Vinca major, Vinca minor

The old English form of the name Periwinkle, as it appears in early Anglo-Saxon Herbals, as well as in Chaucer, was ‘Parwynke,’ and we also find it called ‘Joy of the Ground.’ This is a herb rich in history and ancient use.

An old name, given both in reference to its color and its use in magic, was ‘Sorcerer’s Violet’ (corresponding to its old French name ‘Violette des sorciers’). It was a favorite flower with ‘wise folk’ for making charms and love-potions. It was one of the plants believed to have power to exorcize evil spirits. In Macer’s Herbal we read of its potency against ‘wykked spirytis.’ These superstitions about the Periwinkle are of great age and are repeated by all the old writers.

In olden days it was used in garlands. An old chronicle tells us that when, in 1306, Simon Fraser, after he had been taken prisoner fighting for William Wallace, rode heavily ironed through London to the place of execution, a garland of Periwinkle was placed in mockery on his head.

The Italians call the Periwinkle flower Centocchio, or ‘Hundred Eyes,’ but it is also called ‘The Flower of Death,’ from the ancient custom of making it into garlands to place on the biers of dead children. To the Germans, it is the ‘Flower of Immortality.’ In France, the Periwinkle is considered an emblem of friendship.

Periwinkle as an Herb for Medicinal Uses

PeriwinkleThe medicinal parts are the dried leaves, the fresh aerial parts of the flowering plant and the whole fresh flowering plant.

An ointment prepared from the bruised leaves with lard has been largely used in domestic medicine and is reputed to be both soothing and healing in all inflammatory ailments of the skin and an excellent remedy for bleeding piles.

Periwinkle made into a tea or salve for external use treats skin problems such as dermatitis, eczema, mucus in the intestines and lungs, diarrhea, congestions, and acne. Its powerful astringent action make it useful for a couple to use, vaginally as a douche, in treating vaginal infections and as a penis soak. The tea is also said to be helpful for nervous conditions.

The bruised leaves put into the nostrils will, it is asserted, allay bleeding from the nose.

Periwinkle alkaloids have been used in the treatment of leukemia, Hodgkin’s disease, malignant lymphomas, neuroblastoma, Wilms tumor, Kaposi’s sarcoma, mycosis fungoides, to improve cerebral blood flow, and treat high blood pressure.

Folk medicine: Periwinkle used internally for loss of memory, hypertension, cystitis, gastritis and enteritis, diarrhea, raised blood sugar levels and to help weaning. Periwinkle is used externally for sore throats, nose bleeds, bruising, abscesses, eczema and to stop bleeding.

Homeopathic Uses: Periwinkle is used for weeping eczema and bleeding mucous membranes.

To make a tea, pour 200 ml boiling water over 1 teaspoonful of herb, steep for 10 minutes, then strain. Usual daily dosage is 2 to 3 cups daily.

To make a decoction, boil 60 gm of drug in 1 liter of water for 2 minutes, steep for 10 minutes, then strain. Dosage is 2 to 4 cups between meals.

To make an infusion, boil 15 gm of drug in 1/4 liter of water. Drink after meals for diarrhea.

To make wine, macerate 100 gm of drug in 1 liter of wine for 10 days, decant, then press. Dosage is 1 teaspoonful after meals.

To make a liquid for gargling, boil 2 teaspoonfuls of drug for a few minutes in 1/2 liter water. Use externally as needed.

Vinpocetine in Periwinkle

Periwinkle is a European plant that was used by healers to remedy nervous disorders, hysteria, epileptic fits and nightmares. Now we know that a compound in the plant, vinpocetine, may be the brain’s best friend.

Studies reveal that after you take vinpocetine, it makes a beeline for the brain. Used occasionally it is thought to deliver more blood to the brain, thereby increasing brainpower. Used regularly, it may prevent senility and dementia by preventing free-radical damage to the blood vessels that serve the brain.

Though vinpocetine is currently used to treat senile dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, this use has not been studied and its safety and efficacy have not been reported.

What Was Periwinkle Used For?

The Periwinkle plant has historically been used to treat a wide assortment of diseases.

  • It was used as a folk remedy for diabetes in Europe for centuries.
  • In India, juice from the leaves was used to treat wasp stings.
  • In Hawaii, the plant was boiled to make a poultice to stop bleeding.
  • In China, it was used as an astringent, diuretic and cough remedy.
  • In Central and South America, it was used as a homemade cold remedy to ease lung congestion and inflammation and sore throats.
  • Throughout the Caribbean, an extract from the flowers was used to make a solution to treat eye irritation and infections.

Culinary Uses of Periwinkle

The species Vinca minor is used as a therapeutic wine.

Periwinkle is potentially toxic and has been known to cause acute dyspnea.


Gastrointestinal complaints and skin flushing have been observed as side effects.

Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking. Avoid use.

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