This is one of the rare supplements with a small amount of buzz with the FDA. Vinpocetine, a compound derived from the Periwinkle plant, has a great many uses all the way from cognitive enhancer to youthfulness-promoting agent.
It’s made big waves on the nootropic’s scene, though not all of its supposed benefits have been well examined. Very few, if any of them, come with any robust amount of scientific backing.
What is Vinpocetine?
Vinpocetine is a chemical that is synthesized from extracts of the Lesser Periwinkle plant. Created in Hungary during the 1970s, the compound is not FDA approved in the United States and cannot be marketed as a dietary supplement.
The FDA has not assessed whether any of Vinpocetine’s health claims are accurate. In spite of these facts, you can obtain Vinpocetine online from willing vendors as a capsule or powder, and it comes fairly cheap.
Vinpocetine is supposed to have marked cognitive effects on the human body, increasing your memory and processing accuracy while decreasing your pulse, reaction times, and protecting against cognitive decline and some neurodegenerative disorders. This is due to Vinpocetine’s possible ability to improve blood flow to the brain.
There is also a small subset of recreational users who report a heightened state of well-being when supplementing with Vinpocetine.
Other psychostimulatory effects have not been reported, but Vinpocetine is used in some areas around the world to help stroke victims and individuals with seizure disorders.
The other health benefits aren’t well documented, but anecdotal evidence gives us tales of curing motion sickness, chronic fatigue, hearing loss, and perhaps even symptoms of menopause.
Vinpocetine does have a potential for interacting with other drugs, particularly blood clotting and thinning agents. It also has a range of side effects and could negatively impact those with weakened immune systems.
In spite of these factors, Vinpocetine is still considered one of the safer nootropics on the market, even if all of its features, benefits, and potential dangers are not understood.
Vinpocetine is known by several brand names, including Cavinton and Intelectol. The chemical name for Vinpocetine is Ethyl Apovincaminate. It is also known by nicknames like Ethyl Ester, Apovincaminic Acid Kavinton, and Lesser Periwinkle Extract
Vinpocetine seemed like a weird one to me, particularly because of the rather stern FDA warning:
“On September 6, 2016 the FDA announced its tentative conclusion that vinpocetine (1) does not meet the definition of a dietary ingredient, and (2) is excluded from the definition of a dietary supplement in the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act). The agency is accepting comments on this tentative conclusion until November 7, 2016.”
Why so serious?
It turns out the FDA is concerned over the fact that Vinpocetine is a synthetic compound, and doubts the possible therapeutic uses for the drug.
Still, I figured I’d have to give it a shot to see if and how it worked for myself, so I got some of the tablets and started my trials.
The dosing guide varies from 15-60 milligrams daily, divided into three doses. I decided to go with 20 milligrams with each meal to see what Vinpocetine was all about right off the bat.
I’m not sure if it went to work enhancing blood flow to the brain as advertised, but I do know that I felt sharper after the second dose of the day. It was coupled with a feeling of increased mental energy.
No physical effects, but cognitively I felt like I was capable of doing more. Tasks seemed to blow by effortlessly, and I didn’t come down or crash in any way.
I tried the same regimen for a few more days, and while I did notice that the cognitive benefits were still there, I also started to get some raging headaches when I was taking Vinpocetine.
Seems that’s one of the primary side effects, and it hit me in a big way. Even when I dialed down the dose, I could still feel the powerful headaches coming on.
This stuff is definitely useful, but if you find it to be a potent migraine trigger, you won’t get much use out of it. If you can take it without the side effects, though, be prepared to get a lot of work done.
The internet seems to be divided into two camps when it comes to Vinpocetine. One camp uses it to great effect to boost their well-being and cognitive abilities:
“I use Vinpocetine as a noot for special days where I want higher cognitive functioning…Effects seem to last about 3-4 hrs for me. I usually take 20-40mg depending on the intensity of boost I want; I have tried up 60mg, which felt no different than 40mg. It offers increased clarity and focus, as well as improved working memory, problem-solving, and insight (this was the big one for me).”
The other camp feels the effects of Vinpocetine, along with some noticeable side effects:
“I started vinpocetine with 5 mg 3 x a day. The first two days were wonderful. I felt 15 years younger – or more. After a while, I noticed that my lymph glands (in my throat only) were swollen. I have tried decreasing the dose and taking only a few times a week, and still have the reaction of the swollen lymph glands.”
Then there are the others like me who take it and get a killer headache. It seems that Vinpocetine is potent, but you’ll have to be careful about how it will affect you individually.
Benefits and Effects
For all of its anecdotal potency, though, there’s only a scant bit of research backing up the claims of Vinpocetine’s powerful cognitive effects.
This is the most touted benefit of Vinpocetine. By taking it, users are supposed to be able to increase their cognitive functioning many times, resulting in improved performance when trying to execute a wide range of mental tasks. At least one study has shown that:
“Vinpocetine was effective in improving memory and concentration of patients with epilepsy and dementia although the efficacy was minimal in demented patients.”
