The bright eyes or Madagascar periwinkle (Catharanthus roseus (L.) G. Don) is a semi-shrubby plant belonging to the Apocynaceae family.
From a systematic point of view it belongs to:
C. roseus species.
The term is basionym:
– Vinca rosea L..
The terms are synonyms:
– Ammocallis rosea (L.) Small;
– Catharanthus roseus var. albus G.Don;
– Lachnea rosea (L.) Rchb.;
– Lochnera rosea (L.) Rchb.;
– Lochnera rosea (L.) Rchb. ex Endl.;
– Lochnera rosea (L.) Rchb. ex K.Schum.;
– Lochnera rosea (L.) Rchb. ex Spach;
– Lochnera rosea f. alba (Sweet) Woodson, 1938;
– Lochnera rosea var. alba (G.Don) Hubbard;
– Lochnera rosea var. flava Tsiang;
– Pervinca rosea (L.) Gaterau;
– Pervinca rosea (L.) Moench;
– Vinca gulielmi-waldemarii Klotzsch;
– Vinca rosea var. alba (G.Don) Sweet;
– Vinca rosea var. albiflora Bertol.;
– Vinca speciosa Salisb..
The following varieties are recognized within this species:
– Catharanthus roseus var. angustus (Steenis) Bakh.;
– Catharanthus roseus var. roseus;
– Lochnera rosea var. ocellata (Sweet) Woodson, 1938;
– Lochnera rosea var. rosea.
The term Catharanthus comes from the Greek καθαρός pure katharós and ἄνϑοϛ ánthos fiore: from the pure, perfect flower.
The specific epithet roseus refers to the pink color, from pink, pink, in reference to the color of the flowers.
Geographic Distribution and Habitat –
Catharanthus roseus is a plant native to eastern and southern Madagascar and the tropical belt but cultivated elsewhere as an ornamental and medicinal plant.
Its habitat is frequently sandy places along the coast, but also inland on river banks, in savannah vegetation and in dry places and roadsides, sometimes in open forest or scrub, usually near the sea level but occasionally up to 1,500 metres[299
In nature it is a threatened plant; the main cause is the loss of its habitat through deforestation and forest fire to dedicate it to agriculture and breeding. However, this species is widely cultivated and has become naturalized in large subtropical and tropical areas of the world. It is widely cultivated and is naturalized in subtropical and tropical areas of the world such as Australia, Bangladesh, India, Malaysia, Pakistan and the United States. It has also become so well adapted in Australia that it is listed as a noxious weed in Western Australia and the Australian Capital Territory and also in parts of eastern Queensland.
Catharanthus roseus is a shrub or an abundantly branched herbaceous perennial plant, erect or decumbent with stems that can become more or less woody and which grows between 30 and 100 cm in height.
The leaves are ovate to oblong in shape, 2.5–9 cm long and 1–3.5 cm broad; they are glossy green, glabrous, with a pale midrib and a short petiole 1–1.8 cm long; they are arranged in opposite pairs.
The flowers are white with a yellow or red center to dark pink with a darker red center, with a basal tube 2.5–3 cm long and a corolla 2–5 cm in diameter with five petal-like lobes.
The flowering period is between May and September
The fruit consists of 2 cylindrical, thin follicles 15-40 mm long and 3 mm wide.
Catharanthus roseus is a plant that grows both in the wild and cultivated for various purposes including ornamental ones.
It is a plant of tropical and subtropical environments but which can also be cultivated as an annual crop in warm temperate zones.
It grows best in areas where annual daytime temperatures are between 20-30°C, but can tolerate 10-34°C.
At temperatures below 5 °C, some branches or even the whole plant can dry out.
When temperatures rise, the plant usually regrows from the basal axillary buds, especially after hard pruning of the shoots and roots. Without pruning, the plant regrows mostly from the tops.
It prefers an average annual rainfall between 1,000 and 1,200 mm, but tolerates 800 – 1,400 mm, however the plants that have already taken root tolerate drought.
