepper powder with honey and plain water, and consuming it once daily can reduce the flu-like symptoms of malaria.

Read more: Spices: Health benefits and side effects

Moreover, a study published in the Journal of Tropical Medicine in 2016 reveals that cinnamon bark is packed with metabolites like succinic acid, glutathione, L-aspartic acid, beta-alanine and 2-methylbutyryl glycine - all of which are particularly effective against cerebral malaria, a complication caused by the Plasmodium falciparum parasite.

How to prepare: Take a glass of water. Add a teaspoon of powdered cinnamon, a pinch of black pepper powder and half teaspoon honey. Mix well and consume once daily.

Holy basil as a home remedy for malaria

The holy basil, which is commonly referred to as tulsi and even worshipped in India, is primarily a medicinal herb used in ayurvedic treatments. It has been used for thousands of years to treat malaria outbreaks and outbreaks of other infectious diseases in India. 

A study published in the International Journal of Scientific & Engineering Research in 2013 mentions that consuming the juice of about 11 grams of holy basil leaves mixed with three grams of black pepper powder can be highly beneficial in the cold stage of malarial fever, and can even help in checking the severity of the disease.

How to prepare: You can crush 10-12 washed and cleaned tulsi leaves and eat them raw. You could also add the same amount of leaves to two cups of water and boil it for 20 minutes, cool it down a little and then consume.

Alum as a home remedy for malaria

Alum, also known as phitkiri in India, is a chemical compound which has antiseptic and astringent properties. And while you may have known this, the fact that alum can be used to prevent malaria may not have been known to you. 

A study published in the Journal of Parasitic Diseases in 2010 reveals that alum can be used as a malaria vector control mechanism in countries like India where this compound is abundantly available. The study evaluated the effectiveness of alum in controlling the larva growth of the female Anopheles mosquito, and discovered that the larvicidal effects of potash alum are comparable to chemical insecticides.

How to prepare: Mix one gram of alum salt with two grams of sugar, and give this to the patient twice a day.

Neem leaves as a home remedy for malaria

You might have heard of neem leaves and barks being burned in areas with outbreaks of malaria and other vector-borne diseases as an effective method of controlling the spread of mosquitoes. Consumption of neem juices and extracts (even fried neem leaves in parts of Bengal, Assam and Odisha) is also considered to be a good way to build a partial immunity against malaria.

A study published in the American Journal of Therapeutics also mentions that neem leaf extracts are so safe and effective against malaria, especially Plasmodium falciparum, that it can be depended on to create a whole new range of antimalarial drugs and anti-vector herbal insecticide sprays.

How to prepare: Grind 60 grams of neem leaves and four corns of black pepper, and mix it with 125ml water. Strain the mix and drink it. 

Garlic as a home remedy for malaria

Garlic might have been used in fiction as a food that can keep vampires away, but in real life, this plant belonging to the onion family is actually quite effective against malaria. A study published in Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy in 2006 mentions that allicin, a cysteine protease inhibitor found in garlic extracts can inhibit malaria infection.

A 2013 study published in the International Journal of Scientific & Engineering Research mentions that a decoction made of a teaspoon of garlic juice and a teaspoon of sesame oil should be prepared to treat a malaria patient. Ten drops of this ayurvedic oil should be placed daily on the tongue of the patient. Alternatively, garlic juice can also be applied on the fingers and toes of the patient to reduce malarial fever.

How to prepare: Crush a garlic clove or two properly, then take a teaspoon full. Mix it will sesame oil and take precisely 10 drops before malaria fever spike. This mix can also be applied to finger and toenails to prevent malaria.

Datura as a home remedy for malaria

Dhatura or datura is a poisonous flowering plant which is also known by the English names of jimsonweed and devil’s weed. This plant is abundantly found in India, and is known to be quite effective in preventing malaria. 

A study published in Advances in Environmental Biology in 2011 proves that datura leaf extracts can inhibit the growth of malaria parasites and also work to reduce the growth of vector mosquitoes. This suggests that not only can this type of datura extract work as a herbal insecticide, but it can also form the basis of antimalarial cures.

How to prepare: Take 5-6 fresh dhatura leaves and crush them with jaggery. Make small balls with this mix. These individual balls can be consumed two hours before the malaria fever intensifies. 

Soursop as a home remedy for malaria

Soursop leaves are commonly referred to as Hanuman phal or fruit in Hindi, and are scientifically known as Annona muricata L. According to a study published in the Journal of Pathogens in 2016, the extract of these leaves is packed with antioxidant, anti-inflammation, antimicrobial, antiparasitic, antidiabetes, antihyperlipidemic, hepatoprotective and anticancer properties.

The study also revealed that the ethanol extract created from soursop leaves presents with no toxicity and that its effectiveness lasts for a very long time. This clearly suggests that the use of soursop leaves, as is done in traditional Indian medicine, is not the only effective way of treating and preventing malaria. Its extracts can be used effectively as a home remedy as well.

How to prepare: You can consume the soursop fruit and also consume a few drops of the extract mixed with water.

References

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