Although there is a great deal of information on our website about the supplements in Think Gum®, I thought I would use the blog to tell you everything you ever wanted to know about Vinpocetine, including what it is, how it works and why you should be using it.
What is Vinpocetine?
Vinpocetine is a modified alkaloid from the common periwinkle plant Vinca minor. This plant, which can be found in many gardens, has been used in traditional medicine to increase blood flow in order to improve cardiovascular and cognitive health. However, use of the whole plant or of perwinkle extract has two main issues. First, there are over 50 known alkaloids in this plant, some of which have potent chemotherapeutic activity including vinblastine and vincristine. These are not compounds which health people want to consume on a regular basis! Second, getting a standard preparation in a tolerable form can be an issue. Not only do levels of these active compounds change from plant to plant, but they often are extremely bitter and therefore not well suited for human consumption.
Vinpocetine solves these two problems. First, as it is semisynthetic molecule (it is a modified version of vincamine) it can be made in standardized preparations of extremely high purity. Second, the chemical modification on the molecule render the vinpocetine quite tasteless compared to the extremely bitter precursor molecule vincamine making it very palatable for oral consumption. So essentially Vinpocetine has the qualities of a great supplement, it is highly pure and palatable. The one down side is that is takes a lot of work to make highly pure vinpocetine, which is why it costs over a $1000 a pound! Luckily you don’t need much to get a benefit from it and Think Gum contains a carefully titrated amount to give you the maximum benefit without breaking the bank.
How Does Vinpocetine Work?
Several mechanisms have been reported for how Vinpocetine works but they fall into 3 main categories. First, vinpocetine increase cerebral blood flow. It is a potent phospodiesterase type-1 inhibitor which increases cGMP levels in vascular smooth muscle, thus relaxing the cerebral vessels leading to increase cerebral blood flow. Second, vinpocetine is a antioxidant with an ability to scavenge hydroxl radicals. Finally, several studies have shown that vinpocetine has anti-inflammatory properties due to its ability to disrupt the IkB complex. Taken together, the research on vinpocetine suggests that vinpocetine improves cognitive health by increasing blood flow to the brain, by reducing free-radical mediated damage and potentially by preventing some types of inflammation.
What Proof is There that Vinpocetine Improves Cognitive Performance?
There have been a number of studies looking at the ability of vinpocetine to improve memory and cognition.
Hadjiev Study, 1976 – In this study the investigators reported that vinpocetine improved the ability to memorize information. Gleaning more than this from this particular study requires that one knows how to read German and has access to a German medical library to read the full article.
Subhan Study, 1985  – In this cross-over study, 20 healthy volunteers used either 10mg, 20mg, 40mg of vinpocetine or placebo for 3-days and then were tested for memorization ability. 40mg of vinpocetine significantly increased performance compared to the other groups. While this study was relatively short-term and didn’t have many participants, it suggested that vinpocetine could improve cognitive performance in healthy individuals.
Balestreri Study, 1987 – In this double-blind placebo-controlled study, the authors investigated the safety and efficacy of vinpocetine in elderly patients with chronic cerebral dysfunction. Patients using vinpocetine scored consistently better on all tests administered. Importantly, no serious side effects were reported. As this was a double-blind placebo-controlled study this was the first definitive proof that vinpocetine is a nootropic.
Polich Study, 2001 – This blinded cross-over study tested the effect of a supplement containing ginkgo biloba and vinpocetine using computer based tests measuring various aspects of memory and concentration. In the study, the vinpocetine supplement significantly improved response time in a Working Memory Capacity (memory scanning processing) test where participants had to remember of whether or not certain items were recently shown in data sets.
Valikovics Study, 2007 – In this 12-week long study, vinpocetine was tested for its ability to improve blood flow and improve cognitive ability. After 12 weeks of oral use, the vinpocetine group had both improved blood flow and cognitive function.
Davidson Study, 2011– In this single-blind study, the investigator (yours truly), tested whether or not Think Gum®, which contains vinpocetine along with other ingredients, could improve memory and concentration. Using college students and common paper-based tests, it was shown that students who chewed Think Gum significantly improved their memory. In one test of long-term word recall, Think Gum outperformed the control group chewing normal bubble gum by over 25%. Not only this, but those students in Think Gum group felt significantly better about their ability to concentrate and their performance during the testing.
Should You be Using Vinpocetine?
The answer to this question depends on if you want to have better memory and improved cognitive performance. Some people just want to lounge on the beach all day and not think about a thing. These people don’t need a cognitive edge. For pretty much everyone else, having improved memory is a desirable trait. Vinpocetine has been shown to be safe and effective so it is certainly worth using on a regular basis. Luckily, vinpocetine is one of the main ingredients in Think Gum and can be at your doorstep in a couple of days by ordering though the Think Gum online store.
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