Catharanthus Roseus is a flowering plant belonging to the botanical family Apocynaceae, native to eastern and South-eastern Madagascar, and is widely grown as an ornamental plant in all residential areas.
These have the common names Periwinkle, Rose periwinkle, Pink periwinkle, Madagascar periwinkle, Cape periwinkle, Old maid, Graveyard plant, Annual vinca, and Bright eyes.
Although they grow as wild plant species in the rainforest and are grown as ornamental plants in various places, they are used in traditional medicine due to their medicinal properties. Both ‘Vinblastine‘ and ‘Vincristine‘ are the primary drugs used in the treatment of cancer, the main source of these drugs is gained from the Periwinkle plant.
It is noteworthy that in the early days, based on taxonomy, the plant was included in the genus Vinca under the name Vinca Rosa. Madagascar periwinkle, up to 1 m tall, erect, slightly branched, tender, and evergreen shrub or herbaceous plant.
Growing in all conditions such as tropical, subtropical, and high humidity, these plants thrive on sandy riverbanks, beaches, roadsides, open forests, dry wastelands, savannah vegetation, and scrubland. Sometimes the plant is found in rocky soils and rocky outcrops.
The stems are hairy and have narrow wings with red or green roots that can grow up to 70 cm in length. The periwinkle is a hardy plant that can thrive even in nutrient lacking areas at temperatures of 5-7°C and temperate climates.
Catharanthus Roseus, which can be grown mostly as an ornamental plant, produces flowers throughout the year in spring, autumn, summer and rainy seasons. Climate is also a factor in the variation in the colors of its flowers, such as white, meow, peach, scarlet, and red-orange.
Grape Cooler (rose-pink), Albus (white flowers), ‘Peppermint Cooler’ (white with a red center), Ocellatus Group (various colors) are the most widely cultivated due to its medicinal properties.
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Parts of the Periwinkle Plant
The leaves, which can grow in two different shapes, oval and oblong, are approximately 1.0–3.5 inches long and 0.4–1.4 inches wide. A 1–1.8 cm long leaves are narrow, glabrous, glabrous green, and the pale midrib is opposite to each other. The leaves of this herb are initially glossy green on the surface and pale green on the underside, while they are dark green when mature.
The flowers of this plant are pink, white, dark pink, purple, rose-purple in color depending on its nature. This plant has male and female (bisexual) flowers thus it reproduces easily. The flowers are almost sessile, with a base tube 1.0–1.2 inches long and a corolla tube cylinder 0.8–2.0 inches in diameter.
These flowers with 5-merous also have five petal-like lobes. These flowers are hairy on the outside and extend from the surface when pollinated. At the base of the broad tube is a greenish 1-2 cm long tip with mucronate hairs. The center of these flowers, which are found in many colors, is pale yellow or white.
The periwinkle fruits are 2-4 cm long and 3 mm wide with a pair of free cylindrical follicles. The fruit is covered with thin hairs on the outside, about 10 to 20 seeds per fruit, these seeds are 2-3 mm long and elliptical.
Historical Background of Madagascar Periwinkle
Although the periwinkle plant, which is grown as an ornamental and medicinal plant, is native to Madagascar in India, its seeds were exported to Paris for cultivation in the first half of the 18th century, after which the plant spread from European botanical gardens to the tropics.
Catharanthus Roseus was cultivated in the Virgin Islands in 1882, in Puerto Rico in 1885, and in the Dominican Republic in 1910 and added to the herbarium collection. But now they are being grown and used in different countries of the world considering their health benefits.
The Greek physicist Pedanius Dioscorides who lived in the 1st century AD described the Madagascar periwinkle plant as an excellent medicinal plant. Besides, he suggested in the notes that it could be used as an herbal remedy for poisonous insect bites, severe toothache, and animal bites.
The Roman philosopher and naturalist Pliny the Elder, who lived from 23-79 CE, wrote that the periwinkle plant was widely cultivated by the people during his time as a refreshing ornamental plant.
In the post-Renaissance period, there is evidence that these plants are widely used in the treatment of nosebleed, sore throat, and various lung diseases.
The most interesting of these is that Rosy periwinkle has been used as a common ingredient in the preparation of many romantic medicines.
Medieval herbal literature mentions the use of these plants to treat brain and nerve-related disorders such as memory impairments, dizziness, and headaches.
Health Benefits of Rosy Periwinkle
The Catharanthus Roseus plant, widely known around the world as the Madagascar Periwinkle, is home to more than 70 powerful alkaloids. These plants are a well-known natural herb as most of these alkaloids have medicinal properties that cure various ailments.
