Vinpocetine - An Overview
Vinpocetine is a synthetic nootropic that can be used for:
- Cognitive enhancement
- Alzheimers and dementia prevention
It is an analogue of the alkaloid apovincamine, which is isolated from the leaves of Vinca minor, commonly known as the lesser periwinkle.
Physicians prescribe vinpocetine in the treatment of ischaemic cerebrovascular diseases and dementias of vascular type.
It especially helps improve blood flow to the brain. specially helps dementia as its believed that dementia blocks blood flow to the brain. 23Valikovics A. Investigation of the effect of vinpocetine on cerebral blood flow and cognitive functions, Ideggyogy Sz. 2007
What Does Vinpocetine Do?
Vinpotecine may have some nootropic effects on cognition, but most of the clinical studies have focused on patients who have some form of impairment.
Vinpocetine has a complex mechanism of action which can significantly improve cognitive functions, overall disease status and quality of life in patients with chronic cerebral hypoperfusion.
One study saw significant improvement in daily activity and mood after taking taking vinpocetine for 18 months.
Moreover, vinpocetine was safe and had a good tolerability during the whole study period. 1Valikovics A, Csányi A, Németh L. Study of the effects of vinpocetin on cognitive functions, Ideggyogy Sz. 2012
The authors of another study found a significant improvement of cognitive functions after a 12-week long oral vinpocetine therapy using psychometric tests due to increased bloodflow.
They recommend the use of vinpocetine for the treatment of patients with mild cognitive impairment. 2Valikovics A. Investigation of the effect of vinpocetine on cerebral blood flow and cognitive functions, Ideggyogy Sz. 2007
These positive cognitive effects may carry over to otherwise healthy adults, although more research is needed.
There are studies that identify vinpocetine as a unique anti-inflammatory agent that may be valuable for the treatment of many inflammatory diseases.3Jeon KI, et al. Vinpocetine inhibits NF-kappaB-dependent inflammation via an IKK-dependent but PDE-independent mechanism, Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2010
Vinpocetine can reduce inflammatory cytokines and reactive oxygen species that can lead to inflammatory pain. 4Ruiz-Miyazawa KW, et al. Vinpocetine reduces lipopolysaccharide-induced inflammatory pain and neutrophil recruitment in mice by targeting oxidative stress, cytokines and NF-κB, Chem Biol Interact. 2015
This nootropic can protect the brain, especially during crises like stroke. There is evidence that vinpocetine can block cognitive damage during these attacks.5Tárnok K, et al. Effects of Vinpocetine on mitochondrial function and neuroprotection in primary cortical neurons, Neurochem Int. 2008
Vinpocetine also successfully lowers glutamate, a neurotransmitter which “inevitably plays a role in the initiation and spread of seizure activity.” It did this at lower levels than traditional antiepileptic drugs, making it a promising candidate for seizure treatment. 6Meldrum BS. The role of glutamate in epilepsy and other CNS disorders, Neurology. 1994 7Tárnok K, et al. Effects of Vinpocetine on mitochondrial function and neuroprotection in primary cortical neurons, Neurochem Int. 2008
Vinpocetine also has very powerful antioxidant properties, and can scavenge free radicals before they damage neurons. This can prevent toxicity and preserve cognitive function, especially as you age or undergo stress. 8Stolc S. Indole derivatives as neuroprotectants, Life Sci. 1999
In multiple studies of older adults with memory problems, vinpocetine produced significantly more improvement than a placebo in performance on global cognitive tests reflecting attention, concentration, and memory.9McDaniel MA, Maier SF, Einstein GO. “Brain-specific” nutrients: a memory cure?, Nutrition. 2003 10AO Ogunrin. Effect of Vinpocetine (Cognitol™) on Cognitive Performances of a Nigerian Population, Ann Med Health Sci Res. 2014
The beneficial effects of vinpocetine on memory may be due to its ability modulate cholinergic functions, prevent neuronal cell damage, and through its antioxidant mechanism.
Vinpocetine may be useful for treating symptoms of Alzheimer’s, although current research on this matter is mixed.
The results of some research demonstrate clearly that Vinpocetine increases the neuroprotective effect of adenosine on neurons.
Adenosine stimulates postsynaptic A1 receptors, which in turn inhibits the release of glutamate, a major neurotransmitter that has been linked to Alzheimer’s. 11Krieglstein J, Rischke R. Vinpocetine increases the neuroprotective effect of adenosine in vitro, Eur J Pharmacol. 1991
Unfortunately, a metaanalysis of human trials for vinpocetine and Alzheimer’s Disease did not establish a link that it could be beneficial. However, there are some issues with the individual studies they looked at, so these results should be taken with a grain of salt.
