In The Science of the Magical acclaimed journalist, Matt Kaplan relates a stunning story of a powerful plant given by the god Hermes to Odysseus, to render him invulnerable to the unremembering potion of Circe. Homer tells us that the gods call it moly. The poet describes the appearance of this ancient neuroprotector, we now know it is the snowdrop plant, the source of the dynamic nootropic galantamine.
Although the ancients were aware of some of its profound effects, the plant did not arouse scientific interest until 1951, when a Russian pharmacologist discovered villagers in the Urals using snowdrop as an analgesic and a weapon to ward off polio.
Today, we have a rich medical literature that has investigated some of galantamine’s diverse benefits. Before diving into its effects on brain health, cognition, and psychological well-being, it is worth mentioning that galantamine may have profound benefits for a variety of health conditions.
One study using a mouse model discovered that galantamine treatment for obese subjects significantly reduced body weight, abdominal fat, and fatty liver, while improving blood glucose and insulin resistance. (Satapathy, 2011) Another study targeting galantamine’s potential in treating diabetes revealed that it attenuates even type-1 diabetes. (Hanes, 2015)
However promising these animal studies may be for conditions residing outside the central nervous system, when we turn towards brain and mind, human research reveals to us the glory of galantamine.
The overwhelming effectiveness of this nootropic in the treatment of Alzheimer’s Disease has led to FDA approval for this use. One of the functions of galantamine is its action as a cholinesterase inhibitor, decreasing the breakdown of acetylcholine in the brain. The resulting increase in this vital neurotransmitter is thought to contribute to the positive cognitive benefits observed in patients with AD. (Olin, 2002)
The primary beneficiary of galantamine’s actions on the brain appears to be hippocampal function; vital to memory and learning. In patients with mild cognitive impairment galantamine administration resulted in the improvement of both late episodic memory and delayed recall; the recollection of experience and information respectively. (Grön, 2006)
If galantamine’s only role in the brain was that of a strong cholinesterase inhibitor improving hippocampal function, we should be satisfied, this Olympian alkaloid confers other benefits to the brain. Due to galantamine’s ability to improve AMPA-mediated signaling, which is potentially neuroprotective and may enhance memory coding, along with its remarkable property of enhancing a specific action potential, which increases signal transmission, galantamine is being considered as a treatment for the improvement of cognition in schizophrenia. (Koola, 2014)
I began this article recounting an ancient myth involving the snowdrop plant, and I shall end it with a most curious finding about galantamine. Whether you have a mythical or mystical bent or not, the realm of dreams remains shrouded in mystery. Galantamine may be a key to unlocking the world of dreams. A study conducted in 2018 discovered that galantamine significantly increases the induction of lucid dreams, allowing subjects to know they are dreaming and thereby letting them control their dreams. Galantamine also significantly increased recall, sensory vividness, and complexity of the dreams. (LaBerge, 2018)
Moly the gods call it, and it is hard for mortal men to dig; but with the gods all things are possible. _ Homer, Odyssey X. 305
DreamTech makes a quality Galantamine supplement:
References and Works Cited
Satapathy, Sanjaya K et al. “Galantamine alleviates inflammation and other obesity-associated complications in high-fat diet-fed mice.” Molecular medicine (Cambridge, Mass.) vol. 17,7-8 (2011): 599-606. doi:10.2119/molmed.2011.00083
Hanes WM, Olofsson PS, Kwan K, Hudson LK, Chavan SS, Pavlov VA, Tracey KJ. Galantamine Attenuates Type 1 Diabetes and Inhibits Anti-Insulin Antibodies in Nonobese Diabetic Mice. Mol Med. 2015 Nov;21(1):702-708. doi: 10.2119/molmed.2015.00142. Epub 2015 Aug 17. PMID: 26322849; PMCID: PMC4749496.
Olin J, Schneider L. Galantamine for Alzheimer’s disease. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2002;(3):CD001747. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD001747. Update in: Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2004;(4):CD001747. PMID: 12137632.
Grön G, Brandenburg I, Wunderlich AP, Riepe MW. Inhibition of hippocampal function in mild cognitive impairment: targeting the cholinergic hypothesis. Neurobiol Aging. 2006 Jan;27(1):78-87. doi: 10.1016/j.neurobiolaging.2004.12.005. PMID: 16298243.
Koola MM, Buchanan RW, Pillai A, Aitchison KJ, Weinberger DR, Aaronson ST, Dickerson FB. Potential role of the combination of galantamine and memantine to improve cognition in schizophrenia. Schizophr Res. 2014 Aug;157(1-3):84-9. doi: 10.1016/j.schres.2014.04.037. Epub 2014 May 28. PMID: 24878431; PMCID: PMC4099270.
LaBerge, Stephen et al. “Pre-sleep treatment with galantamine stimulates lucid dreaming: A double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover study.” PloS one vol. 13,8 e0201246. 8 Aug. 2018, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0201246