January – Periwinkle

Vinca major also Vinca minor, which has narrower leaves. Also known as Sorcerer’s Violet and Sadabaha. The medicinal properties of both species are similar. The leaves are the part used medicinally. Caution: Large quantities may be poisonous. Make sure you have correctly identified the herb before using.

Originally from Europe and N. Africa, Periwinkle is naturalised in Southern England, The plant is an evergreen and can be found in flower anytime from January to June. It can grow almost anywhere, but is often found under hedges and at woodland edges. It has dark green shinny leaves and blue flowers.

Actions: Astringent, Antihaemorrhagic, Sedative, Tonic, and Vasodilator.

Sadabaha means ‘always in flower’ whilst the Latin name comes from ‘Vincire’ meaning ‘to bind’. Periwinkle was often used to make bindings in ancient times.

The plant contains Tannins, which give rise to it astringent action. It also contains indole alkaloids, including ‘vincamine’, which is used by the pharmaceutical industry as a vasodilator and cerebral stimulant. There are also saponins (detergent like molecules) and flavonoids.

Herbalists mainly use the astringent and antihaemorrhagic properties of the plant to treat bleeding. Periwinkle tea can be used as a mouthwash or gargle to treat mouth ulcers, bleeding gums and sore throats. A poultice can be applied externally to stem bleeding from wounds and haemorrhoids. Periwinkle can also be taken internally to treat excessive menstrual bleeding, or bleeding in the digestive or urinary tracts. It can also be used to treat diarrhoea. If symptoms persist, or are unusual or severe, seek a medical opinion. Unusual bleeding should always be medically investigated.

Some herbalists suggest that periwinkle can be used to treat high blood pressure, because of its vasodilatory properties and it is currently being investigated for the treatment of diabetes. Other Vinca species are being tested for anticancer properties.

A tea can be made from 2 to 4 grams of dried leaves (approx. one teaspoon full) by pouring on a cup full of boiling water. Leave to infuse for a good ten minutes. Strain and drink three times a day. Anyone who suffers from medical conditions, or is taking medication, or who is (or may be pregnant) should consult a qualified herbalist before taking herbs. Avoid taking periwinkle internally if constipated.

Old folklore says that, if you carry a sprig of periwinkle, you will be prosperous and you will be well received by strangers. Might be worth a try!

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