All identified studies were performed before and in the early 1990s and used different terms and criteria for cognitive decline and dementia. The data in these studies did not differentiate between the effects for degenerative or vascular dementia.
Only one study extended treatment to one year. Intention-to-treat data were not available for any of the trials. 12Szatmári S, Whitehouse P. Insufficient evidence of benefits of vinpocetine for people with dementia, Dementia and Cognitive Improvement Group. 2003
So, there is theoretical basis for vinpocetine to treat Alzheimer’s, but more higher-quality clinical trials are needed before we can draw any firm conclusions.
Hearing Loss and Vertigo
Due to its ability to increase vascular flow, vinpocetine may be useful for treating hearing loss and vertigo caused by certain conditions. 13Ribári O, Zelen B, Kollár B. Ethyl apovincaminate in the treatment of sensorineural impairment of hearing, Arzneimittelforschung. 1976
It may also improve eye health in the face of disease. One study found that vinpocetine can improve arteriosclerotic patients eyesight in almost all cases by increasing circulation and blood pressure . 14Kahán A, Oláh M. Use of ethyl apovincaminate in ophthalmological therapy, Arzneimittelforschung. 1976 15Kahán A, Szabó M. The effect of ethyl apovincaminate on the circulation of the eyeground, Arzneimittelforschung. 1976
How Vinpocetine Works In The Brain
This nootropic works through multiple pathways to achieve its effects, primarily by improving blood circulation, lowering inflammation, and increasing neuroplasticity.
Vinpocetine is readily absorbed from the small intestine following oral administration. After extensive metabolism it yields apovincaminic acid, the main active compound for this nootropic. From there it quickly crosses the blood brain barrier. 16Pudleiner P, Vereczkey L. Study on the absorption of vinpocetine and apovincaminic acid, Eur J Drug Metab Pharmacokinet. 1993
17Yao JH, Su CY, Chu XY. Pharmacokinetics and disposition of vinpocetine in rats, Yao Xue Xue Bao. 1994
It blockades sodium channels, which in turn inhibits the rise in sodium and calcium induced by 4-aminopyridine. Research shows that increases in intracellular Na and Ca concentrations are responsible for the cell damage during stroke and epilepsy.
So, the Na channel inhibiting properties of vinpocetine are thought to be responsible for its neuroprotective and anticonvulsant activity. 18Sitges M, Galván E, Nekrassov V. Vinpocetine blockade of sodium channels inhibits the rise in sodium and calcium induced by 4-aminopyridine in synaptosomes, Neurochem Int. 2005 19Adám-Vizi V. Neuroprotective effect of sodium channel blockers in ischemia: the pathomechanism of early ischemic dysfunction, Orv Hetil. 2000
Vinpocetine can also increase intracellular cGMP levels, leading to an increase of cerebral blood flow. This property is also responsible for neuroprotection. 20Hagiwara M, Endo T, Hidaka H. Effects of vinpocetine on cyclic nucleotide metabolism in vascular smooth muscle, Biochem Pharmacol. 1984
Vinpocetine is a phosphodiesterase type 1 inhibitor, which can influence neuroplasticity through a cascade of metabolic processes. This is most likely responsible for its effect on learning and memory, 21Beavo JA. Cyclic nucleotide phosphodiesterases: functional implications of multiple isoforms, Physiol Rev. 1995
Vinpocetine Potential Side Effects
At therapeutic doses, vinpocetine has not shown any significant side effects or toxicity to date, and it is considered a safe drug for long-term use.
We strive to bring you the most up to date, research-based information about Vinpocetine and other nootropics.
Something we missed? Do you use Vinpocetine? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.
About the author:
Erik Levi is a co-founder of HolisticNootropics.com and a certified holistic nutritional therapy practitioner.
As an NTP Erik takes a nutrition first approach to health. He has worked with many different people to help them use nutrition to optimize their quality of life.
Erik believes that mental health is a physiological process and cognitive enhancement is not something that can be achieved by just taking some pills with good Amazon reviews.
Instead, true cognitive enhancement comes with the right balance of nutrients, movement, and gratitude. Erik continues to stay up to date with the most current nootropic and holistic health research and promises to deliver the best solutions possible.
You can check out his personal health blog/podcast/YouTube Channel all under the name Holistic A-Hole.