Toxicity, Symptoms and Treatment
Animals consuming large amounts of Madagascar periwinkle while grazing have been observed to suffer from hypotension, neurotoxicity, anemia, seizures, and death. No specific treatments are known; Burrows and Tyrl (2001) recommend supportive treatment including sedation and, if appropriate, activated charcoal. Traditional human medicinal uses of Madagascar periwinkle do not cause similar toxicity, apparently because the quantities consumed are too small to provide a lethal dose of the toxic alkaloids.
The isolated cancer-fighting alkaloids vincristine and vinblastine have serious side effects, including neurotoxicity, bone marrow damage, and direct damage to exposed tissue if the intravenously administered solution penetrates a vein. A surprising number of medical accidents have involved doctors’ confusing IV solutions of vincristine with other drugs meant to be administered into the spinal fluid; this is usually fatal even after aggressive treatment and leaves most survivors with extreme damage. Vincristine and vinblastine can also cause severe birth defects.
Burrows, G. E., and R. J. Tyrl. 2001. Toxic Plants of North America. Iowa State University Press, Ames, IA.
MedlinePlus Drug Information: Vincristine
MedlinePlus Drug Information: Vinblastine
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