Homer's moly identified as Galanthus nivalis L.: physiologic antidote to stramonium poisoning

Clin Neuropharmacol. 1983 Mar;6(1):1-5. doi: 10.1097/00002826-198303000-00001.


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.

Publication types

  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • Antidotes*
  • Datura stramonium*
  • Galanthus
  • Greece, Ancient
  • History, Ancient
  • Humans
  • Literature*
  • Plant Poisoning / therapy*
  • Plants, Medicinal*
  • Plants, Toxic*


  • Antidotes