The periwinkle commonly grown in Indian gardens belongs to the Apocynacceae family. It is also called Vinca rosea and Lochnera rosea. There are two other varieties called Vinca major and Vinaca minor, which belong to the same family. Botanists named the C roseus as Vinca roseus initially, because it looked very similar to Vinca minor. By the time they realized the differences between the plants, the name vinca had caught on. It was finally named Carantheus roseus. The common name is Madagascar periwinkle or rosy periwinkle. Its cousins, Vinca major and Vinca minor, are known as greater periwinkle and lesser periwinkle respectively.
The periwinkle has attractive white or pink flowers comprising five petals. The leathery, dark green leaves are arranged in opposite pairs. There are different shades of periwinkle, but the pink and white variety are used for medicinal purposes.
Botanical Name: Catharanthus roseus
Common Name: Madagascar periwinkle, Rosy periwinkle, Vinca
Periwinkle Health Benefits
In Ayurvedic medicine the leaves, seeds, flowers and the roots are used in the treatment of diabetes, Alzheimer’s, leukemia, cancers and menorrhagia. The antibacterial and antivenom qualities of the plant helps to heal wounds, and the root is used against several diseases like toothache, pain in gums and pyorrhoea in Ayurveda. In Chinese medicine, extracts from rosy periwinkle have been used against diseases such as diabetes, malaria, and Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Rosy Periwinkle Health Benefits for Leukemia and Cancers
Scientists discovered the presence of several highly toxic alkaloids in the tissues of C roseus, while researching the anti-diabetic properties of the plant. These alkaloids are now used in the treatment of a number of different types of cancer. Of the numerous alkaloids found in this plant, vincristine and vinblastine are important for their medicinal benefits. Studies showed the existence of two alkaloids in the periwinkle leaves called vinblastine and vincristine. These alkaloids are believed to be agents capable of fighting cancerous tumors. Vinblastine is beneficial in the treatment of cancer of the testicles, breast cancer and for cancers that affect the lymphatic system, known as Hodgkin’s disease. The use of periwinkle for leukemia is mainly due to the presence of vincristine which boosted the survival rate for children with this disease from a 10 percent to 80 percent.
Catharanthus roseus is cytostatic (stopping the cancer cells from multiplying) and anti-neoplastic (inhibiting or preventing the growth and spread of tumors). It slows down the growth of cells by suppressing immune response. The pure alkaloids vinblastine and vincristine are said to prolong remission of leukemia to more than 5 years.
Rosy Periwinkle Health Benefits for Brain
The alkaloid vincamine in C roseus keeps blood thin, and is therefore useful in preventing vascular dementia. Vincamine is a natural vasodilator, which means that it increases blood flow and oxygen supply to the brain. Thus the C roseus plant ensures brain health. It raises the serotonin levels and prevents abnormal coagulation of blood. Vincamine also helps to offset some of the age-related cognitive decline, in addition to increasing concentration and improving memory.
Other Health Benefits of Periwinkle
- A herbal concoction made with periwinkle leaves is said to be effective in the treatment of lung congestion as well as sore throats.
- The leaves are also used to control diabetes and high blood pressure.
- The active constiuents of C roseus – vincamine and vindoline impart gastroprotective effects and have anti-ulcer properties.
- It relieves muscle pain.
- It helps heal wounds and cures insect bites.
- Periwinkle has antifungal, antimicrobial, antibacterial and antioxidant properties.
Periwinkle Home Remedies
Both, the white and rose coloured periwinkles can be used for these remedies. The fresh leaves can also be dried, powdered and stored in an airtight bottle. Periwinkle should not be taken in high doses.
- The periwinkle has been traditionally used to treat diabetes. Add 5 leaves and 5 flowers of periwinkle leaves to one cup of water in a pan and boil this on medium flame till flowers become white. Strain it and drink. This is said to be an effective home remedy for diabetes and high blood pressure. It also prevents internal organ damage due to diabetes.
- Wash the roots of the plant well. Chop or crush the roots and put it in a saucepan. Add a cup of water to it and boil for 10 minutes. Gargling with this solution twice a day helps cure toothache, aching gums and pyorrhoea.
- Periwinkle tea is a good home remedy for obstruction of mucus in the intestines and lungs.
- The juice from the crushed leaves can be applied to wasp stings to treat it.
- For cancer treatment, boil 5 flowers of rosy periwinkle in a cup of water, for about five minutes, or till the colour turns white. Strain and drink. The extract of periwinkle is also effective.
- Boil a handful of periwinkle leaves in water till the water reduces by half. Soak a clean cloth in this water, squeeze the water out and place on wound. Do this twice a day, till the wound heals.
Vinca major and Vinca minor
The two other commonly used varieties of periwinkle are the Vinca major and Vinca minor. The vinca alkaloids which are used to treat certain types of cancer are not found in Vinca major. Vinca major is astringent, anti-haemorrhagic, used for menorrhagia and leucorrhoea. The flowers of the Vinca major or Greater Periwinkle are gently purgative, but lose their effect on drying. They can be made into a syrup which is a gentle laxative for children and helps to overcome chronic constipation in adults. The bruised leaves are used to stop bleeding from the nose, by putting it into the nostrils.
Vinca minor is an astringent and a circulatory stimulant. The leaves are stomachic and bitter, and the roots are hypotensive. It is used for chronic dyspepsia and flatulence. It is also used for headaches and dizziness. This plant has been used in folk remedies for diabetes in India and Srilanka. In western folk medicine, Vinca minor is used for circulatory disorders, cerebral circulatory impairment and support for the metabolism of the brain.
According to WebMd, Vinca minor “is used for “brain health”. Vinca minor is also used for treating diarrhea, vaginal discharge, throat ailments, tonsillitis, chest pain, high blood pressure, sore throat, intestinal pain and swelling (inflammation), toothache, and water retention (edema). It is also used for promoting wound healing, improving the way the immune system defends the body, and for “blood-purification.”
A chemical called vincamine can be converted in the laboratory to the compound vinpocetine, which is derived from the seeds of the Vinca minor plant. In several trials involving stroke patients, experts showed that vinpocetine relaxed blood vessels and increased blood flow in the brain. In a study that assessed the efficacy of vinpocetine in improving memory and concentration in 56 cognitively impaired patients, the results showed that Vinpocetine was effective in improving memory and concentration of patients with epilepsy and dementia although the efficacy was minimal in demented patients
How To Make Periwinkle Tea
Periwinkle tea helps to lower blood sugar and blood pressure levels, improve memory, treat bleeding gums and toothaches. It is also an effective home remedy for fighting cancer, treating lung congestion and sore throats and helps reduce hearing loss.
1 tsp dried mixture of leaves and flowers
1 cup water
Honey to taste
Pour boiling water onto the herbs in the cup, and let it steep for about 5-10 minutes. Once done, strain and remove the herbs. You can add honey to the tea if it is too bitter. Drink it in the morning before breakfast.
This herb has to be consumed only under the supervision of a qualified doctor, as it is poisonous in high doses.
Avoid drinking periwinkle tea if you’ve got liver, kidney or lung diseases. You should also not drink it if you have low blood pressure.
Pregnant and breast feeding women should absolutely avoid periwinkle in the form of a tea or in any other way.