Catharanthus roseus is more popularly known as the Madagascar periwinkle. This flowering plant has a long history, first appearing in text in poet Aemilius Macer’s Herbal, which was published in the early sixteenth century. In his book, he used the old English name of the Catharanthus roseus which is “parwynke.” In later years, most people called it “ground ivy,” although this particular name has been reassigned to another flowering plant of the binomial nomenclature of Glechoma hederacea. Different countries also have different names for the plant. Some examples include “pucellage” or “virgin flower” in France and “centocchio” or “hundred eyes” in Italy.
The Catharanthus roseus plant is an evergreen plant that is mostly grown ornamentally in gardens. However, it is also proven that this beautiful flowering plant has medicinal properties. It thrives best in sub-tropical areas where the temperature does not go below forty-one degrees Fahrenheit. In tropical climates, the flowers bloom all year round. Meanwhile, in colder climates with four seasons, its flowers only bloom from spring to mid-to-late autumn. The Catharanthus roseus plant only grows in areas that receive full sun and have good drainage.
When full grown, the Catharanthus roseus plant has beautiful flowers that can vary in color. Its cultivars include the Albus, which has white flowers, the Grape Cooler, which has rosy pink flowers, the Peppermint Cooler, which has white petals with a round center, and the Ocellatus Group, which has various colored petals. It can grow from half a meter to a meter tall and is usually erect.
The following is a list of Catharanthus roseus plant’s benefits and uses:
- Treats blood disorders
- Is believed to cure disease
- Helps retain fluids in the body
- Eases cough and sore throat
- Relieves lung congestion
- Relieves eye irritation
- Heals skin infections
- Heals wounds and stops bleeding
Probably the most important benefit of the Catharanthus roseus plant is its anti-disease properties. Researchers found that Catharanthus roseus plant has phytochemicals in its young leaves. These phytochemicals produce vinblastine and vincristine that may cure leukemia and lymphoma, both of which attack the blood cells. In fact, the vincristine drug that the plant’s phytochemicals produce is said to increase survival rate of children with leukemia from ten percent in the 1960s to ninety percent today. Furthermore, the anti-disease properties of the Catharanthus roseus plant is also believed to be effective in treating breast disease.
It can also be applied to wounds to stop bleeding. People make a paste out of the plant, which is then applied to the wound, helping to heal it and minimize scarring. Because it regulates bleeding, it can also be used by women to help ease cramping during their menstrual period. It prevents irregular and excessive bleeding as well.
The leaves are also used to improve oxygen circulation in the body. This results in the treatment of lung congestion, especially if a person has lung related problems such as tuberculosis.
Lastly, the Catharanthus roseus plant is believed to treat depression and other mental health problems. It is recommended as an alternative for anti-depressant medications, which are found to have negative side effects, especially in the first two to four weeks of treatment. If you are planning to use the Catharanthus roseus plant for this purpose, however, make sure to consult your doctor first. Unsupervised dosage may easily lead to overdose, and the effects can be counterintuitive because of this.
Moreover, the Catharanthus roseus plant should never be taken orally. Studies have shown that this plant has high levels of vinca alkaloids, a type of poisonous chemical that can cause nausea and vomiting in most cases. Other side effects of oral intake are hair loss and hearing loss, nerve damage and liver damage, and in extreme cases, death.
It should also be avoided by people who are taking anti-diabetic medications. It is true that the Catharanthus roseus plant may be used to treat blood disorders, but using it along with anti-diabetic medications may lower blood sugar to a dangerous level.
Moreover, the Catharanthus roseus plant should not be used by pregnant or breastfeeding women. It can cause miscarriage and a variety of birth defects, and the poisonous chemicals may also be ingested by the baby when breastfeeding.