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What is Periwinkle?

Although the plant is said to be native to the West Indies, it first was described in Madagascar. The periwinkle is a perennial herb with flowers that can bloom throughout the year, depending on the climate. These often are bred for their unique colors, ranging from white to green-yellow and lavender. Also referred to as Lochnera rosea, Vinca rosea, and Ammocallis rosea. The related plant Vinca minor (common periwinkle, Myrtle) is used as a ground cover.

Scientific Name(s)

Catharanthus roseus

Common Name(s)

Periwinkle also is known as red periwinkle, Madagascar or Cape periwinkle, old maid, church-flower, ram-goat rose, "myrtle," and magdalena.

What is it used for?

Traditional/Ethnobotanical uses

The plant was introduced in Europe during the mid-1700s, during which time it was cultivated as an ornamental. Today it grows throughout much of the world and plantations have been established on most continents in the warmer climates. The plant has been widely used in tropical folk medicine. Decoctions of the plant have been used for maladies ranging from ocular inflammation, diabetes, and hemorrhage to treating insect stings and cancers.

Miscellaneous uses

Periwinkle alkaloids have been used in the treatment of leukemia, Hodgkin disease, malignant lymphomas, neuroblastoma, Wilms tumor, Kaposi sarcoma, mycosis fungoides, to improve cerebral blood flow, and treat high blood pressure.

The most well known of the "vinca" alkaloids derived from C. roseus are vinblastine (vincaleukoblastine, Velban) and vincristine (leurocristine, Oncovin), which are now widely used pharmaceutical anticancer agents. An extensive body of literature exists on the clinical uses of the various purified alkaloids of Catharanthus.

What is the recommended dosage?

There is no recent clinical evidence to support specific doses of periwinkle herb. The pure alkaloids vincristine and vinblastine are used in cancer therapy at single weekly IV doses of 0.05 to 0.15 mg/kg and 0.1 to 0.2 mg/kg respectively.


Contraindications have not yet been identified.


Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking. Avoid use.


None well documented.

Side Effects

Do not self-administer the plant periwinkle. Physicians will inform patients using pharmaceutical forms of periwinkle of possible adverse reactions.


Periwinkle is potentially toxic and has been known to cause acute dyspnea.


1. Periwinkle. Review of Natural Products. factsandcomparisons4.0 [online]. 2007. Available from Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. Accessed April 19, 2007.

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