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Vinpocetine
 


[Age-Related Mental Decline | Neurotransmitters and Memory
[Not Just for the Elderly | Other Possible Uses]
[usage | references]

Nutritional Support for Brain Metabolism

  • Improves blood flow to the brain
  • Augments the brain's rate of energy production
  • Speeds cerebral glucose utilization and helps to regulate the channels which control sodium and potassium utilization
  • Increases the brain's use of oxygen
  • Elevates the brain's levels of several neurotransmitters responsible for memory
  • Powerful Support for Mental Functioning

Vinpocetine is a derivative of the alkaloid vincamine, which is extracted from the plant Vinca minor L. (periwinkle). Vincamine is also present in a few other plants, such as voaconga and Crioceras longiflorus. In Europe, extracts of periwinkle have been employed as components of herbal preparations intended for consumption by the elderly and others concerned with nervousness and anxiety. Modern research indicates that vinpocetine supports cerebral metabolism in part by increasing the brain's production of ATP (adenosine triphosphate), which is the most important source of readily accessible energy found in the body. The brain's utilization of both glucose (blood sugar) and oxygen is improved by vinpocetine.

Of special interest not only to the elderly, but also to students is the fact that vinpocetine increases the concentrations of several of the neurotransmitters which are critical for learning/memory formation, recall, focus and mood. Vinpocetine selectively improves blood flow in the arteries and capillaries in the head and neck areas. Blood flow and the utilization of oxygen and glucose is improved in other tissues in the head area as well, including the eyes and the structures important for hearing.

Age-Related Mental Decline

With advancing age, numerous factors may lead to declines in memory and cognition. The brain, as is true of every other organ in the body, is dependent upon sources of energy and oxygen and, at the same time, must be able to eliminate waste products. The decline in memory and mental acuity associated with aging reflects multiple factors.

  • The basic building blocks for important neurotransmitters are less available and less efficiently used.
  • Important hormonal elements decline drastically by the sixth decade of life.
  • The same deterioration of the vascular system which is involved in heart disease can affect the blood supply to the brain.
  • The body's ability to produce the basic energy unit which powers the metabolism, adenosine triphosphate (ATP), fails over time.
  • The very ability of the blood to carry and release oxygen is subject to decline.
  • The brain's capacity to metabolize glucose for energy goes down as we age.

Although the causes of mental decline and degenerative brain disorders can be diverse, these six areas are common to most forms of deterioration which affect the brain. Reduced synthesis of necessary neurotransmitters, decreased circulation and diminished cellular efficiency are the enemies of sound memory and mental clarity.

Neurotransmitters and Memory

Vinpocetine influences many areas of brain chemistry and brain functioning. With regard to the neurotransmitters, its impact is greatest upon the levels of noradrenaline, which is principally active in the neurons of the locus coeruleus (LC) area of the brain. Other primary neurotransmitters are dopamine, acetylcholine and serotonin. Dopamine is involved in reward-seeking behavior and memory associated with spatial tasks. Acetylcholine is the neurotransmitter most responsible for memory. Serotonin, which regulates mood and sleep (it is a "building block" for melatonin), is important to memory by controlling anxiety and depression.

Locus coeruleus neurons decline in number with age, and this decline appears to strongly influence areas such as cognition and the processing of information. Studies using animals have demonstrated that vinpocetine improves the rate of firing of the LC neurons. Support for cognition and awareness is one aspect of vinpocetine's contribution to memory.

The edifice we call memory, however, depends upon many supporting pillars. Therefore, vinpocetine's other contributions to brain function should not be overlooked. Improved cerebral blood flow is a benefit which this compound shares with other supplements associated with cognition and memory, such as ginkgo biloba.

Experiments with vinpocetine indicate five main pharmacological and biochemical actions: (1) selective enhancement of the brain circulation and oxygen utilization without significant alteration in parameters of systemic circulation, (2) increased tolerance of the brain toward inadequate levels of oxygen and reduced blood flow, (3) anticonvulsant activity (4) inhibitory effect on phosphodiesterase (PDE) enzyme, and (5) improvement in flow properties of the blood and a reduction in platelet aggregation, actions which reduce excessive clotting.

