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Saturday, September 26, 2009

Traditional –ethnoherbological and medicinal properties of Madagascar periwinkle

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Vinca rosea- the Madagascar periwinkle
The Madagascar periwinkle has a long history of traditional- ethnoherbological and medicinal applications across the world. The folk-healers have been using this plant in many different ways for treating many types of diseases in many different cultures since long.

Following the modern researches that have proved the plant to contain many important active compounds useful in the treatment of many resistant and serious diseases, the plant is being extensively grown on large scales in many parts of the world. The increasing commercial value of the plant due to its medicinal applications has stimulated the horticulturists to carry on breeding experiments and develop different varieties.

Madagascar periwinkle was used in the charms and love potions in Europe during the medieval period in floral garlands so as to protect the bearer of the garland from the evil spirits. In Italy the rosy periwinkle is called as the flower of death and garlands made from the rosy periwinkle are placed on the grave stones of children. The cultural connotations of Vinca rosea kept on changing over time and during the enlightenment in Europe the French people started considering it an emblem of friendship.

Applications of extracts of Madagascar periwinkle in traditional healthcare systems
The extracts of different parts – roots, stems, leaves, flowers, and fruits of Madagascar periwinkle have been applied in traditional health care systems for the treatment of memory loss, intestinal inflammation, problems of circulatory system etc. However, the effectiveness of extracts of the plant in the treatment of all these health problems has not been confirmed by modern researches.

For centuries, the extract of Madagascar periwinkle has been used as folk remedy for diabetes in Europe. The extract of leaves of the plant was in traditional use to treat wasp stings in India for a long time. In Africa, leaves of the plant have traditionally been used for treating menorrhagia and rheumatism. In Bahamas the extract of the whole plant (roots, stems, leaves, flowers, and fruits) has been used for the treatment of asthma and flatulence. In Cuba – Puerto Rico, Jamaica and other islands the extract of flowers has been commonly used as eye wash. The people of Caribbean island prepare eye wash for the treatment of eye irritation from the flowers of the plant. In China, the extract of this plant is traditionally used as astringent, diuretic and cough remedy. In Vietnam, people have been using the extract of this plant for the treatment of diabetes and malaria.

In Central America, and parts of South America people use the extract of this plant to make a gargle to ease soar throat and for the treatment of chest ailment and laryngitis. In Curacao and Bermuda the plant extract is traditionally used for the control of high blood pressure. The extract obtained by boiling different parts of the plant up to a long time is given to a patient to arrest bleeding in the traditional health care in Hawali. In Mauritius, the infusion of leaves is given for the treatment of dyspepsia and indigestion. The people inhabiting the Philippine islands use the extract of Madagascar periwinkle as folk medicine for the treatment of diabetes. The people of Suriname boil ten leaves and ten flowers together and use the extract for the treatment of diabetes. The Indo-Chinese people use the extract of stalks and leaves for the treatment of dysmenorrhea.

Medicinal importance of Madagascar periwinkle:
Application of extract of Madagascar periwinkle in Modern Medical Healthcare systems

The traditional uses of Madagascar periwinkle for lowering the level of blood sugar attracted researchers in 1950s to conduct researches on the medicinal properties of the plant. During this period the scientific and medical communities were inspired by the folk uses of “Periwinkle- tea” as folk remedy for the treatment of diabetes in Jamaica. As a result, a number of Useful compounds in the plant extract came to be investigated by them. Present day researches have proved that the compounds extracted out of the plant are capable of treating juvenile leukemia, Hodgkin’s disease or the testicular cancer, and even other cancers .Chattopadhyay( 1999) and Chattopadhyay and Sarkar,(1992 )reported that the extract of Vinca rosea contains blood sugar lowering agent.

Vinca rosea has been reported to contain more than 70 alkaloids and tannins, the active compounds of the plant. Some of these alkaloids are used by the Pharmaceutical industry for the treatment of testicular cancer or the Hodgkin’s disease and the cancerous tumors, and the childhood leukemia.

The extract of the plant has been reported to improve blood supply to the brain if taken internally on routine basis. It helps in the prevention of abnormal coagulation of blood. It has also been reported to raise the level of serotonin, a neurotransmitter in the brain. Out of all the alkaloids contained by the plant, two alkaloids namely vinblastine and vincristine have been reported to be capable of binding proteins in microtubules of cells and helping in arresting cancer. The mitosis arresting effects of these two alkaloids on the malignant cells have been studied by Alberto M. Marmont and Eugeneo E. Damasio (1966). El- Sayed, Handy have jointly investigated that bisindole alkaloid extracted from C. roseus can be administered for the treatment of tumors.

Chattopadhyay RR (1999). “ A comparative evaluation of some blood sugar lowering agents of plant origin”. J Ethnopharmacol 67:362-72.
Chattopadhyay RR, Sarkar SK, Ganguli S et al.(1992) “Hypoglycemic and antihyperglycemic effect of leaves of Vinca rosea Linn.” Indian J. Physiol Pharmacol 35, 145-51.
Alberto M. Marmont and Eugenio E. Damasio (1966).”The effect of two alkaloids derived from Vinca rosea on the malignant cells of Hodgkin’s disease, Limphosarcoma and acute leukemia in vivo. Hematology center and II medical division, Ospedali Civili, Genova- Sampierdarena, Italy.

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