Monday, September 18, 2006

Rosy Periwinkle

A flower, that looked very familiar, but seen in the premises of Jungle Lodges at BR Hills , it caught my attention. Took the usual snaps, expecting to label it with Kehimkar's Indian Wild flowers book. The flowers were not seen in the book, surprise, and somehow I stumbled upon the label Rosy Periwinkle, a plant from Madagascar that has given some major cancer saving drugs. I can't believe it, I seem to notice this plants almost everywhere now.....


Traditional healers in Madagascar used this plant for treating diabetes. Curious with this, western researchers, dug in, and studied the effects of the chemicals in the leaves on rats, they noticed that the blood sugar levels of the animals were not affected but rather their white blood cell counts had decreased, thus its anti-cancer properties were discovered. Vincristine and Vinblastine are powerful anticancer agents, and are two of the most important medicinal compounds found in plants in the last 40 years. Vincristine is a standard treatment for Hodgkin's disease, and vinblastine for childhood leukemia. Although extracts from Madagascar periwinkle have been shown to lower blood sugar levels, simple preparations of the whole plant may not be effective.


Long before modern researchers learned of the plant's valuable and varied properties, folk healers in faraway places were using the Madagascar periwinkle for a host of medicinal purposes. In India, they treated wasp stings with the juice from the leaves. In Hawaii, 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 sore throats and chest ailments. In Cuba, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, and other islands, an extract of the flowers was commonly administered as a soothing eyewash. Periwinkle is used in folk medicine in the Philippines as a remedy for diabetes. Most of these practices are still followed.

Rosy periwinkle grows up to two and a half feet tall. Leaves are oval and have a glossy surface. The five-lobed flowers are usually white or light pink. Note the leaves in this pic. Periwinkle was called "sorcerers violet" by the French, in reference to its use in charms and love potions. Europeans also believed that periwinkle had the power to exorcise evil spirits. Medieval Europeans used rosy periwinkle frequently in garlands to protect the bearer. The Italians placed garlands of the plant on the graves of infants, calling it the flower of death. During the Enlightenment in Europe, the French considered periwinkle an emblem of friendship.
Low light conditions, some of the flowers have come out bright!!!!

Lets look at Vinblastine in detail. Vinblastine has become a widely applied drug, and is today used primarily in the treatment of the following conditions by interfering with glutamic acid metabolism (specifically, the pathways leading from glutamic acid to the Krebs cycle and to urea formation).

  • Hodgkin's disease
  • Lymphocytic lymphoma
  • Histiocytic lymphoma
  • Advanced testicular cancer
  • Advanced breast cancer
  • Kaposi's sarcoma
  • Letterer-Siwe disease
Vincristine is interesting too. This vinca alkaloid is a spindle inhibitor and is a cell specific agent, blocking cells in the metaphase of mitosis. During mitosis, the DNA of a cell replicates, dividing into two new cells. The vinca alkaloids therefore affect all rapidly dividing cell types, including cancer cells but also as intestinal epithelium and bone marrow.

Vincristine is used primarily to treat

  • Acute leukemia
  • Rhabdomyosarcoma
  • Neuroblastoma
  • Hodgkin's disease
  • Lymphomas
  • Breast cancer
  • Multiple myeloma.

Well, I don't know most of the listed cancer disorders, anyways these two alkaloids are impressive. Herz the chemical structure of these two guyz.

So, Rosy Periwinkle, you can't miss this plant. Look for it, and take your hats off to it ;-))

12 comments:

Casy said...

My mom always grows these in abundance in our garden. The next time you visit us, you can click as many as you want ;)

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Sildenafil Citrate said...

that is one of my girlfriends flowers, she has many flower stuff, like blankets, pillows, clocks, socks and anything that has a rose like this one!

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