Vinpocetine is a partially synthesized supplement created from vincamine, which is derived from the seeds of the periwinkle plant. Though evidence of its cognitive benefits is mixed, it can potentially improve memory and increase brain blood flow and metabolism. It is used in Japan, Russia, and some European countries to treat cerebrovascular disorders, but it is not approved as a pharmaceutical in the United States. Although considered safe for most people, it poses risks to certain groups and its long-term effects are not well-studied.
A meta-analysis of three randomized controlled trials in dementia patients concluded that the trials were not adequate to recommend the use of vinpocetine. No clinical trials have determined whether vinpocetine can prevent dementia or promote brain health. Our search identified:
• 1 meta-analysis of 3 randomized controlled trials of patients with dementia. The trials were small and predated today's criteria for dementia.
• 1 pilot double-blind, randomized cross-over trial
• 2 open-label pilot studies of dementia or Alzheimer's patients
• 0 observational studies
• Multiple preclinical studies
Anecdotal reports and preclinical studies suggest vinpocetine can improve memory, but clinical evidence to support this is lacking . No clinical research suggests that vinpocetine protects against dementia or slows brain aging. One double-blind, randomized cross-over trial with only 12 healthy female volunteers reported that a three-day regimen of 40 mg vinpocetine may improve reaction time in a short-term memory test. However, the effect was extremely small and no improvements were seen on other cognitive measures . Clinical studies of patients with ischemic stroke suggest that injected vinpocetine could increase some aspects of energy metabolism in the brain and aid in stroke recovery , but a meta-analysis reported that vinpocetine does not significantly reduce the risk of death or dependency in survivors of acute ischemic stroke .
Preclinical studies suggest that vinpocetine may reduce inflammation , improve biological aspects of memory , and perhaps improve memory or prevent cognitive impairment . Additional preclinical studies observed that vinpocetine enhanced the brain’s mitochondrial function, reduced oxidative stress, and lowered toxicity , all of which may prevent dementia and protect brain health. It is not yet known, however, whether these effects will transfer to humans.
Several clinical trials have tested vinpocetine as a treatment for dementia, reporting only small, inconsistent benefits. A Cochrane review of three randomized controlled, double-blind clinical trials  concluded that although vinpocetine might benefit patients with mild to moderate dementia, the evidence is inconclusive. The researchers determined that the trials were too small and short and had failed to consider risks to support clinical use. Two open label trials in Alzheimer’s patients reported that vinpocetine failed to improve cognition .
Vinpocetine has been used extensively as a supplement and prescription drug, yet very little scientific research has tracked its effects on people. In small clinical trials, a short-term daily dosage of vinpocetine from 5 to 60 milligrams was well-tolerated . Vinpocetine should be avoided by patients using blood thinning medications because it decreases platelet aggregation. Vinpocetine is not recommended for anyone with hemophilia, heart problems, or a hypertensive crisis. Pregnant women should avoid it because of the lack of safety evidence .
NOTE: This is not a comprehensive safety evaluation or complete list of potentially harmful drug interactions. It is important to discuss safety issues with your physician before taking any new supplement or medication.
While vinpocetine is not approved in the United States as a pharmaceutical, it is available as a supplement, at a typical dosage of 10 mg per pill. Benefits for dementia patients have been reported at 30–60 mg/day .
Vinpocetine overview from the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center