What is Vinpocetine?
Vinpocetine (pronounced vin-poe-ce-teen) is a synthetic compound derived from vincamine, a substance found naturally in the leaves of the lesser periwinkle plant (Vinca minor). Vinpocetine was developed in the late 1960s.
Vinpocetine is available as a prescription drug in Europe and Japan. In the the United States and Canada, it’s sold in health food stores and online as a dietary supplement.
Why Do People Use Vinpocetine
1) Stroke and vascular dementia
Vinpocetine is thought to increase blood circulation in the brain, which may explain why some preliminary studies suggest that it may reduce brain impairment and dementia after an ischemic stroke. Although promising, well-designed human studies are needed.
2) Alzheimer's Disease
Vinpocetine is also being explored as a complementary treatment for people with Alzheimer’s disease. It’s thought to enhance the brain's use of oxygen, protect brain cells against damage, and increase blood flow to the brain by inhibiting an enzyme called phosphodiesterase.
Although preliminary studies on the use of vinpocetine for Alzheimer's disease showed promise, a critical review of previously published studies found that the evidence as a whole was too weak to rely on, due to limitations in the design of the studies. More research is needed.
Studies suggest that vinpocetine may help with tinnitus after trauma to the ear.
4) To boost brain function
Vinpocetine is marketed in North America as a supplement that can boost memory and brain function in healthy people, but there is no real evidence yet that it can help.
Side Effects and Safety Concerns
Side effects of vinpocetine may include indigestion, nausea, dizziness, anxiety, facial flushing, insomnia, headache, drowsiness and dry mouth. Vinpocetine may also cause a temporary drop in blood pressure.
Vinpocetine shouldn’t be taken by pregnant or nursing women. The safety of vinpocetine in people with liver or kidney damage isn't known. People with bleeding disorders, low blood pressure or seizure disorders shouldn't use vinpocetine. It also shouldn't be used two weeks before or after a surgical or dental procedure.
There is one case report of agranulocytosis associated with the use of vinpocetine.
Possible Drug Interactions
Vinpocetine shouldn’t be taken by people who are taking drugs or herbs that “thin” the blood (anticlotting or antiplatelet medications), such as aspirin, Plavix (clopidogrel), Ticlid (ticlopidine), (Trental) pentoxifylline, vitamin E, garlic or ginkgo. It should not be used with Coumadin (warfarin).
Szatmari SZ, Whitehouse PJ. Vinpocetine for cognitive impairment and dementia. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2003;(1):CD003119.