Nootropic Investigation: Vinpocetine

Vinpocetine is one of the first nootropic substances ever to hit the mainstream public and is used to prevent neurological disorders, and improve memory and concentration.  

It was discovered in the 1960s, and was commonly sold under the trade name "Cavinton" in Japan and Europe. It was mainly used to treat cerebrovacular conditions like stroke and dementia. More modernly, however, people take it on a daily basis as a preventative for neurological dysfunctions, but also to improve memory and focus in daily life. 


What is it?

Vinpocetine is a semi-synthetic alkaloid derived from the naturally ocurring vinncamine from the periwinkle plant (Vinca major and Vinca minor). These two chemicals are extremely smilar structurally and effectively act the same way in the body. 

Vincamide and its synthetic counterpart vinpocetine from the periwinkle plant.

Vincamide and its synthetic counterpart vinpocetine from the periwinkle plant.

Vinpocetine Improves Blood Flow to the Brain

Vinpocetine has been shown in several studies to improve blood flow to the brain. This is important in the prevention of conditions like Alzheimers and Dementia.

One of the ways dementia and Alzheimers can develop is through reduced blood flow reaching the brain cells. With less blood flow, the ability for the removal of toxins diminishes, less oxygen can reach the cells, and fewer nutrients are available for them to function adequately. Over time this will cause these cells to die which will ultimately result in memory and cognitive decline.  

It should be noted that here are indeed other mechanisms of action such as the accumulation of amyloid plaquing in the nerve synapses as well which are important to consider, but not as relevant when talking about vinpocetine.  

Herbs such as ginkgo biloba are famously used to improve the vascular function and blood flow to the brain and have been found effective in the treatment of neurological conditions as well as improving the cognitive functioning of healthy individuals as well.

When blood flow is improved, the cells in the brain have better access to oxygen and nutrients, and can get rid of the damaging byproducts of normal cellular functioning more effectively. 


Vinpocetine has been shown to improve memory...

Vinpocetine has been shown to significantly improve both memory retrieval and the making of new memories. [1]. Although there are numerous studies showing these improvements from vinpocetine in both animals and humans from vinpocetine, it is little understood how these improvements are actually occurring.

This comes to no surprise when you consider how little we actually know about the storage of memories, to begin with. It will be interesting to see the developments in this area of neuroscience and how we can relate it to nootropics like vinpocetine and vincamine. (Be sure to subscribe in order to stay up to date with TSEs research in this area). 

One theory suggests an improvement in the neurotransmitter functions within the brain. This may include the dopaminergic, serotonergic, and noradrenergic functions in the body.


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What else is vinpocetine good for?

Over the past 50 years since vinpocetine was first discovered, there has been a considerable amount of research on the clinical applications and mechanisms of actions for vinpocetine. Vinpocetine has been shown effective in both the prevention and treatment of Alzheimers and Dementia, heart conditions, joint conditions, tinnitus and hearing loss, epilepsy, prevention of altitude sickness, visual improvements, and acute non-hemorrhagic strokes [3-6].

In normal, healthy individuals, vinpocetine offers these protective effects, but can also be incredibly useful for improving general cognitive ability, memory retrieval, new memory formulation, faster thinking, improved visual functioning, improvement in joint health, and is useful in the prevention of altitude sickness by alpinists. (See this article for more ways to treat altitude sickness). 


The mechanism of action for vinpocetine includes: [2]

  1. Stimulates vasodilation (which increases blood supply to the brain and lowers blood pressure) 
  2. Inhibits the effects of phosphodiesterase (leads to an increase in cyclic AMP over cyclic GMP) 
  3. Increases the tolerance of brain cells to hypoxic (lack of oxygen) conditions
  4. Improves the flow of blood 
  5. Antioxidant actions


What happens to vinpocetine inside the body? 

The absorption rate of vinpocetine is only 6.7% on an empty stomach. When taken with meals this rises significantly to 60-80%. This is a clear indication as to why vinpocetine should always be taken with meals. 

After ingestion, it takes 1-2 hours to enter the bloodstream. Once in circulation, it is metabolized into the inactive vincaminic acid and excreted through the kidneys and urine. [1]. 

Vinpocetine has been found to be uptaken in the highest concentrations in the thalamus, putamen, and neocortical regions of the brain. [1].  These areas of the brain are related to motor function and coordination, and memory creation and retrieval. The thalamus in particular is a very important portion of the brain and if this area is dysfunctional, coma will result. 

Vinpocetine is uptaken by the thalamus and putamen



10 mg 3 times/day with meals.  

When first taking vinpocetine for the first time, take 2-5 mg/day first, and work up to the full dose of 30 mg taken in 3 10 mg doses/day over a few days to make sure there are no alleries or hypersensitiities to it.  

Is it Safe? 

Vinpocetine is very safe, there have been no reported long-term side effects, and has an incredibly low toxicity.  Due to vinpocetine's effects on thinning the blood, it should be used cautiously with other blood-thinning medications such as warfarin. [1]. 


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Article by Justin Cooke

- The Sunlight Experiment

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  1. Jha, M.K., Rahman, Sheikh, H. (2012). Vinpocetine: A smart drug and sart nutrient: A review. IJPSR. Vol 3. 2. 346-352. 
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