Sunday, February 25, 2007

Kemunting Cina - Catharanthus rosea, Linn.

Kemunting Cina - Catharanthus rosea, Linn.

Kemunting Cina (pronounced as ker-moon-ting chee-nah) probably called so by the Malays of Peninsula Malaysia because it may have been the favourite of the Chinese here. This plant originate from Madagascar an island in the Indian Ocean very close to the east coast of Africa. It has travelled a long way from there to as far as Southeastern America. Throughout the tropics it has now become an uncontrolled weed. Because of this in Langkawi this plant is called Bunga Jalang Kampong or the wild flower of the village. The scientific desingnation of the plant means "PURE FLOWER" or Catharanthus.

I have traced this plant from its origin in Madagascar to the far reaches of Hawaii and every place it stops it has been used as medicine to heal what ails the local population. It has been used to relieve headaches, toothaches,
throat aches and stomachaches. It has been also used in rituals and is thought to have exorcising powers to rid one of the evil spirits. Different parts impart different effects in therapy. In its native place it has been used as an antiinflammatory drug, tranquilizer and haemostatic. As it moves eastwards these properties has been recognized by the Ayurveda practitioners and took advantage of these properties to treat conditions like wasp sting, insomnia, depressions and muscle aches.

In recent time it has been used in the treatment of Diabetes in the form of what is called the Jamaican Tea. This comprise of dried leaves
steep in hot water and drank as a decoction. Noting this to be effective some scientists in mid 1950's did a chemical run down of the leaves and found more than 70 medicinally active molecules useful in the treatment of diabetes, hypertension, cancer and the likes. This lead to the isolation of two drugs which are being used in the treatment of blood and lymphatic cancers. They are vinblastine in the treatment of Lymphomas and Hodgkin's Disease and vincrisitine which is used in the treatment of leukaemia of childhood. These two drug singly or in combination with other cytotoxic drugs has been successful in suppressing these sinister diseases.

However, while patients can attain control over their diseases, the
isolation and use of the pure compound has subjected the body's normal actively dividing cells to the effects of these cytotoxic drugs. Thus these patients has to pay a huge price in term of quality of life secondary to the treatment regime. They suffers form premature balding dues to the destructive effects of the the cytotoxic drugs to the actively dividing hair follicles. They suffer from loss of appetite, intractable vomiting, diarrhoea due to the effects of these cytotoxic drugs on the actively dividing cells of the alimentary tract.

If these drugs were meant to be used for the treatment of malignant condition, I suppose they should be devoid of such side effects suffered by these unfortunate individuals. Perhaps we are looking in the
wrong directions. Perhaps it is meant that the whole leaf be used instead of isolation of the individual drug. Perhaps the precursors and the metabolites in the synthesis of these drugs would act as the modulators of these drugs to make them only recognise the pathological cells rather than the normal actively dividing cells. There must be a sort of marker in the malignant cells which some of the other compounds would have been able to attach to, to make these cytotoxic drug to selectively attack them and not others. Research in this direction may help ease the burden of those who suffers from these condition and make chemotherapy a more palatable method than it is today. Wa Allahu a'lam

For me this plant is a symbol of hope for those who suffers from these yet incurable conditions. One day we may be able to make new understandings of the concept of chemotherapy or otherwise refer to the ancient texts to renew their understanding of this concept and make life more
comfortable for these people.

I rest my case and dedicate this flower as my symbol of hope and purity of the hearts of those who suffers from cancer.


Anonymous said...

also called petunia,
widely use in landscaping,
present in many color..
but i'm still dont know is they having different benefit in another color..

Anonymous said...

May I know how to used this flower for those with cancer?

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