Vinpocetine is derived from vincamine, an alkaloid found in the common periwinkle plant. Originally developed in Europe where it is marketed as a drug called Cavinton, vinpocetine is sold in the United States as a dietary supplement to improve brain function.
Animal models suggest that vinpocetine has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antimitotic, anti-atherogenic, antithrombotic, and antiepileptic effects (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7). Human studies show that vinpocetine enhances short-term memory (8), cognitive performance (9), and improves chronic cerebral dysfunction in elderly patients (10). It has also been studied as a potential treatment for Alzheimer's disease (11), but a systematic review did not find evidence of its benefits (12). Parenteral followed by oral administration of vinpocetine significantly maintained beneficial hemorheologic changes in stroke patients in one pilot study (13), but a systematic review did not find enough evidence to determine whether vinpocetine could benefit patients with acute ischemic stroke (14).
Vinpocetine inhibits the growth of breast cancer cells in vitro and in vivo (15). In animal studies, it potentiates the effects of radiation therapy in tumor cells (16). However, vinpocetine has not yet been studied in humans for its potential anticancer effects.
Vinpocetine should not be confused with chemotherapy drugs such as vincristine or vinblastine, which are also alkaloids derived from the periwinkle plant.