Galantamine is a medication that is FDA-approved for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. It has also been studied for its potential effects on oxidative stress, inflammation, and other specific medical conditions such as diabetes, obesity, and autism – although the evidence for these uses is still only preliminary. Read on to learn more about this drug, how it works, and what the current science says about some of its other potential uses!
Disclaimer: This post is not a recommendation or endorsement for galantamine. This medication is only FDA-approved for the treatment of certain specific medical disorders, and can only be taken by prescription and with oversight from a licensed medical professional. We have written this post for informational purposes only, and our goal is solely to inform people about the science behind galantamine’s potential effects, mechanisms, and uses. What is Galantamine?
Galantamine is a nitrogen-containing compound that can be obtained synthetically, or from the bulbs and flowers of the Caucasian snowdrop ( Galanthus caucasicus ), Voronov’s snowdrop ( Galanthus caucasicus) , Galanthus woronowii , Daffodil ( Narcissus ) and red spider lily ( Lycoris radiata ) [ 1 , 2 , 3 ].
Galantamine has been used for decades in Eastern Europe and Russia as a folk remedy for muscular weakness ( myopathy ), as well as for sensory and motor dysfunction associated with disorders of the central nervous system [ 4 ].
Galantamine is commercially available as Nivalin , Razadyne / Razadyne ER , Reminyl , and Lycoremine , and has sometimes been used in the treatment of mild cognitive impairment alone or in association with Alzheimer’s disease [ 5 , 6 , 7 , 8 ].
Galantamine is an effective treatment for Alzheimer’s disease , and has been officially approved by the FDA for this medical use.
Many Alzheimer’s patients report benefitting from galantamine therapy that is initiated early, soon after diagnosis, and continued for at least 1 year [ 8 ].
Galantamine is believed to act by increasing the concentration and overall activity of acetylcholine in the brain, which has been preposed to account for its effects on the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease [ 9 , 10 ].
A key sign of Alzheimer’s disease is a decrease in hippocampal episodic memory function due to the build-up of β-amyloid plaques which cause a breakdown of cholinergic signaling. Galantamine is believed to be a useful treatment for Alzheimer’s due to its ability to increase hippocampal function via improving cholinergic neurotransmitter function [ 11 , 12 ].
Some evidence suggests that galantamine may help limit the cognitive decline associated with Alzheimer’s disease. For example, one study reported that this effect may persist for up to 36 months after beginning galantamine treatment, suggesting that there may be some significant long-term potential for galantamine use in this medical condition [ 13 ].
In fact, long-term galantamine treatment has been reported to delay an individual’s placement in a nursing home, suggesting improved overall functioning and quality-of-life [ 13 ].
Although the precise mechanisms behind it aren’t fully known yet, some studies have concluded that long-term treatment with galantamine may effectively increase the connections between neurons in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients. By extension, it has been proposed that these neuronal connections may help stabilize cognitive performance in these patients [ 14 ].
Galantamine may also have some effects on build-up of beta-amyloid plaques in brain cells, which is believed to be the main factor responsible for causing Alzheimer’s disease. For example, one animal study reported that galantamine reduced the amount of beta-amyloid plaques in the brains of mice with Alzheimer’s disease, as well as decreased the activity of astrocytes (a type of cell in the nervous system that forms “scars” in areas where neurons have been damaged) [ 15 ].
According to some preliminary studies, galantamine has also been reported to have some “antidepressant”-like effects, and may have even improved sleep quality in dementia patients [ 16 , 17 ]. This may suggest some mood- and sleep-related effects, although more research will be needed to know for sure.
Galantamine has been reported to be just as effective as donepezil , a cognition-enhancing medication commonly used to treat Alzheimer’s disease [ 18 ].
However, galantamine has been proposed to be far more cost-effective than conventional Alzheimer’s treatment with typical cholinesterase inhibitors, which may give it a slight advantage when it comes to medical use [ 19 ]. Other Potential Effects & Uses of Galantamine
In addition to its FDA-approved medical use in Alzheimer’s disease, galantamine has also been studied for its potential effects on a number of other health-related functions and conditions.
However, much of this research is still in a relatively early stage, and in most cases it is difficult to come to any firm conclusions about its relative efficacy and safety in healthy human users.
Therefore, the potential effects listed below are still considered to have “insufficient evidence”, and should be taken with a grain of salt until further research work – including large-scale clinical trials in healthy human users – is performed.
Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is a condition that involves a gradual loss of cognitive function over time. MCI sufferers often complain of memory failure. One study administered galantamine (4 mg twice per day) to sufferers of MCI for 7 days. These patients were reported to show a subsequent improvement in performance on memory tasks (episodic face-encoding and working memory tasks) [ 11 ].
Another similar study reported that patients with MCI showed evidence of improved episodic memory and reduced reaction times when treated with galantamine [ 20 ].
Cholinergic malfunction is believed to be responsible for some of the memory impairments commonly seen in MCI subjects. This shared mechanism may be why galantamine (an acetylcholinesterase (AChE) inhibitor and modulator of nicotinic acetylcholine receptors ) has been reported to be effective at improving brain function [ 11 ].
Some early evidence also suggests that galantamine may help promote brain growth – possibly via activation of the M1 muscarinic and α7 nicotinic acetylcholine receptors [ 21 ].
Additionally, according to one animal study In mice, galantamine (at 0.3-3mg/kg) was […]