Vinpocetine is a synthetic compound derived from vincamine, an ingredient found in lesser periwinkle plant. The compound was isolated back in 1975, and it has since been used for different purposes in different parts of the world. In the US, Vinpocetine was acknowledged as a dietary supplement by the FDA in the 1990s. However, following additional studies, the FDA went back and issued several warnings. In 2019, they reported that Vinpocetine was unsafe for pregnant women and women who may become pregnant. Despite the warnings, a good number of people still use the drug due to its potential health benefits.
Vinpocetine is legal in most countries outside the US, where it is sold under the brand name Cavinton. In Europe, countries such as Germany prescribe Vinpocetine to enhance blood flow in the brain. The drug is also legal in Asian countries like Japan. Meanwhile, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia have banned it.
How Does Vinpocetine Work?
Rodent and human trials have suggested several working mechanisms that make Vinpocetine beneficial. According to some trials, Vinpocetine decreases the levels of neurotransmitters dopamine and glutamate to a healthy range. The presence of these neurotransmitters at high levels causes excitotoxicity and increases the risk of oxidative damage on brain cells.
This study also showed that Vinpocetine inhibits PDE1 and increases the concentration of cyclic GMP (cGMP). This widens the blood vessels allowing for more blood flow in different parts of the brain. That’s why Vinpocetine has been linked to cognitive-enhancing and cardio-protective benefits.
According to multiple trials, Vinpocetine improves the flow of key electrolytes by blocking several ion channels, including Potassium, Sodium, and L-type calcium channels. It also reduces inflammation by preventing the activation of IKKβ and transportation of NF-kB through cell membranes.
Benefits of Vinpocetine
Vinpocetine has been linked to several health benefits, but human trials supporting these claims are seriously lacking. The compound is said to be effective for:
- Boosting Blood Flow in The Brain
Studies have proved that Vinpocetine can cross the blood-brain barrier. It’s actually very fast-acting, with the studies showing that it can reach the brain in just 2 minutes after taking an IV dose. It reaches several parts of the brain, including the visual cortex, basal ganglia, and putamen. These areas will experience an increase in blood flow, which enhances various brain functions.
As an advantage of improved blood flow, the brain cells get to enjoy increased oxygenation. This explains why Vinpocetine is believed to be beneficial not just as a nootropic but also in dealing with conditions like stroke.
Studies have also proved that Vinpocetine boosts blood flow and oxygenation without interfering with blood pressure.
- Slowing Down Cognitive Decline
Vinpocetine is believed to be effective for slowing down cognitive decline associated with Alzheimer’s disease and other types of Dementia. The results are especially compelling in subjects with chronic blood flow insufficiency.
In this relatively large-scale study involving almost 5000 subjects with chronic cerebrovascular insufficiency, Vinpocetine was administered in two phases. First, the subjects were given intravenous infusions for a week. They were started with a dosage of 25 mg per day in the first four days before it was increased to 50mg for the remaining 3 days. The IV infusions were then replaced with oral administration for 90 days at 30mg per day. At the end of the study, the scientists observed a significant improvement in Tinneti Scale and MMSE scores and decreased neurological symptoms. In other words, the symptoms of cognitive decline reduced significantly.
It makes sense that Vinpocetine can slow down cognitive decline because it boosts blood flow and oxygenation in the brain. However, the studies are quite limited, and that’s why the drug is not widely used.
You are free to discuss the potential benefits and risks of taking this drug for this purpose with your doctor if you live in a country where it is banned. For the people living in places where Vinpocetine is legal, you must use it as directed because the lack of sufficient clinical trials could mean the drug is dangerous at high doses or when used for prolonged durations.
- Improving Memory
A few studies have linked Vinpocetine to improved short and long-term memory in healthy individuals. Researchers believe that Vinpocetine can boost short-term memory when taken with ginkgo. It can also reverse the short-term memory impairment effect stimulated by a sedative known as Flunitrazepam.
In addition to boosting memory, Vinpocetine increased memory scanning speed in healthy volunteers.
The trials suggest that Vinpocetine improves memory by inhibiting calcium and sodium ion channels. The biggest challenge here is most of these studies are small-scale, so they’re hardly reliable.
Other possible potential benefits of taking Vinpocetine are:
- Offers protection against hearing loss
- Relieves headaches
- Improves reaction time
- May offer some anti-inflammation protection.
- May boost resting metabolic rate (RMR) to aid fat loss
- Motion sickness
More clinical trials are necessary to ascertain the effectiveness of the drug for these conditions.
Is Vinpocetine Safe?
Vinpocetine appears to be a safe drug when taken properly and in the short-term. Most of the studies looking into the compound did not produce any severe side effects.
However, in some cases, Vinpocetine can stimulate adverse reactions such as insomnia, facial flushing, dizziness, anxiety, indigestion, nausea, drowsiness, sleep disturbance, and headaches.
High doses of Vinpocetine administered intravenously can cause severe side effects like reduced heart rate and blood pressure, which can be fatal. You must always consult a licensed physician when taking Vinpocetine intravenously.
Pregnant and nursing mothers should not use Vinpocetine. Individuals with pre-existing medical conditions should also consult a medical practitioner before taking Vinpocetine.
Vinpocetine can interact with drugs that slow blood clotting, i.e., Anticoagulants and antiplatelet drugs, so make sure to discuss your medical history with a physician exhaustively before taking the drug. Let them know of any medications you could be using; prescription, non-prescription, and even herbal products or dietary supplements.
The ideal dosage for improving memory, reducing cognitive decline, and slowing down the progression of Alzheimer’s is 5-10mg taken three times daily by mouth. In Europe, physicians can prescribe up to 15mg taken three times every day. The drug has a very short half-life of fewer than 2 hours, so you have to split the dosage into three servings.
For the best results, you should take Vinpocetine with a meal to increase its bioavailability.