Catharanthus pusillus and type-2 Diabetes Mellitus

Catharanthus pusillus

Periwinkle is anti- cancerous and lowers blood pressure but it can work as a substitute of insulin. I want to put some light on its anti-diabetic properties specially its role in curing type-2 diabetes. Catharanthus comprises eight species, all originating from Madagascar except Catharanthus pusillus (Murr). G. Don, which is found in India and Sri Lanka. C. pusillus is also named as Lochnera pusilla, Vinca pusilla. Like Catharanthus roseus (which is common periwinkle), C. pusillus it is also having anti diabetic properties. Catharanthus roseus entire plant is hypoglycemic. C. pusillus has strong biological and ecological rationale to produce bioactive compounds [1].

Medicinal properties of this plant (Catharanthus pusillus) can cure both type of diabetes but type-2 diabetes* is tricky one and there are few medicines for it. I hope my investigation will help many people suffering from this disease.

C. pusillus is a small herb with opposite leaves, white axillary solitary or paired sessile flowers, fruits cylindrical, slender follicles and have black seeds [3]. It shows entomophily kind of pollination. The entire plant is full of white color latex.

It has been studied for its anti-oxidant and anti-diabetic properties. Non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus type-2 (NIDDM) can be manifested by chronic hyperglycemia due to defects in insulin secretion, insulin action and or both [6]. In India number of alternative medicines like Ayurvedic as well as Sidha preparations have attracted great interest in type-2-diabetes-mellitus management, Catharanthus Pusillus is one such Ayurvedic herbal formulation.

The plant contains alkaloids; ajimalicine, rauwolscine, Vindoline, pusiline and pusilinine, while leurosine, lochnerinine, venoterpine, vindorosine and vincapusine have been isolated from the leaves. The roots have lochnericine [7]. The major alkaloid present in C. pusillus leaves is Vindoline (C23H32N2O6). As a free base it shows very little biological activity, but in dimer (i.e., Vinblastine & vincristine or vindesine) form it acts as an “oncolytic ” agent. Pusiline and Pusilinine cause heart depression [4,7]. Modern scientific knowledge description Studies using powdered form of C. pusillus on buffalo calves indicated that they are poisonous. It cause terprary blindness or madnesswith rashes all over the body of the cattle. This effect was due to damage to the endothelial lining of the capillary wall and the C.N.S, as determined by histopathology. One such cytotoxic principle is in Lochnerinine [5]. Latex and seeds are poisonous. Leaf extract is used as a medicine for fever. The decoction of dried leaves boiled in oil is used to cure joint and muscle pain in the lower back.

The Catharanthus   pusillus possesses   both   hypoglycaemic   and anti-diabetic   activities. It was studied on both normal and diabetic rats in laboratory that the extract of the whole plant is having anti diabetic properties but not consistently. But the ethanolic extracts of this plant is not only anti diabetic but also reverses the side effects caused by Streptozotocin* drug (common drug given to diabetic patients) in blood sugar level and in the number of Beta-cells of pancreas. Streptozotocin is a drug given to the mouse or any animal model to make it hyperglycemic artificially for the porpose of certain study.

The plant extract of Catharanthus pusillus also showed a protective effect when it was given prior to Streptozotocin administration. It is therefore conclude that ethanolic extract whole plant of Catharanthus puillus at high dose (500 mg/kg) exhibited significant anti-hyperglycemic activity than whole plant extract at low dose (300 mg/kg) in Streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats. So it can be used for the treatment of non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus (the type-2 diabetes).

Other medicinal properties of C.pusillus

Alkaloids, coumarins, terpenoids and phenolic compounds, exhibit various important pharmacological properties i.e., anaesthetic, anti-inflammatory, anticancer, anti-malarial, anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties [2].

