Catharanthus roseus (L.) G.Don

Last updated: 22 Feb 2017

Scientific Name

Catharanthus roseus (L.) G.Don


Ammocallis rosea (L.) Small, Catharanthus roseus var. albus G. Don, Catharanthus roseus var. roseus, Hottonia littoralis Lour., Lachnea rosea (L.) Rchb., Lochnera rosea (L.) Rchb. ex Endl., 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 L., Vinca rosea var. alba (G. Don) Sweet, Vinca rosea var. albiflora Bertol., Vinca speciosa Salisb. [Illegitimate]. [1]

Vernacular Name

Malaysia Rumput jalang, tahi anjing, tahi ayam [2]
English All day flower, Cape periwinkle, Cayenne jasmine, Madagascan periwinkle, Madagascar periwinkle, never done, old maid, periwinkle, pink periwinkle, ram goat, red periwinkle, rose periwinkle, rosy-flowered Indian periwinkle, vinca [2]
China Chang chun hua [2]
India Banappuvu, barmasi, baro-masiya, batla hoo, bili kaasi kanigalu, billa ganneru, boa, ganeshana hoo, kempu kaasi kanigalu, nayantora, nityakalyani, pimancho, sadaa mallige, sadaphuli, savanari, sudukattu mallikai, usamalari [2]
Indonesia Bunga sedodu, bunga tembaga, kembang bogor, kembang suri cina, kembang tembaga, tapok doro [2]
Nepal Sadabahar [2]
Philippines Amnias, atai-bia, atay-bia, chichirica, chichirica, kumintang, laurel, rosas-sa-baibai, San Pedro, San Vicente,sanda, sirsirika, tsitsirika [2]
Vietnam Bong dua, hoa hai dang, phac pot dong [2]
Japan Niche-nichi-sô [2]
Papua New Guinea Falava, falawa, palwa theresia, pua na purpur [2]
Hawaii Kihapai [2]
Madagascar Arivotambelona, befala, felabaratra, felatananamba, heladolo, rivotambelona, salotra, tonga, tongatse, tsimatirinina, tsingevika, vonenina [2].

Geographical Distributions

Catharanthus roseus belongs to a small genus of 8 species, all originating from Madagascar except for Catharanthus pusillus (Murr.) G. Don, which is restricted to India and Sri Lanka. For centuries, Madagascar periwinkle has been cultivated as an ornament throughout the tropics and occasionally in the subtropics; it has become naturalised in many regions. It was brought into cultivation in the first half of the 18th Century in Paris, from seeds collected in Madagascar, and was later distributed from European botanical gardens to the tropics as an ornament. [3]

Botanical Description

C. roseus is a member of the family Apocynaceae. It is an erect or decumbent, deciduous undershrub up to 100(-200) cm tall and usually with white latex. The roots are up to 70 cm long while the stems are often woody at base. [3]

The leaves are decussate, simple, elliptical to obovate or narrowly obovate, measuring (3-)4-9 cm x (1-)1.5-3.5 cm, herbaceous to thinly leathery, wedge-shaped and sometimes oblique at base, apex is obtuse or acute with a mucronate tip, entire, glossy green above and pale green below, hairy to hairless on both sides, with 7-11 secondary veins on both sides of midrib and more or less conspicuous while the tertiary venation is inconspicuous. The petiole is (0.1-) 0.3-1 cm long and with a fringe of colleters in the axil. True stipules are absent. [3]

The 1-2-flowered inflorescence is terminal but apparently lateral because of alternating development of one of the axillary buds of the apical leaf pair. [3]

The flowers are actinomorphic, bisexual, 5-merous and subsessile. The sepals are slightly connate at base, measuring (2- ) 3-5 mm x 1-1.5 mm and green. The petal is salver-shaped, pink, rose-purple or white with a purple, red, pink, pale yellow or white centre with tube 2-3 cm long and widening near the top, laxly hairy to becoming hairless outside, with a dense ring of hairs in the throat and with a silky ring of hairs lower down the tube, with broadly obovate lobes, measuring 1-2(-3) cm long, mucronate at apex, smooth, spreading and bud overlapping to the left. The stamens are included in the petal tube, which are inserted just below the petal throat, with very short filaments, free anthers and introrse. The ovary is superior, consisting of 2 very narrowly oblong carpels at base, with filiform style, a cylindrical pistil head at the base with a reflexed hyaline frill ('petticoat') and with rings of woolly hairs at the base and apex. The stigma is hairless while the disk is composed of 2 glands and often longer than the ovary. [3]

The fruit is composed of 2 cylindrical and acute follicles which are 1-4 cm long, striate, laxly hairy to hairless, green, dehiscent at adaxial side and many-seeded. [3]

The seeds are oblong, measure 1-2 mm long, with rugose testa and lateral hilum and black. Cotyledons are flat and slightly shorter than the radicle while the endosperm is scanty. [3]


C. roseus often occurs in sandy locations along the coast, but also inland on river banks, in savannas vegetation and in dry waste places and roadsides, sometimes in open forests or scrubs, usually on sandy soils, but sometimes also on rocky soils. It is highly salt-tolerant, and is mostly found near sea level, but occasionally up to 1500 m altitude. It can withstand drought well but not severe heat. Under severe water stress, the alkaloid content of mature leaves was found to double, but it did not change in stems and immature leaves and it decreased in roots. [3]

