What is it? Overview Usage Side Effects and Warnings

What is Vinpocetine?

Vinpocetine is a chemical derived from vincamine, a constituent found in the leaves of common periwinkle ( Vinca minorL.), as well as the seeds of various African plants. It is used as a treatment for memory loss and mental impairment.

Developed in Hungary over 20 years ago, vinpocetine is sold in Europe as a drug under the name Cavinton. In the United States it is available as a "dietary supplement," although the substance probably doesn't fit that category by any rational definition. Vinpocetine doesn't exist to any significant extent in nature. Producing it requires significant chemical work performed in the laboratory.

Some evidence supports the idea that vinpocetine can enhance memory and mental function, especially in those with Alzheimer's disease and related conditions. It is also widely marketed for enhancing memory in healthy people, but there is no real evidence that it is helpful for this purpose.

It has been hypothesized that vinpocetine helps people with Alzheimer’s disease by enhancing blood flow in the brain, safeguarding brain cells against damage, and inhibiting a substance known as phosphodiesterase. 1 2 Based on these proposed actions, vinpocetine has also been tried as a treatment for reducing brain damage following strokes .

Safety Issues

No serious side effects have been reported in any of the clinical trials. However, there is one case report of vinpocetine apparently causing agranulocytosis (loss of certain white blood cells). 3 Vinpocetine inhibits blood platelets from forming clots, 4 and for this reason it could cause problems if it is taken by individuals with bleeding problems, during the period immediately before or after surgery or labor and delivery, or in combination with medications or natural substances that also affect platelet activity, such as:

The drug warfarin (Coumadin) affects blood clotting, but not...