Periwinkle (Zhang Chun Hua)
Botanical Name: Western – Vinca major and V. minor. Eastern – Catharanthus roseus.
Both species of periwinkle (Vinca major, V. minor) and Madagascar periwinkle (Catharanthus roseus) are used for their astringent and tonic properties. Often associated with supporting “brain-health,” the plant is used to support memory and brain function in the elderly. It is also used to stop bleeding, and clear mucous from the throat and lungs. A beautiful flower, periwinkle has been associated with death, used as a medicine and as a magical ingredient in love potions and other spells.
Below is an overview of Periwinkle (Zhang Chun Hua), combining and interpreting the best of Western Science, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Shamanism, Folklore and more. Gain a balanced and thorough understanding of the healing properties of Periwinkle (Zhang Chun Hua).
Western Name: Periwinkle
Also Known As: Evergreen, Early-flowering, Myrtle
Organs/Systems: Brain, Heart
Key Western Actions & Medicinal Uses: Anti-inflammatory, Astringent, Antibacterial, Anticancer, Antispasmodic, Carminative, Coagulant, Depurative, Diuretic, Emetic, Sedative, Tonic, Laxative. Diarrhea, vaginal discharge, throat ailments, tonsillitis, high blood pressure, abdominal pain, toothaches, edema, heals wounds, blood purifier, hypertension, diabetes, coughs, stops bleeding, menorrhagia, hemorrhage.
Pin Yin: Zhang Chun Hua
Also Known As: Madagascar periwinkle (Catharanthus roseus)
Meridians: Kidney, Liver, Heart
Key TCM Actions & Medicinal Uses: Clears Damp Heat: malaria, phelgmy coughs, respiratory infections, headaches, anticancer, yellow oozing wounds and skin sores, diarrhea, constipation. Regulates Blood: diabetes, lower blood sugar levels, menses, Alzheimer’s disease, improves circulation. Stops Bleeding/Relieves pain: excessive menstrual flow, wounds, mouth sores. Calms Shen: anxiety, nervous tension, chronic stress.
Parts Most Frequently Used: Above Ground Whole Herb, Leaves, Seeds
Flavors/Temps: Acrid, Bitter
Caution: Use of the whole herb is considered safe, however using the isolated constituent, vincamine alone can interact dangerously with some blood thinning medicines, so check with your healthcare provider.
History/Folklore: The periwinkle flower is the source of the lavender blue color “periwinkle” named after the plant. It has been used in the traditional medicines of many cultures including, Europe, China, India and Caribbean Islands.
The Latin name, “vinca” derives from the latin verb “vincare” meaning to bind or subdue, a reference to the plants invasive creeping stems.
Periwinkle is used to support “brain health” by increasing circulation in the brain, supporting brain metabolism, decreasing memory loss, improving mental productivity and concentration and preventing early aging of brain cells.
The constituent vincamine, can be converted in the laboratory to a compound vinpocetine which is being studied as a possible dietary supplement to aid memory in the elderly. Studies have shown that the plant acts on white blood cells to inhibit cancer. Herbalists prefer using the whole herb for the balanced blend of healing chemicals found within the plant.
The Chinese have used the Madagascar periwinkle (Catharanthus roseus) as a medicine to especially treat diabetes, where it is effectively used as a substitute for insulin.
The flower is a symbol of spiritual peace and harmony. Placing the leaves in the mattress of a couple is said to bring them peace faithfulness and love forever. The 17th century English herbalist, Culpeper said, “The leaves eaten together by man and wife cause love between them.”
An old traditional folk name from France and England was “Sorcerer’s Violet.” It was considered a favorite flower of the “wise folk,” sometimes called witches, for making charms and love potions, and was said to be able to exorcise evil spirits. The Italians called it “Flower of Death” from the ancient custom of placing garlands of the flowers on the funeral biers of dead children. The Ancient Romans used periwinkle to symbolize sacrifice and death and in Medieval England it was associated with executions.
Periwinkle is a popular ground cover with numerous cultivars, flower colors and variegated foliage.
Vincamine, Alstonine, Vinblastine, Vanillic acid, Ursolic acid, P-coumaric acid, Beta-sitosterol, Reserpine, Tannin.
Madagascar periwinkle (Catharanthus roseus) is an endangered species and not the same plant as periwinkle (Vinca rosea), though they have some overlapping and similar medicinal uses.
Periwinkle is used in homeopathy to treat hemorrhages.
A few crushed leaves applied to the nostrils will stop a nosebleed.
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