Vinpocetine is derived from alkaloids found in periwinkles (the little blue flowers of the genus Vinca, not the little snails also called “periwinkles”). Discovered in Hungary in 1976, vinpocetine’s value for treating brain
disorders was quickly appreciated in Eastern Europe but was only slowly realized elsewhere. Consequently, most of the clinical
research into vinpocetine has been done in Hungary, Russia, and Poland.
What we can’t tell you
In the U.S. and some other industrialized countries, government agencies like the U.S. Food and Drug Administration
have adopted censorship as a method for intensifying their control over the supplement industry and its customers.
Thus, FDA regulations prohibit us from telling you that any of our products are effective as medical treatments,
even if they are, in fact, effective.
Accordingly, we will limit our discussion of Vinpocetine to a brief summary of relevant research,
and let you draw your own conclusions about what medical conditions it may be effective in treating.
Early interest in vinpocetine centered on its ability to improve mental function in patients with poor blood circulation in
the brain. For example, Bulgarian researchers in 1976 reported that when vinpocetine (5 mg three times/day for a month) was
given to patients with Chronic Cerebral Vascular Insufficiency, blood flow in the cerebral tissue was markedly increased,
without increasing blood pressure or having any other side-effects.
“Improvement of memorizing capacity evaluated by psychological tests was recorded after one month of Cavinton [vinpocetine]
treatment, associated with alleviation or complete disappearance of symptoms.”
Results like these have continued to be reported up to the present day.
Another form of impaired blood flow in the brain occurs with strokes. Vinpocetine has been shown to facilitate recovery from
strokes and in preventing chronic strokes due to poor circulation.
With regard to Cerebral Vascular Insufficiency, vinpocetine has been shown to:
- improve circulation
- improve cognition
- reduce headache, dizziness, tinnitus, fatigue, and insomnia
- improve impaired speech
- increase attention and concentration
- improve mood
Other neurological conditions that have been shown to respond favorably to vinpocetine include:
- diabetes-related memory loss
- memory and cognitive deficiencies
- mild cognitive impairment
- dementia of the Alzheimer’s type
- hearing loss, tinnitus, Ménière’s disease
- recurrent strokes and stroke recovery
- nerve damage due to oxidative and nitritive stress
- poor spatial memory
- “fetal alcohol spectrum disorders” (FASD)
- macular degeneration
- visceral pain
In addition to its neurological benefits, vinpocetine has been successfully applied to several other conditions:
- liver damage from toxic chemicals
- tumoral calcinosis (calcium deposits)
- inflammatory conditions, such as those accompanying atherosclerosis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, asthma, systemic lupus,
Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease.
Let us look briefly at several of these interesting applications.
Macular degeneration and glaucoma
Moscow researchers reported in 2007 that in a study of 40 patients with age-related macular degeneration, a 2-month treatment
with vinpocetine (10 mg/day) resulted in improved visual acuity and retinal function, and an improvement in ocular blood flow
values and in electrical activity as measured on macular electroretinograms.
In another Russian clinical study, 53 patients with primary open-angle glaucoma were treated with vinpocetine (10 mg three
times per day) for 2 months. The results were striking:
“The use of the vasoactive drug cavinton forte [vinpocetine] improved and stabilized visual functions in POAG patients [by
normalizing] intraocular pressure, which is particularly important with advanced POAG. Increased blood flow velocity in the
ocular arteries after a course of therapy with cavinton forte suggests a better retinal blood supply, which is a favorable
marker for the prediction of the disease.”
Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness worldwide, and is the leading cause among African-Americans. It is called
“the silent thief of sight" because it progresses slowly and is often only recognized when the disease is advanced. Vinpocetine will not restore vision loss that has already occurred, but it appears to be worthwhile insurance against glaucoma’s
Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, ALS, and stroke
These four types of damage to the brain have different origins, but they all cause tissue damage through inflammation. Methods for suppressing this inflammation are therefore important for treating these conditions. Vinpocetine is strongly
anti-inflammatory and operates by a different mechanism than most other inflammation suppressors — and this may account for its remarkable lack of side effects as compared with other anti-inflammatories.
The use of vinpocetine as an anti-inflammatory for dealing with these brain conditions is new idea. No clinical studies have
yet been performed (as of early 2011) to test this idea. Should people with Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, ALS, or stroke be using
vinpocetine in the hope that it will have benefits not yet proven? In view of vinpocetine’s safety and effectiveness for other
conditions, it would be hard to justify waiting who-knows-how-many years for the medical world to decide the question scientifically.
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD), the current euphemism for alcohol-related birth defects, affects an estimated 1% of
all children. It is caused by women consuming alcohol during pregnancy. Symptoms include mental dysfunctions, growth deficiencies,
and peculiar facial appearance.
It goes without saying that the best form of FASD prevention is the total avoidance of alcoholic beverages during pregnancy.
Many women, however, fail to abide by this rule, or are willing to take a chance that modest drinking won’t harm the fetus
enough to be noticeable. Two research studies in the U.S. suggest that in such cases the potential damage to the nervous system
can be diminished if vinpocetine is taken in large amounts for a few days after alcohol exposure. The research was done in
ferrets and in rats, and there is no reason to believe that it wouldn’t apply to humans, as well. The researchers conclude: “Treatment of alcohol-exposed
animals with vinpocetine restored their performance to control levels.”
Tinnitus (“ringing in the ear”)
Tinnitus can be caused by various events, including: loud noises, infections, drugs, or aging. Many different treatments have
been tried, but none are reliable. A 2008 Czech report showed that vinpocetine plus physiotherapy was the most effective of
the three treatments studied — in patients who had already had no success with various other treatments.
As is often the case in the medical world, the promising results of one or two clinical studies were never followed up by
other investigators. However, it is easy enough for tinnitus sufferers to try vinpocetine themselves before opting for one
of the risky treatments offered by the medical profession.
We found the 2002 review by Thorne Research to be useful.
Are Vinpocetine supplements useful for the conditions and purposes mentioned above?
We aren’t allowed to tell you, so you should take a look at some of the references cited here,
and then decide for yourself.
Since vinpocetine improves memory and cognition in ailing individuals, many perfectly healthy people conclude that it should
help them, too — an idea that makes a lot of sense and is supported by the experiences of its many users.