Galanthus sp. / Sneeuwklokje

Niet verwonderlijk dat deze bloempjes zo tot de verbeelding spreken. Daarvan getuigen de vele volkse namen. Winterliedertjes, naakte mannetjes, naakte wijfjes, zomerzotjes, lichtmisklokjes.....De Latijnse geslachtsnaam Galanthus is samengesteld uit het Griekse gale: melk, en anthos: bloem, naar de kleur van de bloemblaadjes en luidt dus letterlijk melkbloem. De Latijnse soortnaam nivalis beduidt in de sneeuw groeiend. We staan er niet bij stil dat dit sierlijke plantje van oorsprong geen inheemse plant is. Haar bakermat moet men zoeken in Zuid- en Zuidoost- Europa. Al lang geleden werd zij naar West-Europa overgebracht en in kloostertuinen en op buitenplaatsen aangeplant. De zogenaamde ‘wilde’ exemplaren zijn uit deze plaatsen ontvlucht en verwilderd.

 Een legende over het sneeuwklokje vinden we bij Blöte-Obbes: ’toen God alles geschapen had, gras, planten en bloemen, maakte hij ook de sneeuw en zeide: „De kleur moet ge u zelf maar zoeken, gij dekt toch alles toe.” De sneeuw ging naar het groene gras en zeide “geef mij uw groene kleur.” Maar het gras weigerde. Toen ging ze naar de bloemen. De roos, ’t viooltje, de zonnebloem, niemand wilde z’n kleur afstaan. Zo kwam zij bij het Sneeuwklokje. “Indien mij niemand een kleur geeft, zoo zal ’t mij gaan als den wind, die slechts daarom zoo boos is omdat men hem niet ziet!” Het Sneeuwklokje kreeg medelijden en zei: “wanneer ge mijn kleur wilt hebben, kunt ge haar nemen.” Zoo kreeg de sneeuw haar witte kleur. Het werd de vijand van alle bloemen behalve van het sneeuwklokje.’

En, och arme zijn deze bloemetjes ook geneeskrachtig? In hun witte onschuld eerder giftig al bevatten de bolletjes wel de stof galantamine die bij de ziekte van Alzheimer het geheugen kan verbeteren. Wat een vreemde verbanden. Giftige galante stoffen die verleiden en het verleden terug oproepen tot de dood er op volgt. Het eeuwig weten, het eeuwig vergeten.



Over het sneeuwklokje, de toverplant Moly, in de Odyssee

In de Odyssee verandert de godin Kirke de metgezellen van Odysseus in varkens door ze drugs toe te dienen waardoor, zoals Homerus
schrijft, «een mens zijn vaderland vergeet». Kirke's helse kruiden bestonden uit doornappel of alruin en monnikskap, een combinatie die zich tot in de 20ste eeuw in de apotheek heeft gehandhaafd als uitwendig pijnstillend middel. Aconitine uit monnikskap veroorzaakt na inname
een specifieke jeuk en tinteling van de huid, met de autosuggestie van uitgroeiende stekelharen

Odysseus krijgt echter van Hermes een kruid dat als tegengif werkt en, ongevoelig geworden voor het vergif, dwingt hij Kirke met het zwaard zijn makkers weer uit hun roes te halen. De anti-drug van Hermes was waarschijnlijk het sneeuwklokje, Galanthus nivalis, de toverplant Moly van de klassieke Oudheid, waarin het alkaloïde galanthamine de para-sympaticolytische werking van de tropaanalkaloïden opheft.

De Odyssee is door Homerus ongeveer 1300 jaar voor de val van het WestRomeinse Rijk geschreven. Het verbluffend toxicologisch inzicht in de verhaalstof werd via het Corpus Hippocraticum doorgegeven aan de Romeinen, want de artsen in Italië waren doorgaans Grieken.
 


Snowdrops, Galanthus species.

