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Sadabahar: Uses, Benefits, Side effects and More By Dr. Rajeev Singh

By Dr Rajeev Singh +2 more

Introduction: 

Sadabahar or sadaphuli is a small shrub bearing purple, pink, or white flowers throughout the year and hence called “Sadabahar.” Natively called “periwinkle” in English, Catharanthus roseus originated in Madagascar. This ornamental plant is cultivated throughout tropical and subtropical areas. Nearly 12 species are identified, out of which two are popular ground covers (a plant that grows over an area of ground). All the species bear single flowers and have opposite leaves. When the flowers are plucked, they exude a milky juice. The flowers bloom in March or April. Alba variety has white flowers, Atropurpurea has purple flowers, and Alboplena bears white flowers. Periwinkle is a rich source of medicinal compounds, and you need to know how nature has encapsulated love and care for all of us with this amazingly beautiful plant. Let us read more about the various health benefits Sadabahar leaves has to offer.1 

Nutritional Value of Sadabahar: 

Sadabahar leaves and flower petals are rich in flavonoids, alkaloids, carbohydrates and phytochemicals like vincristine, vinblastine, vincardine, etc. The nutritional components of Sadabahar leaves are mentioned in the table below: 

sadabahar leaves benefits

Nutritional components Value per 100 g 
Energy 354 kCal 
Protein 5.2 g 
Fat 3.3 g 
Fibre 2.4 g 
Calcium 340 mg 
Iron 27 mg 
Vitamin C 0.02 mg 

Table 1: Nutritional value of Sadabahar leaves2 

The Sadabahar plant might act as a “diuretic.” Taking Sadabahar might make the body less effective at eliminating lithium. Lithium levels may rise as a result, which may have various side effects. I suggest if you are on lithium, see your doctor before consuming Sadabahar in any form. You might need to adjust your lithium dosage.

Dr. Siddharth Gupta, MD

Properties of Sadabahar: 

Scientifically proven properties of Sadabahar include:1 

  • It may have the property to reduce bacterial and viral infections. 
  • It may have the property to reduce inflammation. 
  • It may have antitumour properties. 
  • It may have the ability to lower blood glucose levels. 
  • It may have the potential to manage blood pressure. 
  • It may have a hypocholesterolemic effect. 

Did you know?

  • Sadabahar (Catharanthus roseus) has been found to have antidiabetic properties. [source: ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
  • Sadabahar plant has been used in traditional medicine to treat various ailments, including malaria and diabetes. [source: pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
  • Catharanthus roseus has shown potential in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. [source: pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
  • Catharanthus roseus has been found to have antidiabetic properties. [source: ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
  • Catharanthus roseus has antioxidant properties, which can help protect against oxidative stress. [source: pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]

Potential Uses of Sadabahar for Overall Health: 

Some of the potential benefits of Sadabahar are described as under:  

Potential Uses of Sadabahar on Type-2 Diabetes 

Type-2 diabetes is a metabolic disorder characterized by derangements (abnormalities) in blood glucose levels, due to decreased insulin (a hormone that regulates blood glucose) response or insulin resistance. Nammi et al. conducted a study in 2003 to assess the effects of sadabahar leaf juice on diabetic rats. The findings of this study stated that sadabahar had an anti-diabetic effect, attributed to increased secretion of insulin from beta cells of the pancreas. This indicates that sadabahar leaves may help in managing diabetes. However, we need more studies to support these claims in humans.3 

Potential Uses of Sadabahar on Hypertension 

Hypertension is defined as systolic blood pressure >130 mm Hg and diastolic blood pressure>80 mm Hg. Sadabahar as an anti-hypertensive (causing a decrease in blood pressure) agent has been used in folklore medicine. Ara et al. conducted a study in 2009 in hypertensive rats fed sadabahar leaves extract. The results of this study supported the use of sadabahar to manage high blood pressure, indicating that it may positively impact blood pressure. However, we need more studies to ascertain these claims in humans.4 

Potential Uses of Sadabahar on Cognitive Function 

A literature review by Medina et al. In 2010 stated that sadabahar contains chemical compounds called alkaloids which are known to enhance cognitive function. This effect is attributed to the inhibition of an enzyme called phosphodiesterase enzyme. The inhibition of this enzyme increases the levels of bio-molecules known to regulate memory, learning, etc. This indicates that sadabahar can positively impact cognitive function.5 

Potential Uses of Sadabahar on Male Pattern Hair Loss 

Androgenic Alopecia, or male pattern hair loss in men and female pattern hair loss in women, is a patterned and progressive hair loss. A review by Justin et al. was conducted in 2017, stating sadabahar may help manage androgenic alopecia. However, the exact mechanism behind this is unknown, and we need more scientific studies to claim these effects in humans.6 

