Spring Pharmacopeia!

snowdropThe first flower of spring, the Snowdrop, Galanthus nivalis (pictured left), is a welcome sight at this time of year. But it is more than just a pretty plant with great timing! It also has a history of medicinal use, and someone you know might be benefiting from it right now…

In the 1950’s a Bulgarian researcher noticed that some rural folks were rubbing a plant on their foreheads to help with memory loss. It turned out to be the local species of Snowdrop, Galanthus woronowii. Russian scientists began analyzing the biochemistry of snowdrops and isolated a substance called galanthamine, which is now used as a medicine to treat Alzheimer’s and other neurological diseases. At first, plants gathered from the wild were used to supply the raw material for manufacture of the medicine, resulting in the depletion of the wild populations of the snowdrop in Bulgaria. However, galanthamine was soon discovered to exist in other closely related plants, such as the genus Narcissus, which includes the daffodil. Many varieties of Narcissus were tested for their galanthamine content.  Because of its commercial availability and its large bulb size, the daffodil variety ‘Carleton’ was chosen to manufacture large quantities of the drug. Most recently, ways of synthesizing galanthamine wholly within the laboratory are being developed.  The most well-known of the galanthamine-based medicines is Razadyne.

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  1. Pingback: Earliest Spring Flowers in the Catskills! - From Root To Shoot

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