About Voacanga Africana

Voacanga Africana, a tropical tree native to West Africa, is called Kokiyar, Pete-Pete, Kirongasi, Ako-Dodo, Ou or Rungu in the local African dialects. It grows up to 30 feet tall and has leaves that are up to 30 cm in length. The tree produces yellow or white flowers, which become berries with numerous dark brown seeds embedded in the pulp. It is part of the same genus as Iboga Thabernanthe and Iboga Montaine, containing many of the same, or similar alkaloids

This plant is used by the Diola of Africa against infectious diseases. It has also been reported to have been used to treat mental disorders and as an analgesic. West African shamans are said to ingest the root and bark as a cerebral stimulant and the seeds for visionary purposes.

It is reported to contain voacangine (carbomethoxy-ibogaine), ibogamin, plus many other unidentified alkaloids in the root & trunk bark, leaves and seeds. The total alkaloid fraction is said to be slightly toxic, acting as CNS depressants & hypotensives.

The alkaloids are the principal bioactive compounds responsible for its use in traditional medicine. The major alkaloids include voacamine, voacangine, vobasine, and ibogaime. Others include voacristine, voacamidine, voacarine, voaphylline, vobtusine, voalfolidine and tabersonine. With over 1,600 tons of seeds exported annually from Ghana and Cote D’Ivoire, voacanga is an important source of additional income for harvesters and exporters in West Africa

Altered molecular pathways are partly responsible for neurodegeneration typical of Alzheimer’s Disease. A compound extracted from the leaves and bark of an African tree – the Voacanga Africana, has been used in folk medicine for centuries, and scientists at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies (California, USA) identified that extracts of Voacanga africana performed exceptionally on assays (human and mouse cells) that tested the effects against neurodegeneration. Voacanga Africana extract was effective at protecting cells against oxidative stress, showed anti-inflammatory properties, was capable of blocking the build-up in brain neurons of beta-amyloid peptides characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease. The study authors report that: “Our study identifies the alkaloid voacamine as a major compound in Voacanga africana with potent neuroprotective activities in these assays.”.

Seeds
Vinpocetine is a derivative of Vincamine. It facilitates cerebral metabolism by improving blood flow to the brain, boosting brain cell ATP production, and increasing utilization of glucose and oxygen by neurons.

Vinpocetine enhances brain metabolism. Obtained from tabersonine, which in turn is an alkaloid extracted from Voacanga seeds, Vinpocetine works by increasing the synthesis of ATP in the brain and by increasing the utilization of oxygen. Vinpocetine also enhances the synthesis of some neurotransmitters that influence critical brain functions such as mood, focus, and memory recall.

Vinpocetine is an herbal supplement used to treat thinking and memory problems, such as Alzheimer’s disease. Other names for Vinpocetine include: Ethyl apovincaminate, Ethyl apovincaminoate, and vinca minor.

Vinpocetine increases the production of Noradrenaline and Dopamine, contributing, in this way, to the release of Serotonin and the concentration of Acetylcholine. Research has shown that the effects of this compound go beyond mere prevention and turn it into a Powerful Memory Enhancer.

Vinpocetine may also have antioxidant effects similar to those of vitamin E and be beneficial to brain function and age-related cognitive decline. Vinpocetine may have a number of other beneficial health effects, including increasing cerebral blood flow, anticonvulsant activities, and neuroprotection. Often referred to as nootropic or cognition enhancer, Vinpocetine is used in many parts of the world to treat cerebrovascular and cognitive problems.

Simon Hill (simon@voacanga.co.za)

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