The periwinkle is a flowering shrub that belongs to the dogbane or Apocynaceae family. It has a rich and mystical history as an herbal and folk medicine. Superstitious Europeans in the Middle Ages called the purple-flowered plant the Sorcerer’s Violet because they often used it as an ingredient for magical charms and they believed it can dispel evil spirits.
The lesser periwinkle (Vinca minor) originated in Spain, France and other parts of Europe while the greater periwinkle (Vinca major) originated in Southern Europe. They are close relatives to Madagascar periwinkle, so-called because it is native to the island of Madagascar.
The Madagascar periwinkle has been used for centuries as an herbal remedy for diabetes, eye infections, sore throats, tumors and other ailments. Western scientists also recognize it may have anticancer agents after a shaman in Madagascar used the plant for treating tumors and cancer.
Table of Contents
- Alba (Vinca minor)
- Atropurpurea (Vinca minor)
- Aureovariegata (Vinca minor)
- Blue and Gold (Vinca minor)
- Bowles Variety (Vinca minor)
- Double Purple (Vinca minor)
- Golden (Vinca minor)
- Illumination (Vinca minor)
- Miss Jekyll (Vinca minor)
- Moonlit (Vinca minor)
- Ralph Shugert (Vinca minor)
- Sterling Silver (Vinca minor)
- Variegata (Vinca major)
- Other Color Combinations
- The Benefits of Growing Periwinkles
Alba (Vinca minor)
White in color, this variety has very small blooms and leaves, and it blooms in the spring, although not as prolifically as other types of periwinkles. There is also a version of this flower called the Alba Plena, which is a double-flower variety and very attractive, although it is uncommon to find it commercially.
Atropurpurea (Vinca minor)
Also called the Wine Vinca, this periwinkle consists of large burgundy blooms that bloom starting from April to September, when they bloom sporadically. Although non-invasive, it is a vining plant and grows up to 12 inches wide, making it perfect for a border or at the base of a shrub.
Aureovariegata (Vinca minor)
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With gold or yellow variegated foliage, this plant has blue flowers and a yellow edge on each leaf. It is ideal for small areas and is a trailing type of flower, although it does not grow aggressively.
Blue and Gold (Vinca minor)
Bowles Variety (Vinca minor)
With clump-forming, large petals in lavender, this variety of periwinkle is one of the most popular hybrids. It grows slowly, and you may have to plant more plants closer together to get the full effect that you likely want.
Double Purple (Vinca minor)
Just like its name suggests, this variety has large purple flowers and a double-flower form.
Golden (Vinca minor)
A white flowering form of periwinkle, it has a yellow and green variegation.
Illumination (Vinca minor)
Fairly new as compared to other varieties, the Illumination has leaves with large yellow areas in the center of each and a narrow strip of green found on the edges. It grows up to 30 feet in height and blooms from April through the fall months. Even though it is a tall plant, you can still use it in containers, where it has a beautiful look.
Miss Jekyll (Vinca minor)
Moonlit (Vinca minor)
Ralph Shugert (Vinca minor)
Of the Bowles Variety, this flower has leaves with white edges, and the petals themselves are sky blue. The flowers are patented and cannot be grown without permission, although they are very attractive.
Sterling Silver (Vinca minor)
Variegata (Vinca major)
With beautiful, large violet flowers, it has won numerous international flower awards and grows up to 18 inches tall.
Other Color Combinations
- All-lavender petals
- Lavender with a lavender and white star in the center
- Rose with a dark pink center and light white tips
- Rose with a pink and white center
- Violet with a dark purple center and darker purple center
The Benefits of Growing Periwinkles
- The species name, Vinca, is derived from a Latin word that means “to overcome,” which is appropriate because since medieval times the plant has been used for a variety of ailments. In fact, several prescription drugs to help cure cancer have been made with the periwinkle flower in the past several decades.
Of course, there are some serious side effects of using the flowers, which is why they should be used with caution.If you’re thinking of using periwinkles for any type of medicinal purposes, it is best to first check with your doctor and do some research on the Internet. The information available is very limited, but between doing online research and consulting with a medical professional, you should be able to make the right decision regarding the use of periwinkles for any of your ailments.
- There are several names for periwinkles, including Vinca minor, Vinca major, Magdalena, church-flower, blue buttons, joy on the ground, devil’s eye, sorcerer’s violet, and myrtle. One of the active ingredients in the periwinkle is Vincamine, which has been used in numerous scientific studies for years.
For medicinal purposes, you can make teas or tinctures using periwinkle in one of two ways: first, you can use 1-2 mL three times a day; second, you can infuse 1 tsp. of periwinkle in 1 cup of water for 10-15 minutes and then drink it up to three times every day.
- Side effects can occur if you use too much periwinkle or use it for too long, so if you have any of the following symptoms, it might be time to stop using the tea or tincture:
- Skin irritations and rashes
- Skin flushes
- Minor stomach upsets (although these can be eased by taking the concoction with food)
In addition, some studies have shown that periwinkles can suppress the immune system. Periwinkle, and anything with periwinkle or Vincamine in it should be avoided if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding.
- Periwinkles have been known to help with a lot of different ailments, including the following:
- Hodgkin’s Disease
- Wilms Tumor
- Kaposi’s Sarcoma
- Malignant lymphomas
- High blood pressure
- Astringent – relief from canker sores
- Memory enhancer
- Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
- Heavy menstruation or other bleeding
- Bleeding gums
- Age-related hearing loss
- Reducing calcium buildup from dialysis
- Pain relief, including from sore throats and headaches
- One of the most interesting things about the periwinkle plant is that there are various varieties, including the Littorinidae, which is actually a form of a snail. There are two genera in the plant family – Catharanthus or Madagascar periwinkles, and Vinca or European periwinkles—as well as three genera in the animal family – Littorina littorea or the common periwinkle, the Nodilittorina unifasciata or blue periwinkle, and Littorina saxatilis or rough periwinkle. The mollusks come in a variety of sizes and types, and they can be researched by visiting various websites on the Internet.