Rosy periwinkle is a flowering plant that usually features five delicate petals that may be pink or white. The center of this variety of periwinkle is generally bright pink, while the foliage is traditionally dark green. Though native to Madagascar, rosy periwinkle can survive in many parts of Europe and the United States. A tea, infusion, or balm made from the whole plant may be used externally to treat a variety of skin conditions, bruises, and insect stings. Taken internally, this flowering plant may help balance blood sugar in diabetics, and to help treat Hodgkin’s disease and even several types of cancers, including juvenile leukemia.
When used medicinally, the entire rosy periwinkle plant is used. The flowers, leaves, and stems are typically bruised and torn before being simmered in water or oil. Herbalists simmer the plants in water to create teas and topical infusions. Simmering in oil, such as sweet almond or olive oil, creates a salve or balm from the plant. Suspending the bruised plant in distilled grain alcohol in the sun creates a concentrated tincture.
Topically, rosy periwinkle balms may soothe eczema, psoriasis, and rashes caused by allergens and infections. The infusion may be used to wash infected eyes or added to a warm bath as a medicinal soak. A soft cloth may also be soaked in the warm infusion and applied to bruises, especially around the eyes. Enzymes in the leaves and flowers reportedly speed the healing of all of these conditions.
Some modern cancer treatments, especially those for juvenile leukemia, contain some concentration of rosy periwinkle. Testicular cancer and Hodgkin’s disease, which attacks the lymph nodes, may also be treated with this plant. Two enzymes in the leaves, vincristine and vinblastine, may not only help heal external infections, they may also fight tumor growth. These anti-cancer properties may be directly related to the herb's anti-inflammatory properties.
Cancer patients treated with rosy periwinkle often experience the same symptoms as those exposed to chemotherapy. Hair loss and nausea are common, though most studies show that the hair loss, as in chemotherapy, is not permanent. Herbal infusions may be combined with other treatments, in some cases, to attack the cancerous cells in several different ways.
Internal use of rosy periwinkle should only be prescribed and dosed by a trained professional, either an herbalist or a medical doctor. Consuming too much rosy periwinkle could be toxic or even fatal. Pregnant women should avoid this herb and parents should seek professional advice before administering it to children. Vinblastine and vincristine, the enzymes that treat both internal and external infections, are often poisonous if taken improperly.