It is an easy to grow plant, it prefers a fertile, moist but well drained soil in a sunny or partially shaded position.
From a pedological point of view, in nature it is usually found on sandy soils, but sometimes also on rocky soils. It is very tolerant of saline soils and prefers a pH in the range of 6 – 7, tolerating 5.5 – 7.5.
The plant can flower all year round and can become a naturalized weed, especially when growing in arid habitats.
Under irrigation conditions, 1.5 ton/Ha of roots, 1.5 ton/Ha of stems and 3 ton/Ha of leaves can be obtained.
The plant is usually self-fertile, but self-incompatible strains exist and may be locally common in the wild.
The propagation takes place by seed which must be sown in a tray or in a seedbed.
Germination takes 15 – 21 days at 21°C, with over 95% of the seed germinating.
The seedlings are ready for repotting after 3 weeks and the seed can remain viable for 3 – 5 years.
It can also be propagated via semi-mature cuttings. When using rooting hormone, the cuttings will begin to root after 4 – 5 weeks.
Placing the cuttings in water will also induce rooting, but it will take longer than in soil.
Customs and Traditions –
Catharanthus roseus is known by many vernacular names including arivotaombelona or rivotambelona, tonga, tongatse or trongatse, tsimatiririnina and vonenina.
In Anglo-Saxon countries it takes various names: bright eyes, Cape periwinkle, graveyard plant, Madagascar periwinkle, old maid, pink periwinkle, rose periwinkle.
In Ecuador it is known as: chavelita or chabelita.
In Colombia as: cortejo or chocolata;
In Cuba as: vicar;
In Panama as: chavelita, chabelita or vinca;
In Mexico as: nymph, teresita, maravilla, hierba doncella, margarita or chula.
In Nicaragua as: primorosa;
In the Dominican Republic as: Catalan;
In El Salvador as: chula;
In Spain as: alegría de la casa, chavelita, dominica, pervinca de Madagascar, vinca de Madagascar, vicaria, vicaria blanca, violeta blanca;
In Venezuela as: chipe, primorosa or buenas tardes;
In Peru as: chabelita;
In Honduras as: guajaca;
In Costa Rica as: maravilla;
In Guatemala as: chatita or chula.
Catharanthus roseus is a source of some alkaloids including vincristine and vinblastine, used to treat cancer. It was formerly included in the genus Vinca as Vinca rosea.
The species has long been cultivated for herbal medicine, as it can be traced back to 2600 BC. C. in Mesopotamia. In Ayurveda (traditional Indian medicine) the extracts of its roots and shoots, although poisonous, are used against various diseases. In traditional Chinese medicine, its extracts have been used against numerous diseases, including diabetes, malaria and Hodgkin’s lymphoma. In the 1950s, alkaloids including vinblastine and vincristine, were isolated from Catharanthus roseus during screening for antidiabetic drugs. This chance discovery led to increased research into the chemotherapy effects of vinblastine and vincristine. The conflict between historic indigenous use and the 2001 patenting of C. roseus-derived drugs by Western pharmaceutical companies, without compensation, has led to allegations of biopiracy.
The plant is widely used in traditional medicine in Africa and Asia. Often harvested from the wild, it is also widely cultivated. The recent discovery of the vincristine compound in the plant has led to its commercial cultivation, especially in Spain, China and the United States, as the compound has been shown to be useful in the treatment of leukemia.
Vinblastine and vincristine are used as chemotherapy drugs used to treat different types of cancer; these can be extracted from the plant or are biosynthesized by the coupling of the alkaloids catharanthine and vindoline.
The new semi-synthetic chemotherapeutic agent vinorelbine, used in the treatment of non-small cell lung cancer, can be prepared either from vindoline and catharanthine or from the vinca alkaloid leurosine, in both cases via anhydrovinblastine. The insulin-stimulating binding agent has been isolated from the plant.
