Vinpocetine Review: Benefits, Dosages, and Top Supplements

Vinpocetine NootropicBackground

Vinpocetine (ethyl apovinaminate) is a nootropic compound that is synthesized from vincamine, the naturally-occurring active compound of the periwinkle plant Vinca Minor. The periwinkle plant has a historical background as an herbal medicine throughout Europe, where it has traditionally been used to treat headaches. Vinpocetine itself was identified and synthesized for the first time in 1978, and has since become fairly well-studied as a potential neuroprotective and anti-aging agent.

Vinpocatine is also frequently marketed under a variety of other names, including Cavinton, Cognitol, and Periwinkle Extract.

In a clinical context, vinpocetine has become widely used for its neuroprotective effects, as well as its ability to improve cardiovascular and cerebrovascular function. Its medical uses currently include aiding in recovery from strokes, as well as acting as a treatment for the various cognitive- and memory-related deficits associated with a broad range of neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease. Its ability to improve blood flow to the brain has also led to its use as a treatment for a variety of cerebrovascular disorders.

Among non-clinical patients, vinpocetine is used as both a neuroprotective and anti-aging compound. Its potent beneficial effects on cerebral blood flow also makes it ideal for nootropic “stacking,” as it may help increase the efficacy of other compounds that it is paired with.

Overall, vinpocetine’s specific effects – explored in more detail below – include:

  • Anti-oxidant effects
  • Anti-inflammatory action
  • Analgesia (pain-killing)
  • Improves blood flow throughout the brain

Additionally, there is some suggestive evidence that it may improve various aspects of cognition and memory, which has led to its widespread adoption as a nootropic smart drug supplement.

Primary effects of Vinpocetine Suppleementation

Cerebrovascular effects (Brain)

Vinpocetine acts as a vasodilator, meaning that it relaxes and expands the blood vessels that supply blood to the brain. This results in an overall increase in blood flow, thereby allowing the brain to make more efficient use of oxygen and other blood-borne resources.

Vinpocetine’s beneficial effect on cerebrovascular function has been directly confirmed by a wide range of scientific findings. For example:

  • A 2007 meta-analysis confirmed that vinpocetine’s potent effects on blood flow are responsible for its clinical effectiveness in treating a variety of cerebrovascular diseases; the authors also concluded that vinpocetine appears to restore cognitive function in clinical patients suffering from blood-flow related disorders, as reflected in improvements in patients’ quality-of-life ratings.
  • Similarly, a 2011 study further confirmed vinpocetine’s benefits on cerebral blood flow, and concluded that no significant negative side-effects were associated with its use.

It should also be noted that nearly all commonly-used nootropic compounds reach the brain via the body’s blood supply. Vinpocetine is therefore an ideal candidate for “stacking” with other nootropics, as it may be helpful in increasing the effectiveness of other compounds that it is paired with – specifically by improving the rate at which they can reach the brain.

Neuroprotective effects (Brain Protectant)

Over and above its direct effects on cerebral blood flow, vinpocetine is also widely believed to help protect the brain from chronic, low-level damage related both to everyday metabolic byproducts as well as from processes related to aging.

Anti-oxidant effects

Due to their chronic activity, the neurons of the brain are often at risk of damage (or even cellular death) from excessive activity (over-excitation) as well as from exposure to common metabolic byproducts such as free radicals.

Fortunately, vinpocetine appears to be able to mitigate both forms of damage, as confirmed by a number of recent studies:

  • Vinpocetine’s potent anti-oxidant effects were confirmed in a pair of studies from 2002 and 2013, which showed that vinpocetine treatment appears to decrease the amount of circulating free radical compounds in the brain’s blood supply. These studies subsequently concluded that it is an attractive candidate for the treatment of neurodegenerative disorders in which cellular damage from free radicals are implicated.
  • Complementarily, a 2008 study investigated the role of glutamatergic excitotoxicty in contributing to neuronal cell death, and found that vinpocetine could protect against cytotoxic damage from over-exposure to excitatory neurotransmitters.

Given that oxidative stress and cellular excitotoxicity are both common causes of long-term damage to the brain, vinpocetine is of potential benefit to any user interested in mitigating these common sources of neurobiological stress.

