Plants are highly valuable to humanity and the tremendous benefits they offer are certainly unfathomable. The fact still remains that most plants offer medicinal supports to tackle several ailments that tend to pose dangers to human beings. Furthermore, several biological and chemical active compounds are claimed to be present in most of these plants.
Interestingly, most of these medicinal plants are capable of attacking fungal, bacterial and viral infections. Besides, medicinal plants and its products have been deemed effective in reducing and reversing the side effects of certain chemotherapeutic agents. Most of these plants also promote general well-being and prolong longevity.
These great potentials of plants suggest the need to continuously evaluate available plants in order to unravel and ascertain those that are effective for healing various diseases. Based on the numerous amazing benefits of plants, it is quite logical to witness why there is a growing interest in medicinal plants all over the world. One of such medicinal plants that have received global recognition due to its exceptional benefits is Catharanthus roseus.
Catharanthus roseus is an evergreen, herbaceous plant that belongs to the family of Apocynaceae and grown mostly for its alkaloids. C. roseus is commonly known as rosy periwinkle, Vinca Rosea, Cape periwinkle, the Madagascar periwinkle, Kemuning cina, nayantara, vinca-de-madagáscar, vinca del Cabo, rose periwinkle, vinca rosa, tapak dara in Indonesian, vinca rosada, sadaphuli in Marathi, shameless maria (maria-sem-vergonha), roseous vinca in Spanish, Dhafnaki in Greece and İzmir Güzeli in Turkish.
The plant grows approximately 1 metre tall while the oblong leaves grow between 2.5 to 9 centimetres long and 1 to 3.5 centimetres broad. The oval, hairless, greenish leaves are glossy in appearance with a short petiole that measures between 1 to 1.8 centimetres long. The leaf is simple, petiolate and opposite each other. The flowers are whitish in colour with a yellow midpoint and a basal tube that measures between 2.5 to 3 centimetres long. The corolla bears 5 petal-like lobes and measures between 2 to 5 centimetres in diameter. The fruit is a pair of follicles that measures approximately 3 millimetres broad and 2 to 4 centimetres long.
Rose periwinkle grows well on limestone and sandy soils especially in grassland, woodland or forests. Different rosy periwinkle cultivars produce different colour shades of flowers such as white, mauve, scarlet, reddish-orange, pink, peach, lavender, lilac and red with a tiny rose-purple, yellowish or reddish central point. Some common cultivars are peppermint cooler (white with a red centre), Albus (white flowers), ocellatus group (assorted colours) and Grape Cooler (rose-pink).
The plant is originally from the Caribbean Basin, West Indies and Madagascar before spreading to other parts of the world such as Africa, Australia, Southern Europe and India where it is mostly grown for commercial purposes due to its high medicinal and ornamental benefits. Even though the roots and shoots extracts of this plant is poisonous, yet they are used for tackling several diseases especially in the Ayurvedic system of medicine.
Chemical Compositions of Catharanthus roseus
The root contains bornesitol, d-yohimbine ajmalicine, olenolic acid, alstonine and urosolic acid. The root bark contains alstonine, serpentine, vincaline I and vincaline II. The leaves contain cartharanthine, leurosin, 21-oxo-leurosine, catharanthamine, coronaridine, vindoline, vimblastine, leurosidine, vincristine, tetrhydrolastonine, lochnerine, vincarodine, – Nboxide and pericylivine as reported by Cordell (2001). Furthermore, Quideau et al., (2011) attested that the main active substances in plants are alkaloids, phenolic acids and flavonoids. Another important anthocyanidin pigment found in the flowers of rose periwinkle is rosinidin.
These active substances are anti-carcinogen, anti-oxidative, hypoglycaemic, anti-allergic and antibiotic in nature thus essential for the healthy functioning of the body. Studies reveal that most of the vinca alkaloids were first isolated from Catharanthus roseus. According to Ethalsha and Retna (2014), periwinkle contains more than 400 alkaloids of which some have been categorised as antineoplastic agents for inhibiting or preventing the growth and spread of tumours or malignant cells such as rhabdomyosarcoma, leukaemia, neuroblastoma, malignant lymphomas and Hodgkin’s disease.
