Common name: Playera, Madagaskar Periwinkle.
Botanical name: Catharanthus roseus, formerly Vinca rosea
Playera, as known in Puerto Rico, is a medicinal plant native to Madagascar. It is now days common in many tropical and subtropical areas of the world, including southern United States.
Playera is perennial, growing up to 32 inches (80 cm) high. The flowers of wild plant are pink in color, and the leaves are glossy and oval in shape. Playera is sub shrub and it is often used to decorate the gardens.
In different parts of the world people used Playera long before any scientific research was available. In India they used the juice to heal the wasp sting, in Bahamas they used the complete plant against tuberculosis; in Hawai'i Playera is used to arrest bleeding, and people of Bermudas and Madagascar used it to regulate blood sugar.
The scientific research shows that this plant has high content of alkaloids, the most known being viblastine, or vincaleukoblastine, sold as Velban. This alkaloid has inhibiting effect on certain types of human tumors. It is used for Hodgkin's disease and resistant choriocarcinoma.
Another important alkaloid is vincristine, sold as Oncovin. Vincristine is used for treatment of leukemia in children. The use of this alkaloid has increased the rate of healing children from leukemia from only 10% in 1960. to impressive 90% today.
Note: due to high content of alkaloids, Playera should not be used for a long periods of time since it can produce toxicity in the body.
Reference: Duke,J,A. Handbook of Medicinal Herbs, 1985.
Magic and Medicine of Plants, 1993.