What Is It?
Vinpocetine is a derivative of an extract taken from the lesser periwinkle plant (Vinca minor), an evergreen undershrub. The shrub is native to Europe, where it has been under examination since the 1950s for boosting stroke- and age-related decline in brain function. Only recently has vinpocetine become available in the United States, and not as a prescription drug like in Europe, but as an over-the-counter dietary supplement.
Poor brain circulation is one of the most significant mechanisms responsible for the cognitive decline associated with aging—typically, problems remembering names, directions, appointments. Disorientation and memory lapses are common. 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. Vinpocetine may be able to protect the brain from damage caused by strokes.
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 actuity and hearing as well. Even otherwise healthy people experienced improved short-term memory with taking vinpocetine.
There are no known drug or nutrient interactions associated with vinpocetine.
In most clinical trials, there have been no serious side effects related to the use of 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.
Alzheimer’s Disease 10 mg twice a day
Memory Loss/Impairment 10 mg twice a day with meals
Stroke 10 mg twice a day
Tinnitus 10 mg 3 times a day
David Edelberg, M.D.
Only over the past few years has vinpocetine, an extract of the periwinkle plant, become available in the United States for staving off stroke- and age-related declines in brain function. While vinpocetine is available as an over-the-counter drug here, Europeans need a prescription for it. In addition to memory enhancement, vinpocetine is often suggested for stroke rehabilitation, sleep disorders, depression, migraine headaches, seizure disorders, and ear-related problems such as tinnitus (ringing in the ears) and Meniere’s disease.
HOW IT HELPS MEMORY LOSS/IMPAIRMENT
Since the Fifties, researchers from Europe and Japan have been reporting that a precursor of vinpocetine called vincamine showed promise for helping the brain function more effectively. It appeared to promote circulation, increase glucose (sugar) and oxygen use by the brain, and enhance the brain’s production of ATP (the molecule within a cell that creates energy). As a result, vinpocetine, like the ever-popular brain-booster ginkgo biloba, has been proposed as a supplement for guarding against memory lapses, disorientation, and other frustrating by-products of aging. Some studies in older patients have even indicated that vinpocetine may boost short-term memory, enhance learning and recall, and promote better focus, concentration, and attention.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Virtually all the research has been performed with standardized concentrations of purified vincamine–namely, vinpocetine–derived from the lesser periwinkle plant (Vinca minor).
Here are a couple of pointers for using vinpocetine most effectively. Try combining it with ginkgo biloba. Because vinpocetine appears to work by enhancing cerebral circulation, its action is probably similar to ginkgo’s. Using both may allow a dose reduction of each supplement. Don’t worry: Vinpocetine appears to be extremely safe. After 30 years of vinpocetine use in countless patients in Europe and Japan, only rare cases of dry mouth, rapid heart rate, and lightheadedness have been reported. Many of these studies were done in people who had suffered strokes.
David Edelberg, MD