These have adrenergic blocking agent properties called reserpine and anti-cancer properties. The flowers of these plants are recommended as a natural remedy for diabetics as they improve blood circulation and are effective in controlling blood sugar levels.
Other important uses of this herb include preventing memory loss, treating toothache, and curing nerve disorders. Here’s a look at Rosy Periwinkle’s medicinal properties and important health benefits.
1. Effectively Treats Cancer
All parts of the Catharanthus Roseus plant have different medicinal properties, in particular, the potent alkaloids in the stems and leaves have anti-cancer and anti-tumor properties.
These prevent the entry, growth, and spread of cancer cells and are the best treatment for tumor damage. The flowering plant Madagascar Periwinkle treats most types of cancer and related tumors such as Kaposi’s sarcoma, leukemia, Hodgkin’s lymphoma, neuroblastoma, malignant lymphomas, and Wilms tumor.
The Vincristine and Vinblastine extracted from this plant have high anticancer properties. So cancer patients can get the best results by consuming this juice regularly.
Evidence suggests that tea made from its stems may directly inhibit the growth of cancer cells when taken as an alternative to daily beverages. Rosy Periwinkle is acted as an amitotic inhibitor thus it’s widely utilized in chemotherapy to treat cancer.
A group of toxic alkaloids accumulated in this plant fight against cancer cells and produce positive effects. They also contain the chemical compounds leurosine and leurosi-dine, which are effective in treating Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
2. Stimulates Healthy Circulation
The circulatory system plays an important role in sending enough oxygen, purified blood, and essential nutrients throughout the body thus it’s important to keep constant circulation.
Poor circulation is thought to be a lack of oxygen and blood flow to a particular body part, which can result in various risk factors. To be more specific, you may experience various adverse effects and symptoms when the blood flow to a particular area is restricted.
Circulatory changes occur when plaque forms in the arteries or blood vessels, and one of the most common causes is atherosclerosis. Plaque formation causes the arteries to contract and tighten slightly, hardening the area.
Eventually, it causes Peripheral Artery disease, in which the narrowed blood vessels reduce the blood flow to the limbs and disrupt the circulatory system.
The extract obtained by finely grinding the green leaves of the Rosy Periwinkle plant helps to improve the circulation of oxygen and blood in the body. This improves energy levels and boosts the immune system.
3. Helps Diabetics by Controlling Blood Sugar
Madagascar Periwinkle is used to treat diabetes in various parts of Asia because its extract can effectively control blood sugar and significantly increase insulin levels.
People living in countries such as Asia, China, and the Philippines have a habit of drinking boiled and distilled water of Periwinkle flowers on an empty stomach in the morning.
The reason is that they break down the high levels of sugar accumulated in the blood and excrete it into the urine. Although this procedure does not cause any side effects, doctors warn people with low blood sugar and low blood pressure not to consume it.
These show positive effects not only on blood sugar but also on high blood pressure and insulin resistance. Traditional Ayurveda recommends the extract derived from the soft and glossy leaves of this plant as a natural remedy to control type 2 diabetes.
Both the flowers and the leaves of this plant have the property of lowering the blood sugar level, so the herbal tea made using them acts as a tonic which gives energy to the body.
Those who feel dizzy and vomiting can get good results by chewing 3-4 leaves of Catharanthus Roseus plant.
4. Treats Alzheimer’s Disease
Vincamine is a monoterpenoid indole alkaloid obtained in the leaves of the Catharanthus Roseus plant. Obtained from this alkaloid a chemical called Vinpocetine is used to treat a variety of ailments, including ischemic stroke.
More so, Vinpocetine is obtained not only from the leaves of the periwinkle plant but also from the seeds of the Voacanga Africana plant, which belongs to the Apocynaceae family.
Besides, they are used as herbal medicine to treat neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s, mental retardation, and memory loss. They regulate all the side effects associated with Alzheimer’s disease symptoms, and they also help with intelligence, improved cognition, and brain development.
An early study on Rosy Periwinkle found that the Vincamine alkaloid in them was effective in treating double blindness. Vinpocetine, marketed under the brand name Cavindon in Europe, is also used as an approved dietary supplement in the United States.
5. Has Wound Healing Properties
Rosy Periwinkle helps to speed up the healing process of wounds and stop excessive bleeding. After boiling the periwinkle leaves well in water, soak a cotton cloth in that water and rub it on the affected area.
Then wrap a cotton cloth around the wound to protect it. This procedure should be performed twice daily until the lesions become traces. This type of topical application to wounds protects the wound from harmful external factors and speeds up the healing process.
Fresh or dried leaves can be boiled in unrefined oil and the resulting herbal oil can be used to treat inflammation and pain.