The cancer-fighting effects of this plant are attributed to the presence of vincristine and vinblastine found in it. Furthermore, the alkaloids isolated from rosy periwinkle contain tranquilising (soothing effect) and hypotensive (lowers the blood pressure) properties. According to Patharajan and Abirami (2014), the organic extracts of C. roseus can be used for treating leukaemia, diabetes, sore throat, malaria, eye irritation, wasp stings and infections. It is also used as an expectorant, astringent and diuretic.
25 Exceptional Benefits of Catharanthus roseus
According to Aruna et al., (2015), Catharanthus roseus is used by different countries for treating different diseases for example;
~ In Africa, the leaves are used for treating rheumatism (inflammation and pain in the joints) and menorrhagia (abnormally heavy bleeding at menstruation).
~ In Madagascar, the leaves are used as vomitive (inducing vomiting), the roots are used as purgative, anthelmintic (for expelling worms), hemostatic (causes bleeding to stop) and for stopping toothache.
~ In Malaysia, the plant is used for tackling hypertension, diabetes, cancer and insomnia.
~ In India, the leaves extracts are applied on the skin for numbing and neutralising bee sting/ wasp sting.
~ In Mauritius, the leaves extracts are used for treating indigestion and constipation.
~ In Jamaica and Cuba, the flower extracts are used as an eyewash for infants.
~ In America, the plant is decocted and gargled for easing sore throats and laryngitis. It is also used for chest ailments.
~ In Philippines, the leaves can be used for treating diabetes and stomach cramps while the root decoction is used for treating intestinal parasitism. The leaves can also be infused and used for treating menorrhagia (abnormally heavy bleeding at menstruation). The roots are also used for treating dysentery.
~ In Nigeria and West Indies, the rose periwinkle plant is used for treating diabetes.
~ In the Bahamas, the decocted flower is used for treating flatulence (accumulation of gas in the alimentary canal), asthma and tuberculosis.
~ In Hawaii, the boiled plant extract is used for stopping excessive bleeding.
Diabetes mellitus is a chronic metabolic disorder marked by hyperglycemia (high blood glucose concentration) due to insulin deficiency and insulin resistance. Ibrahim et al., (2011), evaluated the antibacterial and antidiabetic activities of Catharanthus roseus extracts. Dichloromethane: methanol (1:1) extract was used for experimenting the in-vitro antibacterial and in-vivo antidiabetic activity. The antibacterial activity was performed using seven different gram positive and gram negative bacterial strains.
The extract was reported to contain significant antibacterial action against all the bacterial strains. For the antidiabetic activity, diabetes was induced to all male Wister albino rats using alloxan monohydrate (80mg/kg body/weight) except the control group. This was followed by treating the diabetic rats with the extract (500mg/kg body weight) daily for 14 consecutive days. The results were compared with the standard drug glibenclamide (5 mg/kg body weight) by measuring the glucose levels and the body weights of all the study animals.
The glucose level reduced while the body weight was increased in extract treated and standard treated groups when compared to the diabetic group. The impacts of the extract on the biochemical parameters such as urea, creatinine, alkaline phosphatase and total cholesterol were also measured. The results support the antibacterial and antidiabetic efficacy of the extract thus can be used not only for treating infections but also for treating diabetes. Other herbs for treating diabetes can be found here.
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) has been classified as the most common cause of death all over the world. Patel et al., (2011) evaluated the hypolipidemic activity of the rosy periwinkle leaf juice in normal and hyperlipidemic guinea pigs and its possible implication in managing metabolic syndrome (hyperlipidemia, hypertension and diabetes mellitus). Adult guinea pigs of either sex were divided into 7 groups.
Serum lipid profile (total cholesterol, triglycerides, LDL-c, VLDL-c, HDL-c) was performed in each of the animals groups before and at the end of the six weeks trial. Histological study of the liver, aorta and kidney was carried out in group 1, 2, 6 and 7 while blood cell count was carried out in animals that were treated with the juice of C. roseus before and after juice administration.