Anti-inflammatory effects of Vinpocetine

Inflammation is an important factor in a wide variety of cerebrovascular disorders, and mounting scientific evidence of vinpocetine’s potent anti-inflammatory effects have led to it being adopted by clinical practitioners as a key treatment in cerebrovascular disorders.

However, inflammation-related damage is not exclusive to clinically-detectable cerebrovascular disorders, but is in fact a common side-effect of natural aging, during which small-scale inflammation becomes progressively more prevalent throughout the brain. Such micro-inflammation, even when it is not directly damaging, tends to activate a variety of natural biological countermeasures (such as increased immune system activity).

Micro-inflammation associated with natural aging thus sets into motion a chain reaction of compensatory metabolic processes that put an additional – and preventable – degree of physical and chemical stress on the brain, thereby contributing in part to the gradual declines in cognitive ability associated with advancing age.

Fortunately, vinpocetine has consistently been shown to possess a suite of anti-inflammatory effects; and for this reason it is widely used by nootropic users as a potent anti-aging compound.

Pain-killing effects

Although they have not yet been directly observed in human populations, there is a rapidly-accumulating body of evidence indicating that vinpocetine may have substantial analgesic (“pain-killing”) effects.

For example, a series of studies has shown that vinpocetine administration appears to reduce the behavioral signs of pain in mice, and that this effect is dose-dependent – i.e. that it increases in proportion to the size of the dose.

While the mechanisms responsible for this effect have not yet been definitively specified, it is currently speculated that vinpocetine may act directly on the “nociceptive,” or pain-sensing system, effectively “silencing” the body’s response to pain.

Cognitive effects of Vinpocetine – Animal studies

Research regarding vinpocetine’s potential for cognitive enhancement is still in its relative infancy, but a considerable body of emerging evidence suggests that it may be promising.

For example, a substantial amount of preliminary evidence for vinpocetine’s restorative and enhancing effects on cognition have come from a variety of animal studies involving both healthy and experimentally-induced animal models of disease. These experiments have shown a broad range of promising effects, and have concluded that vinpocetine:

Cognitive effects of Vinpocetine – Clinical Patients

Yet further additional experimental data regarding vinpocetine’s cognitive and memory-related benefits have been furnished by a wide range of clinical studies in various human populations:

  • A 2003 review of multiple nootropic compounds concluded that vinpocetine improved the performance of older adults with mild dementia-related deficits across a wide range of attention-, concentration-, and memory-related tasks.
  • A clinical study in stroke patients from 2005 found that vinpocetine had a significant protective effect on the progressive worsening of stroke-related cognitive symptoms over time. After 3 months of treatment, the vinpocetine-treated group showed no decline in cognitive test performance, whereas the control (placebo) group did.
  • A 2010 study of patients with cerebrovascular insufficiency from arterial hypertension – i.e. poor blood circulation in the brain – showed a marked improvement in both motor and cognitive symptoms after a 90-day course of vinpocetine treatment.
  • In 2010, a population of clinical patients in the early stages of chronic brain ischemia were given a combination treatment of vinpocetine and piracetam for one month, after which they were given follow-up evaluations with a series of neuropsychological tests as well as self-administered mood reports. As many as 75% of these patients later displayed improvements in accuracy performance on a verbal fluency task; and 50% of the patients also reported significantly improved mood and physical energy levels.
  • Finally – and most recently (2016) – a sample of 469 stroke patients were intravenously administered 30mg of vinpocetine daily for one week, and were followed up with a comprehensive suite of neuropsychological tests and mood assessments at 0-, 7-, 14- and 90 days post-treatment. The authors observed that vinpocetine treatment significantly improved cognitive skill, neurological function, cerebral blood flow, and overall quality of life in the treatment group relative the control group. Furthermore, these improvements appeared to be stable for up to 90 days post-treatment, demonstrating that vinpocetine’s beneficial effects can be long-lasting. The study’s authors also noted no adverse side-effects, thereby strongly indicating the safetiness of vinpocetine treatment.

Cognitive effects – Healthy users

Due to its well-established potency in treating a variety of neuropsychiatric disorders, vinpocetine’s effects have been primarily studied within clinical populations.

