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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.
What Is the Scientific Evidence for Vinpocetine?
Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Conditions (Dementia)
A 16-week, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of 203 individuals with mild to moderate dementia found significant benefit in the treated group. 1 Benefits have been seen in other studies as well. 2 3 4 5 6 However, a major review found that overall the evidence that it works remains too weak to rely upon, due to limitations in study quality. 7
In a single-blind , placebo-controlled trial, 30 individuals who had just experienced a stroke received either placebo or vinpocetine along with conventional treatment for 30 days. 8 The results showed that participants in the vinpocetine group experienced a significantly reduced level of residual disability as measured at 3 months.
A few other studies, some of poor design, also provide suggestive evidence that vinpocetine may be helpful for strokes. 9 However, much of the existing evidence is too preliminary to rely on, 10 and a recent review combining two relatively high quality studies involving 63 subjects was unable to determine whether or not vinpocetine provided any benefit for stroke patients. 11
Note: People who have had strokes are sometimes advised to take blood thinning drugs. There are concerns that vinpocetine may interact adversely with some medications of this type. See Safety Issues below.
The usual dose of vinpocetine is 10 mg capsules 3 times per day, although dosages ranging from half to twice that amount have been used in studies. Vinpocetine reportedly is better absorbed when taken with a meal. 12
- Hindmarch I, Fuchs HH, Erzigkeit H. Efficacy and tolerance of vinpocetine in ambulant patients suffering from mild to moderate organic psychosyndromes. Int Clin Psychopharmacol. 6(1):31-43.
- Balestreri R, Fontana L, Astengo F. A double-blind placebo controlled evaluation of the safety and efficacy of vinpocetine in the treatment of patients with chronic vascular senile cerebral dysfunction. J Am Geriatr Soc. 35(5):425-30.
- Dragunow M, Faull RL. Neuroprotective effects of adenosine. Trends Pharmacol Sci. 9(6):193-4.
- Fenzl E, Apecechea M, Schaltenbrand R, et al. Efficacy and tolerance of vinpocetine administered intravenously, in addition of standard therapy, to patients suffering from an apoplectic insult. In: Krieglstein J, ed. Pharmacology of Cerebral Ischemia: Proceedings of the International Symposium on Pharmacology of Cerebral Ischemia. New York, NY: Elsevier Science Publishers; 1986:430-434.
- Manconi E, Binaghi F, Pitzus F. A double-blind clinical trial of vinpocetine in the treatment of cerebral insufficiency of vascular and degenrative origin. Curr Ther Res Clin Exp. 1986;30:702-709. Cited by: Hindmarch I, Fuchs HH, Erzigkeit H. Efficacy and tolerance of vinpocetine in ambulant patients suffering from mild to moderate organic psychosyndromes. Int Clin Psychopharmacol. 1991;6:31-43.
- Peruzza M, DeJacobis M. A double-blind placebo controlled evaluation of the efficacy and safety of vinpocetine in the treatment of patients with chronic vascular or degenerative senile cerebral dysfunction. Adv Ther.1986;3:201-209. Cited by: Hindmarch I, Fuchs HH, Erzigkeit H. Efficacy and tolerance of vinpocetine in ambulant patients suffering from mild to moderate organic psychosyndromes. Int Clin Psychopharmacol. 1991;6:31-43.
- Szatmari SZ, Whitehouse PJ. Vinpocetine for cognitive impairment and dementia. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. (1):CD003119.
- Feigin VL, Doronin BM, Popova TF, Gribatcheva EV, Tchervov DV. Vinpocetine treatment in acute ischaemic stroke: a pilot single-blind randomized clinical trial. Eur J Neurol. 8(1):81-5.
- Bereczki D, Fekete I. A systematic review of vinpocetine therapy in acute ischaemic stroke. Eur J Clin Pharmacol. 55(5):349-52.
- Bereczki D, Fekete I. Vinpocetine for acute ischaemic stroke. In The Cochrane Library. Oxford, England: Update Software; 2000.
- Bereczki D, Fekete I. Vinpocetine for acute ischaemic stroke. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2008;(1):CD000480.
- Lohmann A, Dingler E, Sommer W, Schaffler K, Wober W, Schmidt W. Bioavailability of vinpocetine and interference of the time of application with food intake. Arzneimittelforschung. 42(7):914-7.