The use of small molecules that can promote neuronal growth represents a promising approach to regenerative science. Along these lines we have developed separate short or modular syntheses of the natural products caryolanemagnolol and clovanemagnolol, small molecules previously shown to promote neuronal growth and induce choline acetyltransferase activity. The postulated biosynthetic pathways, potentially leading to the assembly of these molecules in nature, have guided the laboratory syntheses, allowing the preparation of both natural products in as few as two steps. With synthetic access to the compounds as single enantiomers we have examined clovanemagnolol's ability to promote the growth of embryonic hippocampal and cortical neurons. Clovanemagnolol has been shown to be a potent neurotrophic agent, promoting neuronal growth at concentrations of 10 nM.