Snowdrops are native to Europe, and their original range extended from the Pyrenees to Ukraine eastward and from Germany and Poland through to southern Italy, Albania and northern Greece. They became naturalized in northern Europe including the British Isles.
  Writing in the latter part of the 16th century Gerard says that they were a garden flower, and said “Nothing is set down hereof by the ancient writers, nor anything observed by the moderne” as regards their medicinal properties. However we now know that Gerard was wrong. The Bulbous Violet as the snowdrop was called then was mentioned in an old glossary dating from 1465, under the name “Leucis i viola alba” or the white violet, stating that it was an emmenogogue, used to regulate menstruation. It can also be found under narcissi in other old manuscripts and these say that it was a “digestive, resolutive and consolidante” so Gerard hadn’t done his homework too well.

   Snowdrops also go by the name “Fair Maid of February” which is when it pushes its head up through the winter snows, bringing with it the promise of spring and life and rebirth after the cold of winter. It was one of my grandmother’s favourite flowers as was the blue violet. Legend has it that when Adam and Eve were thrown out of the Garden of Eden it was winter on Earth and snowing. Eve cried for the warmth of Paradise and God took pity on her and transformed some snowflakes into snowdrops to console her. Hence they are now the flower of Hope.
   The Druids traveled before they settled in the British Isles and it is possible that they knew of the healing properties of the snowdrop, as in Celtic mythology it is the flower of the Triple goddess, Brigit, goddess of poetry and inspiration, of healing and of the blacksmiths arts. She was the goddess of the New Moon and of flame hearth and the smithy. The Celtic nation of Brigantia was once in parts of Spain, Brittany and the British Isles, and as the snowdrop was native to Spain, the Celts would have known of it. Whatever the case, their healing was lost in the period of the introduction of Christianity and we may only now be beginning to rediscover what they knew of the healing powers of plants. A German legend says that snow got its whiteness from the snowdrop as it wanted a colour and god said it should ask plants and animals for some of theirs. Only the snowdrop was willing to share its colour with the snow and so it is white.
  It is believed that snowdrops were taken to the British Isles by monks from Italy, as they were grown in old monastery gardens.

   William Wordsworth wrote lines “On seeing a Tuft of Snowdrops” in 1819: -
  …these frail snowdrops together cling,
 And nod their helmets, smitten by the wing
 Of many a furious whirl-blast sweeping by”
And this “whirl-blast” seems to accurately describe the way Alzheimer’s patients must feel. It is perhaps apt that modern medical research has shown that galanthamine or galantamine, extracted from snowdrops may be able to help Alzheimer’s sufferers.
   A Russian pharmacologist visiting Bulgaria observed a peasant woman treating children with poliomyelitis with a concoction made from snowdrop bulbs, and was amazed when they recovered without any signs of paralysis. Later, in 1951, another Russian pharmacologist, Mashkovsky, discovered galanthamine in the snowdrop Galanthus woronwii and this has been used in Eastern Europe for the alleviation of neuromuscular ailments including neuralgia and neuritis. It enhances the neurotransmissions in the brain, so was used for poliomyelitis.
   Now in the West, snowdrop lectin (Galanthus nivalis agglutinin) from Galanthus nivalis is being studied for its potential activity against HIV. It is also a powerful insecticide. Galanthamine is used in the treatment of traumatic injuries to the nervous system too.
  It seems as though the humble snowdrop has a lot of health benefits for us that we probably hadn’t realized.

Medicinal Use and Benefits
As described above, the Galanthus nivalis content of galathamine is mostly responsible for its therapeutic action, very much appreciated in the treatment of traumatic injuries of the nervous system. It cannot cure Alzheimer disease, but it can at least prevent it or slow down its evolution. Being a strong inhibitor of cholinesterase, this alkaloid is also part of chemically-produced drugs used in anesthetics, but also in post-surgery treatment of myasthenia, myopathy, or atonia occuring either in the gastro-intestinal tract or in the bladder.

Since the alkaloid spectrum contained in Galanthus nivalis is considerably large, their medicinal effects also vary a lot: some of them are virostatic, or respiratory analeptics, while others are effective tumor-inhibitors. Galanthus nivalis homeopathic derivates are also emmenagogues, meaning that they stimulate the blood flow in the pelvic area, thus increasing the menstrual flow and possibly inducing abortion in early stages of the preganncy.

