What is Vinpocetine?
The periwinkle plant called Vinca minor is a common garden plant many people use as a medicine to treat various conditions such as cognitive decline and mental fogginess. But did you know that there’s an artificial compound obtained from it which can give even more enhanced benefits? It is called Vinpocetine, and it is popularly used for many health benefits.
Read on to know more about this substance and whether it can bring you these benefits beyond what vinca minor can offer. I also explore whether it can achieve these results safely and effectively.
Developed in the late 1960s, Vinpocetine is an alkaloid that is made from vincamine, the main ingredient found in the Vinca minor plant. It does not exist in nature and must be synthesized in this way to obtain it.
For this reason, some consider it as a synthetic compound, but others regard it as a semisynthetic compound or simply a natural-based product. Views, therefore, clash as to whether it should be considered a drug or a dietary supplement.
Due to this, Vinpocetine has a controversial and interesting legal status in various countries. In the US, it is classified as a nutritional supplement and is unregulated. In other countries like China, Japan, Mexico, and many European countries, it is legally treated as a prescription drug and is allowed for sale for treating health problems like epilepsy, stroke recovery or cognitive decline. The drug form, first produced by Hungarian firm, Gedeon Richter in 1978, is also known by various brand names such as Cavinton,
Following a study of vinpocetine supplements in the US which found many of them had no vinpocetine at all or inadequate amounts of it compared to the label, Senator Claire McCaskill of Congress called for the sale of the supplements to be suspended.
The FDA also received numerous complaints about the compound’s health risks from the public. To date (as from September 2016), the FDA tentatively holds that it does not qualify to be a dietary supplement. It continues to review its status.
Vinpocetine can deliver many benefits to users, and this comes mainly from its incredible ability to achieve increased blood flow primarily to the brain. Here are the benefits of using Vinpocetine.
- Vasodilator – this is Vinpocetine’s ability to increase the brain’s blood circulation. It is a unique type of vasodilator compared to others like Ephredine and Adderall. This is because it only focuses on improving blood circulation to the brain and not the rest of the body. The advantage of this is that it does not lead to high blood pressure. The effect of this compound as a vasodilator has been seen in one study when 6 men who took 20 mg of it saw an increase in their blood flow by 7%
- Can improve your cognitive performance – it can enhance many of your brain functions. It will improve both your short term and long term memory. It will also help you to heighten your focus and alertness. Studies show that reactions times are faster in users than in nonusers. It also has neuroprotective properties and can prevent or even restore damaged brain tissue. Such tissue is destroyed by ischemic attacks, i.e., the deprivation of oxygen to brain cells, which can happen in a stroke. Finally, Vinpocetine can protect the brain against decline and dysfunction that usually comes with advancing age
- Can help with your hearing ability – it can restore your hearing after it has been lost through various causes. People who experience vertigo or dizziness can also find relief. Tinnitus or the buzzing effect in your ears can also be treated.
- Can enhance your mood and give you feelings of motivation
- Better eye health – many eye conditions can be treated with this compound. This includes improved night vision and healing for eye injuries such as those caused by burning. Older people who are suffering macular decline can also benefit. Lastly, glaucoma, an eye disease that can lead to visual loss can be relieved with the compound
- Can give you better cardiovascular health – it can significantly improve your heart health and circulation by reducing atherosclerotic plaque. This is a substance that can build up on the walls of the arteries and interfere with healthy blood flow. It can also widen your blood vessels (vasodilation), which improves the supply of nutrients to your body.
- The supplement can successfully treat chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).
- Menopause problems in women can also be relieved by this supplement
- Can also work to kill pain in the body
- Can help curb cancer growth –studies have shown that tumor cells were reduced in mice with 10 to 20 mg injected into them. Even more interesting is that there were no bad side effects.
What are the side effects of Vinpocetine? The side effects of Vinpocetine are relatively few or rare in occurrence. Some users, especially those who overdose, can suffer the following side effects
- Dry mouth
- Temporary condition of low blood pressure (hypotension)
People who should not use Vinpocetine
The following people should not use Vinpocetine
- Pregnant or those breastfeeding
- Vinpocetine can also cause a condition called agranulocytosis. This is a situation in which your white blood cells drop in number, causing your immune system to weaken. Therefore Vinpocetine can be dangerous for people whose immune system is already weak. These include people with HIV or AIDS, those with organ transplants or those who are on chemotherapy.
- Those with bleeding disorders should not take it because it can slow blood clotting, thus worsening their condition. This includes those taking anticlotting drugs like Coumadin
- Those taking antiplatelet drugs like Plavix should also not take it
- Those who intend to have an operation two weeks before the surgery. Also, those coming out of surgery should not take it at least for two weeks after the operation. The reason for this is to avoid the chance of excessive bleeding.
Vinpocetine can either be consumed as a pure compound in pills or capsules or as a supplement formulation.
No single dose exists, and it will depend on your condition and goal.
Generally, daily doses of between 15mg to 60 mg is recommended, taken in three parts together with a meal. It has been found that taking it with food actually increases its bioavailability in the gut by between 60% to 100% compared with taking it without food.
You are advised to start at a minimum of 5 mg with each meal to first see how your body respond. Reaching this way to a maximum of 20 mg makes this dose ideal for those seeking optimum brain health, greater blood flow into the brain, increased focus, and reducing the rate of cognitive decline.
Doses that extend to about 30 mg to 45 mg are useful for enhancing memory in healthy people.
Higher amounts such as 40gm or more of Vinpocetine give you no additional benefits, and in fact, benefits start to decline.
You can also safely stack Vinpocetine with other supplements and get even more enhanced results.
Some of these stack options include:
- With ginkgo bolka – this is ideal as a nootropic (enhancing focus) goal. It works to improve your mood and sharpen your cognitive function
- With pramiracetam
How Vinpocetine works
It has a better bioavailability in the gut when taken with food than without. It also has an even more impressive bioavailability to the brain because it can cross the brain-blood barrier. This it does with 3% to 4% of it entering the brain in just 2 minutes after an IV administration.
In the brain, its amounts increase more significantly compared with other body areas. It also tends to prefer to reside in certain brain areas such as the thalamus, visual cortex, basal ganglia, and putamen.
It is these brain parts that end up benefitting the most in terms of additional blood flow.
Vinpocetine acts by slowing down the release of certain neurotransmitters like dopamine or glutamate. An excess of dopamine and glutamate can lead to cell destruction because the cells become overactivated. They also suffer massive oxidative harm. The inhibiting action of Vinpocetine thus helps to protect the brain.
Vinpocetine also works to increase cGMP levels which is what is behind the vasodilation effect (blood vessel widening and increased blood flow)
Price and availability
- Can help you reduce stress
- Helps to keep your cognitive abilities optimum as you age
- Elevates focus
- Is anti-inflammatory
- Generally safe for most people if taken orally and within the recommended dosage
- Long term or continuous use does not seem to have harmful effects
- For some of the claimed benefits such as treating Alzheimer’s disease, more studies are needed to prove the effectiveness
- There are several side effects especially at higher doses
Vinpocetine is an ideal solution for those who want to achieve maximum mental focus, brain health as well as relief from chronic fatigue.
When buying your supplement, ensure that you do so only from reputable sellers. The industry is rife with false advertising and misleading labels. For example, one study of 26 supplements found that just six had the amounts of Vinpocetine showed on the label.