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Supplements

vinpocetine

What Is It? 
Health Benefits
Forms
Dosage Information
Guidelines for Use
General Interaction
Possible Side Effects
Cautions
References
Evidence Base Rating Scale

 

What Is It?

Vinpocetine is a derivative of an Extract taken from the lesser periwinkle plant (Vinca minor), an evergreen shrub. The shrub is native to Europe, where its constituents have been under examination since the 1950s for decreasing declines in brain function related to age and stroke. Only recently has vinpocetine become available in the United States as an over-the-counter dietary supplement rather than as a prescription drug like in Europe where it is more generally known by it’s brand name Cavinton.

Poor brain circulation is one of the most important mechanisms responsible for the cognitive decline associated with aging—typically  problems remembering names, directions, appointments. Research indicates that vinpocetine, like the widely publicized Herb Ginkgo biloba, can guard against such developments by increasing blood circulation in the brain. This is particularly true for people already suffering from mild, age-related cognitive impairment.

Vinpocetine also enhances the brain's use of oxygen by increasing the amount of ATP (adenosine triphosphate– the body's cellular fuel). People suffering from dementia caused by numerous tiny strokes appear to benefit from an increased oxygen-rich brain environment. This condition can cause memory problems that closely resemble those of Alzheimer's disease. It’s also thought that vinpocetine may be able to minimize damage caused by strokes.

Health Benefits

Extensively studied in Europe, vinpocetine has also been used to treat symptoms of acute stroke, motor disorders and dizziness. Some studies indicate a possible value for improving visual acuity and hearing as well. Even otherwise healthy people experienced improved short-term memory with taking vinpocetine.

Specifically, vinpocetine might help to:

Improve cognitive function in Alzheimer’s patients. In Alzheimer’s disease, amyloid plaques develop in areas of the brain that control memory and other cognitive functions. Vinpocetine increases blood circulation and metabolism in the brain, and animal studies have shown that vinpocetine can reduce the loss of neurons caused by decreased blood flow. (1) Some evidence indicates vinpocetine can modestly improve cognitive function in Alzheimer’s patients. (2, 3) A 2003 Cochrane Database review regarding vinpocetine supplementation for cognitive function found efficacy in patients treated with 30 mg or 60 mg a day. However, the review found that most of the vinpocetine studies were conducted prior to 1990, were conducted with small groups and were only short-term—six months or less. The review called for further high-quality studies. (3)

Enhance memory. Vinpocetine has been the subject of considerable scientific research for more than 25 years as an enhancer of memory function. In one study of eight subjects, all subjects showed improvements in short-term memory processes during cognitive tests after receiving 40 mg of vinpocetine. (4) In another randomized, double-blind crossover study of 12 healthy females, the subjects were treated with either 10, 20, or 40 mg of vinpocetine or placebo for two days. During a battery of psychological tests on the third day (1 hour after morning dosages), performance on the Sternberg Memory Scanning Test was significantly improved in those who received 40 mg when compared to placebo. (5) In a review of three studies of older adults with memory problems associated with poor brain circulation or dementia-related disease, vinpocetine was found to produce significantly more improvement than a placebo in performance on global cognitive tests reflecting attention, concentration, and memory. (1)

Prevent stroke morbidity and mortality. Because vinpocetine may increase blood flow in the brain, researchers believe it can be useful in thrombotic (clot-related) strokes. Animal studies suggest vinpocetine decreases neuronal death in ischemia (decreased oxygen in the blood) and decreases the size of cerebral infarction (the area of dead tissue) in experimental strokes. (6) Preliminary human studies indicate efficacy in reducing the residual effects of acute ischemic stroke and preventing mortality after stroke. However, in a 1999 review of such studies, only one small, randomized, controlled study that compared vinpocetine to placebo was of adequate quality to be included in the review. (7) Only a few clinical studies investigating vinpocetine for stroke have been published, and most have not been in the U.S. Two meta-analyses of these studies, including a 2008 Cochrane Database review, found insufficient conclusive information to determine the effectiveness of vinpocetine for acute ischemic stroke. (8, 9) More evidence is needed to determine efficacy for stroke.

Treat tinnitus. Tinnitus, or a ringing in the ears, can sometimes originate in the nerves deep in the brain, or can result from poor circulation. Researchers believe the circulation-improving effects of vinpocetine can help treat some causes of tinnitus. In a 1997 Polish study, 20 patients treated for acoustic trauma received either nicergoline or 10 mg of vinpocetine twice a day for 10 days. Improved hearing was reported in 79 percent of patients, and improvement in tinnitus was reported in 66 percent of patients. However, researchers indicated greater improvements in patients receiving nicergoline than those receiving vinpocetine. (10) Aside from this small study, few trials have examined the efficacy of vinpocetine on tinnitus. More research is needed in this area.

