Saturday, May 10, 2014


PERIWINKLE-Vinca Minor, Vinca Major, Vinca Rosea

Also known as:  myrtle, lesser periwinkle, greater periwinkle, madagascar periwinkle

Parts used:  leaves, seeds

Meridians/Organs affected:  brain, nervous, digestive, blood, circulatory

Properties:  antibacterial, anti-carcinogenic, antispasmodic, cephalic, depurative, sedative, carminative, styptic, diuretic, emetic, tonic, astringent, aperient, nervine

Periwinkle is a member of the Dogbane family.  It is a perennial with dark green oval, broad-shaped leaves that are opposite on the stems.  The lavender flowers bloom from March to August and have five petals.  It can be found throughout Europe and North America, mainly in the coastal areas.

There are a few different varieties of periwinkle.  There are the greater and lesser periwinkles and the Madagascar periwinkle amongst others.  Some say the Vinca varieties aren't related to the Madagascar one but other say it is so there is a bit of debate over the subject.  

Greater periwinkle (Vinca major) is most used in herbal medicine to help with menstrual issues, hemorrhaging, as a laxative and as a gargle for sore throats and oral infections.  It has also been used as an ointment for hemorrhoids and other inflammatory conditions.

Lesser periwinkle (Vinca minor) has been used for the same kinds of things but more in homeopathics or as a tincture for hemorrhages.

Madagascar periwinkle (Vinca rosea) is one of three species of this plant native to the East Indies and Madagascar.  It is the variety most often used for diabetes.

Vinca is a genus of plant that contains a large number of what are considered poisonous plants and trees, one of which is oleander, a beautiful plant most commonly grown for show.  The old English name, "Parwynke" was spoken of quite often by many old herbalists and poets including Chaucer and Wordsworth.  The French called it 'Sorcerer's Violet' and believed it was able to exorcise evil spirits, enhance love and loyalty in marriage relations, and spark desire.

Apuleis, in his writings, (Herbarium, 1480) said periwinkle was good for spirit/demon possessions, would protect people from poisonous beasts and poisoned food or water and anything unclean, including feelings of envy or jealousy.

Galen and Dioscorides both said periwinkle was effective for the flu.  Culpeper siad that it helped with bleeding gums and hysteria, nervous disorders, cramps and nightmares.  Greater periwinkle tea commonly has been used to clear mucus obstructions in the lungs and intestines, for congestion and diarrhea, scurvy, tonsillitis, and as a gentle purgative.  In 1923, the Madagascar variety gained a lot of interest as a possible aid to diabetes even though the other varieties had long been used for that.

More recently, periwinkle has been found to contain a compound called vincamine which is used to enhance memory.  It has been used for brain health as it can increase blood circulation to the brain, increase mental productivity, prevent aging of brain cells and support brain metabolism.  It has been found useful for chest pain, vaginal discharge, toothaches, water retention, blood purification, intestinal pain, and high blood pressure amongst others.  Recent studies have found that it may inhibit the growth of cancerous tumors as well.

Modern medicine would say periwinkle is unsafe and that is can cause vomiting, nausea, kidney, nerve and liver damage and in large amounts can cause very low blood pressure. Herbalists would disagree as more often than not these side effects come from allopathic medicine using the isolated components of the plant instead of the whole herb.  That being said, if someone is on high blood pressure medication it is suggested they not use periwinkle as it may cause their blood pressure to drop excessively.  Also, if one suffers with constipation periwinkle can aggravate the condition so it isn't recommended in such cases.  Pregnant women should not use periwinkle as this herb can stimulate menstruation.

As is customary with my posts I am including some links herein regarding periwinkle.  Please use them as you feel best.

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