I’ve been crazy busy in the studio getting ready for my show, which opened on Monday at the University of Portland, but I thought it might be time to take a quick break and share a painting with you.

The winter snowdrop has a long history in Eastern Europe and Russia as a treatment for disorders of the central nervous system. In fact, its roots as a medicine may stretch back to the 8th century BC and the poet Homer.

In Homer’s story The Odyssey, the god Hermes gives Odysseus an herb called Moly (which some speculate is a winter snowdrop) to protect him from the witch Circe. In the story, Circe drugs Odysseus’s crew “to make them wholly forget their native land.” With help from Hermes and this magical herb, Odysseus is able to resist Circe’s spells and subsequently persuade her to restore his crew.

In the 1950s, research started into the snowdrop’s medicinal qualities as a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease—or our modern “forgetfulness.” According to one story, a Bulgarian pharmacologist noticed people rubbing snowdrops on their foreheads to ease headaches, which sparked his interest. In 1952, Soviet pharmacologists isolated the alkaloid galanthalamine and scientifically demonstrated its drug potential. Today, galanthamine is an effective treatment in mild to moderate cases of Alzheimer’s disease, muscular dystrophy, and as an augmentative therapy for autism.

In 2010, the CDC released statistics that show Alzheimer’s is the sixth-leading cause of death. That same year, a team of researchers at the University of Barcelona discovered three new alkaloids in the winter snowdrop that had not previously been identified in nature. Researchers continue to explore these and other bioactive compounds found in the winter snowdrop to further understand how they might be developed into effective medicines.

Visit http://www.chm.bris.ac.uk/m…/galanthamine/galanthamineh.html to read more about galanthalamine, its history, and how the alkaloid helps patients with Alzheimer’s by inhibiting the enzyme acetylcholinesterase from breaking down acetylcholine in the brain.

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