  1. Alkaloids like vincristine and vinblastine (occure as dimer) present in this plant are having antitumor properties [7].
  2. The ethanol extract of C.pusillus whole plant possesses antiinflammatory effect [8].
  3. The methanol extracts of C. pusillus whole plant showed strong antioxidant activity [9].
  4. Methanol and chloroform extract of C. pusillus showed highly potential anti- baterial activity [10].
  5. The crude extracts of C. pusillus leaves. C. pusillus shows activities of possesses very high free radical scavenging and antiproliferative properties thus are potential antioxidant and anticancerous [11].
  6. The extracts of leaves of Catharanthus pusillus possesses marked anti diarrheal activity in dose dependant manner [12].
  7. Indian Medicine of Plants-An Illustrated Dictionary By C.P. Khare.

*Streptozotocin: This drug is an alkylating agent which is used for treating cancer of “Islets of Langerhans” of pancreas. This drug adds alkyl group to the DNA of the pacient. The alkyl group is attached to the guanine base of DNA, at the number 7 nitrogen atom of the purine ring. Since cancer cells, in general, proliferate faster and with less error-correcting than healthy cells, cancer cells are more sensitive to DNA damage—such as being alkylated. Alkylating agents are used to treat several cancers. However, they are also toxic to normal cells (cytotoxic), particularly cells that divide frequently, such as those in the gastrointestinal tract, bone marrow, testicles and ovaries, which can cause loss of fertility. Most of the alkylating agents are also carcinogenic [13].


  1. RÖMPP Encyclopedia Natural Products, 1st Edition, 2000 edited by Burkhard Fugmann, Susanne Lang-Fugmann, Wolfgang Steglich.
  2. Mahato SB, Sen S (1997). Advances in triterpenoid research, 1990-1994.Phytochemistry, 44, 1185-1236.
  3. CRC World Dictionary of Medicinal and Poisonous Plants: Common Names …By Umberto Quattrocchi
  4. Cytomorphological Studies of Artificially Induced Tetraploids of Catharanthus pusillus By-A. K. S. Chatthan and S.S. Raghuvanshi.
  6. Hypoglycemic and anti-diabetic activity of ethanolic extract of Catharanthus pusillus (murray) g.don A. Navitha1 , D. A. Helen Sheeba2 , C. Ramesh3 , M. Sartaj Banu4 1, 2, 4 (Department of Pharmacology, Malla Reddy Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Hyderabad – 500070, India) 3(Department of Pharmacology, GSN Pharmaceuti icals Pvt. Ltd., Kukatpally, Hyderabad- 500072, India).
  7. Terpenoid indole alkaloid profile changes in Catharanthus pusillus during development. Zárate R1, Dirks C, van der Heijden R, Verpoorte R.
  8. Antiinflammatory Activity of Whole Plant of Catharanthus pusillus (Apocynaceae) Mohan V R 3* , Yokeswari Nithya1 , P Mary Jelastin1 , Kala S 2 1A.P.C. College for women, Thoothukudi.2 2St. Xavier’s College, Palaymkottai.2 3Ethnopharmacology unit, Research Department of Botany, V.O. Chidambaram College, Tuticorin-628008, Tamil nadu. Available Online:25th June, 2016.
  9. Evaluation of Total Phenolics, Flavonoid contents and In-Vitro Antioxidant Properties of Catharanthus pusillus (Apocynaceae) Y. Nithya 1 , S. M. Jelastin Kala 2 and V. R. Mohan *3.
  10. Physico-Phytochemical Analysis and Antibacterial Prospective of Catharanthus pusillus (Murray) G..Don – An Important Anticancer Medicinal Plant Subbaiyan B*, Samydurai P, Karthik Prabu M, Ramakrishnan R and V Thangapandian PG and Research Department of Botany, Kongunadu Arts and Science College (Autonomous), Coimbatore 641029, TamilNadu, India.
  11. Antioxidant and anticancer properties of Catharanthus pusillus 1Durgesh Thingujam, 2Rekha K, 3Megala J and 4Usha B Department of Genetic Engineering, SRM University, Kattankulathur, Tamil Nadu 603 203, India.
  12. Anti-Diarrheal Activity of Hydro Alcoholic Extracts of Leaves of Catharanthus pusillus in Rats-Tejasri Alla*, Swetha Naram Reddy, Azmath Farhana and Vasudha Bakshi Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, Anurag Group of Institutions, School of Pharmacy, Ghatkesar, Medchal, Telangana, India].