Nonetheless, while comparable studies in otherwise healthy subjects are relatively more scarce, there does exist a number of studies which suggest that vinpocetine’s beneficial effects may indeed generalize to healthy users:

  • Some of the earliest evidence for this came from a 1985 study, in which a healthy population of female volunteers between the ages of 25 and 40 were treated with a total dose of 40mg of vinpocetine, distributed among smaller two daily doses, after which they were administered a variety of cognitive and reaction-time tasks. Compared to a control group who did not receive the vinpocetine treatment, the experimental group was observed to have faster reaction times after only two days of supplementation.
  • Note: while these effects were relatively small, it is fairly likely that this was at least in part due to the very short period of treatment, and that a longer duration of supplementation may have had stronger and more pronounced effects on cognitive performance.
  • A Hungarian study from 2007 investigated the effect of vinpocetine on a sample of elderly subjects with a history of either ischemic stroke or mild cognitive impairment (MCI), and treated these groups with an oral vinpocetine supplement over the course of 12 weeks. The authors subsequently reported improvements in cognitive status for both groups, as well as significantly increased subjective reports of overall well-being in the MCI group.
  • Note that although this study was technically undertaken with a clinical sample, we include this study here because the MCI patient sample had remarkably mild symptoms – symptoms which were themselves not caused by any specific neuropathology, but rather were simply likely due to normal aging. This sample group therefore is not substantially different from a typical sample of elderly subjects, and therefore offers suggestive evidence that vinpocetine’s beneficial effects may indeed generalize to healthy populations.
  • Finally, a recent study from 2014 simultaneously tested the effects of vinpocetine on both a clinical (MCI) and normal (healthy) sample population. These groups were each given 5mg of vinpocetine twice a day for 12 weeks, and were tested on a variety of cognitive tasks at 6- and 12 weeks into the treatment. Interestingly, both subject groups demonstrated improvements in general cognitive function, therefore suggesting that vinpocetine’s beneficial effects are not limited only to clinical subjects.

In sum, then, there currently exists several convergent bodies of scientific evidence that suggest the potential cognitive benefits of vinpocetine, which likely accounts for its widespread and enthusiastic use among nootropic aficionados worldwide.

Mechanisms of Action

The mechanisms by which vinpocetine achieves its many beneficial effects remain largely unknown at this time. This lack of knowledge is further complicated by the fact that vinpocetine has such a wide range of different psychological effects, which may therefore imply a correspondingly wide range of biological mechanisms by which these effects are brought about.

Nonetheless, candidate mechanisms that have been hypothesized so far include:

  • vasodilation
  • sodium channel inhibition
  • potassium current signaling
  • calcium channel inhibition
  • adrenergic and GABA receptor inhibition
  • dopaminergic regulation

Usage information

While its precise mechanisms of action remain unknown, vinpocetine’s neuropharmacological profile has been fairly well-characterized.

Metabolism & biokinetics

Vinpocetine is rapidly absorbed and readily crosses the blood-brain barrier. It is detectable within the blood stream as quickly as 20 minutes after initial ingestion, reaching its peak concentrations approximately one hour after oral administration.

Its metabolic half-life has been reported to be about 1.5 hours, and lasts approximately 3 hours in total. For this reason, vinpocetine regimens are usually broken up into multiple smaller doses throughout the day in order to ensure a consistent and long-lasting effect.

Vinpocetine also does not appear to accumulate in the body, therefore suggesting that continued, ongoing use is necessary to derive a benefit from it over the long term.

Vinpocetine dosing & usage information

Vinpocetine is typically taken in doses ranging from 15-60mg. Total doses of ~20-30mg have been shown to be sufficient for achieving its cardiovascular effects, whereas higher doses (of ~30-45mg) may be required for detectable cognitive effects.

However, vinpocetine is poorly absorbed on an empty stomach, and it is therefore advised to take supplements alongside meals, which can increase its bioavailability by up to 60-100%.

Safety

Vinpocetine is remarkably safe, with few if any studies reporting any adverse effects.

As always, however, caution should be taken when starting any new nootropic regime, and doses should therefore only be increased on a gradual basis.

Summary / Conclusions

Vinpocetine has a variety of well-documented roles in neuroprotection and reducing neural inflammation. In healthy persons it increases blood flow to the brain, and may have a variety of additional cognitive benefits. It is therefore an attractive candidate for nootropic smart drug users.

 

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