Progressive memory loss, dementia and relatedcognitive dysfunction states have become a seriousmedical and social problem in Western societies.According to the U.S. National Institute on Aging, in theUnited States alone there are as many as four millioncases of the most extreme form of cognitive breakdown.With the increasing population of people over the age of50, concern for dementia, cognitive malfunction andother related diseases has become understandable.Vinca minor is a perennial ground cover plant knownalso as myrtle or periwinkle. The plant bears bright,blue-violet flowers and is most often found in thetemperate zone of the Northern hemisphere. Its use as anherbal medicine dates back for centuries, where it hasbeen used to treat everything from wasp stings todiabetes. Its many alkaloids may have blood pressureandblood sugar-reducing properties, in addition toimprovement in cognitive function.
Studies have shown that vinpocetine can be a powerfulcognitive enhancement product. It is a vasodilator andthus can increase blood flow to the brain, as well aspotentially improving the brain's use of oxygen, thusenabling brain cells to continue functioning, even whenoxygen supplies are cut off. Vinpocetine has also beenfound to stimulate noradrenergic neurons in an area ofthe brain called the locus coeruleus. Noradrenergicneurons affect the function of the cerebral cortex-thepart of the brain used to think, plan and act. Thenumber of these neurons declines with age, impairingconcentration, alertness and the speed with whichinformation is processed. It may also have anticonvulsantaction, which may be linked to its neuronalprotective capacity and/or its modulation of severalchemical transmitter systems. It can also increasecerebral metabolism and raise ATP levels in nerve cells.In double-blind trials conducted with patients sufferingfrom mild-to-moderate vascular dementia, vinpocetinebenefited memory, learning and global clinicalmeasures of cognitive performance. Speech andlanguage also showed marked improvement.