Treat vision disorders. Because the vessels of the eye are in direct connection with the cerebral circulation, the circulation-improving effects of vinpocetine are thought to be effective in treating vision disorders. While few studies have examined this connection, a 2006 Budapest analysis of the data of 280 patients concluded vinpocetine given by intravenous infusion has beneficial effects in numerous ophthalmologic disorders of vision and visual field. (11) However, this form is not available in the U.S. or for self-use. More research is needed in this area.

Forms

·        Capsule

Dosage Information

·        For treating cognitive impairment, Alzheimer’s, and other dementias, 10-20 mg three times daily has been used.

·        For memory loss/impairment: 40 mg once a day

·        For stroke: 10 mg twice daily has been used.

·        For tinnitus: 10 mg twice daily has been used.

 Guidelines for Use

Taking vinpocetine with food seems to enhance its absorption.

General Interaction

Vinpocetine might increase the risk of bleeding in some people when combined with herbs that affect platelet aggregation, such as angelica, clove, danshen, fenugreek, feverfew, garlic, ginger, ginkgo, Panax ginseng, poplar, red clover, turmeric, and others. Taking vinpocetine with anticoagulant/antiplatelet drugs [heparin, warfarin (Coumadin), aspirin, non-steroidal anti-inflammatories] also may increase the risk of bleeding and bruising. 

Possible Side Effects

In most clinical trials, there have been no serious side effects related to the use of vinpocetine. However, some people may experience gastric discomfort, vertigo, anxiety, nausea, facial flushing, sleep disturbances, or headache.

Cautions

Because it might increase the risk of bleeding, people with blood-clotting disorders, who are undergoing surgery, or who are taking other anti-coagulants [heparin, warfarin (Coumadin), aspirin, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs] should not use vinpocetine.

In rare cases, adverse reactions do occur. These can include a temporary drop in blood pressure, an accelerated heart rate, dry mouth, and weakness. Stop taking vinpocetine and consult your doctor if this occurs. 

References 

1.    McDaniel MA, Maier SF, Einstein GO. “Brain-specific” nutrients: a memory cure? Nutrition. 2003 Nov-Dec;19(11-12):957-75.
2.    Wollschlaeger B. Efficacy of vinpocetine in the management of cognitive impairment and memory loss. JANA. 2001;4:25-30.
3.    Szatmari SZ, Whitehouse PJ. Vinpocetine for cognitive impairment and dementia. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2003;1:CD003119.
4.    Bhatti JZ, Hindmarch I. Vinpocetine effects on cognitive impairments produced by flunitrazepam. Int Clin Psychopharmacol. 1987 Oct;2(4):325-31.
5.    Subhan Z, Hindmarch I. Psycopharmacological effects of vinpocetine in normal healthy volunteers. Eur J Clin Pharmacol. 1985;28(5):567-71.
6.    Grant JE, Veldee MS, Buchwald D. Analysis of dietary intake and selected nutrient concentrations in patients with chronic fatigue syndrome. J Am Diet Assoc. 1996;96:383-6.
7.    Bereczki D, Fekete I. A systematic review of vinpocetine therapy in acute ischaemic stroke. Eur J Clin Pharmacol. 1999;55:349-52.
8.    Feigin VL, Doronin BM, Popovva TF, et al. Vinpocetine treatment in acute ischaemic stroke: a pilot single-blind randomized clinical trial. Eur J Neurol. 2001;8:81-5.
9.    Bereczki D, Fekete I. Vinpocetine for acute ischaemic stroke. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2008 Jan 23;(1):CD000480.
10.  Konopka W, Zalewski P, Olszewski J, et al.[Treatment results of acoustic trauma.]Otolaryngol Pol. 1997;51 Suppl 25:281-4.
11.  Végh S, Szikszay E, Bonoczk P, Cserjés Z, Kiss G. [Retrospective analysis of the    effect of vinpocetine infusion in ophthalmologic disorders.] Orv Hetil. 2006 Dec 10;147(49):2361-5.

Evidence Based Rating Scale  

The Evidence Based Rating Scale is a tool that helps consumers translate the findings of medical research studies with what our clinical advisors have found to be efficacious in their personal practice. This tool is meant to simplify which supplements and therapies demonstrate promise in the treatment of certain conditions. This scale does not take into account any possible interactions with any medication/ condition/ or therapy which you may be currently undertaking. It is therefore advisable to ask your doctor before starting any new treatment regimen.

 

Condition

Rating

Explanation

 

 

  

 

 

 

  

Alzheimer’s

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

A review of small, short-term studies found efficacy. Higher quality studies are needed to confirm efficacy.

 

 

  

Memory Loss/Impairment 

 

 

 

Several studies have shown efficacy.

 

 

 

  

 

Stroke

 

Date Published: 04/19/2005

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