Periwinkle Plant

Vinpocetine

  • Vitamins & Supplements
  • Updated July 26, 2016

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.

Evidence

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

Potential Benefit

Anecdotal reports and preclinical studies suggest vinpocetine can improve memory, but clinical evidence to support this is lacking [1]. 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 [2]. 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 [3][4], but a meta-analysis reported that vinpocetine does not significantly reduce the risk of death or dependency in survivors of acute ischemic stroke [5].

Preclinical studies suggest that vinpocetine may reduce inflammation [6][7], improve biological aspects of memory [8][9], and perhaps improve memory or prevent cognitive impairment [1][7][10][11]. Additional preclinical studies observed that vinpocetine enhanced the brain’s mitochondrial function, reduced oxidative stress, and lowered toxicity [11][12], all of which may prevent dementia and protect brain health. It is not yet known, however, whether these effects will transfer to humans.

For Dementia Patients

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 [13] 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 [14][15].

Safety

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 [13]. 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 [16].

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.

How to Use

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 [13].

Learn More

Vinpocetine overview from the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center

References

  1. Heckman PR, Wouters C, Prickaerts J (2015) Phosphodiesterase inhibitors as a target for cognition enhancement in aging and Alzheimer's disease: a translational overview. Current pharmaceutical design 21, 317-331.
  2. Subhan Z, Hindmarch I (1985) Psychopharmacological effects of vinpocetine in normal healthy volunteers. European journal of clinical pharmacology 28, 567-571.
  3. Bonoczk P, Gulyas B, Adam-Vizi V et al. (2000) Role of sodium channel inhibition in neuroprotection: effect of vinpocetine. Brain research bulletin 53, 245-254.
  4. Feigin VL, Doronin BM, Popova TF et al. (2001) Vinpocetine treatment in acute ischaemic stroke: a pilot single-blind randomized clinical trial. Eur J Neurol 8, 81-85.
  5. Bereczki D, Fekete I (2008) Vinpocetine for acute ischaemic stroke. The Cochrane database of systematic reviews, CD000480.
  6. Jeon KI, Xu X, Aizawa T et al. (2010) Vinpocetine inhibits NF-kappaB-dependent inflammation via an IKK-dependent but PDE-independent mechanism. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 107, 9795-9800.
  7. Filgueiras CC, Krahe TE, Medina AE (2010) Phosphodiesterase type 1 inhibition improves learning in rats exposed to alcohol during the third trimester equivalent of human gestation. Neuroscience letters 473, 202-207.
  8. Molnar P, Gaal L (1992) Effect of different subtypes of cognition enhancers on long-term potentiation in the rat dentate gyrus in vivo. European journal of pharmacology 215, 17-22.
  9. Lendvai B, Zelles T, Rozsa B et al. (2003) A vinca alkaloid enhances morphological dynamics of dendritic spines of neocortical layer 2/3 pyramidal cells. Brain Res Bull 59, 257-260.
  10. Medina AE, Krahe TE, Ramoa AS (2006) Restoration of neuronal plasticity by a phosphodiesterase type 1 inhibitor in a model of fetal alcohol exposure. The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience 26, 1057-1060.
  11. Deshmukh R, Sharma V, Mehan S et al. (2009) Amelioration of intracerebroventricular streptozotocin induced cognitive dysfunction and oxidative stress by vinpocetine -- a PDE1 inhibitor. Eur J Pharmacol 620, 49-56.
  12. Tarnok K, Kiss E, Luiten PG et al. (2008) Effects of Vinpocetine on mitochondrial function and neuroprotection in primary cortical neurons. Neurochemistry international 53, 289-295.
  13. Szatmari SZ, Whitehouse PJ (2003) Vinpocetine for cognitive impairment and dementia. The Cochrane database of systematic reviews, CD003119.
  14. Ogunrin A (2014) Effect of vinpocetine (cognitol) on cognitive performances of a nigerian population. Ann Med Health Sci Res 4, 654-661.
  15. Thal LJ, Salmon DP, Lasker B et al. (1989) The safety and lack of efficacy of vinpocetine in Alzheimer's disease. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society 37, 515-520.
  16. Drugs.com Vinpocetine Side Effects (accessed 09/8 2016).