The results show that simultaneous administration of leaf juice of C. roseus in the dosage of 0.5 mL/kg prevents the rise of serum lipid parameters as well as reduces the fatty changes in the tissue induced by the high-fat diet. However, the dose of 1 mL/kg did not only counteracted the elevation, but also significantly (p < 0.05) reduced the serum level LDL-c and the ratio of total cholesterol and HDL-c. Therefore, the leaf juice of rosy periwinkle possesses significant lipid lowering and anti-atherosclerotic properties.
Alleviates Vascular Dementia
Studies reveal that rose periwinkle contains vasodilating (widening of blood vessels) and memory-enhancing properties, which help to tackle vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Fischhof et al., (1996) investigated the therapeutic effects of vincamine for treating primary degenerative and vascular dementia. 152 male and female patients aged between 50 and 85 years from two psychogeriatric centres and two nursing homes were initially included in the trial and screened for eligibility. However, only 142 patients completed the trial.
In the 12-week double-blind treatment, either 30 mg vincamine or placebo was given twice on a daily basis. The data on tolerance and on therapy response were evaluated using descriptive statistics. The therapeutic efficacy of vincamine was evidenced by the confirmatory analysis because the drug was statistically significantly superior to placebo in all the four target variables. The results support that vincamine has more effects and is superior to placebo in patients with mild to moderate dementia. Other plants for treating dementia can be found here.
According to Jaleel et al., (2009) the anticancer alkaloids (vinblastine and vincristine) found in the leaf and stem of Catharanthus roseus inhibits cancer and tumour cells in the body. The vinca alkaloids impede all fast-dividing cell types including cancer cells. This suggests why vinblastine is used for treating neoplasms (a new and abnormal growth of tissue in the body parts) choriocarcinoma (a fast-growing type of cancer that occurs in a woman’s uterus (womb) and Hodgkin’s disease (painless enlargement of the lymph nodes, liver, and spleen).
Vinblastine is mostly sold as Velban. Vincristine is another type of alkaloids found in rosy periwinkle that is used for treating leukemia especially in children. Vincristine is mostly sold as oncovin.
Wound Healing Properties
Nayak et al., (2007) carried out an experiment where rats were treated with 100 mg /kg/day of the Catharanthus roseus ethanol extract. These treated rats recorded high rate of wound contraction that significantly reduced the epithelization (process of covering a denuded surface with epithelium) period. They also showed a significant increase in hydroxyproline content of the granulation tissue and increase in dry weight when compared with the controls. The study supports the efficacy of C. roseus for treating and healing wounds.
Prajakta et al., (2010) investigated some of the antimicrobial properties of the rosy periwinkle plant. The antimicrobial activity was also checked against microorganisms such as Salmonella typhimurium NCIM 2501, Pseudomonas aeruginosa NCIM 2036 and Staphylococcus aureus NCIM 5021. The results show that the leaves extracts can be used as a prophylactic (preventive) agent against several diseases.
Agarwal et al., (2011) evaluated the anthelmintic properties of Catharanthus roseus using Pherithema posthuma (earthworm) as an experimental model. Piperazine citrate was used as the standard reference. Among all the concentrations tested, the ethanol extract at 200 mg/ml exhibited efficient paralysis effect (6.67 min) unlike the other treated groups, however, the ethanol extract 250 mg/ml showed significant anthelmintic activity with death time of 46.33 mins.
The standard drug at a 50 mg/ml showed paralysis at 31.33 min and death time was 40.67 mins. Therefore the results show that the ethanol extract of Catharanthus roseus has significant anthelmintic properties against Pheretima posthuma. The ethanol extract of this plant also demonstrated to be more effective than the standard drug.
Ethalsha and Retna (2014) examined the antibacterial properties of the crude extracts obtained from the roots of Catharanthus roseus against several bacterial species of clinical significance. The root part of this plant was extracted in an appropriate solvent followed by the evaluation of the antibacterial effects using agar well diffusion assay against a total of eight bacterial strains.