Lectin (or agglutinin) is currently being studied for its likely action against HIV (human immunodefficiency virus). Other medicinal uses of the plant have reportedly treated symptoms of polyneuropathy, neuritis, myelitis, thrombosis, thromboembolism, and spine injuries.

Precautions and Adverse Reactions
This plant is no longer used as such in therapies, due to its relatively high levels of toxicity. Only chemically-extracted substances are used in standard medication, to avoid the occurence of adverse reactions such as digestive tissue irritation and stomach pain. Oral ingestion of parts of Galanthus nivalis reportedly leads to poisoning, manifested through diarrhea, colic, vomiting, and nausea.

Recommendations
Even if it is not fatal, Galanthus nivalis intoxication can be very unpleasant. Its emmenagogue effects make the derived supplements highly unrecommended in administering them to women during pregnancy or breasfeeding. Taking all these into account, do not try to make your own Galanthus nivalis remedies – the plant is just too powerful for ammateur use.
Consume only scientifically-approved and standardized products, paying great attention to dosages and directions on product labels. Last but not least, make sure you stay on the safe side and seek for qualified medical advice before taking Galanthus nivalis.

J Ethnopharmacol. 2004 Jun;92(2-3):147-62.Galanthamine from snowdrop--the development of a modern drug against Alzheimer's disease from local Caucasian knowledge.Heinrich M1, Lee Teoh H.
In recent years, galanthamine isolated from several members of the Amaryllidaceae (Leucojum spp., Narcissus species, Galanthus spp.) has become an important therapeutic options used to slow down the process of neurological degeneration in Alzheimer's disease. This review traces aspects of the history of its development from little known observational studies in the Caucasus Mountains (Southern Russia), to the use of this drug in Eastern European countries (esp. Bulgaria) in the treatment of poliomyelitis and ultimately to the recent introduction onto Western markets in the treatment of Alzheimer's disease. Of note, little is known about the early history of the drug's development and the review also points to other gaps in our knowledge about the ethnopharmacology, pharmacology and clinical use of galanthamine.

Clin Neuropharmacol. 1983 Mar;6(1):1-5.Homer's moly identified as Galanthus nivalis L.: physiologic antidote to stramonium poisoning.Plaitakis A, Duvoisin RC.
The antidotal properties of certain naturally occurring medicinal plants against central nervous system intoxication appear to have been empirically established in ancient times. Homer, in his epic poem, the Odyssey, described a plant, "moly," used by Odysseus as an antidote against Circe's poisonous drugs. Centrally acting anticholinergic agents are thought to have been used by Circe to induce amnesia and a delusional state in Odysseus' crew. We present evidence to support the hypothesis that "moly" might have been the snowdrop, Galanthus nivalis, which contains galanthamine, a centrally acting anticholinesterase. Thus the description of "moly" as an antidote in Homer's Odyssey may represent the oldest recorded use of an anticholinesterase to reverse central anticholinergic intoxication.



Kaya GI, Polat DC, … Somer NU
Quantititative determination of lycorine and galanthamine in Galanthus trojanus and G. cilicicus by HPLC-DAD. [Journal Article]
Nat Prod Commun 2014; 9(8):1157-8
Abstract

Holy Moly: Hermes' Anticholinesterase Antidote. [Journal Article]
Anesthesiology 2014; 121(2):371

Resetár A, Demeter Z, … Máthé C
Growth regulator requirement for in vitro embryogenic cultures of snowdrop (Galanthus nivalis L.) suitable for germplasm preservation. [Journal Article]
Acta Biol Hung 2014; 65(2):165-77
Abstract

Rønsted N, Zubov D, … Davis AP
Snowdrops falling slowly into place: an improved phylogeny for Galanthus (Amaryllidaceae). [Journal Article]
Mol Phylogenet Evol 2013; 69(1):205-17
AbstractPublisher Full Text

Sarikaya BB, Berkov S, … Somer NU
GC-MS investigation of Amaryllidaceae alkaloids in Galanthus xvalentinei nothosubsp. subplicatus. [Journal Article]
Nat Prod Commun 2013; 8(3):327-8
Abstract


Comments