What is Vinpocetine?
Vinpocetine is a synthetic compound derived from a naturally occurring substance called vincamine. The latter is found in the leaves of the plant Vinca minor, more commonly known as the lesser periwinkle plant. Periwinkle plants are perennial shrubs found in the United States, and central and southern Europe. They have been a favorite among gardeners for centuries because of their beautiful color. They are flowering shrubs associated with a range of shades from light blue to dark violet. The final product, Vinpocetine, is manufactured from an extract of the seeds of this plant.
Because of its long-term and short-term effects, Vinpocetine is regarded as a nootropic–a substance that enhances brain function and protects neurotransmittersin the brain. In Germany, this supplement can only be purchased as a prescription drug, which is marketed under the name “Cavinton.” Cavinton is primarily used in the treatment of age-related cognitive decline and memory loss. It is also sometimes used to lessen the severity and frequency of symptoms following an ischemic stroke.
History of Vinpocetine
Although Vinpocetine was not developed and marketed until the 1960s, the medicinal values of Periwinkle have been recognized for more than two millennia. It has a long history of use as an elixir to alleviate fatigue, particularly the kind associated with advanced age. The Periwinkle plant has also been used in Japan for over two centuries as a tonic for old-age dementia, and what is now recognized as Alzheimer’s disease.
Vinpocetine was synthesized in 1967 for the first time and has been marketed and sold under its aforementioned commercial name since the late 1970s. The substance, whether marketed as a prescription medication or dietary supplement, has been available in 47 countries for almost 40 years and can be acquired in approximately 50 countries, including Germany, Canada, Russia, Poland, Hungary and Japan.
Vinpocetine Medical Uses
In the field of alternative and holistic medicine, vinpocetine is used for various disorders and conditions, including those outlined below:
1. Vascular Dementia and Stroke
According to certain holistic practitioners, Vinpocetine may enhance blood circulation in the brain. Preliminary research suggests that this enhanced blood flow may reduce the cognitive decline associated with ischemic stroke or old-age dementia.
2. Alzheimer’s Disease
Vinpocetine is also being explored as a complementary medicine for individuals suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. Certain researchers believe that it enhances the brain’s ability to use oxygen, thus increasing blood flow to the brain and protecting brain cells against damage. More studies are being conducted to determine if it also inhibits an enzyme called phosphodiesterase, the latter of which may play a role in the reduction of brain oxygen levels in older individuals.
Those afflicted with trauma induced tinnitus–continuous or intermittent ringing in the ears due to injury–may experience less severe and less frequent symptoms of their disorder when taking vinpocetine. However, more studies are necessary to determine whether or not this apparent benefit can be scientifically proven.
Research is underway to determine whether or not the supplement is also effective for those suffering from idiopathic tinnitus, which simply means tinnitus for which there is no known cause. Preliminary studies were conducted on those suffering from trauma induced tinnitus, but most researchers believe it is safe to assume that if the supplement is beneficial for one form of the disorder, the odds of it having a positive effect on other forms of the condition is likely.
4. Cognitive Function
Vinpocetine is primarily marketed in Europe, Canada and North America as a supplement that enhances brain function and memory in otherwise healthy people. For example, it may be beneficial for those who have no brain disorders or diseases, but nevertheless want to increase their cognitive function and boost the speed at which they are able to learn. Preliminary studies have shown that Vinpocetine may be beneficial in these and other ways.
Proven Vinpocetine Benefits
Vinpocetine is considered a strong cognitive enhancer because it is a cerebral vasodilator–a substance that facilitates blood flow to the brain by expanding the brain’s blood vessels. In simple terms, Vinpocetine’s effect on the brain may improve the brain’s ability to perform at a higher level, in both the long-term and the short-term.
By optimizing cerebral blood flow, Vinpocetine is believed to assist the brain to access critical nourishment from glucose and oxygen. This is thought to open the floodgates for a broad range of life enhancing benefits. Numerous studies have proven that Vinpocetine does indeed increase blood flow to the brain without changing the person’s blood pressure, which is often the case with synthetic vasodilators.
When blood flow is increased, the human brain is exposed to higher levels of nutrients. The cells then use these nutirents, along with oxygen and glucose to manufacture energy. This increase in blood flow also leads to a faster metabolism, improved alertness and enhanced cognition.
In addition to its function as a vasodilator, Vinpocetine may also boast the ability to remove waste from cells in the brain. This in turn increases neuron maintenance and the growth of new neurons. In one clinical trial, stroke victims were assessed after taking a standard dose of Vinpocetine for 10 days, and were found to suffer less impairment than the placebo group. Research has also discovered that administering Vinpocetine immediately after a stroke may prevent or reverse long-term damage to the brain.
Regarding its effect on stroke victims, Vinpocetine may also prevent disability and death. An ischemic stroke takes place when one or more blood clots form, constricting blood flow to the brain. Strokes of this type cause brain cells to die because they are not receiving any oxygen. Fortunately, Vinpocetine also reduces clotting and some studies indicate that it may potentially reduce a person’s risk of having a second stroke.
