Vinpocetine may be useful against some cerebrovascular disorders. It has not been shown to treat or prevent cancer.
Vinpocetine is made from a compound found in the common periwinkle plant. It was developed in Europe as a drug but sold in the United States as a dietary supplement to improve brain function. Vinpocetine was shown to increase blood flow to the brain and has been studied as a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease and for disorders of the nervous and circulatory systems. However, more studies are needed before it can be recommended. Vinpocetine should not be confused with the chemo drugs vincristine and vinblastine, which are also made from compounds of the periwinkle plant.
Small studies have shown benefit with vinpocetine, but well-designed clinical trials are needed.
Vinpocetine was useful in improving cognitive decline. More studies are needed.
A systematic review of studies did not find any effectiveness of vinpocetine for dementia.
A few clinical trials have shown benefit. Large-scale studies are needed.
Some studies have shown benefits with vinpocetine in stroke patients, but larger studies are needed.
Laboratory studies suggest some anticancer and increased radiation effects on tumor cells, but this has not been studied in humans.
Patients with low blood pressure, a history of heart problems or strokes, or those on cardiovascular medications should consult their physician before using this product.
Do Not Take If
You are using blood-thinning drugs: Vinpocetine may increase their effects.
You are taking medication to lower high blood pressure: Vinpocetine may enhance their effects.
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.
Mechanism of Action
Vinpocetine is a synthetic ethyl ester of apovincamine derived from an alkaloid in the common periwinkle plant (17). Vinpocetine has been shown to possess antioxidant and hydroxyl radical scavenging properties in vitro (18)(13). It inhibits phosphodiesterase 1 (PDE1) activity and improves cerebral blood flow by elevating cGMP and cAMP, increasing mitochondrial function, and improving glucose and oxygen utilization by the brain. Vinpocetine helps improve spatial memory in rats through its ability to prevent neuronal damage and to favorably modulate cholinergic function (18). It demonstrated antiepileptic effects by suppressing abnormal neuronal excitability through the regulation of sodium channels and release of dopamine in the striatal nerve endings (5)(6)(7). Vinpocetine antagonizes platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF)-induced extracellular matrix synthesis, suppresses intracellular reactive oxidative species (ROS) production, and inhibits extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) 1/2 activation and vascular smooth muscle cell growth (4). Anti-atherogenic effects occur through inhibition of monocyte adhesion, oxidative stress, and inflammatory responses mediated by protein kinase B (Akt)/nuclear factor kappa B (NF-ĸB)-dependent pathways (3). Vinpocetine also demonstrates anti-inflammatory effects by inhibiting tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α)-induced NF-κB activities (19) as well as Akt and STAT3 activation (15). Administration of vinpocetine to chronic stroke patients increased glucose uptake and release in unaffected areas of the brain (12). In a study using mouse model of otitis media, vinpocetine suppresses S. pneumonia-induced mucus production through the inhibition of mucin MUC5AC (27).
In vitro and in vivo studies indicate vinpocetine antitumor activity against human breast cancer cells occurs through G0/G1-phase cell cycle arrest and mitochondrial pathways of apoptosis (15). Vinpocetine can also increase the effects of radiation by increasing tumor oxygenation (16).
Patients with low blood pressure, a history of heart problems or strokes, or those on blood-thinning medications should consult their physician before using this product.