Despite their medical importance and wide use, the desired alkaloids (vinblastine and vincristine) are produced naturally in very low yields. Furthermore, it is complex and expensive to synthesize the desired products in a laboratory, leading to difficulties in meeting demand and the need for overproduction.
Treatment of the plant with phytohormones, such as salicylic acid and methyl jasmonate, has been shown to trigger defense mechanisms and produce excessive amounts of alkaloids. Studies using this technique vary in growth conditions, choice of phytohormone, and treatment location. At the same time, there are various efforts to map the biosynthetic pathway that produces the alkaloids to find a direct path to overproduction through genetic engineering.
C. roseus is used in plant pathology as an experimental host for phytoplasmas. This is because it is easy to become infected with a large majority of phytoplasmas and also often has very distinctive symptoms such as phyllody and significantly reduced leaf size.
Additionally, rosinidin is the pink anthocyanidin pigment found in the flowers of C. roseus. Lochnericin is an important alkaloid found in the roots.
However, it should be remembered that this plant can be extremely toxic if consumed orally by humans.
All parts of the plant are poisonous. Upon consumption, the symptoms consist of mild stomach cramps, cardiac complications, hypotension, systematic paralysis which can ultimately lead to death.
According to the French botanist Pierre Boiteau, its poisonous properties have been made known by generations of Malagasy as a poison consumed in ordeal trials, even before the tangena fruit was used. This gave the flower one of its names vonenina, from the Malagasy: vony enina which means “flower of remorse”.
It is also poisonous to animals.
A white latex flows from all parts of the plant.
The plant’s alkaloids, used individually, have a number of side effects, including alopecia, nausea, and bone marrow depression.
The dried root is an industrial source of ajmalicin, which increases blood flow to the brain and peripheral parts of the body. Ajmalicin preparations are used to treat psychological and behavioral problems of senility, sensory problems (vertigo, tinnitus), head trauma and their neurological complications.
Ajmalicin is another alkaloid which is prescribed in the treatment of hypertension.
The leaves and aerial parts of the plant have a wide range of traditional uses. Well known as an oral hypoglycemic agent, the plant is also considered purifying, diaphoretic, diuretic, emetic, purgative and vermifuge. A decoction is used to treat hypertension, asthma, menstrual irregularities, chronic constipation, diarrhea, indigestion, dyspepsis, malaria, dengue fever, dia betes, cancer, and skin diseases.
The extracts prepared from the leaves have been applied externally as antiseptic agents for wound healing; to relieve the effects of wasp stings; against bleeding, rashes and as a mouthwash to treat toothache.
Among other uses, an ethanol extraction of the leaves is reported to be an effective fungicide in the treatment of pathogenic fungi on the cultivated plant Jatropha curcas.
Method of Preparation –
Catharanthus roseus is a plant used since ancient times especially in some traditional medicines.
The leaves are harvested when the plant is in flower and can be dried for later use.
The leaves and aerial parts of the plant have a wide range of traditional uses.
As mentioned, a decoction is used to treat various pathologies.
The extracts prepared from the leaves have been applied externally as antiseptic agents for wound healing and other remedies.
An infusion of the flowers is used to treat mild diabetes.
A decoction of the roots is taken to treat dysmenorrhea.
An ethanol extraction of the leaves yields an effective fungicide for some pathogenic fungi.
– Acta Plantarum – Flora of the Italian Regions.
– Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
– GBIF, the Global Biodiversity Information Facility.
– Useful Tropical Plants Database.
– Conti F., Abbate G., Alessandrini A., Blasi C. (ed.), 2005. An annotated checklist of the Italian vascular flora, Palombi Editore.
– Pignatti S., 1982. Flora of Italy, Edagricole, Bologna.
– Treben M., 2000. Health from the Lord’s Pharmacy, Advice and experiences with medicinal herbs, Ennsthaler Editore.
Attention: The pharmaceutical applications and alimurgical uses are indicated for informational purposes only, they do not in any way represent a medical prescription; we therefore decline all responsibility for their use for curative, aesthetic or food purposes.