Vinpocetine may also help prevent impaired blood flow, referred to by doctors as cerebral ischemia, which occurs as people age and sometimes leads to dementia. This is because impaired blood flow to the brain creates a state of hypoxia, the latter of which is simply the medical community’s term for lack of oxygen. Because age-related cognitive decline can considerably diminish a person’s quality of life, this is perhaps one of the best benefits of Vinpocetine for senior citizens.
Even though the aforementioned benefits are quite impressive, the advantages of Vinpocetine are not limited to the elderly or those who have suffered from strokes or other medical conditions or complications. Quite the contrary, numerous men and women take this supplement simply to enhance memory, reduce brain fog, increase alertness and boost energy. In addition, numerous students invest in the supplement to learn at a faster pace and study more effectively.
Hundreds of scientific studies have been conducted on humans and Vinpocetine’s effect on their cognitive function and mental acuity. The majority of these studies have shown that at least some evidence exists that Vinpocetine has a positive effect on memory, mental sharpness and the ability to learn new things at a quick pace. Additionally, research suggests that Vinpocetine can effectively combat the mental lethargy and dullness that seems to increase with age in most individuals. In some clinical trials, this supplement appeared to improve both long-term and short-term memory in participants, as well as enhance alertness and preparedness to handle situations that require critical thinking. Some individuals referred to Vinpocetine as a “mental tonic” and although the term may be outdated, it is a good way to describe how the supplement works.
Many people are interested to discover that the advantages of using Vinpocetine are not limited to enhance brain function. Studies also suggest that the supplement may prevent or relieve hearing loss due to numerous causes. Research is underway to determine whether or not the use of Vinpocetine may lead to improved night vision and prevent or relieve age-related macular decline and glaucoma.
Those who have stress incontinence and similar benign bladder disorders may also find relief through the use of Vinpocetine. Although more studies are needed to definitively prove its value regarding these issues, preliminary research is very promising concerning Vinpocetine’s potential to prevent stress incontinence. One study was even conducted on individuals who experienced adult bedwetting and approximately 35% of participants experienced a decrease of their symptoms and had fewer accidents during the night.
Nutrition Facts & Calories of Vinpocetine
Vinpocetine is essentially a derivative of vincamine, which is an alkaloid. As one might suspect, vincamine is also found in tiny amounts in the seeds of the minor periwinkle plant. In addition, it is found in other plants such as Crioceras longiflorus and wild Voaconga. However, most companies that manufacture Vinpocetine use the lesser Periwinkle plant to make the supplements, as that is the best way to ensure the consumer receives pure Vinpocetine.
Vinpocetine contains no calories from any source, such as fat, carbohydrates or protein. Therefore, it is a perfect supplement for anyone who must watch his or her calorie count or avoid fat or sugar.
Recommended Vinpocetine Dosage
The recommended dosage of Vinpocetine depends on a person’s individual needs, objectives, body chemistry, and other factors. Some consumers simply take the standard dose of Vinpocetine, which is 10 to 30 milligrams per day. Those whose goal is improved cognitive function may wish to consider taking 40 milligrams per day of the supplement. This is because many studies have been conducted on its use for this reason, and most have shown additional positive benefits when the dosage was increased to 40 mg daily. However, most individuals should consider working up to this dose over several weeks or more. This is because ramping up to a high dose too soon can interfer with the normal bacterial balance of the intestines in certain people and this may lead to diarrhea or gastrointestinal upset. One may also wish to consult a holistic practitioner, who can give specific advice about the best dose for his or her individual needs and objectives.
Possible Vinpocetine Side Effects
It is important to understand that any herbal remedy or dietary supplement may be associated with certain side effects. Therefore, when using Vinpocetine, even at a low dose, a person may experience one or more of these side effects. Fortunately, there are not very many negative effects that have been linked to the use of Vinpocetine as of 2016. For example, a study was completed in 2011 on individuals suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, and the group experienced no side effects, despite the fact that they were being treated with fairly high doses of the supplement, up to 60 milligrams per day on most days of the trial.
Included in the possible side effects one may experience when taking Vinpocetine are insomnia, mild dizziness, stomach ache, slight nausea, dry mouth, nervousness and headaches. Fortunately, in most clinical trials participants who experienced side effects reported that they were short term in nature and usually stopped approximately three days from the first day they began using Vinpocetine. Nevertheless, anyone who has side effects that seem severe, unusual, or that last for extended periods of time should speak to a licensed health care practitioner to get advice.
Those who take anticoagulant–blood thinning–medications are not good candidates for Vinpocetine therapy, as Vinpocetine can increase the potency of such drugs. Those who are pregnant or breast-feeding should not use Vinpocetine, as no clinical trials have yet been completed concerning whether or not Vinpocetine crosses the placenta or can be transferred in breast milk. Those who plan to have surgery should stop taking Vinpocetine about 14 days prior to their scheduled procedure. It is also possible that Vinpocetine could lead to a temporary drop in blood pressure, and therefore those with chronic low blood pressure should take Vinpocetine in the smallest dose available and observe for any signs of a plummet in blood pressure, such as dizziness or feeling faint.
More studies will likely be completed in the future concerning the health benefits of Vinpocetine and its positive effects on brain function and cognitive enhancement. As is the case with any holistic treatment or remedy, it is always in one’s best interest to speak to his or her primary care practitioner before beginning any new dietary supplement.
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