No End to Vinpocetine's Benefits

f there were a potent, yet completely safe, natural substance that could nourish your brain's ability to function optimally - regardless of whether your keenest interest in life was nuclear physics or watching Survivor - wouldn't you want to try it?

POWERFUL COGNITIVE ENHANCER
Well, there is and it's called vinpocetine. This amazing compound is an extract from the seeds of periwinkle (Vinca minor), a perennial shrub indigenous to central and southern Europe and found also in the United States, with light blue to violet flowers. Periwinkle has been valued as a medicinal plant for at least two millennia.

Technically, vinpocetine is a cerebral vasodilator (a substance that expands the brain's blood vessels, thus facilitating blood flow). Vinpocetine's myriad effects in the brain can be summed up by the term cognitive enhancer, i.e., it improves our ability to perform higher mental functions, both short-term and long-term. By optimizing cerebral blood flow, it maximizes the brain's access to vital nourishment, principally in the forms of oxygen and glucose. Vinpocetine thus opens the floodgates, so to speak, for a host of life-enhancing benefits.

SCIENTIFIC VALIDITY
Hundreds of scientific studies on vinpocetine have been published.1 First and foremost, they have shown that its effect is to sharpen mental acuity and memory, both of which tend to dull with age unless we constantly fight back. Vinpocetine can help you learn and think as clearly as your brain is capable of (it's almost like a boost in IQ). It improves both short-term and long-term memory. It enhances alertness and preparedness to handle life's exigencies. It is, to use an old-fashioned term, a mental tonic.

Vinpocetine helps prevent cerebral ischemia (impaired blood flow), and thus hypoxia (lack of oxygen), which can lead to dementia.2 It also has a neuroprotective effect, helping to prevent damage to the brain's delicate circuitry,3 and it facilitates cerebral metabolism and energy utilization.4 It thus affords protection against the spectrum of ills collectively called age-related cognitive decline (ARCD), which can significantly diminish one's quality of life.

THE BENEFITS KEEP GOING
Vinpocetine's benefits do not stop at the brain. Elsewhere in the head, it can prevent or relieve hearing loss due to various causes, as well as tinnitus (ringing or buzzing in the ears) and vertigo (an illusion of movement). It can also improve night vision, prevent or relieve glaucoma, and prevent or improve age-related macular decline.6 Farther down the body, it improves cardiovascular function in a number of ways, including enhanced blood circulation and reduced atherosclerotic plaque.7 And, farther down still, it has recently been discovered that vinpocetine is effective in bladder control (see the sidebar).

Vinpocetine May Help with Bladder Control

How often do you have to empty your bladder during the day? How often at night? Do you have symptoms of urgency? Do you leak urine before you reach the bathroom? Do you leak while coughing or sneezing? Do you feel disabled during your everyday life because of your urologic symptoms? How many pads do you need per day?

Be grateful if you have never been asked those kinds of questions. But if you have, or if you know someone with chronic urinary incontinence (weak bladder) and care about the terrible distress and embarrassment it surely causes them, take heart. A new study from Germany indicates that vinpocetine may be effective even when standard prescription drugs have failed.1

The study was admittedly small and preliminary. Its positive results are encouraging, however, because they fit the expectations for vinpocetine based on what is known about the neuromuscular problem that underlies urinary incontinence. The results are all the more encouraging because they were obtained on a "worst-case scenario" group of 19 test subjects (10 women and 9 men, average age 56) whose condition was so poor that they failed to respond to standard drug treatments and had all been recommended for surgery to correct their problem.

This study was their last chance before surgery - and for 11 of them (58%), it paid off. Treatment with vinpocetine (5 mg/day for two weeks, then 10 mg/day for another two weeks) produced a marked improvement in eight subjects, and a slight improvement in three. The other eight subjects did not respond to the treatment.

This was the first study of vinpocetine for urinary incontinence, but it surely won't be the last. Until further results are obtained, it seems wise to take advantage of what we have learned thus far, and give vinpocetine a try.

Reference

  1. Truss MC, Stief CG, Ückert S, Becker AJ, Schultheiss D, Machtens S, Jonas U. Initial clinical experience with the selective phosphodiesterase-1isoenzyme inhibitor vinpocetine in the treatment of urge incontinence and low compliance bladder. World J Urol 2000;18:439-43.

At the typical recommended dosage of 30-40 mg/day, vinpocetine has no clinically significant side effects and no known interactions with drugs or other supplements.

References

  1. Kiss B, Karpati E. Mechanism of action of vinpocetine. Acta Pharm Hung 1996 Sep;66(5):213-24.
  2. Milanova D, Nikolov R, Nikolova M. Study on the antihypoxic effect of some drugs used in the pharmacotherapy of cerebrovascular disease. Methods Find Exp Clin Pharmacol 1983 Nov;5(9):607-12.
  3. Tretter L, Adam-Vizi V. The neuroprotective drug vinpocetine prevents veratridine-induced [Na+]i and [Ca2+]i rise in synaptosomes. Neuroreport 1998 Jun 1;9(8):1849-53.
  4. Shibota M, Kakihana M, Nagaoka A. The effect of vinpocetine on brain glucose uptake in mice. Nippon Yakurigaku Zasshi 1982 Sep;80(3):221-4.
  5. Konopka W, Zalewski P, Olszewski J, Olszewska-Ziaber A, Pietkiewicz P. Treatment results of acoustic trauma. Otolaryngol Pol 1997;51 Suppl 25:281-4.
  6. Gerkowicz K, Toczolowski J, Jedrzejewski D, Jankowska I, Szponar B. Clinical trials of using Cavinton in the form of intravenous infusion in the treatment of macular degeneration. Klin Oczna 1987 Mar;89(3):95-6.
  7. Man'kovskii NB, Mints AIa, Karaban' IN, Litvinenko AA, Bachinskaia NIu. Experience with the use of Cavinton in the treatment of patients with incipient senile atherosclerotic encephalopathy. Vrach Delo 1987 Jan;(1):46-9.

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