Catharanthus roseus

scientific name: 
Catharanthus roseus (L.) G. Don
Vinca rosea L.
Botanical family: 

Botanical description

Herb or subshrub, up to 80 cm tall, with white milky latex. Leaves opposite, elliptic or oblong 2-7 cm x 1.5cm; Flowers in 2-3 clusters or solitary, with 5 petals, ranging from white to greenish-yellow to rose-pink to reddish purple, and corolla tube inflated below the limb; fruit a follicle, cylindrical, 1.5-3.5 cm long.




flower, decoction, compresses1-2,21

For conjunctivitis:

Prepare an infusion with 1/2 liter (2 cups) of boiling water and 3-4 white flowers.  Cover pot, leave to cool down for 5-10 minutes, and filter.  Apply the infusion, with a cotton compress, on the affected eye for 5-10 minutes, repeat 2-3 times a day.

According to published and other information:

Use for conjunctivitis is classified as REC, based on the significant traditional use documented in the TRAMIL surveys, on toxicity studies and on available published scientific information.

Strict hygiene measures should be observed in order to avoid contamination or additional infection and to avoid contact with conjunctiva-irritating substances.

Should there be a notable worsening of the patient’s condition, or should conjunctivitis last more than 3 days, medical attention should be sought for.

Do not ingest any part of the plant due to toxicity risk.

TRAMIL Research17

The aqueous extracts (decoction, 20 minutes) from the white flower (20%), fresh or dried, were left to cool down at room temperature and strained.  In the Draize ophthalmic irritability model, the extracts were topically applied (0.1 mL) to the bottom of the conjuctival sac of 6 male New Zealand rabbits, and caused no irritation in the normal eye.

The flower decoction administered orally to rat reduced the size and weight of fetuses18.

The hydroalcoholic extract (95%) from the leaf administered orally (75 mg/kg) resulted in a general toxic effect in male rat19.

The ingestion of the entire plant showed toxic effects in human20.

There is no available information documenting the safety of medicinal use in children or in pregnant or during breast feeding.

The flower contains: alkaloids: zeatin3; indole alkaloids: ajmalicine, tetrahydroalstonine4, aparicine5, carosine, catharicine, leurocristine6, coronaridine7, catharanthine, serpentine, vindoline8; and flavonoids: hirsutidine, malvidin9.

The aerial parts contain most of the above mentioned alkaloids as well as: vinblastine and vincrystine10, and the leaf, alkaloids: catharanthine and vindoline11.

TRAMIL Research17

The decoction of the fresh white flower (20%), administered in the bottom of the conjunctival sac (0.1 mL) of rabbits, significantly diminished the discrete ocular secretion induced by prior rubbing of the eye for 60 seconds.  The extract from the dried flower was less effective.


The aqueous extract from the entire plant was weakly active as an antibacterial agent against Escherichia coli, Salmonella paratyphi B, Staphylococcus aureus, Vibrio cholera and inactive against Salmonella paratyphi A, S. typhosa and Shigella flexneri12.


The benzene extract from the dried flower and leaf (5%) was active as an antibacterial against Proteus spp., Pseudomonas spp., some Shigella spp., Staphylococcus spp, and inactive against Salmonella spp. and Shigella paradysenteriae13.

An extract from the dried flower was weakly active as an antifungal against Trichophyton rubrum, by protease inhibition14.

The hydroalcoholic extract (95%) from the dried aerial parts in a (50%) ratio was active as an antifungal against Neurospora crassa, unlike the acetone and aqueous extracts, which showed no antifungal activity15.

The petroleum ether extract from the flower, leaf, seed and stem showed larvicidal activity against Anopheles stephensi at 100 ppm; against Aedes aegypti at 50 ppm, and against Culex quinquefasciatus at 80 ppm16.




1 CARBALLO A, 1990 Encuesta TRAMIL. Centro de investigación de fitoterapia y medicina tradicional de Topes de Collantes, Trinidad, Cuba.

2 LAGOS-WITTE S, 1988-89, 1996 Encuesta TRAMIL. Laboratorio de Histología Vegetal y Etnobotánica, Dep. de Biología, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Honduras UNAH, Tegucigalpa, Honduras.

3 DAVEY JE, VAN STADEN J, DE LEEUW GTN, 1981 Endogenous cytokinin levels and development of flower virescence in Catharanthus roseus infected with mycoplasmas. Physiol Plant Pathol 19:193-200.

