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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,
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*).
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.
Wilms, K. 1972. Chemie und Wirkungsmechanismusvon Vinca-Alkaloiden. Planta Medica 22:324-33.