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Vinca minor, also known as lesser periwinkle or myrtle, is a perennial, evergreen vine native to southwestern Asia and central Europe. The plant creeps along the ground, where it establishes roots and creates large colonies, although it does not climb like other vines. Instead, it forms thick mats of foliage and flowers, and is commonly used as an ornamental ground cover.
Reaching a mature height of only about 6 inches (15.24 centimeters), Vinca minor is also considered a subshrub, or a short, woody plant with stems that hug the ground. Individual plants can grow to about 3 feet (0.91 meters) in diameter, and feature glossy, dark-green leaves that grow opposite each other along thin stems. Leaves remain attractive all year, but in early spring, the plant produces small, blue-purple flowers that last until autumn. Some cultivars produce lavender or white flowers, although these are less common.
Vinca minor is traditionally used as ground cover under large trees and in other shady areas, where it spreads profusely. The plant is widely naturalized, and is even considered invasive in some areas of North America. Lesser periwinkle is valued for its ease of care, dense growth and resistance to pests and disease.
The Vinca minor plant thrives in shaded areas, where other ground covers and grasses cannot survive. Plants placed in full sun will decline rapidly and may never produce flowers. Lesser periwinkle also prefers moist, well-drained soil, although it will tolerate dry conditions for a short time. The plant is easy to grow in temperate climates, as it requires only basic care in most seasons. Supplemental watering may be required when temperatures peak in the summer, and occasional pruning may be necessary to keep the vines from invading other areas of the lawn and garden.
Vinca minor is used as a traditional herb remedy for treating a variety of ailments. Most commonly, the dried leaves of the plant are used to treat cardiovascular diseases and to enhance blood circulation throughout the body. Other herbal remedies include treating excessive menstrual flow and tension headaches, and reducing blood sugar. In homeopathic medicine, Vinca minor is used as a remedy for various skin disorders, ulcers, hemorrhages and diphtheria.
The recommended dosage of Vinca minor, when taken as a home herbal remedy, is 1 cup (236.6 milliliters) of infusion taken twice daily or 28 drops of tincture dissolved in water twice per day. Vinca minor tincture, which may be sold as periwinkle tincture, can be purchased at natural health stores. An infusion, however, must be made at home. To make an infusion, steep 2 tsp (9.86 milliliters) of dried leaves in 1 cup (236.6 milliliters) of boiling water for 10 to 15 minutes, strain, sweeten with honey if desired, and then drink immediately. A physician should always be consulted before taking any new herb to make sure it is safe for the individual.