Botanical and Common Names
- Family Apocynaceae
- Vinca major (Greater Periwinkle)
- Vinca minor (Lesser Periwinkle)
- Vinca rosea (Madagascar Periwinkle)
- Do not take during pregnancy.
- Take only under professional guidance.
Periwinkle is native to Europe and is mainly a ground-hugging evergreen shrub reaching about eighteen inches in height. It has rooting stems, shiny elliptical leaves, and five-petaled violet-blue flowers. It often grows wild along roadsides and woodland borders or cultivated as a garden ornamental. The leaves are gathered in spring.
The Madagascar periwinkle is larger, reaching thirty-two inches with glossy oval leaves and bright, white to red flowers. As its name suggests, it is a native of Madagascar; but it is now common in many tropical and subtropical regions worldwide, as well as in gardens. The herb and root are gathered in summer.
Periwinkle was listed in the 2nd century CE Roman Herbarium by Apuleius. In it, he stated that the herb was used against “devil sickness and demoniacal possessions and against snakes and wild beasts”. He also described the entire ritual necessary for harvesting the herb.
- stops bleeding
(b) Madagascar Periwinkle
- anticancer agent
- indole alkaloids (7% including vincamine, vincine, and vincaminine)
- a bisindol alkaloid (vincarubine)
- indole alkaloids (over 70 various including vinblastine, vincristine, alstonine, ajmalicine, leurocristine, and reserpine)
Leaves (Lesser), aerial parts and root (Madagascar)
Madagascar Periwinkle’s traditional use in the treatment of diabetes led to extensive investigation into its properties. Vincristine and vinblastine are two powerful anticancer agents and the most important medicinal compounds found in plants in the last forty years. Vincristine is a standard treatment for Hodgkin’s Disease, and vinblastine is used for childhood leukemia.
Periwinkle is known to increase blood flow and oxygen supply to the brain, and has been used to treat arteriosclerosis and dementia caused by insufficient blood flow to the brain.
Periwinkle is also employed as an astringent and blood-staunching herb, effective against internal bleeding, heavy menstrual bleeding, or nosebleeds.
In the Philippines, the traditional use of the Madagascar periwinkle is for treating diabetes. Although extracts have shown to lower blood sugar levels, simple preparations of the whole plant may not be effective.