Catharanthus roseus – Periwinkle – Ajaytao
Common name: Periwinkle, Madagascar rosy periwinkle, Vinca, Cape periwinkle, Rose periwinkle, Rosy periwinkle, Old-maid, Boa-noite (“good night”) and Maria-sem-vergonha (“Shameless Maria”, name shared with Impatiens and Thunbergia alata) in Portuguese (American), Vinca-de-madagáscar, Vinca-de-gato (“cats’ vinca”), Vinca-branca (white vinca), Vinca or boa-noite in Portuguese (European), Vinca del Cabo, Vinca rosa (“pink vinca”) or Vinca rosada (“roseous vinca”) in Spanish, putica (“little whore”) in Venezuela.
Hindi: Sadabahar सदाबहार • Malayalam: Shavam Naari • Marathi: सदाफूली Sadaphuli • Bengali: নযনতাৰা Nayantara
Botanical name: Catharanthus roseus
Family: Apocynaceae (oleander family)
Species: C. roseus
Synonyms: Vinca rosea, Lochnera rosea, Ammocallis rosea
Catharanthus roseus is an evergreen subshrub or herbaceous plant. Catharanthus roseus is a fleshy perennial growing to 32 in (80 cm) high. It has glossy, dark green, oval leaves (1-2 inches long) and flowers all summer long. The blooms of the natural wild plants are a pale pink with a purple “eye” in their centers.
Erect or decumbent suffrutex, to 1 m, usually with white latex. Stems green, often suffused with purple or red. Leaves decussate, petiolate; lamina variable, elliptic, obovate or narrowly obovate; apex mucronate. Flowers 4-5 cm, showy, white or pink, with a purple, red, pale yellow or white centre. Follicle 1.2-3.8 × 0.2-0.3 cm, dehiscent on the adaxial side. Seeds 1-2 mm, numerous, grooved on one side.
In the wild, it is an endangered plant; the main cause of decline is habitat destruction by slash and burn agriculture. It is also however widely cultivated and is naturalised in subtropical and tropical areas of the world.
Periwinkle is a happy-go-lucky small shrub. It cares not for the world. It rejoices in sun or rain, or the seaside, in good or indifferent soil and often grows wild. It is known as ‘Sadabahar’ meaning ‘always in bloom’ and is used for worship. Numerous soft-wood branches from the ground, give it an appearance of fullness. Closely planted it can have an impressive effect with its various colours. This is one flower which can be found all over India. Lots of cultivars have been developed with various colors, from red to white, Apricot Cooler Improved, Aztec Pink Magic, Blue Pearl, Cooler Icy Pink, Cooler Orchid, Cooler Peppermint, Experimental Dee
Catharanthus roseus is native to the Indian Ocean island of Madagascar. This herb is now common in many tropical and subtropical regions worldwide, including the southern United States, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands.
As an ornamental plant, it is appreciated for its hardiness in dry and nutritionally deficient conditions, popular in subtropical gardens where temperatures never fall below 5 °C to 7 °C, and as a warm-season bedding plant in temperate gardens. It is noted for its long flowering period, throughout the year in tropical conditions, and from spring to late autumn, in warm temperate climates. Full sun and well-drained soil are preferred. Numerous cultivars have been selected, for variation in flower colour (white, mauve, peach, scarlet and reddish-orange), and also for tolerance of cooler growing conditions in temperate regions. Notable cultivars include ‘Albus’ (white flowers), ‘Grape Cooler’ (rose-pink; cool-tolerant), the Ocellatus Group (various colours), and ‘Peppermint Cooler’ (white with a red centre; cool-tolerant).
Long before modern researcher learned of the plant’s valuable and varied properties, people in faraway places were using the Madagascar periwinkle for a host of medicinal purposes.
In India, they treated wasp sting with the juice from the leaves.In Hawai’i they prescribed an extract of the boiled plant to arrest bleeding.
In Central America and parts of South America, they made a gargle to ease soar throats and chest ailments and laryngitis.
In Cuba, Puerto Rico, Jamaica and other islands, an extract of the flower was commonly administered as an eyewash for the eyes of infants.
In Africa, leaves are used for menorrhagia and rheumatism.
Surinamese boil ten leaves and ten flowers together for diabetes.
Bahamians take flower decoction for asthma and flatulence, and the entire plant for tuberculosis.
In Mauritius, the leaves infusion s given for dyspepsia and indigestion.
In Vietnam it is taken for diabetes and malaria.
Curacao and Bermuda natives take the plant for high blood pressure.
Indochinese use the stalks and leaves for dysmenorrhea.
The species has long been cultivated for herbal medicine and as an ornamental plant. In Ayurveda (Indian traditional medicine) the extracts of its roots and shoots, though poisonous, is used against several diseases. In traditional Chinese medicine, extracts from it have been used against numerous diseases, including diabetes, malaria, and Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The substances vinblastine and vincristine extracted from the plant are used in the treatment of leukemia and Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
This conflict between historical indigenous use, and recent patents on C.roseus-derived drugs by western pharmaceutical companies, without compensation, has led to accusations of biopiracy.
Researchers investigating its medicinal properties discovered that it contained a group of alkaloids that, though extremely toxic, had potential uses in cancer treatment. Two of these alkaloids, vincristine and vinblastine, can be used in purified form to treat common types of leukemia and lymphoma. The discovery of vincristine is credited with raising the survival rate of childhood leukemia from under 10% to over 90%. Thousands of children’s lives have therefore been saved by an extract of this humble garden plant.
Few plants have generated as much recent interest among scientist and medical communities as the Madagascar periwinkle, Catharanthus roseus .
The interest began in the mid-1950’s, when researchers, hearing of a “periwinkle tea” that was drunk in Jamaica, began to study the plant for its reported antidiabetic properties.
Extracts of entire dried plant contain many alkaloids of medicinal use. The principal alkaloid is vinblastine, or vincaleukoblastine (vinblastine sulfate), sold as Velban. The alkaloid has growth inhibition effects in certain human tumors. Vinblastine is used experimentally for treatment of neoplasms, and is recommended for generalized Hodgkin’s disease and resistant choricarcinoma. Another pharmacologically important alkaloid is vincristine sulfate or vincristine, sold as Oncovin. Vincristine is used in treatment of leukemia in children.
Using vinblastine and vincristine in combination chemotherapy has resulted in 80% remission in Hodgkin’s disease, 99% remission in acute lymphocitic leukemia, 80% remission in Wilm’s tumor, 70% remission in gestational choricarcinoma, and 50% remission in Burkitt’s lymphoma.
There are over 70 other alkaloid that have been isolated from the plant in addition to vinblastine and vincristine. Synthetic vincristine, used to treat leukemia, is only 20% as effective as the natural product derived from Catharanthus roseus. Further research is needed especially on bioactive compounds, means of preparation, and effectiveness of plants and herbal remedies.
C. roseus is used in plant pathology as an experimental host for phytoplasmas. This is because it is easy to infect with a large majority of phytoplasmas, and also often has very distinctive symptoms such as phyllody and significantly reduced leaf size.
This plant has poison characteristics.
It can be dangerous if consumed orally or inhaled. All parts of the plant are poisonous. Symptoms: Hallucinations. It can be extremely toxic, and is cited (under its synonym Vinca rosea) in Louisiana State Act 159.