Springs Herald: Snowdrops and Modern Medicine

[Photo credit: Elysia I Ratcliffe]

Galanthus invalids otherwise known as the Snowdrop, is widely acknowledged as one of the first signs of spring in the northern hemisphere. This flower occurs frequently in its favored habitats including moist deciduous woodland and areas of calcareous soil. Interestingly the given name Galanthus is likely linked to the Greek “gala “which translates to mean milk, referencing the milky white flowers.

This beautiful flower not only brings hope for the coming spring, but has been found to be a source of hope for Alzheimer sufferers. Alzheimer’s is a poorly understood neurodegenerative condition that seriously impacts the elderly population with symptoms including memory loss and a lack of responsiveness to the environment.

Galantamine, a medicine widely used in the treatment of Alzheimer’s, was first isolated in the snowdrop plant (Heinrich, M., 2018). Since then, galantamine has been obtained from other members of the plant family amaryllis. Subsequent, studies have shown that galantamine based drugs have improved cognitive function in patients with Alzheimer’s (Heinrich, M., 2018), and for over 40 years snowdrop and its familial species have been used to treat neurological conditions. It is therefore very fitting that a flower universally associated with hope has provided a key medicine in the fight against dementia.



Woodlandtrust.org.uk. (2018). [online] Available at: https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/visiting-woods/trees-woods-and-wildlife/plants-and-fungi/woodland-wildflowers/snowdrop/

Crook, V. & Davis, A.P. 2011. Galanthus nivalis. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2011: e.T162168A5551773. http://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2011-1.RLTS.T162168A5551773.en.

Heinrich, M., 2018. PJ Online| Christmas 2004 (Snowdrops: the heralds of spring and a modern drug for Alzheimer’s disease). Stroke, 13, p.57.

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Elysia I Ratcliffe

Elysia I Ratcliffe

- Lancaster University Ecology and Conservation BSc Graduate - Keen hobbyist photographer. - Works for DEFRA - Naturalist - Learner - Listmaker
Elysia I Ratcliffe

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