Potential Uses of Sadabahar on Cancer 

Vinca alkaloids are medicinal compounds obtained from the Madagascar periwinkle plant or sadabahar. Vinblastine, an important Vinca alkaloid, has anti-tumour activity and is widely used to manage testicular cancers. Vinorelbine, another alkaloid from sadabahar, finds use for managing breast cancers and osteosarcoma (bone cancer cells). This indicates that sadabahar may help manage cancers. However, the potent anticancer Vinca alkaloids are fully processed, and safety and toxicity are tested before use. We do not promote the use of sadabahar flowers or leaves for managing cancers.7 

Also Read: Minoxidil for Hair Growth: A Research-Based Guide to Results and Usage

Other Potential Uses of Sadabahar: 

  • Sadabahar has astringent properties and may help soothe the pain of canker sores.8 
  • European herbalists have used periwinkle for managing watery discharge in conditions like bleeding gums and diarrhea.8 
  • The presence of vinpocetine in sadabahar has beneficial effects on hearing loss due to aging (presbyacusis). Additionally, vinpocetine may help in hypercalcemia (increased calcium in the body) which is commonly seen in patients with kidney failure.8 
  • Herbalists have used periwinkle for managing headaches, poor memory and vertigo.9 
  • Consumption of sadabahar leaves can positively impact the skin.9 
  • It may benefit women who experience painful menstrual cramps and menorrhagia (heavy menstruation).9 
  • In India, the juice from the leaves of sadabahar are used to treat wasp stings.10 

Though there are studies that show the benefits of Sadabahar in various conditions, but these are insufficient and there is a need for further studies to establish the true extent of the benefits of Sadabahar on human health.  

Alzheimer’s disease (AD), a neurodegenerative illness of the central nervous system, affects 50–60% of people with dementia. It is distinguished by significant memory loss, emotional instability, and personality changes in later life. Studies have shown that the extracts of Sadabahar may aid in Alzheimer’s Disease as it has the potential to stimulate the nervous system. I suggest the consumption of Sadabahar with a doctor’s guidance and avoiding self-medication at all costs.

Dr. Rajeev Singh, BAMS

How to Use Sadabahar? 

  • To avail of the health benefits, sadabahar leaves are used to make juice and consumed. 
  • The leaves and flower petals of sadabahar are boiled and used to make “Kadha”, a traditional medicinal drink in India. 
  • The fresh leaves of sadabahar are either directly chewed or dried and ground to make a powder which is then consumed.10 

You must consult a qualified doctor before taking any herbal supplements. Do not discontinue or replace an ongoing treatment of modern medicine with an ayurvedic/herbal preparation without consulting a qualified doctor.   

Side Effects of Sadabahar: 

A few side effects related to the consumption of sadabahar include: 

  • Loh et al. in 2008 stated that vincristine, an alkaloid derived from Sadabahar can cause hair loss, constipation, hyponatremia (low sodium levels in the blood) and peripheral neuropathy (nerve damage resulting in weakness, pain, etc).11 
  • An excess consumption of sadabahar leaves or petals can result in unwanted effects like nausea, vomiting, headache and fever.12 

However, if you experience any adverse reactions to Sadabahar, it is advised to discontinue its intake and immediately contact a doctor or your Ayurvedic physician who has prescribed it. They will be able to guide you appropriately for your symptoms. 

Precautions to Take With Sadabahar: 

Consuming Sadabahar is okay if taken in moderate amounts. However, general precautions must be followed in the following conditions: 

  • The safety data regarding the use of sadabahar in pregnant and lactating women, the elderly and children is limited; therefore it is advised to take necessary cautions if you plan to add this herb to your dietary routine. It is advised to consult a doctor for proper advice.11   

Also Read: Damiana: Exploring the Researched Health Benefits and Uses

Interactions with Other Drugs: 

  • Sadabahar is known to cause a reduction in blood pressure, so if you’re on antihypertensive medicines, using sadabahar and your medications can cause your blood pressure to drop too low.  
  • Consumption of sadabahar leaves may help in reducing blood sugar, so if you’re taking your anti-diabetic medications along with this herb (sadabahar), it can result in very low blood glucose levels. 

However, you must always seek the advice of your Ayurvedic physician about the possible interaction of sadabahar with other drugs and follow the prescription thoroughly, as they will know your health condition and other medications you are taking.3,9 

Also Read: Red Clover: Health Benefits, Uses, Side Effects & More!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): 

1) What is the scientific name of sadabahar? 

The scientific name of sadabahar is Catharanthus roseus.1 

2) What are the varieties of sadabahar available in the market? 

Depending on the colour of the flower, two-three varieties are known, these include Alba variety which has white flowers, Atropurpurea which has purple flowers and Alboplena bears white flowers.1 

3)  Can sadabahar help manage diabetes?  

