The Latin name of periwinkle's genus, Vinca, is derived from a word meaning "to overcome," and it has been used since medieval times as a medicinal herb to manage a variety of ailments. Periwinkle is well known as the basis for several prescription anticancer drugs that were developed several decades ago. However, use of these medications is limited by serious side effects. There is not enough scientific information to support periwinkle for any use. Consult with your healthcare provider before using periwinkle medicinally.
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Identification and Dosage
Periwinkle is also known as Vinca minor, myrtle, church-flower, and magdalena. The flower and leaf are used medicinally. Vincamine is an active compound in periwinkle, and a semi-synthetic version called vinpocetine has been used in scientific studies. Periwinkle tincture can be taken in doses of 1 to 2 mL three times per day. A tea made by infusing 1 tsp. of periwinkle in one cup of water for 10 to 15 minutes can be taken three times daily.
Periwinkle has been used by some to treat cancers such as leukemia, Hodgkin's disease, malignant lymphomas, neuroblastoma, Wilm's tumor and Kaposi's sarcoma. It has also been used to possibly treat Alzheimer’s disease and high blood pressure and to enhance memory. Periwinkle is an astringent that can help to relieve pain from canker sores. Also, periwinkle may help manage headaches, vertigo, poor memory, diarrhea, tinnitus or ringing in the ears, bleeding gums and heavy menstruation.
Preliminary research has shown that either vincamine or vinpocetine or both may help to treat dementia, manage Alzheimer’s disease, improve short-term memory loss caused by some medications, improve age-related hearing loss and reduce calcium buildup from dialysis. Periwinkle also contains tannins which may help to relieve pain from canker sores or sore throats, but human studies have not been conducted to substantiate these effects. There is not enough scientific information to endorse the effectiveness of periwinkle for any of its uses.
Vinpocetine may cause occasional flushing of the skin and skin rash. Periwinkle herb may also cause occasional minor stomach upset, which may be avoided by taking it with food. Some animal studies have shown periwinkle to suppress the immune system, but this has not been confirmed in human trials. Vinpocetine and periwinkle should be avoided during pregnancy or breastfeeding.