Vinpocetine, a synthetic derivative of a compound found in the periwinkle plant (Vinca minor), has been shown to enhance blood circulation in the brain, dilate blood vessels and exert antioxidant effects. In the United States, vinpocetine has traditionally been used to promote blood flow; in Europe it's been used for more than two decades to treat stroke patients. Intravenous dosing with vinpocetine increases glucose (blood sugar) to the brain in both the unaffected and stroke-affected regions, enhancing rehabilitation for stroke patients. Blood flow, however, appears to increase only in the unaffected region (Journal of Neuroimaging, 1998, vol. 8).

Although several human studies have examined its safety and efficacy in enhancing blood flow and improving memory, these studies often lack the quality of testing needed to assess the real merits of vinpocetine. Despite these shortcomings, the overall research to date shows great promise for vinpocetine as a poststroke agent with an exceptional safety record.

—Anthony Almada