The great Greek physician, pharmacologist, botanist, and author Pedanius Dioscorides and Galen talked about the lesser periwinkle plant, to which pharmacological research has been dedicated with great interest over the past years. Nowadays, we may find several pharmaceutical preparations in which this plant is used.
Healing Properties and Indications
The lesser periwinkle plant’s most active component is vincamine and indolic alkaloid with remarkable vasodilating properties. It also contains tannins with an astringent action and up to 35 other alkaloids recently identified. The following are the plant’s uses:
- Cerebral circulatory insufficiency: Vincamin is a potent vasodilator of the cerebral arteries. It increases blood circulation in the brain tissues and improves the function of the central nervous system. It also has hypotensive properties. Vincamine is successfully applied for headaches, vertigo, ear buzzing (tinnitus), and other manifestations of cerebral circulatory insufficiency (lack of blood flow) due to arteriosclerosis, high blood pressure, or other reasons. It is an ideal plant to fight the disorders caused by aging.
Recently it has been proven that vincamine crosses the hematoencephalic barrier and acts on the brain tissues, improving the oxygenation of the neuron. For these reasons, vincamine extracted from this plant is one of the most used pharmacological substances in treating insufficient cerebral blood flow. The whole plant possesses the same effects as vincamine, which are improved by other alkaloids and active components.
- Migraines: The lesser periwinkle is also helpful against migraines. It helps to ease the painful crises and prevent them from recurring.
- Hemorrhages: The astringent and hemostatic effect of its tannins explains that the lesser periwinkle plant was used to stop hemoptysis (bronchial hemorrhage) that appear with tuberculosis in ancient times. Its present use is only justified as a complement of specific anti-tuberculosis treatment. It is externally applied for bleeding wounds, hematoma, and bruises to reduce bleeding.
- Colitis and gastroenteritis: The lesser periwinkle plant can be used to stop diarrhea.
- Diabetes: The alkaloids of the lesser periwinkle plant present a mild hypoglycemic effect by decreasing the level of glucose in the blood and reducing glucosuria (the elimination of glucose in the urine). In the case of diabetes, it is used in combination with diet and other treatments.
- Galactofuge: It stops the production of milk in breastfeeding women. It is taken orally and applied in compresses on the breasts for inflammation or when a mother wished to stop breastfeeding.
- General and digestive system strengthener.
Lesser Periwinkle Scientific Facts
- Other names: Early-flowering periwinkle, greater periwinkle.
- French: Pervenche, violette des morts.
- Spanish: Vincapervinca, hierba doncella.
- Environment: Common in central and southern Europe, it grows in wet forests, especially oak and beech bushes. The plant is farmed in North America for medicinal purposes.
- Description: Vivacious plant of the Apocynaceae family, with ground stems up to two meters long, evergreen, coriaceous leaves, pedunculated, violet-blue flowers, and a very sour flavor.
- Parts of the plant used medicinally: The leaves.
How to use Lesser Periwinkle
- Decoction with 30-50g of leaves per liter of water, boiling for two minutes. Drink three to five cups daily, sweetened if desired with honey (the liquid is very sour).
- Pharmaceutical preparations (capsules, syrups, etc.). Follows the recommended doses and indications of each case.
- Compresses on the skin or the breasts (to stop breastfeeding), with the same decoction described for internal use. Apply 1—15 minutes, two or three times a day. In the case of hemorrhages or bruises, apply cold; however, apply warm compresses to inflamed breasts.
The forget-me-not is a plant of a similar species to that of the lesser periwinkle plant. The forget-me-not is native to Madagascar, though it is farmed in America, where it has many names, depending on where it is cultivated. The plant is beginning to be used as an antimitotic (prevents the reproduction of cancer cells) in treating certain leukemias (disease of Hodgkin and others) and sarcomas. Its use is still experimental.
George D. Pamplona-Roger, M.D. “Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants.” George D. Pamplona-Roger, M.D. Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants. Ed. Francesc X. Gelabert. vols. 1 San Fernando de Henares: Editorial Safeliz, 2000. 244, 245. Print.