But what about individuals without such deficiencies? There’s some evidence to support this claim as well:
“In 12 healthy normal weight female volunteers between the ages of 25-40, Vinpocetine at doses of 10-40mg daily taken twice a day (half dose at 8am, half dose at 2pm) 10 and 20mg showed a trend towards decreased reaction time whereas 40mg Vinpocetine was able to significantly reduce reaction time after 2 days of supplementation.”
So, the takeaway is that Vinpocetine can, in certain circumstances, at least, improve reaction times and memory. Further study may show that it has other cognitive enhancing benefits as well.
Vinpocetine is supposed to aid against diseases like Alzheimer’s that interfere with the ability to think. There is some evidence to show that Vinpocetine’s effect on blood flow also gives it a neuroprotective capacity:
“Intravenous infusions during first week of vinpocetine administration, sustained with an oral dose at 30mg for 90 days and in patients of cerebrovascular insufficiency associated with arterial hypertension was able to significantly improve the symptoms associated with cognitive decline.”
This is in line with the use of Vinpocetine to treat individuals who have suffered from strokes and neurodegenerative conditions.
Though not commonly advertised, it seems that Vinpocetine has considerable ability as an anti-inflammatory agent. Researchers have shown that “vinpocetine inhibits monocyte adhesion and chemotaxis, which are critical processes during inflammation,” concluding that their studies “identify vinpocetine as a unique anti-inflammatory agent that may be repositioned for the treatment of many inflammatory diseases.”
Vinpocetine is able to achieve these results without many of the side effects associated with other common anti-inflammatory drugs, meaning that with some refinement, it could become a preferred option for those seeking such treatment.
How It Works
Vinpocetine is believed to increase blood flow throughout certain parts of the body, specifically, the brain. By dilating the blood vessel walls in the cerebrum (and countering inflammation), greater circulation can be achieved. As a result, more oxygen, glucose, and other important molecules can make it to the brain, which it can use as energy.
The more energy available to power the various functions of the brain, the better it can execute these functions. Better neuron communication, greater signaling between neurons, etc. Increased blood flow might even stave off the death of some brain cells.
This accounts for the manner in which Vinpocetine can counter brain aging, and might even explain why it seems to boost memory, alertness, and concentration even in otherwise healthy individuals.
Vinpocetine does have acute effects that will manifest within about an hour of ingestion, though, the most potent benefits will be achieved when supplementing with the drug on a long-term basis.
The dosage for Vinpocetine can vary but is generally between 15-60 milligrams. To receive the maximum benefit, daily supplementation is recommended.
This usually takes the form of three daily doses with meals. Higher doses of Vinpocetine are shown to correlate with higher benefits, so three daily doses of 20 milligrams should be enough to achieve the best effects.
To further augment this on days where you need an even greater boost, you can occasionally up the dose, then drop down to your regular level once the need has passed.
The side effects of Vinpocetine include your run-of-the-mill stuff: gastrointestinal distress, sleep problems, nervousness, dizziness, etc. For some, headaches can become quite severe when taking Vinpocetine, possibly to the point of migraines.
Vinpocetine can interact negatively with blood thinners and coagulants, so it should not be taken in conjunction with such medications. Vinpocetine should also be avoided if you have an already weakened immune system.
In some individuals, Vinpocetine can further damage the immune system, making you susceptible to even minor infections. Obviously, individuals with HIV, AIDS, or undergoing cancer treatments should steer clear.
Vinpocetine is becoming a popular component of many stacks, as the brain boost is seen as a valuable addition for many nootropic enthusiasts. Some like to enhance the cognitive power of Vinpocetine by combining it with Ginkgo Biloba.
Ginkgo is an herbal supplement used to combat memory and cognitive disorders in a manner similar to Vinpocetine. The two have a synergistic effect in which the memory-enhancing powers are boosted to a much greater degree, allowing you to complete tasks with even greater ease.
Another common combo is Vinpocetine and Huperzine A. It too is a memory and cognitive enhancer derived from a plant species.
Like Vinpocetine, Huperzine A is believed to help combat Alzheimer’s, and in a similar manner to Ginkgo, taking it with Vinpocetine will give you a greater effect on your memory boost overall.
If you want to try something instead of Vinpocetine, you might want to take a look at these alternatives:
This member of the synthetic Racetam family was purpose made for cognitive enhancement. Initial research findings support the claims that Pramiracetam can help boost memory, cognition and several other mental processes on an acute basis.
Citicoline is a naturally occurring brain chemical that is linked to another brain chemical, Phosphatidylcholine. When supplemented, Citicoline can increase the amounts of this chemical and aide in fighting of neurodegeneration and boost your memory. It might also decrease brain tissue damage when sustaining brain injury.
3. Bacopa Monnieri
This herbal remedy has long been a part of traditional medicine. As a modern supplement, it is believed to simultaneously reduce anxiety and improve the formation of long-term memories.
As such, it is highly valued as a cognitive enhancer, in addition to a relaxing agent.
Vinpocetine certainly has some sort of effect, which makes the FDA warning against it somewhat curious. I’ll concede that the side effects were potent for me, but that doesn’t mean that everyone who takes the stuff is going to end up with a raging headache.
In fact, it seems, from anecdotal evidence at least, that a good number of people can use Vinpocetine and primarily experience the potent cognitive boost without any worries.