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Tamil Nadu Pushes Nilavembu to Combat Dengue, Many Question the Drug

Experts have raised questions on the method of distribution and said it could be fatal in high dosages. Panic also spread after media reports, citing scientific studies, said that nilavembu could cause infertility.

Poornima Murali | CNN-News18

Updated:October 19, 2017, 11:48 AM IST
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Tamil Nadu Pushes Nilavembu to Combat Dengue, Many Question the Drug
Tamil Nadu has been the worst hit by dengue this year, with over 12,945 cases and 40 deaths. (Photo for representation)
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Chennai: The Tamil Nadu government’s decision to turn to ‘nilavembu’ - a herbal concoction said to be effective against several fevers – to control the outbreak of Dengue has kicked up a storm in the state after safety concerns as well as reports of infertility emerged.

The ‘Siddha’ drug, which is made of nine herbs, is being distributed freely to all eateries by the state government. The Ayush ministry is also promoting its use, observing that nilavembu is “antipyretic (used to prevent or reduce fever), analgesic (pain-relieving) and anti-dengue activity proved.”

While the authorities swear by its use, Siddha medical practitioners have warned of safety concerns. Experts have raised questions on the method of distribution and said it could be fatal in high dosages. They said it cannot be self-administered and should be given only under strict medical supervision.

Panic also spread after media reports, citing scientific studies, said that nilavembu could cause infertility. Doctors News18 spoke to said that tests done on rats had shown that it has an adverse effect on the reproductive system and can also reduce the sperm count.

They also pointed out that there have been no studies to prove the drug’s efficacy against Dengue fever and advised people to not blindly believe that it is a remedy against the disease. Although it is widely believed that the concoction helps reduce viral load and boosts one's immunity, there has been no large-scale scientific study conducted so far.

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Despite the concerns, the state government has been distributing it as a cure for the last nine years.

Working President of the DMK, MK Stalin, on Tuesday, demanded answers from state health minister Vijaybaskar. Speaking to reporters in Chennai, he said: “The Health minister should respond on whether nilavembu concoction causes infertility.”

Actor Kamal Haasan also took to social media to voice his apprehension. “Till proper research results come, let us not distribute Nilavembu concoction. Let other works continue," he wrote. In another tweet, he added, “It's not that the research should be done by allopathics. The traditionalists should also have done it. It is traditional for medicines to have side effects.”

Vijaybaskar, however, rubbished the reports and insisted that the decoction has been tested scientifically and proved effective against several types of fevers, including Dengue and Chickungunya. “People should not believe in baseless rumours that Nilavembu kashayam will cause side effects. This herbal medicine has been tested well and used widely in many countries”, the minister said.
| Edited by: Aakarshuk Sarna
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