Posted by: Andrew Skelton | 07/02/2011

Don’t try this at home!

Who would have thought such an innocuous looking little plant could have made such a dramatic impact in the medical industry? Over 70 alkaloids have been extracted and identified from the plant of which two, more importantly, are being used in the treatment of cancer, and whose effectiveness has resulted in an increase of survival rates in patients of specific forms of the disease from 10% to 90%.

Whilst the sap is poisonous if ingested directly, solutions from the plant have been used by the Malagasy people for hundreds of years in herbal remedies to treat all manner of ailments. It was only during World War II, that it’s effects started to be appreciated and investigated by the rest of the world after diabetic Service men were found to be supplementing their diminished insulin medication with Periwinkle based treatments whilst stationed in the Philippines.

Madagascar is a unique and fascinating place for naturalists, a mecca for Evolutionists; the island having become separated from mainland Africa millions of years resulting animals and plants endemic to the island an nowhere else.

With the increase in population, large swaths of land are being cultivated, understandably, to feed the populace. As mentioned before loss of habitat, globally, has resulted in the paleoendemic decline in a wide variety plants and animals and whilst it’s very easy to say “don’t do this” from my comfy chair it is of concern that there may be a plethora of plants that could be used to help treat all manner of life threatening ailments that could be lost to science forever.

As the title suggests, DO NOT try your own recipes, a bit like mushrooms – unless you know what you’re doing – stick to those provided by the supermarkets and pharmaceutical companies!


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