Most of you would have seen the flowers shown on the left. It is periwinkle (Catharanthus roseus/ Vinca rosea), which belongs to the myrtle family. In Hindi the plant is called sadabahar, meaning ‘always in bloom’. The periwinkle flowers come in different colors. The plants grow wild in tropical areas. Now they are cultivated commercially because of their medicinal properties.
Interestingly, during the Middle Ages periwinkle was an essential ingredient in many magic potions. It was believed to have the power to dispel evil spirits. Consequently, the periwinkle plant with purple flowers was called by Europeans ‘sorcerer’s violet!
The pharmaceutical industry started discovering the value of periwinkle for treating several ailments only from the 1950s though it had been used in folk medicine in several countries for centuries. The reported medicinal qualities of periwinkle run into a long list. Here are some of them:
chemotherapy treatments for leukemia and Hodgkin's disease, managing blood pressure, diabetes, wasp stings, excessive bleeding, depression of central nervous system, circulatory disorders, Alzheimer’s disease, cold, cough, lung congestion and inflammation and sore throat, eye irritation and infections, digestive problems, muscle pain, wasp stings, eczema, and as tranquilizer and astringent. A warning: do not try any self medication with periwinkle.
Periwinkle is a good, easy to manage garden plant as well. It can be germinated from seeds, or cuttings can be planted. Sunlight or partial shade is required for proper growth. From our experience at Olavipe, the best planting distance is about two feet. It is drought resistant. The plant can grow up to three feet in height. Proper mixing of different colors, or clusters of single color, can have a stunning effect. Here are some photos of periwinkle from Olavipe :
Photos by me. Click on them for enlarged view.
Ixora coccinea (Rubiaceae) - flowers that gods and men love