Indian Medicinal Plants - Nithya Kalyani
Modest in looks, Nithya Kalyani is an evergreen shrub that is packed with substances, which can cure many a disease. This common Indian medicinal plant is known to the world as Madagascar periwinkle. It is also grown as an ornamental plant in some places.
Nithya Kalyani is a Sanskrit name. This plant is called by many other names in the Indian subcontinent. It is called as “Sudukadu” (burial ground) plant in Tamilnadu, India while in West Bengal, it’s known as “Noyantra”. Another name for periwinkle is sadaphuli in Marati. In Portuguese American, Periwinkle is called boa-noite or maria-sem-vergonha.
Scientific Name: Catharanthus roseus (formerly Vinca rosea)
This plant grows up to 1 meter and has oblong glossy leaves that are 2.5 to 9 cm long. It has five-petalled flowers in white or pink with dark centers. They are arranged in cymose, axillary clusters. The cylindrical-shaped fruits are of follical type.
- Nithya Kalyani or Madagascar Periwinkle is a small shrub, which has medicinal properties
- Its leaves, flowers and bark have been used in traditional medicine
- This plant has alkaloids, which are used in the treatment of diabetes, cancer and other diseases
- It is used to treat intestinal inflamation, sore throat, cough
- It grows well in temperate climates
Nithya Kalyani grows well in well-drained soils, especially in warm temperate climates. It flowers almost round the year.
In Madagascar and Jamaica, this plant is used to treat diabetes. Whereas in India, the leaves of this plant are crushed and applied on wasp stings. In many indigenous systems of medicine, the leaves, bark and flowers of this plant are used to treat hypertension and malignancy. It also has tranquilizing and sedative properties. In Hawaii, the plant is boiled and applied on site of external bleeding. Traditionally, parts of Nithya Kalyani are used to treat intestinal inflammation, toothache and even memory loss. It has also found use as a diuretic. In Caribbean folk medicine, the flowers of periwinkle are used to prepare a soothing eye wash.
Drugs extracted from this plant are used in modern medical treatments. Vincristine is thought to have anti-carcinogenic properties, and is used to treat leukemia in children. Vinblastine is used for the treatment of Hodgkin's disease. Other alkaloids derived from this plant are leurosi-dine and leurosine, which have been found effective in cancer treatment. Periwinkle has been found to be effective in treating cough, sore throat, eye irritation and skin infections.
The French call the Madagascar Periwinkle as the "sorcerers violet" because these flowers are thought to be used in love potions and charms. In the medieval times, the Europeans wore garlands of periwinkle, as they believed it exorcised the evil spirits.
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