These mechanisms of action suggest numerous possible benefits, many of which have been explored experimentally. In a double-blind placebocontrolled study in which 20 mg of vinpocetine was given twice per day to subjects with long-term reduced circulation to the brain, the results were very wide-ranging. After 45 days, researchers found that subjects had greater mental alertness, reduced confusion, enhanced recall of recent events, diminished anxiety, less depression and fatigue, and greater emotional stability.

Not Just for the Elderly

The majority of the over 100 clinical trials (totaling more than 20,000 individuals) which have been performed with vinpocetine have involved elderly subjects. Most of these trials have focused upon vinpocetine's impact upon memory. However, it would be wrong to think that only those who are older can benefit from this supplement. Several studies using normal, healthy volunteers of average age have demonstrated that short-term memory can be enhanced even in these subjects and even under conditions of induced memory impairment. Such findings have implications for students and others who find themselves having to process and memorize large amounts of information over short periods of time.

Other Possible Uses

Reduced circulation in the head area can contribute to many difficulties. For instance, increased blood viscosity (stickiness and/or thickness) and increased membrane rigidity in red blood cells can lead to blood flow problems in the inner ear. This can have implications for hearing and balance.

Similarly, blood flow plays a major role in eye health. Excessive platelet "clumping" can impair blood supply through the microvessels which serve the retina as well as many parts of the brain. These vessels are sometimes large enough for only one blood cell to pass through at a time. Poor circulation can impair the health of the macula and it can influence the pressure inside the eye itself. Therefore, as in the case of the inner ear, supplementation with vinpocetine is an avenue of support for proper circulation to maintain tissue health and integrity.

Usage

Take 1 to 3 tableets per day with a meal or as directed by your qualified health consultant.

CAUTION: Individuals taking blood-thinning medications, including aspirin, should not take vinpocetine.

References

  • Bhatti JZ, Hindmarch I. Vinpocetine effects on cognitive impairments produced by flunitrazepam. Int Clin Psychopharmacol. 1987 Oct;2(4):325-31.
  • Biro K, Karpati E, Szporny L. Protective activity of ethyl apovincaminate on ischaemic anoxia of the brain. Arzneimittelforschung. 1976;26(10a):1918-20.
  • Bonoczk P, Gulyas B, Adam-Vizi V, Nemes A, Karpati E, Kiss B, Kapas M, Szantay C, Koncz. Role of sodium channel inhibition in neuroprotection: effect of vinpocetine. Brain Res Bull 2000 Oct;53(3):245-54.
  • Erdo SL, Cai NS, Wolff JR, Kiss B. Vinpocetin protects against excitotoxic cell death in primary cultures of rat cerebral cortex. Eur J Pharmacol 1990 Oct 23;787(3):551-3.
  • Gaal L, Molnar P. Effect of vinpocetine on noradrenergic neurons in rat locus coeruleus. Eur J Pharmacol. 1990 Oct 23;187(3):537-9.
  • Kidd PM. A review of nutrients and botanicals in the integrative management of cognitive dysfunction. Altern Med Rev. 1999 Jun;4(3):144-61.
  • Kiss B, Karpati E. [Mechanism of action of vinpocetine]. Acta Pharm Hung. 1996 Sep;66(5):213-24.
  • Miyazaki M. The effect of a cerebral vasodilator, vinpocetine, on cerebral vascular resistance evaluated by the Doppler ultrasonic technique in patients with cerebrovascular diseases. Angiology. 1995 Jan;46(1):53-8.
  • Santos MS, Duarte AI, Moreira PI, Oliveira CR. Synaptosomal response to oxidative stress: effect of vinpocetine. Free Radic Res. 2000 Jan;32(1):57-66.
  • Solntseva EI, Bukanova JV. Enhancement of low-threshold A-current of the neuronal membrane by vinpocetine. Membr Cell Biol. 2000;14(2):181-8.
  • Sukhareva MP, Aref'eva NA, Farkhutdinova LV [Pharmacopuncture in combined treatment of children with neurosensory hypoacusis]. Vestn Otorinolaringol. 2000;(6):24-6.
     

Reprinted with exclusive permission from Jarrow Formulas. 

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