“Don’t Forget the Periwinkle for Chella Devi!” This note is up on the notice-board to remind Monika to collect the leaves of the plant each Friday. It grows well outside our SHARE centre here in Mussoorie.
We drive to the Jadghar Centre, some 85 kilometres away. Waiting on the side of the road, near her village, is Chella. She receives the plastic bag containing the leaves and some of the roots. When she cannot be there, we give it to the Voluntary Health Workers belonging to that village.
Chella came to us earlier last year, 1989, with cancer of the vulva. The wound caused by this evil thing was unsightly. We knew we could do little for her at the Clinic, so arranged for her to be hospitalised at Landour Community Hospital (part of a chain of Christian hospitals linked to the Emmanuel Hospital Association). The cancer was diagnosed and she was treated with pain-killers and antibiotics to clean up the wound. The rest, loving treatment and good food, made a difference to her whole appearance. She was relieved of a lot of pain. Her eyes would light up as we visited her. When she was discharged, a few weeks later, she could stand upright instead of being bent over.
How could we help her now? Her condition had been helped but the cancer was not cured. There was no way that Chella could afford the very expensive treatment with radium and drugs that might have cured the cancer. Her husband and son had both died and she lived with he sister, who had little money.
Dr Satow, a consultant Doctor with the Emmanuel Hospital Association, suggested to one of our team that periwinkle might be useful. Where would we find periwinkle? What did it look like? A missionary living in Mussoorie knew what it was and where to find it! This glossy leaf plant, with pink or purple flowers, grew right outside our SHARE centre!
Ezekial, a senior member of our team, had recently attended a seminar on herbal remedies. We consulted with him. He gave some guidelines on how to prepare and apply the periwinkle plant. So Chella began the treatment. She planted a root which began to grow, but a goat found the plant attractive and finished it off. Not to be beaten, she planted it again in a box on the window. She grinds the leaves each day and applies the paste to the wound. On examining her, we have found a great change and improvement in the wound. She is so grateful to find relief from this, to her, a shameful illness.
Since beginning this treatment, we have read elsewhere of the use of periwinkle in the treatment of cancer, particularly leukaemia. This experience has shown us how all the different members of the of Christ have worked together to bring about the relief and healing of one person!
Gwen Hawthorne is a Co Director of SHARE in Mussoorie, India.
The periwinkle mentioned here is Madagascar Periwinkle. The botanical name is Catharantus rosea (occasionally known as Vinva rosea). Do other readers recognise this plant? It grows in various parts of the world, including Asia and Africa. Are there people in your community who could benefit as Chella has? Please share with other readers your experiences with either this plant or others, which you have found useful in healing.