Galantamine is used for the treatment of mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease and various other memory impairments, in particular those of vascular origin. It is an alkaloid that is obtained synthetically or from the bulbs and flowers of Galanthus caucasicus (Caucasian snowdrop, Voronov's snowdrop), Galanthus woronowii (Amaryllidaceae) and related genera like Narcissus (daffodil), Leucojum (snowflake), and Lycoris including Lycoris radiata (Red Spider Lily).
Studies of usage in modern medicine began in the Soviet Union in the 1950s. The active ingredient was extracted, identified, and studied, in particular in relation to its acetylcholinesterase (AChE)-inhibiting properties. The bulk of the work was carried out by Soviet pharmacologists M. D. Mashkovsky and R. P. Kruglikova–Lvova, beginning in 1951.The work of Mashkovsky and Kruglikova-Lvova was the first published work that demonstrated the AChE-inhibiting properties of galantamine.
The first industrial process was developed in Bulgaria by prof. Paskov in 1959 (Nivalin, Sopharma) from a species traditionally used as a popular medicine in Eastern Europe, and, thus, the idea for developing a medicine from these species seems to be based on the local use (i.e., an ethnobotany-driven drug discovery).
Galantamine has been used for decades in Eastern Europe and Russia for various indications such as treatment of myasthenia, myopathy, and sensory and motor dysfunction associated with disorders of the central nervous system. In the US, it is FDA approved for the treatment of Alzheimer's disease.
It is available in both a prescription form and as an over the counter supplement.