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Why so Many Cancer Drugs Are Made From Periwinkle

Analysis by Dr. Joseph Mercola

periwinkle chemotherapy

Story at-a-glance -

  • Compounds found in rosy periwinkle (Catharanthus roseus), a perennial plant native to Madagascar, form the basis for a number of commonly used cancer drugs that have been in use since the 1960s
  • Of the 70 different alkaloids found in periwinkle, the two primary compounds used in anticancer drugs are the powerful vinca alkaloids vinblastine and vincristine
  • Vincristine and vinblastine are both included in the World Health Organization’s list of essential medicines
  • Other medicinal applications include the treatment of diabetes and hypertension. Their cytotoxic effects have gained the greatest attention, however
  • Vinblastine is an integral part of anticancer regimens against testicular cancer, Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin lymphomas, breast cancer and germ cell tumors. Vincristine is approved for the treatment of acute leukemia, rhabdomyosarcoma, neuroblastoma, Wilm's tumor, Hodgkin's disease and other lymphomas, as well as several nonmalignant blood disorders

Many modern drugs are derived from purified and concentrated plant compounds (although compared to 20 years ago, few drug companies expend time and money looking at medicinal plant chemistry these days). Rosy periwinkle (Catharanthus roseus), for example, a perennial plant native to Madagascar, is the basis for a number of commonly used cancer drugs that have been in use since the 1960s.

Of the 70 different alkaloids found in periwinkle, the two primary compounds used in anticancer drugs are the powerful vinca alkaloids vinblastine and vincristine. Alkaloids are nitrogen-containing compounds shown to be very important for human health. Within the family of alkaloids, there are those with antiparasitic, antidiabetic, anticancer, antihypertensive and/or antiasthma properties, just to name a few. Others benefit your mood.


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