Synonyms: Catharanthus, Periwinkle
Biological source: It consists of dried whole plant of Catharanthus roseus L or Vinca
Geographical source: It is indigenous to Madagascar and cultivated in South Africa,
India, USA, Europe and Australia.
Cultivation and Collection:
It grows well at an altitude upto 500 mt. This plant is found all over India but grown well
in tropical and subtropical areas (like southern and north eastern part) of India. It does not
require any particular type of soil. It grows well in light sandy soil which should be rich in
humus content. The 100 cm rainfall is most preferable for its cultivation. The fresh seeds are
used for its propagation. The seeds should be shown in nursery or direct sowing can also be
done. The seeds are mixed with sand (1:10) and sown in rows having 45 cm distance in
between two rows. The sowing should be in monsoon season. The plants are thinned out
upon sufficiently growth. In other case nursery sowing is more economical. They are sown in
nursery in February or March season and transplanted in open field after 2 months or when
they achieve 6-7 cm height. The plants are drought resistant and do not require much water
supply. The plants also not require any type of fertilizers. A mixture of nitrogen, phosphorus
and potassium gives better results. Farmyard manures are used and weeding is done time to
time periodically. The stems are cut after 1 year of growth. The leaves, stems and seeds are
separated and dried in air. The roots are collected by dugging out method followed by
ploughing. The roots are washed properly, shade dried and finally packed into bales. The
yield is about 1 to 5 ton per hectare (roots), 1 to 2 ton per hectare (stem) and 3 to 4 ton per
Colour : Green (Leaves), Pale grey (Roots),
Purple or pinkish white or caramine red (Flowers)
Odour : Characteristic
Taste : Bitter
Other features : The plant is an erect, pubescent herb having branched tap root.
Leaves : Simple, petiolate, ovate or oblong and glossy.
Flowers : Bracteate, pedicellate, complete and hermaphrodite.
Fruits : Follicles with many black seeds.
• About 150 alkaloids have now been isolated from Catharanthus roseus
e.g. ajmalicine, serpentine, tetrahydrolalstonin and lochnerine etc.
• The plant contain large number of indole alkaloids, out of them about 20 dimeric
indole dihydroindole alkaloids contains antineoplastic activity including vincristine
and vinblastine. These two alkaloids are much significant.
• Vinblastine is produced by coupling of the indole alkaloid catharanthine (indole
alkaloid part) and vindoline (dihydro indole alkaloid part).
• About 500kg of drug gives 1 gm of vincristine. Vincristine concentration is very low
in plant extract (about 0.0002 percent) which makes it very costly. So attempts are
made for its synthesis.
• The plant contains alkaloids in very low concentration; by tissue culture technique its
production can be increased.
Vinca plant is used to extract alkaloids like vincristine, vinblastine and ajmalicine.
Vincristine sulphate acts on mitotic cell division of metaphase and arrest the cell for further
division; hence used as an antineoplastic drug whereas vinblastine sulphate acts on mitosis
of metaphase and interferes in amino acid metabolism. It suppresses the immunity and uses
in hodgkin’s disease, lymphoma and choriocarcinoma treatment. Vincristine is applied by
intravenous route of administration in leukemia, hodgkin’s disease, sarcoma of reticulum
cells, lymphosarcoma and myosarcoma treatment. Vinca alkaloids also uses in diabetes and
high blood pressure treatment. The maximum dose of vincristine sulphate is up to 2 mg but
10 to 30 µg/kg body weight administered intravenously whereas the dose of vinblastine
sulphate is about 100 µg/kg body weight administered intravenously.
Other species: Catharanthus lengifolius, C. Trichophyllus.