Catharanthus roseus – Cancer fighting

Catharanthus  roseus – Madagascar Periwinkle

The plant has been called a miracle in the prevention of childhood leukemia and cancer treatment.  To protect Madagascar periwinkle is to protect the future of your children in the opinion of many.  It has been suggested that, instead of using the site effects causing chemical drugs, people should use use Catharanthus roseus extraction.

The photo shows petals of Madagascar periwinkle, is taken by Salah

The photo shows petals of Madagascar periwinkle, is taken by Salah

Catharanthus roseus one of the most medicinally valuable plant species of Apocynaceae family, which is used in traditional herbal medicine in the world, and the chemical extraction has a role in cancer treatment. The plant also has along history of use  in Ayurvedic medicine, traditional Chinese medicine, western medical science began researching this plant during the 20th century.


Catharanthus roseus is a plant species which belongs to the family Apocynaceae (Dogbane family).

This family contains mostly herbs and small shrubs. This family has smooth  marginal leaves, flowers are found in leaf axils borne either singly or paired on very short stalks, and another distinguishable characteristic is potent milky sap. The classification tree for the plant is shown here:

Geographical distribution:

The plant is native to Madagascar, and is known as the Madagascar periwinkle. The plant is also naturalised throughout subtropical Asia, Africa and America and has been used for both ornamental and medicinal purposes.

Plant description  

The photo shows growing Catharanthus roseus in Reading university tropical glasshousess.

The photo shows growing Catharanthus roseus in Reading university tropical glasshouse.

fruit of periwinkle-2

The photo shows fruit of Catharanthus roseus. is taken by Salah.

Catharanthus roseus grows 20-60cm high and wide, the flowers are pink, white, or rosy-purple on a brittle stem.  The flowers have a basal tube of 2.5-3.0 cm long with a corolla of about 2.0-5.0 cm diameter with five petal-like lobed.  There are 5 sepals, 2-6mm long, narrow, usually with hairs (pubescent). Flowering is prolific throughout the warm months, although plants may establish poorly in very hot weather. The leaves are simple opposite arranged on the stem with leaf margin entire, ovary shape pinnate venation, Leaf blade length 2-4 inches and green with. The fruit pod like and found to be a pair of a follicle of nearly 2.0-4.5 cm long and 3 mm broad, also the fruit characteristic inconspicuous and not showy (BioNet, 2011).


Plants propagate either  by seed; seed germination takes one week at a temperature of 21-24C, in a dark place with no overwatering,  or the species can be propagated vegetatively; soft wood cuttings can be taken from the mother plant and planted separately in soil, usually the plant roots readily during Summer.

The flowers of Catharanthus roseus are pollinated by butterflies and moths, this species is self- compatible, though self-pollination under normal conditions is uncommon (BioNet, 2011).

Plant synonymy

Vinca rosea L.

 Lochnera rosea (L.) Rchb.ex Endl.

 Ammocallis rosea (L.) small

Common names

Vinca, Madagascar periwinkle, Periwinkle.

Pest and diseases

– The plant can be infected by Fusarium which leads plant to wilt then causes plant death .

– Canker and dieback cause the shoot tip to become dark brown and wilt. These diseases are mostly due to rainy weather or over watering.

– Several fungi cause leaf spots. However they are usually harmless (Edward, 2013)


In traditional medicine, the periwinkle has been used for relieving muscle pain, depression of the central nervous system, also used for applying to wasp stings and to heal wounds. Its application ranges widely from the prevention of diabetes to treatment of stomach ache (Gajalakshmi et al., 2013).

The plant is exploited and studied as a medicinal plant as it was found to produce more than 100 monoterpenoid indole alkaloids that contain the two major vital cytotoxic dimeric alkaloids that are used for cancer chemotherapy treatment, also many alkaloids have a medicinal role. The compounds include the anti cancer compounds: Vinblastine and Vincristine (Magnotta, 2006).  The alkaloid vincristine has a role for treating leukemia in children.

This plant also can be use as  ornamental plant in garden and homes across warmer places, or can be grow in glasshouse throughout cold season.

Useful links

Further information on the Madagascar Periwinkle in particular in terms of medicinal use:


BioNET- EAFRINET. (2011). Catharanthus roseus ( Madagascar periwinkle). Retrieved January 21, 2014, from

Edward F. Gilman, Howe, T. (2013). Catharanthus roseus Periwinkle, Madagascar periwinkle. Retrieved January 20, 2014, from

Gajalakshmi, S., Vijayalakshmi, S., & Rajeswari V. (2013). Pharmacological activities of catharanthus roseus: A perspective reviewIntjpharma Bio, 4(2).

Magnotta M, Murata J, Chen J, De Luca V. (2006) Identification of a low vindoline accumulating cultivar of Catharanthus roseus (L.)GDon. by alkaloid and enzymatic profiling.Phytochemistry,67(1758–1764).

Nammi, S., Boini, M. K., Lodagala, S. D., & Behara, R. B. S. (2003). The juice of fresh leaves of Catharanthus roseus Linn. reduces blood glucose in normal and alloxan diabetic rabbits. BMC complementary and Alternative Medicine, 3(1), 4.

Schneider,R. (2011). Catharanthus roseus, the Madagascar periwinkle. Retrieved January 15, 2014, from

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6 Responses to Catharanthus roseus – Cancer fighting

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