Vinpocetine

Ray Sahelian
Vinpocetine is chemically related to, and derived from vincamine, an alkaloid
found in the periwinkle plant. Vinpocetine became available over the counter
in 1998. It was introduced into clinical practice in Europe more than two
decades ago for the treatment of cerebrovascular disorders and related
symptoms. Experiments with vinpocetine indicate that it can dilate blood
vessels, enhance circulation in the brain, improve oxygen utilization, make
red blood cells more pliable, and inhibit aggregation of platelets (Kiss
1996). Vinpocetine may even have antioxidant properties (Orvisky 1997).
There have been quite a few studies with vinpocetine. Researchers at the
University of Surrey in Guildford, England administered vinpocetine to
patients suffering from mild to moderate dementia (Hindmarch 1991). Two
hundred and three patients included in a placebo-controlled, randomized
double-blind trial received every day for sixteen weeks either 10 mg doses of
vinpocetine three times a day, 20 mg doses of vinpocetine three times a day,
or placebo three times a day. There were no clinically relevant side effects
reported. Statistically significant cognitive improvements were found in
favor of active treatment groups compared to placebo. The patients on 10 mg
performed slightly better than those on 20 mg.

Fifteen Alzheimer patients were treated with increasing doses of vinpocetine
(30, 45, and 60 mg per day) in an open-label pilot trial during a one-year
period (Thal 1989). The study was done at VA Medical Center, in San Diego,
California. Vinpocetine failed to improve cognition at any dose tested. There
were no significant side effects from the therapy.

In a double blind clinical trial, vinpocetine was shown to offer significant
improvement in elderly patients with chronic cerebral dysfunction (Balestreri
1987). Forty-two patients received 10 mg vinpocetine three times a day for
thirty days, then 5 mg three times a day for sixty days. Matching placebo
tablets were given to another forty patients for the ninety-day trial period.
Patients on vinpocetine scored consistently better in all cognitive
evaluations. No serious side effects were reported.

Twelve healthy female volunteers received pre-treatments with vinpocetine 40
mg three times a day or placebo for two days according to a randomized,
double-blind crossover design (Subhan 1985). On the third day of treatment
and one hour following morning dosage, subjects completed a battery of
psychological tests. Memory was significantly improved following treatment
with vinpocetine when compared to placebo.

Availability
Vinpocetine is sold in 5 and 10 mg pills. Levels peak in the bloodstream
within an hour and a half after ingestion.

The Experience of Users
Dennis, a 72 year-old patient with age related cognitive decline says, “I
take 5 mg of vinpocetine at breakfast and lunch. I feel more focused and it
seems that I can make decisions quicker. I also notice colors to be more
vivid..” Other patients report similar positive effects.
Dr. Polimeni, a doctor in Rome, Italy, says, “Vinpocetine is a good cognitive
enhancer. It improves visual and auditory perception similar to pregnenolone.
My patients appreciate the effects better after a few days of therapy.”

The Author’s Experience
I like the effects from vinpocetine. On 10 mg, I notice improvement in
concentration and focus and enhancement of color perception peaking at about
two hours after dosing. Thereafter, the effects gradually decrease but
persist for a few hours. I do not notice any significant changes in mood or
energy levels.

Recommendations
Vinpocetine appears to be beneficial in cognitive disorders that are due to
poor blood flow to the brain. Therefore, individuals with atherosclerotic
vascular disease are probably the most likely to benefit from vinpocetine.
Until long-term studies are available, regular intake for prolonged periods
should be limited to 2.5 or 5 mg once or twice daily.

Ray Sahelian MD Written by Ray Sahelian MD

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