Chemical Constituent

The leaf oil of C. roseus has been reported to contain linolenic acid ethyl ester, stearic acid, stearic acid, phytol, hexadecanoic acid, and limonene. [4]

Plant Part Used

Leaves. [3]

Traditional Use

In traditional medicine, a decoction of all parts of the plant is used to treat malaria, diabetes, cancer and skin diseases. Madagascar periwinkle is well known as an oral hypoglycaemic agent. Extracts prepared from the leaves have been used as an antiseptic agent for the healing of wounds, against haemorrhage and as a mouthwash to treat toothache. Madagascar periwinkle is also considered to be a diaphoretic and diuretic and is used to relieve indigestion, dyspepsia, dysentery, toothache and wasp stings, and as a vomitive, purgative, vermifuge, depurative and haemostatic. [3]

Preclinical Data


Wound healing activity

Wound healing activity was determined in Sprague Dawley rats, after administration (100 mgmg/kg/day) of the ethanol extract of C. roseus flower, using excision, incision and dead space wounds models. The rats were divided into two groups of 6 each in the entire model. In the excision mode, group 1 animals were topically treated with carboxylmethyl cellulose as placebo control and group 2 received topical application of the ethanol extract of C. roseus at a dose of 100 mg/kg body weight/day. In an incision and dead space model group 1 animals were given normal saline and group 2 received the extract orally at a dose of 100 mg/kg/day. The extract of C. roseus significantly increased the wound breaking strength in the incision wound model compared with controls. The extract-treated wounds were found to epithelialize faster, and the rate of wound contraction was significantly increased in comparison to control wounds. [5]


No documentation

Clinical Data

No documentation


No documentation

Poisonous Management

Toxic parts

Whole plant. [6]


C. roseus contains more than 70 indole alkaloids known as vinca alkaloids (e.g. vincristine) together with several glycosides. The vinca alkaloids are clinically similar to colchicine, a cytotoxic alkaloid capable of inhibiting microtubule formation. Most of them are pharmacologically active, with varying degree of toxicity. Amongst the alkaloids present included are alstonine, reserpine, vinblastine, vincristine, yohimbine and others of yohimbinoid and stychnoid bases. [6][7][8]

Some of these alkaloids especially alstonins and reserpine predominantly cause hypotension, bradycardia and sedation. Others are potent antineoplastic, hypoglycaemic, neurotoxic and teratogenic agents. [8]

Risk management

C. roseus grown in houses should be kept away from children especially the curious toddlers and domestic animals. [7][8]

Poisonous clinical findings

Upon ingestion of C. roseus, oropharyngeal pain would be experienced. This is followed by intense gastrointestinal symptoms including vomiting, abdominal pain and severe profuse and persistent diarrhoea resulting in subsequent dehydration and electrolyte imbalance occurring after several hours. Other toxic consequences include peripheral neuropathy, bone marrow suppression and cardiovascular collapse. [6][7][8]

Animals ingesting the plant would suffer loss of appetite with subsequent development of ataxia, lateral flexure of the neck, tremors, and seizures, followed by coma and death in 1-2 days. [6][7][8]


In cases of poisonous, immediate gastric lavage should be performed to prevent additional absorption of alkaloids followed by fluid and electrolyte replacement therapy. Furthermore, aggressive symptomatic and supportive care should be given more attention with prolonged observation of symptomatic patients. [6][7]

Line drawing



Figure 1: The line drawing of C. roseus [3].


  1. The Plant List. Ver1.1. Catharanthus roseus (L.) G. Don. [homepage on the Internet]. c2013 [updated 2012 Mar 23; cited 2017 Feb 22]. Available from:
  2. Quattrocchi U. CRC world dictionary of medicinal and poisonous plants: Common names, scientific names, eponyms, synonyms, and etymology. Volume II C-D. Boca Raton, Florida: CRC Press, 2012; p. 153-154.
  3. Sutarno H, Rudjiman SU. Catharanthus roseus (L.) G. Don. In: de Padua LS, Bunyapraphatsara N, Lemmens RHMJ, editors. Plant resources of South-East Asia No. 12(1): Medicinal and Poisonous Plants 1. Leiden, Netherlands: Backhuys Publisher, 1999; p.185-190.
  4. Lawal OA, Ogunwande IA, Ibirogba AE, Opoku AR. Chemical constituents of essential oils from Catharanthus roseus (L.) G. Don grown in Nigeria. JEOP. 2015;18(1):57-63.
  5. Nayak BS, Pinto Pereira LM. Catharanthus roseus flower extact has wound-healing activity in Sprague Dawley rats. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2006;6:41.
  6. Nelson LS, Shih RD, Balick MJ. Handbook of poisonous and injurious plants. Berlin: Springer-Verlag. 2007; p. 113-114.
  7. Nellis DW. Poisonous plants and animals of Florida and the Caribbean. Sarasota: Pineapple Press Inc, 1997; p. 139.
  8. Burrows GE, Tyrl RJ. Toxic plants of North America. 2nd ed. Ames, Iowa: John Wiley & Sons, 2013; p. 96-97.