Besides, grind the fresh leaves with a little water and grind well until it becomes a paste. This paste can be used as an excellent ointment for cuts, wounds, scrapes, etc.
6. Beneficial in Cardiovascular Health
Rosy Periwinkle is rich in beneficial substances such as reserpine and alkaloid. Such substances are very effective and precise in reducing the level of blood pressure.
By lowering the level of blood pressure, one of the risk factors for heart disease, they improve the health of the heart, support its functions, and protect the heart from its risk factors.
Besides, their ability to control blood pressure can put an end to rheumatic problems including stroke, arthritis, osteoporosis, and rheumatism. High blood pressure can have consequences even in everyday processes, and Catharanthus Roseus helps protect against all such dangerous conditions.
7. Cures Wasp Stings & Insects Bites
Madagascar Periwinkle helps treat wasp stings, bee stings, most insect bites, reptile bites, and injuries. This plant has the potential to inhibit poison and is used in Ayurveda as an herbal remedy for most insect bites and reptile bites.
Rinse some fresh periwinkle leaves well in clean water and grind them into a smooth consistency with a little water. The leaves should be finely ground until it comes to a paste form, this paste of periwinkle leaves should be applied externally on the affected area.
Wrap around the pasted area with a piece of muslin cloth to prevent it from falling down. This procedure should be performed once daily until the wound heals.
8. Eases Curbing Bleeding
The flowering plant Rosy Periwinkle is well known for its anticoagulant and anti-hemorrhagic properties. These plants effectively control curb bleeding and help in curing bleeding hemorrhoids.
The oil obtained from its leaves is used to treat sudden bleeding in the nasal and gums. Grind the pomegranate buds together with the periwinkle flowers and extract the juice separately.
This juice can be used externally during bleeding to treat nasal and oral bleeding. Besides, it can also be used for sore throat and mouth ulcers. It’s also beneficial in handling diarrhea, dysentery, gastritis.
9. Enhances Memory
A certain amount of vincamine alkaloid found in the seeds and leaves of the Rosy Periwinkle plant associated with memory. It greatly aids brain metabolism by regulating cognitive functions and improving blood flow to the brain.
These plants have the ability to improve mental productivity as it solves problems including stress, depression, frustration, anxiety.
These effectively manage memory loss by preventing brain cells from being easily damaged and, moreover, enhance thinking ability. These are greatly aided in the treatment of neurological diseases such as dementia, vascular dementia.
10. Relieves Oral Sores & Sore Throat
Catharanthus Roseus plants have strong and concentrating astringent properties, making it a wonderful natural medicine that can easily cure cancerous ulcers.
These have the ability to cure oral ulcers and are active in reducing pain and inflammation. Oral ulcers can be cured by gargling with distilled water made by using Rosy Periwinkle flowers.
By drinking tea made by the flowers of these plants can be used to cure strep throat infections. In addition, the filtered water obtained from these leaves can be used as a gargle two or three times a day to control throat infections.
11. Good for Eyes & Skin
Although the statement that Madagascar Periwinkle has anti-inflammatory properties has not been scientifically proven, it has been mentioned in ancient texts that they were used as medicine for inflammation.
According to Ayurveda, due to the anti-inflammatory properties of this herb, it can be used to treat eye-related problems such as eye pain, eye inflammation, red eyes, and eye irritation.
Besides, due to its astringent and anti-inflammatory properties, it is recommended for external use in various skin diseases such as eczema, red patches, white patches, itching, rash, scabies, wounds, allergies, etc.
12. Best for Borderline Hypertension
The medical term Borderline Hypertension refers to the different stress levels that occur in the gray zone between clearly normal and clearly abnormal conditions. Borderline Hypertension, a condition that affects one in three people in the United States today, is more commonly known as pre-hypertension or high normal blood pressure.
The Seventh Report of the Joint National Committee on Prevention, Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Pressure determines a predisposition to the high normal blood pressure of 120 to 139/80 to 89 mm Hg.
This prehypertension between normal blood pressure and hypertension is brought under control by Catharanthus Roseus. Consumption of 2-3 ml of the extract from the leaves of this plant regularly in the early morning will help control blood pressure and return to normal.
13. Helps in Irregular Menstruation
Periwinkle plants are used to treat irregular menstruation and excessive bleeding during menstruation. Boil 6-8 fresh Periwinkle leaves in 2 cups of water and let it simmer for about half a cup.
The decoction thus obtained is consumed during three consecutive menstrual cycles to control problems such as heavy menstruation flow, low menstruation and is an excellent remedy for menstrual cramps, abdominal pain, and back pain. Some people experience vomiting, dizziness, and headaches during menstruation, which can be relieved by taking Rosy Periwinkle tea.