F: petite pervenche / NL: kleine maagdenpalm
Periwinkle (or minor periwinkle) is a commonly seen as ground cover in both medicinal as ornamental gardens. It has been employed as folk medicine for more than thousand years. It is currently known in herbalism as a replacement of gingko biloba. Similarly to gingko, periwinkle activates blood circulation and it acts as vasodilator, improving blood flow to the tissues and therefore increasing cell metabolism. It enhances various brain functions such as concentration, memory; it reduces anxiety, nervousness and it relieves tinnitus and headaches. It can thus be used to prevent early ageing of the brain cells, such as observed in dementia or Alzheimer. While gingko must be avoided by those using blood thinning drugs or those with a general tendency to bleeding, periwinkle does not have the same counter-indications. Its action stimulating blood flow seems to be balanced by its high tannin content, which has an astringent effect, making it useful also to stop bleeding.
Next to that, periwinkle has also analgesic, hypotensive, antispasmodic, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. It is also known in herbal medicine to help treating various rheumatoid conditions, fibromyalgia, to reduce blood pressure and heavy menstruation. Also used as astringent to help treating diarrhoea and sore throat.
Externally it can be used to disinfect and help wound healing. Also great in mouthwash, to treat bleeding gums, toothache and canker sores.
Its leaves, flowers and roots are all used in folk medicine, fresh or dried, in infusions, tincture, capsule or extract.
Vinca minor, or periwinkle, is a strong plant native from all over Europe, hardy from zones 4 to 9. It is considered to be invasive, as it grows quickly conquering any territory it finds ahead. If you want to contain its growth, harvest it regularly and use it in infusions to improve blood flow and general brain performance - or if you don’t need it, offer it to friends and family that could benefit from it. What a wonderful present it can be!
A chemical in periwinkle called vincamine can be converted (in laboratory) to the compound vinpocetine, which is sold as a dietary supplement. This isolated extract might have some stronger counter indications, as it does not contain the other substances found in the whole herb.
Periwinkle should be avoided during pregnancy and lactation.
Here is a video-tour to help you to identify this plant:
Periwinkle - Vinca minor - Helen Linda Drake
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