4 ALI I, 1990 The alkaloids in flowers of Catharanthus roseus (L.) G. Don. Gomal Univ J Res 10(1):27-31.

5 ROJAS MCN, CUELLAR MCA, 1981 Comparative microbiological studies of the alkaloids of Catharanthus roseus and other related compounds. Rev Cubana Farm 15(2):131-138.

6 WILLAMAN JJ, LI HL, 1970 Alkaloid-bearing plants and their contained alkaloids, 1957-1968. Lloydia 33S(1):1-286.

7 ATTA-UR-RAHMAN, ALI I, BASHIR M, 1984 Isolation and structural studies on the alkaloids in flowers of Catharanthus roseus. J Nat Prod 47(3):554-555.

8 SEVESTRE-RIGOUZZO M, NEF-CAMPA C, GHESQUIERE A, CHRESTIN H, 1993 Genetic diversity and alkaloid production in Catharanthus roseus, C. trichophyllus and their hybrids. Euphytica 55(1):151-159.

9 MILO J, 1981 Flower color inheritance and shoot and ajmalicine yield components in successive developmental stages of pure lines and F-1 hybrids in Catharanthus roseus (L.) G. Don. Thesis-MS-Hebrew University.

10 LARA G, LASTRA H, 1991 Determinación de vinblastina en el follaje de Catharanthus roseus G. Don. Rev Cubana Farm 25(1):56-62.

11 LASTRA H, RISCO G, CUELLAR A, 1986 Métodos para la obtención de catharanthina y vindolina a partir del Catharanthus roseus G. Don. Rev Cubana Farm 20(2):181-5.

12 NEOGI N, BHATIA M, 1956 Biological investigation of Vinca rosea. Indian J Pharmacy 18:73.

13 ROJAS M, CUELLAR M, 1981 Comparative microbiological studies of the alkaloids of Catharanthus roseus and other related compounds. Rev Cubana Farm 15(2):131-138.

14 CHILE SK, VYASK KM, 1984 Efficacy of Vinca rosea extracts against protease from human pathogenic strains of Trichophyton rubrum. Hindustan Antibiot Bull 26(3/4):114-116.

15 KUBAS J, 1972 Investigations on known or potential antitumoral plants by means of microbiological tests. Part III. Biological activity of some cultivated plant species in Neurospora crassa test. Acta Biol Cracov Ser Bot 15:87-100.

16 KALYANASUNDARAM M, DAS P, 1985 Larvicidal and synergistic activity of plant extracts for mosquito control. Indian J Med Res 82(1):19-23.

17 GARCIA G, GARCIA R, 1987 Efectos sobre las estructuras oculares de la decocción de flores de vicaria blanca. Informe TRAMIL. Laboratorio de Control Biológico, Industria Médico-Farmacéutica, La Habana, Cuba.

18 ZANUTI SRS, VERARDO SMS, PETERS VM, GUERRA MO, 1989 Reduçäo do tamanho e do peso de fetos de ratas tratadas com decocto de flor de Catharanthus roseus (L) G. Don. Bol Centro Biol Reprod 8:23-31.

19 CHAUHAN S, AGRAWAL S, MATHUR R, GUPTA RK, 1979 Phosphatase activity in testis and prostate of rats treated with embelin and Vinca rosea extract. Experientia 35(9):1183-1185.

20 WEE Y, GOPALAKRISHNAKONE P, CHAN A, 1988 Poisonous plants in Singapore - a colour chart for identification with symptoms and signs of poisoning. Toxicon 26(1):47-.

21 MOREJON Z, LOPEZ M, GARCIA MJ, BOUCOURT E, VICTORIA M, FUENTES V, MORON F, BOULOGNE I, ROBINEAU L, 2009 Encuesta TRAMIL preliminar a grupos de vecinos en los municipios 10 de Octubre, Lisa, Marianao, Habana del Este (Cojímar) en la Ciudad de la Habana. Laboratorio Central de Farmacología, Universidad de Ciencias Médicas de La Habana, Ciudad de La Habana, Cuba.


The information provided is for educational purposes only for the benefit of the general public and health professionals. It is not intended to take the place of either the written law or regulations. Since some parts of plants could be toxic, might induce side effects, or might have interactions with certain drugs, anyone intending to use them or their products must first consult with a physician or another qualified health care professional. TRAMIL has no responsibility whatsoever towards the user for any decision, action or omission made in relation to the information contained in this Pharmacopoeia.