Yes, animal studies show that sadabahar has an anti-diabetic effect, attributed to increased secretion of insulin (a hormone that regulates blood glucose) from beta cells of the pancreas.  However, we need more studies to support these claims in humans. Therefore, it is advised to consult a doctor for a proper treatment in case you suffer from diabetes.3 

4) Can sadabahar be used in pregnancy? 

The safety data regarding the use of sadabahar in pregnancy and during breastfeeding is limited; therefore it is advised to take necessary cautions if you plan to add this herb to your dietary routine. It is advised to consult a doctor for proper advice.11 

5) What are the side effects of sadabahar? 

Loh et al. in 2008 stated that vincristine, an alkaloid derived from sadabahar can cause hair loss, constipation, hyponatremia (low sodium levels in the body) and peripheral neuropathy (nerve damage resulting in pain, weakness, etc). Additionally, the consumption of sadabahar petals or leaves in excess can result in unwanted effects like nausea, vomiting, headache and fever.10 

References: 

  1. Dr. Anita Kale. (2021). A scientific review on Sadaphuli in Ayurveda. Journal of Ayurveda and Integrated Medical Sciences, 6(3), 94 – 99. Retrieved from https://www.jaims.in/jaims/article/view/1309 
  1. Radali, Duarah & Gupta, Alka. (2018). Periwinkle (Catharanthus roseus) Leaves and Lemongrass (Cympoogon citratus): An Analysis of Their Nutritional Composition, Anti-Nutritional Factors and Antioxidant Content. International Journal of Current Microbiology and Applied Sciences. 7. 2130-2135. 10.20546/ijcmas.2018.706.253. Available at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/326643359_Periwinkle_Catharanthus_roseus_Leaves_and_Lemongrass_Cympoogon_citratus_An_Analysis_of_Their_Nutritional_Composition_Anti-Nutritional_Factors_and_Antioxidant_Content 
  1. Nammi, Srinivas et al. “The juice of fresh leaves of Catharanthus roseus Linn. reduces blood glucose in normal and alloxan diabetic rabbits.” BMC complementary and alternative medicine vol. 3 (2003): 4. doi:10.1186/1472-6882-3-4. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC194756/pdf/1472-6882-3-4.pdf 
  1. Ara, Naznin et al. “Comparison of hypotensive and hypolipidemic effects of Catharanthus roseus leaves extract with atenolol on adrenaline induced hypertensive rats.” Pakistan journal of pharmaceutical sciencesvol. 22,3 (2009): 267-71. Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19553172/ 
  1. Medina, Alexandre E. “Vinpocetine as a potent antiinflammatory agent.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of Americavol. 107, 22 (2010): 9921-2. doi:10.1073/pnas.1005138107. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2890434/ 
  1. Tan, Justin J Y et al. “Bioactives in Chinese Proprietary Medicine Modulates 5α-Reductase Activity and Gene Expression Associated with Androgenetic Alopecia.” Frontiers in pharmacology vol. 8 194. 13 Apr. 2017, doi:10.3389/fphar.2017.00194. Available at:  
  1. Moudi, Maryam et al. “Vinca alkaloids.” International journal of preventive medicine vol. 4,11 (2013): 1231-5. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3883245/ 
  1. Periwinkle. Available at: https://wa.kaiserpermanente.org/kbase/topic.jhtml?docId=hn-3659003 (Accessed: December 12, 2022).  
  1. Dey, S. (2017) Periwinkle: A herbal powerhouse, Side Effects & Dosage, HealthXP. Available at: https://healthxp.in/periwinkle-a-herbal-powerhouse-side-effects-dosage/ (Accessed: December 12, 2022).  
  1. Nejat, Naghmeh et al. “Ornamental exterior versus therapeutic interior of Madagascar periwinkle (Catharanthus roseus): the two faces of a versatile herb.” TheScientificWorldJournal vol. 2015 (2015): 982412. doi:10.1155/2015/982412. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4312627/ 
  1. Loh, Ky. “Know the Medicinal Herb: Catharanthus roseus (Vinca rosea).” Malaysian family physician : the official journal of the Academy of Family Physicians of Malaysia vol. 3,2 123. 31 Aug. 2008. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4170313/ 
  1. Periwinkle (pink or white) (catharanthus roseus): Queensland Poisons Information Centre (2017) Children’s Health Queensland. Available at: https://www.childrens.health.qld.gov.au/poisonous-plant-pink-white-periwinkle-catharanthus-roseus/ (Accessed: December 16, 2022).  

Disclaimer: The information provided here is for educational/awareness purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical treatment by a healthcare professional and should not be relied upon to diagnose or treat any medical condition. The reader should consult a registered medical practitioner to determine the appropriateness of the information and before consuming any medication. PharmEasy does not provide any guarantee or warranty (express or implied) regarding the accuracy, adequacy, completeness, legality, reliability or usefulness of the information; and disclaims any liability arising thereof.

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