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Herb of the Week for 8th Sept 2006

Herb of the Week for 8th September

By Lynn Kirkland

Pretty Periwinkle


Pretty Periwinkle by Lynn Kirkland

Vinca major, or greater periwinkle, takes its name from the Latin vincire “to bind”.
Whether this refers to its growth habit or because it was once used to make wreaths with its long trailing stems, is not clear.

Periwinkle was also once referred to as “Sorcerer’s Violet” as it was highly regarded for its healing properties and thought to have magical effects.
In the Caribbean it is used both to treat infections and as a protection against voodoo magic.

It grows all around the world and is used in different countries for different treatments.

WARNING-do not use periwinkle yourself as it contains powerful constituents and this information is solely for interest not as a recommendation for use.

It has been used as a folk remedy over the years for everything from diabetes to controlling bleeding. Some cultures have used it for cough medicine or to ease the pain of wasp stings.

Madacascar Periwinkle which has pink flowers is used in the pharmaceutical industry to produce medicines to treat childhood leukemia and other cancers.
This periwinkle contains vincamine which is the precursor to vinpocetine which has been proven to increase the blood flow to the brain.
This pharmaceutical extract has been used for dementia sufferers and to assist recovery from strokes.

As a garden plant remember that periwinkle is a rampant grower and it roots down where the stems touch the ground.
Great for covering areas under trees but it can be a little rampant for small tidy gardens.

You will see it in flower along the roadsides scrambling over fences.
It is not a true climber, more of a rambling groundcover.
You can get white flowered varieties too and an attractive creamy variegated leaved one with blue flowers.

Be warned about its promiscuous growth habits and don’t try curing your self of anything with this herb.
Enjoy it in your garden or look out for its pretty flowers when you are driving in the countryside.


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