Synonyms

Ammocallis rosea Small, Lochnera rosea (1.)

Reichb., Vinca rosea 1.

The Madagascar periwinkle is apparently from the

West Indies (Caribbean) but was first described

for Madagascar (Morton 1977, 237*). It has pink

flowers but also occurs in a pure white form

(Catharanthus roseus f. albus [Sweet] Woodson).

This evergreen is one of the truly well-investigated

medicinal plants and is the subject of a rich

monographic literature. In Caribbean folk medicine,

periwinkle tea is used to treat diabetes. In Florida, the leaves are dried and smoked as a marijuana

substitute (see Cannabis indica) (Morton

1977,241*). It has often been claimed that the

dried leaves are also smoked in Europe and are

able to produce "euphoria and hallucinations"

(Schuldes 1995,30*). On the islands of Guadeloupe,

the plant is known as herba aux sorciers ("plant of

the sorcerers"); it may possibly be used in magical

voodoo rites (see zombie poison).

The plant contains more than seventy alka10ids'

most of them indole alkaloids, some of

which are of the ibogaine type (e.g., catharanthine;

Scott et al. 1980). The root cortex contains the

sedative and antihypertensive alstonine (cf.

Alstonia scholaris) (Morton 1977, 238*). Recent

investigations have shown that different

laboratory methods can influence the biosynthesis

of indole alkaloids and may even be able to control

it to produce a desired outcome (Schrisema and

Verpoorte 1992). In the future, this may make it

possible to breed strains that will in fact produce

psychoactive indoles of the ibogaine or voacangine

types (cf. Tabernanthe iboga, Voacanga spp.).

The use of Catharanthus is not without risk.

Chronic use has been observed to result in severe

damage to the central and peripheral nervous

systems (Morton 1977, 241 *; Roth et al. 1994,

204*).

The dwarf periwinkle (Vinca minor 1.), also

known as the sorcerer's violet (Emboden 1974,

66*), is occasionally characterized as having

psychoactive properties (Schultes and Hofmann

1980, 366*). It contains a number of indole

alkaloids (including vincamine) with antihypertensive

effects (Roth et al. 1994, 730*; Wilms

1972). "It was believed to offer protection against

witches and storms and was also used at seances.

Periwinkle was a component of many love drinks"

(Weustenfeld 1995,45*).
Literature (selection)

Schrisema, J., and R. Verpoorte. 1992. Regulation of

indole alkaloid biosynthesis in Catharanthus

roseus cell suspension cultures, investigated with

IH-NMR. Planta Medica 58 suppl. (1): A608.

Scott, A. Ian, Hajime Mizukami, Toshifumi Hirata,

and Siu-Leung Lee. 1980. Formation of

catharanthine, akuammicine and vindoline in

Catharanthus roseus suspension cells.

Phytochemistry 19:488-89.

Wilms, K. 1972. Chemie und Wirkungsmechanismus

von Vinca-Alkaloiden. Planta Medica 22:324-33.

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