Vinpocetine Helps Lung, Heart, Brain and Spatial Memory Function

Space Secrets
Shed Light on the Issues of Aging
By Will Block


n a clear day you can see forever, particularly if you're using a nutritional supplement containing vinpocetine and especially if you're surveying the Swiss Alps through the space below your feet. Adventurer Dr. Jack Wheeler (Ph.D. in Philosophy, USC, 1972) is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the first person to skydive onto the north pole. And now this July, at the age of 54, he has just reclimbed the legendary three mile-high Matterhorn with his 14-year old son, Brandon. As father and son stood at the top of the Matterhorn scanning the horizon, little did they know that piercing the southern sky at about the same time was the Space Station Mir. On board, coincidentally, in the Space Station Mir's medicine cabinet, was vinpocetine ... the same botanical extract used by Dr. Wheeler to help him reach the heights of the European continent.

Dr. Jack Wheeler and son Brandon with bottle of Ascend 'n See on top of the Matterhorn.
Jack first scaled Switzerland's premier tour de force back in 1958. Then, at the age of 14, accompanied only by a guide, he reached the summit of the Matterhorn, a peak so challenging that several routes to the top were still unconquered. Jack's father had accompanied him, but only to the base camp. Hoping against hope that Jack would make it, Jack's father hired a glacial rescue pilot to fly him around the top of the Matterhorn as his son ventured toward the peak.

Unlike in 1958, one thing was different (other than Jack's advanced years); the supplements Jack took with him. As he ascended the Matterhorn, Jack's inner fuel tank was topped off with an assortment of formulations. These products could very well have been named for the challenge of climbing the world's most famous peak. By taking a mixture of the High Performance Formulations en route to the top, Jack could reasonably be assured of:

  • Enhanced levels of cerebral blood flow, increasing the supply of oxygen and glucose in his brain;
  • Higher levels of noradrenaline, needed for proper excitatory memory function and to help prevent mental fatigue;
  • Higher levels of acetylcholine, necessary for proper muscle tone and memory function, including the ability to concentrate and thereby focus on every step and handhold;
  • Higher levels of growth hormone release, shown to be of value for proper muscle and bone growth, immune function, tissue repair function, and to help prevent soreness and physical fatigue; and
  • Higher levels of nitric oxide, essential for proper cardiovascular, memory and maintenance functions.

Both noradrenaline and nitric oxide are important neurotransmitters, helping brain cells communicate more ably with one another. Supplementation also provided Jack with ample supplies of green tea polyphenols, which are powerful antioxidants noted by users for uplifting moods and gaining a wider, sharper, and more colorful sense of vision. By sipping the drink mixture as he climbed, the adventurer received a constant supply of the carbohydrate fructose. Fructose levels have been known to be significantly low in chronic altitude sickness.1 Unlike other carbohydrate sugars, fructose helps maintain stable energy levels.

Jack was taking 2 capsules, containing vinpocetine as well as arginine and vitamin C, every few hours. He knew from the scientific literature that he was likely to maintain and improve proper mental function in several other ways critical to the task of remaining totally alert, clear headed, vigilant, and free from vertigo and other symptoms of mountain sickness.2 Jack also was familiar with the science showing that vinpocetine enhances spatial memory and performance.3 This may be critical when climbing a mountain that is infamous for fooling its challengers into making the wrong turn and confusing their memories when trying to backtrack.

On board, coincidentally, in the
Space Station Mir's
medicine cabinet, was vinpocetine ...

One of the worst problems a mountain climber faces, next to falling, is altitude sickness (also known as mountain sickness) which has aborted many climbs to the top. This ailment overtakes its victims when they are not properly trained for the climb, when they are insufficiently acclimated to the altitude or, as a result of increasing age, when their bodies can no longer withstand the stress of the strenuous, nerve-splitting, adrenaline-pumping challenge. If it becomes acute, mountain sickness can be a life-threatening condition afflicting otherwise healthy individuals who ascend too rapidly to high altitudes. They can suffer fluid imbalance brought about by severe tissue hypoxia, resulting from the reduction of the partial pressure of oxygen in the air. Acute symptoms include headache, poor appetite, irritability, insomnia, peripheral edema, fatigue, dizziness and possibly impaired consciousness.

