Vinpocetine Benefits and Uses

Vinpocetine is derived from a substance found in the leaves of the periwinkle plant. Joseph Chin/EyeEm/Getty Images

Vinpocetine (pronounced vin-poe-ce-teen) is a synthetic compound derived from vincamine, a substance found naturally in the leaves of the lesser periwinkle plant (Vinca minor). Vinpocetine was developed in the late 1960s.

Vinpocetine is available as a prescription drug in Europe and Japan. In the United States and Canada, it’s sold in health food stores and online as a dietary supplement.


In alternative medicine, vinpocetine is used for a variety of conditions. So far, scientific support for the potential benefits of vinpocetine is lacking.

1) Stroke and Vascular Dementia

According to some alternative medicine practitioners, vinpocetine may help to increase blood circulation in the brain. Some preliminary studies suggest that it may reduce brain impairment and dementia after an ischemic stroke. 

2) Alzheimer's Disease

Vinpocetine is being explored as a complementary treatment for people with Alzheimer’s disease. It’s thought to enhance the brain's use of oxygen, protect brain cells against damage, and increase blood flow to the brain possibly by inhibiting an enzyme called phosphodiesterase.

A critical review of previously published studies found that the evidence as a whole was too weak to rely on, due to limitations in the design of the studies. Further research is needed.

3) Tinnitus

Studies suggest that vinpocetine may help with tinnitus after trauma to the ear.

4) Cognitive Function

Vinpocetine is marketed in North America as a supplement that can boost memory and brain function in healthy people, but there is no real evidence yet that it can help.


Side effects of vinpocetine may include indigestion, nausea, dizziness, anxiety, facial flushing, insomnia, headache, drowsiness, and dry mouth. Vinpocetine may also cause a temporary drop in blood pressure.

Vinpocetine shouldn’t be taken by pregnant or nursing women. The safety of vinpocetine in people with liver or kidney damage isn't known. People with bleeding disorders, low blood pressure or seizure disorders shouldn't use vinpocetine. It also shouldn't be used two weeks before or after a surgical or dental procedure. Vinpocetine shouldn’t be taken by people who are taking anticlotting or antiplatelet medications such as aspirin, Plavix (clopidogrel), Ticlid (ticlopidine), Trental (pentoxifylline), vitamin E, garlic, ginkgo, and Coumadin (warfarin).

There is one case report of agranulocytosis associated with the use of vinpocetine.

Due to a lack of research, little is known about the safety of using vinpocetine supplements. It's important to keep in mind that supplements haven't been tested for safety and dietary supplements are largely unregulated. In some cases, the product may deliver doses that differ from the specified amount for each herb. In other cases, the product may be contaminated with other substances such as metals. Also, the safety of supplements in pregnant women, nursing mothers, children, and those with medical conditions or who are taking medications has not been established.

Using Vinpocetine for Health

There is currently a lack of scientific evidence to support the use of vinpocetine as a treatment for any health problem. It should not be used as a substitute for standard treatment of any condition. If you're considering using it, make sure to talk with your doctor first. Self-treating and avoiding or delaying standard care can have serious consequences.

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Article Sources
  • Szatmari SZ, Whitehouse PJ. Vinpocetine for cognitive impairment and dementia. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2003;(1):CD003119.