Rosy Periwinkle for Cancer

Also known as Madagascar Periwinkle

Madagascar Periwinkle contains over 70 different indole alkaloids, including vinblastine, vincristine, alstonine, ajmalicine, leurocristine, and reserpin.

Madagascar or “Rosy” Periwinkle is by far the most important plant medicinally, generating hundreds of millions per year in the pharmaceutical industry as a promising addition to the arsenal against childhood leukemia, Hodgkin’s Disease, testicular cancer and cancerous tumors, high blood pressure, and uncontrolled bleeding, not to mention the fact that it has powerful tranquilizing properties.

Extensive clinical research has been conducted on the properties of the Madagascar periwinkle’s due to its long traditional use as an herbal treatment for persons affected by diabetes. The plant also contains two potent anti-cancer alkaloids, the compound vincristine and vinblastine – the identification of these compounds is believed to be one of the most important medicinal finds from plant sources within the past forty years of medical history. Patients with Hodgkin’s disease are given vincristine as a standard treatment, and the compound vinblastine is used extensively in the treatment of childhood leukemia cases. The anti-diabetic role of the plant still needs further verification, as it has been found that while herbal extracts from the Madagascar periwinkle can indeed lead to a lowering of blood sugar levels in the body, very simple preparations from the whole plant are not effective and thus an active compound in the extract has to be identified.

Rosy Periwinkle Historical Scientific Research

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 recomanded 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.

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.

Rosy Periwinkle Medical Historic Usage

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 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 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 leves 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 Vietnamit, 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 anti-diabetes action of the periwinkle is made use of in the folk medicine of the Philippine islands. Closer home, soothing eyewash is prepared from the flowers and used in the folk medicine of the Caribbean islands.

Rosy Periwinkle Application

Externally, Rosy Periwinkle leaves can be bruised and applied directly to the affected area for wasp stings, to relieve eye inflammation, and to stop bleeding. Alternatively, the leaves can be boiled and a cloth soaked with the liquid and applied to the affected area, or an ointment can be made using oils from the plant. It is applied directly for dermatitis, eczema, acne, bleeding gums, nosebleeds, mouth ulcers, and bleeding hemorrhoids.

Rosy Periwinkle Anecdotal

Cancer Survivor “Save the Species that Saved My Life”: I’m alive today due to a drug derived from the rosy periwinkle, a rare African flower found on the island of Madagascar. Yet in 2002, while competing in “Survivor: Africa,” this delicate pink flower was the farthest thing from my mind.

Girl With Leukemia Owes Her Life to Rosy Periwinkle (May 08, 1995|By Associated Press)
The medicine has been around for about a decade and was used from the start in treating Jaclyn, said her pediatrician, Kevin Browngoehl. She has been in remission for more than 18 months, the doctor said.

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Rosy Periwinkle Research Links

Marcus M. Reidenberg, MD, Prof. of Pharmacology, Medicine & Public Health, Weill Med Col. of Cornell Univ. speaking about the medicinal properties of the rosy periwinkle (audio file)

Eileen O’Reilly, MD, Asst. Attending Physician, Medical Oncology, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, Asst. Prof., Medicine, Weill Med. Col. of Cornell Univ. speaking about the therapeutic use of the rosy periwinkle (audio file)

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