Aims Amaryllidaceae alkaloids exhibit a wide range of physiological effects, of which the acetylcholinesterase (AChE) inhibitory activity is the most relevant. However, scientific evidence related to their neuroprotective effectiveness against glutamate-induced toxicity has been lacking. Thus, the purpose of this study was to conduct a comparative study of the neuroprotective activity and the AChE inhibitory activity of species of Amaryllidaceae. Main methods The neuroprotective activity against glutamate-induced toxicity was measured in rat cortical neurons and the Ellman method was employed for the quantification of acetylcholinesterase inhibitory activity of alkaloidal extracts of five species of Amaryllidaceae (Crinum jagus, Crinum bulbispermum, Hippeastrum barbatum, Hippeastrum puniceum and Zephyranthes carinata). The alkaloid Amaryllidaceae patterns based on GC/MS analyses were also investigated. Key findings The results showed that the alkaloidal extract from C. jagus presented a high neuroprotective activity in both pre- and post-treatments against a glutamate excitotoxic stimulus. Furthermore, the alkaloid extracts from C. jagus and Z. carinata revealed an inhibitory activity of AChE from the electric eel with IC50 values of 18.28 ± 0.29 and 17.96 ± 1.22 μg/mL, respectively. In addition, 46 alkaloids were detected by GC/MS, and 20 of them were identified based on their mass spectra and retention index. The results suggest that the neuroprotective effects might be associated with lycorine and crinine-type alkaloids, whereas the acetylcholinesterase enzyme inhibitory activity could be related to galanthamine and lycorine-type alkaloids, although not based on synergistic processes. Significance In summary, Amaryllidaceae species are sources of alkaloids with potential use for Alzheimer's disease.