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Vitamins, Minerals and Dietary Supplements

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Vinpocetine

What is vinpocetine?

Vinpocetine is an alkaloid derived from an extract of a plant known as the lesser periwinkle, a type of shrub native to Europe. Although it has been sold throughout Europe for years, vinpocetine has only recently been made available in the United States.

In Europe, vinpocetine is available as a prescription drug. In the U.S., however, vinpocetine can be purchased as an over-the-counter supplement.

Most studies of vinpocetine have examined its role in improving blood circulation in the brain, which can help treat conditions such as memory problems, decreased cognitive abilities and confusion. Vinpocetine also appears to improve the brain's ability to use oxygen by increasing the amount of ATP, which can be of use to patients diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease and similar conditions. As a result, vinpocetine is sometimes marketed as a "nootropic" or "cognitive enhancer." Evidence also suggests that vinpocetine may benefit people who have suffered strokes, and may improve vision and hearing in some individuals.

How much vinpocetine should I take?

Most studies of vinpocetine for the treatment of Alzheimer's disease have used a dosage of 10 milligrams twice per day. For conditions such as memory loss or tinnitus, some practitioners recommend slightly higher doses (10 milligrams three times per day, usually with meals).

What forms of vinpocetine are available?

Vinpocetine is available only in supplement form, usually in doses ranging from five milligrams to 20 milligrams. Vinpocetine is sold as a standalone product, and is sometimes offered as part of a larger supplement. It can also be administered intravenously by a qualified health care provider.

What can happen if I take too much vinpocetine? Are there any interactions I should be aware of? What precautions should I take?

Although most trials of vinpocetine have not documented any serious side-effects, adverse reactions may occur in sensitive individuals, such as dry mouth, changes in blood pressure, and an accelerated heart rate. Should these or other side-effects occur, discontinue use immediately and consult a licensed health care provider for more information. Vincopetine should not be taken by women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Because vincopetine may affect blood pressure and heart rate, it should be used with extreme caution by patients taking blood pressure and/or heart medications. As always, make sure to consult with a licensed health care practitioner before taking vinpocetine or any other herbal remedy or dietary supplement.

References

  • Bereczki D, Fekete I. A systematic review of vinpocetine therapy in acute ischaemic stroke. Eur J Clin Pharmacol 1999;55:349-352.
  • Bonoczk P, Panczel G, Nagy Z. Vinpocetine increases cerebral blood flow and oxygenation in stroke patients: a near infrared spectroscopy and transcranial Doppler study. Eur J Ultrasound 2002;15:85-91.
  • Hayakawa M. Effect of vinpocetine on red blood cell deformability in stroke patients. Arzneimittelforschung 1992;42:425-7.
  • Lohmann A, Dingler E, Sommer W, et al. Bioavailability of vinpocetine and interference of the time of application with food intake. Arzneimittelforschung 1992;42:914-7.
  • Szakall S, Boros I, Balkay L, et al. Cerebral effects of a single dose of intravenous vinpocetine in chronic stroke patients: a PET study. J Neuroimaging 1998;8:197-204.

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