Friday, November 16, 2007

Health, Gardening: Periwinkle, a wonder plant

Most of you would have seen the flowers shown on the left. It is periwinkle (Catharanthus roseus/ Vinca rosea), which belongs to the myrtle family. In Hindi the plant is called sadabahar, meaning ‘always in bloom’. The periwinkle flowers come in different colors. The plants grow wild in tropical areas. Now they are cultivated commercially because of their medicinal properties.

Interestingly, during the Middle Ages periwinkle was an essential ingredient in many magic potions. It was believed to have the power to dispel evil spirits. Consequently, the periwinkle plant with purple flowers was called by Europeans ‘sorcerer’s violet!

The pharmaceutical industry started discovering the value of periwinkle for treating several ailments only from the 1950s though it had been used in folk medicine in several countries for centuries. The reported medicinal qualities of periwinkle run into a long list. Here are some of them:

chemotherapy treatments for leukemia and Hodgkin's disease, managing blood pressure, diabetes, wasp stings, excessive bleeding, depression of central nervous system, circulatory disorders, Alzheimer’s disease, cold, cough, lung congestion and inflammation and sore throat, eye irritation and infections, digestive problems, muscle pain, wasp stings, eczema, and as tranquilizer and astringent. A warning: do not try any self medication with periwinkle.

Periwinkle is a good, easy to manage garden plant as well. It can be germinated from seeds, or cuttings can be planted. Sunlight or partial shade is required for proper growth. From our experience at Olavipe, the best planting distance is about two feet. It is drought resistant. The plant can grow up to three feet in height. Proper mixing of different colors, or clusters of single color, can have a stunning effect. Here are some photos of periwinkle from Olavipe :

Photos by me. Click on them for enlarged view.


Also see:
Ixora coccinea (Rubiaceae) - flowers that gods and men love


ER Ramachandran said...

Thank you for a very useful article, Mr. Tharakan. One question.Though you have listed many medicinal properties and uses, why do you say not to use this without consulting doctors?Most doctors, invariably would ask their patients to avoid this and buy the pills they have prescribed!

Abraham Tharakan said...

Mr. Ramachandran, you have raised a very pertinent question. I should have dealt with the matter in the post itself.
There are two reasons for the warning. First of all, self-medication not always safe unless one has sufficient knowledge. Secondly, periwinkle has some toxic effects

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mindspace said...

my periwinkle plant has got white viral kind of disease on the back side of its leaves which i am able to wipe with my fingers but it comes back.. Pls let me know if you know of any home remedy for its cure.


Abraham Tharakan said...

Mindspace, a concoction of tobacco and soap might help. It is known as 'pukayila kashayam'. Search the Internet for more details including how to make it.

Preethi said...

How to make "Pukayila Kashayam" to distroy " Chithel" in kerala

Abraham Tharakan said...

Preethi, I don't have the recipe for 'pukayila kashayam' with me right now. But it is available on the Internet. Please search.
I am not sure whether this preparation is effective against 'chithal' (white ants). It is usually used against the mites that attack the leaves of plants.