Better known in the US as an attractive garden border than a health aid, this plant has many useful derivatives that promote better health and quality of life.
Vinpocetine has been used for many years in Europe to enhance memory and mental function by increasing neuronal firing rate. Since it was first synthesized in the late 1960s, vinpocetine has been used to maintain and improve brain health and cognition. It is widely used in Japan and many European countries to treat a number of cerebrovascular diseases.
Vinpocetine is derived from vincamine, the major alkaloid found in the periwinkle plant. It is identified by the chemical name of vinpocetine-ethyl apovincaminate and sold under a variety of trade names, such as Cavinton, Remedial, Intelectol, and Vincaton. Vinpocetine is supplied in 1mg, 5mg and 10mg tablets.
Vinpocetine has been used orally for many years in Europe to enhance memory and mental function by:
To understand how and why this phytonutrient works, it is important to understand a bit about normal and abnormal blood flow in the brain. The healthy adult brain receives one seventh of the heart's output. This abundant blood flow is needed to provide the constant supply of oxygen, glucose, and other nutrients that this incredibly complex organ requires to function properly. Unlike most other body tissues such as muscle, even a brief interruption in the delivery of oxygen to brain tissue results in almost immediate damage to brain cells.
Various factors can reduce blood flow to the brain. Like the body's other blood vessels, cerebral blood vessels suffer changes over time that can cause them to narrow. Atherosclerosis is one of the most common causes of this narrowing. Chronic high blood pressure is another problem, causing the muscular layer of the vessels to enlarge. With advancing age, blood vessels also lose some of their elasticity, making it difficult for them to maintain and regulate blood flow. Finally, elevated levels of red blood cells, as occurs in dehydration and certain lung and kidney diseases, can make the blood thicker and more resistant to easy flow. Red blood cells and platelets need to remain flexible to slip through tiny capillary openings and reach the tissue. Blood cell membranes lose flexibility under the influence of free radicals that oxidize some of their component lipids.
Vinpocetine has effects on brain blood vessels, brain blood flow, and brain cells themselves. In this way, it can be of value in enhancing the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the brain, as well as in possibly preventing the damage that occurs if nutrient delivery is impaired.
Vinpocetine inhibits an enzyme called phosphodiesterase type 1 (PDE1) while reducing intracellular calcium levels, both of which normally cause smooth muscle in blood vessels to contract and narrow the diameter of the vessels. Inhibition of PDE1 and calcium thus allows brain blood vessels to relax and increases the amount of blood flowing through them.
By inhibiting PDE1, as well as through its antioxidant properties, vinpocetine reduces the viscosity, or "stickiness," of red blood cells and platelets. This allows blood to flow more easily through narrowed vessels, and may help to protect brain tissues in the event of temporary loss of blood pressure, when the tissues might otherwise experience insufficient flow (the so-called "watershed stroke" caused by hypoperfusion).
Vinpocetine also improves oxygen and glucose utilization in the brain, and is credited with increasing levels of the hormones noradrenaline and dopamine. As a result, there is an increase in serotonin and acetylcholine concentration, which are neuromodulators found in virtually all autonomic ganglia (the clusters of brain cells that serve as bridges between the central nervous system and the peripheral nervous system.)
Vinpocetine improves brain energy and blood supply and has been used as a preventative and a treatment of stroke injury. It acts as a cerebral metabolic activator, which may improve cerebral circulation and enhance oxygen and glucose utilization in the brain as it is a cognitive enhancer, sharpening mental alertness and memory. Vinpocetine may diminish brain dysfunction due to hypoxia or poor cerebral metabolism. It improves oxygen and glucose utilization by brain cells and increase their resistance to damage by poor circulation. It improves eyesight, hearing, and concentration. It is known as a 'smart drug'.
When taken orally, vinpocetine can:
30 to 40mg a day is recommended. Vinpocetine taken orally is easily absorbed.
Side-effects are very rare, but may include nausea. No toxic effects have been seen to result from vinpocetine use at levels far above therapeutic dosages, which are usually in the range of 5-20mg per day. There are no known interactions with other drugs.
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