Common Names

  • Kavinton
  • Rgh-4405
  • Tcv-3B
  • Apovincaminic acid
  • Cavinton
  • Vinpocetine
  • Periwinkle

For Patients & Caregivers

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.

  • Alzheimer’s disease
    Small studies have shown benefit with vinpocetine, but well-designed clinical trials are needed.
  • Cognitive decline
    Vinpocetine was useful in improving cognitive decline. More studies are needed.
  • Dementia
    A systematic review of studies did not find any effectiveness of vinpocetine for dementia.
  • Memory loss
    A few clinical trials have shown benefit. Large-scale studies are needed.
  • Stroke
    Some studies have shown benefits with vinpocetine in stroke patients, but larger studies are needed.
  • Cancer treatment
    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.

  • 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.
  • Flushing, rashes, gastrointestinal problems
  • Low blood pressure
  • Decreased white blood cell count
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For Healthcare Professionals

(14-ethoxycarbonyl-(3a,16a-ethyl)-14,15eburnamine), ethyl-apovincaminate

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.

  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Cognitive decline
  • Dementia
  • Memory loss
  • Stroke
  • Cancer treatment

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.

Rare: Flushing, rashes, gastrointestinal problems (23), hypotension (24)

Case Report: A 73 year-old man developed agranulocytosis after using vinpocetine for 50 days. His symptoms resolved after discontinuing vinpocetine (25).

  • Anticoagulants/antiplatelet agents: Vinpocetine may have additive effects and can increase risk of bleeding (13) (14) (26).
  • Antihypertensive agents: Vinpocetine may increase hypotensive effects (24).
  • May decrease red blood cell aggregation (13).
  • May reduce plasma and whole blood viscosity (13).

  1. Zaki HF, Abdelsalam RM. Vinpocetine protects liver against ischemia-reperfusion injury. Can J Physiol Pharmacol. Dec 2013;91(12):1064-1070. doi: 10.1139/cjpp-2013-0097

  2. Zhuang J, Peng W, Li H, et al. Inhibitory effects of vinpocetine on the progression of atherosclerosis are mediated by Akt/NF-kappaB dependent mechanisms in apoE-/- mice. PLoS One. 2013;8(12):e82509. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0082509

  3. Cai Y, Knight WE, Guo S, et al. Vinpocetine suppresses pathological vascular remodeling by inhibiting vascular smooth muscle cell proliferation and migration. J Pharmacol Exp Ther. Nov 2012;343(2):479-488. doi: 10.1124/jpet.112.195446

  4. Trejo F, Nekrassov V, Sitges M. Characterization of vinpocetine effects on DA and DOPAC release in striatal isolated nerve endings. Brain Res. Aug 3 2001;909(1-2):59-67.

  5. Bhatti JZ, Hindmarch I. Vinpocetine effects on cognitive impairments produced by flunitrazepam. Int Clin Psychopharmacol. Oct 1987;2(4):325-331.

  6. Hindmarch I, Fuchs HH, Erzigkeit H. Efficacy and tolerance of vinpocetine in ambulant patients suffering from mild to moderate organic psychosyndromes. Int Clin Psychopharmacol. Spring 1991;6(1):31-43.

  7. Akhondzadeh S, Abbasi SH. Herbal medicine in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. Am J Alzheimers Dis Other Demen. Mar-Apr 2006;21(2):113-118.

  8. Szatmari SZ, Whitehouse PJ. Vinpocetine for cognitive impairment and dementia. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2003(1):CD003119. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD003119

  9. Feher G, Koltai K, Kesmarky G, et al. Effect of parenteral or oral vinpocetine on the hemorheological parameters of patients with chronic cerebrovascular diseases. Phytomedicine. Mar 2009;16(2-3):111-117. doi: 10.1016/j.phymed.2008.10.014

  10. Bereczki D, Fekete I. Vinpocetine for acute ischaemic stroke. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2008(1):CD000480. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD000480.pub2

  11. Huang EW, Xue SJ, Zhang Z, et al. Vinpocetine inhibits breast cancer cells growth in vitro and in vivo. Apoptosis. Oct 2012;17(10):1120-1130. doi: 10.1007/s10495-012-0743-0

  12. Feigin VL, Doronin BM, Popova TF, et al. Vinpocetine treatment in acute ischaemic stroke: a pilot single-blind randomized clinical trial. Eur J Neurol. Jan 2001;8(1):81-85.

  13. Deshmukh R, Sharma V, Mehan S, et al. Amelioration of intracerebroventricular streptozotocin induced cognitive dysfunction and oxidative stress by vinpocetine — a PDE1 inhibitor. Eur J Pharmacol. Oct 12 2009;620(1-3):49-56. doi: 10.1016/j.ejphar.2009.08.027

  14. Jeon KI, Xu X, Aizawa T, et al. Vinpocetine inhibits NF-kappaB-dependent inflammation via an IKK-dependent but PDE-independent mechanism. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. May 25 2010;107(21):9795-9800. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0914414107

  15. Moghaddam AA, Aqil M, Ahmad FJ, et al. Nanoethosomes mediated transdermal delivery of vinpocetine for management of Alzheimer’s disease. Drug Deliv. Apr 10 2014. doi: 10.3109/10717544.2013.846433

  16. Lin C, Chen F, Ye T, et al. A novel oral delivery system consisting in “drug-in cyclodextrin-in nanostructured lipid carriers” for poorly water-soluble drug: Vinpocetine. Int J Pharm. Apr 25 2014;465(1-2):90-96. doi: 10.1016/j.ijpharm.2014.02.013

  17. Vinpocetine [monograph]. Altern Med Rev. Jun 2002;7(3):240-243.

  18. Imamoto T, Tanabe M, Shimamoto N, et al. Cerebral circulatory and cardiac effects of vinpocetine and its metabolite, apovincaminic acid, in anesthetized dogs. Arzneimittelforschung. 1984;34(2):161-169.

  19. Shimizu Y, Saitoh K, Nakayama M, et al. Agranulocytosis induced by vinpocetine. Medicine Online [serial online]. Accessed April 21, 2014.

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