An analysis of more than 13,000 cases of mountain sickness indicates strongly that it is important to immediately tend to early symptoms or risk dire consequences.4 Early symptoms may lead rapidly to more serious illness with the potential for further deterioration. Pulmonary edema (fluid in the lungs) may lead to erythoblastosis, a condition marked by damaged red cells in the blood, or cerebral edema (fluid in the brain) which may lead to brain damage, including stroke. Other studies have shown that high altitude sickness can cause hypertension (high blood pressure), hypotension (low blood pressure) or long-term immunosuppression, compromising the immune system.5

During a climb in the Peruvian Andes,
a controlled double-blind study found that
vinpocetine restored cerebral-oxygenation
functions and helped eliminate or
significantly reduce the disturbances of
altitude sickness, compared with the placebo.

If symptoms are not addressed, by returning to lower altitudes, significant illness and even death may result. Sometimes, other more aggressive treatment modalities may be necessary such as supplemental oxygen, mechanical ventilation, or hyperbaric tents.

Interestingly, most of the advanced symptoms of mountain sickness are also symptoms of aging!

Studies have been conducted revealing the superiority of botanical extracts such as vinpocetine over drugs by lessening, shortening and avoiding mountain sickness. Focusing on different types of nootropic nutrients and drugs that alleviate the conditions of altitude sickness, one study showed the added benefit of the energy mobilizers over the vasoactive compounds.6 It is impressive that vinpocetine operates in both ways, as demonstrated in multiple studies, as a both a metabolic enhancer, increasing cerebral oxygen and glucose levels, and as a selective cerebral vasodilator, increasing positive blood flow characteristics.7,8 During a climb in the Peruvian Andes, a controlled double-blind study found that the cerebral-oxygenating properties of vinpocetine were the most important in helping to eliminate or significantly reduce the disturbances of altitude sickness, compared with the placebo.9

One study examining the effects of
vinpocetine on the cerebral blood
dynamics of middle-aged and elderly
people found that it improved function
so much that it helped reduce, and perhaps
partially reverse, the initial
formations of brain atherosclerosis.

In another study, a daily administration of vinpocetine for the first two weeks of a stay at more than 4000 meters (the Matterhorn is 4478 meters high) and periodic administration of vinpocetine afterwards was found to help mountaineers.10 They were able to move to higher levels more rapidly without the usual acclimatization phase, thus avoiding or diminishing headache, nausea, and insomnia. After adjusting to the altitude at this level, the coordination, balance, higher brain functions and mood of the subjects remained satisfactory up to 6000 meters. Studies have verified that it is important to spread out the vinpocetine dosage, taking it every few hours, in order to help optimize the benefits of maintaining higher levels of cerebral oxygenation and enhanced metabolism.11

Space Secrets - Part II - September 1998


  1. Garcia-Hjarles MA. Sperm count and seminal biochemistry of high altitude inhabitants and patients with chronic altitude sickness. Arch Biol Med Exp. 1989;22:61-67.
  2. Jaeger N. Pervincamine forte retard and cerebral hypoxia at high altitude. Jaeger N. Psychol Med. 1978;10:2625-2641.
  3. Jucker M, Battig K, Meier-Ruge W. Effects of aging and vincamine derivatives on pericapillary microenvironment: stereological characterization of the cerebral capillary network. Neurobiol Aging 1990;11:39-46.
  4. Li YY, Gao F, Bi YT. Clinical classification of altitude sickness: analysis of 13,403 cases. Chung Hua Nei Ko Tsa Chih. 1990;29:35-38.
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  7. Vamosi B, Molnar L, Demeter J, Tury F. Comparative study of the effect of ethyl apovincaminate and xantinol nicotinate in cerebrovascular diseases; immediate drug effects on the concentrations of carbohydrate metabolites and electrolytes in blood and CSF. Arzneimittel-Forsch. 1976;26:1980-1984.
  8. Solti F, Iskum M, Czako E. Effect of ethyl apovincaminate on the cerebral circulation. Studies in patients with obliterative cerebral arterial disease. Arzneimittel-Forschung. 1976;26:1945-1947.
  9. Memeo SA, Data PG, Modugno GC. Pharmacology of (-) eburnamonine as studied in a scientific expedition to the Peruvian Andes. Med Sport. 1980;33:331-338.
  10. Jaeger N. Pervincamine forte retard and cerebral hypoxia at high altitude. Psychol Med. 1978;10:2625-2641.
  11. Adenis L. Value of slow release vincamine in the prevention of high altitude sickness. Lille Med. 1978;23(Suppl 1):382-383.

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