Furthermore, the minimum inhibitory concentrations were evaluated for the crude extracts. Among all the extracts, only the chloroform extract showed to be the most active against almost all the bacterial species tested. The Gram-positive bacteria were found more sensitive than the Gram-negative bacteria. The study supports the antibacterial efficacy of the Catharanthus roseus.
Patharajan and Abirami (2014) assessed the antioxidant effectiveness of Catharanthus roseus leaves extracts and the fractions with solvents of various polarity (water, ethanol, methanol, butanol, acetone and hexane). These were assessed for DPPH (diphenylpicrylhydrazyl) radical scavenging activity. The rosy periwinkle extracts and the fractions contained significant levels of antioxidants at various concentrations.
The leaves demonstrated good antioxidant effects of 81.70%. The phytochemical analysis of the C. roseus shows that the plant is an excellent source of flavonoids, alkaloids, terpenoids, steroids and other plant secondary metabolites. The results show that C. roseus extracts and fractions are an excellent source of natural antioxidants and could be utilised as a functional food or used for nutraceutical purposes.
Kumari and Gupta (2013) examined the antifungal properties of Catharanthus roseus against several clinically significant fungal strains namely; Fusarium moniliforme, Candida albicans, Aspergillus niger and Aspergillus fumigatus. The examination was carried out using paper disc diffusion method whereby 3 extraction media (acetone, aqueous and ethanol) were used.
The data showed that the pattern of inhibition is highly dependent on the extraction solvent. The organic extracts demonstrated more significant antifungal activity, unlike the aqueous extracts. The leaves also showed significant inhibition against Fusarium moniliforme in the ethanolic extracts. The study supports that the rosy periwinkle plant contains antifungal properties.
Supports the Brain
Researchers reveal that the daily supplements produced with the active ingredients present in this plant help to facilitate blood supply to the brain. It also increases the level of oxygen and glucose level required for the healthy functioning of the brain. These daily supplements have also been deemed effective for preventing and inhibiting the abnormal coagulation of blood in the brain. They also help to increase the levels of serotonin (a compound found in serum and blood platelets that contracts the blood vessels and acts as a neurotransmitter) in the brain.
Biofungicides are preparations of living organisms that are used for controlling and destroying the activity of plant pathogenic fungi and bacteria. Zaini and Halimoon (2013) reported that the white root disease caused by the Rigidoporus Microporus fungus are the most destructive disease found in a rubber plantation. Biological control using stems extract of Catharanthus roseus can be used as a healing agent of infected rubber trees.
These researchers carried out a study in other to ascertain if the stems extract from kemunting cina can control white root disease of rubber trees as well as to observe the plants performance towards the fungus. The plant stems were soaked in dichloromethane (DCM) solution while three batches of rubber trees that consist of five trees were prepared. In the experiment, group A was the control group, Group B consists of trees that were planted with fungus while Group C consists of trees that were applied with the stems extract together with the fungus. 500 ml of the extracts were used as biofungicides against white root disease.
Both the chlorophyll, height, number of leaves and the diameter were recorded. Among these 3 groups of rubber trees, only Group C demonstrated the ability of the extract to inhibit the growth of Rigidoporus Microporus. The stem extracts of kemunting cina were antagonistic and inhibited the Rigidoporus microporus fungus. In the study, the stems extracts of Catharanthus roseus were able to reduce the effects of white root diseases.
Rose periwinkle is very colourful and attractive thus it is an ornamental plant grown for adding beauty to the environment.
Side Effects of Catharanthus roseus
According to Zaini and Halimoon (2013), Catharanthus roseus is regarded as a poisonous plant because of the presence of danvinrosidin, catharanthine, vindolinine, leurosine, akuammine, norharman, lochnerine, vinleurosin, tetrahydroalstonine, vindoline and vincamine in it. Furthermore, this plant can be quite toxic if excessively consumed orally thus only the recommended dosages should be consumed.
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DISCLAIMER This post is for enlightenment purposes only and should not be used as a replacement for professional diagnosis and treatments. Remember to always consult your healthcare provider before making any health-related decisions or for counselling, guidance and treatment about a specific medical condition.
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