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Periwinkle To Treat Leukemia Naturally

The Periwinkle (Catharanthus roseus) is frequently grown in gardens or in pots to bring color to the surroundings. It is generally pink or white in color. The leaves of this plant are used to produce the alkaloids vinblastine and vincristine, which are used to treat leukemia.


Rosy Periwinkle Catharanthus Roseus Medicinal Properties

The story of the discovery of this medicinal property of the Periwinkle is quite interesting. Professor Noble and Dr Beer of the University Of Western Ontario, Canada, had heard about the usage of this plant to treat diabetes in Jamaica.

They administered an extract of this plant to rabbits to verify its efficacy. However, they found no change in the blood sugar levels of the test rabbits but noticed a decrease in their white blood cell count instead.

This piqued their interest and they carried out further tests on the leaves of the plant and eventually identified and isolated the alkaloids vinblastine and vincristine as the cause of the decrease in the white blood cell count. These alkaloids were then successfully tested on animals and eventually on humans. He scientists then worked in tandem with the Eli Lilly laboratories of Indianapolis, USA, to synthesize a drug based on these alkaloids.

Cultivation of the periwinkle is carried out on a large scale in South India, where it is known locally as the vinca or sada bahar. The plant is then exported to the Eli Lilly laboratories where it is synthesized into the drug. In order to further research and develop herbal based medications, Eli Lilly has now decided to set up operations in India in collaboration with an Indian pharmaceutical company. Ongoing research work is also being carried out to develop newer strains of the Periwinkle that are more resistant to diseases. One such strain which has been developed is called the W.H. 40.

Periwinkle is one of the most common plants known for its medicinal purposes. It is found in abundance in India, China, Europe and North America. Initially, periwinkle flowers were only white in color. However, due to the development in breeding techniques, pink, red and purple periwinkle flowers are also seen now.  


Periwinkle uses are many. Periwinkle has been known for its medical properties and its ability to cure a number of illnesses. The leaves of the periwinkle are known for their ability to heal wounds and wasp stings. Crushing the leaves and applying the paste to the affected area acts as a relieving ointment. 


It is also known for its ability to stop bleeding, thereby quickening the healing process. Application of this paste can also help in relieving the symptoms of skin conditions like acne, eczema and dermatitis. In addition, the oil from the leaves of the periwinkle is known to be beneficial in the treatment of nose bleeds, bleeding gums as well as bleeding hemorrhoids. A solution made with the extract from the periwinkle flowers is said to be useful in the treatment of eye infections and irritation of the eyes. 


Periwinkle concoctions can be used internally as well in the treatment of a number of ailments. Periwinkle benefits include the treatment of mouth ulcers. Since periwinkle helps in controlling bleeding, it is also useful in regulating menstrual periods in those who suffer from excessive or irregular bleeding. 


Some also believe that a herbal concoction made with periwinkle leaves is effective in the treatment of lung congestion as well as sore throats. A concoction made with periwinkle leaves is believed to enhance the flow and circulation of oxygen and blood in the body. Many also say that periwinkle is useful in bringing relief from depression, headaches and fatigue. However, before making use of this herb, especially when considering the use of a homemade concoction for internal use, it is better to consult a doctor as an overdose could prove to be poisonous and in turn, fatal. It is also advisable to avoid an internal intake of this herb during pregnancy. People suffering from lung, kidney or liver complications are advised not to try this herb without consulting a doctor as its use may prove to be more dangerous than useful.  


The use of periwinkle for cancer treatment is gaining popularity. Studies revealed the existence of two alkaloids in the Madagascar periwinkle leaves called vinblastine and vincristine. These alkaloids are believed to be agents capable of fighting cancerous tumors. Vinblastine is beneficial in the treatment of cancer of the testicles as well as cancer that affects the lymphatic system, known as Hodgkin’s disease. The use of periwinkle for leukemia is mainly due to the presence of vincristine which boosted the survival rate for children with this disease from a mere 20 percent to a whooping 80 percent. The main side effects of periwinkle include nausea and hair loss which are commonly symptoms of chemotherapy. Other alkaloids found in periwinkle are known to reduce elevated blood sugar levels as well as lower raised blood pressure.    


Submitted on January 16, 2014