Healing Miracles of the Rosy Periwinkle Flower

The Medicinal Uses of the Rosy Periwinkle Rainforest Plant

miracle plant
The Rosy Periwinkle is beautiful on the outside, but inside it offers even more value. Photo © Ulhaspa

The rosy periwinkle plant (Catharanthus rosens) from the tropical rainforests in Madagascar produces pretty pink flowers. But there’s much more to rosy periwinkle than meets the eye. Deep within this beautiful plant are chemical compounds that can heal people. The rosy periwinkle flower contains so many powerful healing elements and is so effective at fighting diseases like cancer and diabetes, that some people consider it a miracle plant.

Hidden Treasures Revealed

Scientists who were intrigued by the fact that traditional Madagascan healers used rosy periwinkle to help treat diabetes decided to research other potential medicinal uses for the plant. They discovered hidden treasures within rosy periwinkle, in the form of chemicals that they could use to create medicines for cancer patients.

Jane Goodall writes in her book Seeds of Hope: Wisdom and Wonder from the World of Plants: "In its native Madagascar, traditional healers always used it as a remedy for a number of diseases. And as it traveled farther and farther around the world, more and more people began talking about its healing properties. It became the miracle drug of folk medicine, prescribed by herablists in southern Africa, India, Australia, and the Philippines -- for constipation, toothache, malaria ... and diabetes."

Miraculous Results

The chemicals from rosy periwinkle that are used in medicines, which are called vinca alkaloids, have reduced children’s leukemia survival rates so dramatically that some people call rosy periwinkle a miracle plant.

Before vinca alkaloids were discovered, the average survival rate from children’s leukemia was just 10 percent. But now that doctors can treat children with drugs made from vinca alkaloids, the majority of all children with leukemia survive.

Now, the rosy periwinkle flower is "the main weapon against childhood leukemia," Goodall writes in Seeds of Hope.

"Many have recovered completely because of the medication derived from the little rosy periwinkle."

Medicines made from rosy periwinkle flowers have also been proven effective when used to treat other types of blood cancers, such as Hodgkin's disease. "Alkaloid extracts from the Madagascar [rosy] periwinkle have dramatically increased patients' chances of surviving Hodgkin's disease and pediatric leukemia," write Georges M. Halpern and Peter Weverka in The Healing Trail: Essential Oils of Madagascar. "Previous to the discovery of these extracts, a patient's chance of surviving Hodgkin's disease and pediatric leukemia was one in 10. Today, nine of 10 patients survive those diseases. The Madagascar [rosy] periwinkle came to the attention of researchers because traditional healers in Madagascar used it to treat high blood pressure, diabetes, asthma, and menstrual problems."

More Miracles Waiting to Happen

Tropical rainforests contain scores of other plants that may also provide miraculous medical treatments. Yet, despite the fact that existing medicines derived from rainforest plants already help treat hundreds of conditions from cancer to heart disease, scientists have tested only a miniscule amount of rainforest plants -- less than one percent!

-- to discover what lifesaving chemicals may be inside. Many more rainforest plants could have treasures just waiting for scientists to use to produce new medicines, that then could give many patients the miraculous healing they seek from a wide variety of afflictions.

"We simply do not know how many undiscovered plant species are being made extinct by fire, erosion, and other forms of environmental degradation. About 50 percent of pharmaceutical drugs are derived from plants," Halpern and Weverka write in The Healing Trail. "Who knows is another rosy periwinkle is waiting to be discovered in Madagascar?"