Scientific name: Rauvolfia serpentina
Family: Apocynaceae
Rauvolfia serpentina, the Indian snakeroot, devil pepper, or serpentine wood, is a species of flower in the milkweed family Apocynaceae. It is native to the Indian subcontinent and East Asia. Rauvolfia is a perennial undershrub widely distributed in India in the sub-Himalayan regions up to 1,000 metres.


Rauwolfia serpentina is an evergreen, perennial, glabrous and erect under shrub. The maximum height of the plant is up to 60 cm. Its roots are tuberous with pale brown cork. The Leaves of the plant are in whorls of three, elliptic to lanceolate or obovate, bright green above and below pale green and thin. Its flowers are in irregular corymbose cymes, white, often tinged with violet. The flowering time is from March to May in Indian conditions. Its fruits are Drupe, single or didymous, shining black, the inflorescence with red pedicels and calyx and white corolla
Chemical Composition-The major alkaloid present in root, stem and leaves of the plant.
Weakly basic Indole Alkaloids: The principal alkaloids are Reserpine, Rescinnamine, despiridine and these are tertiary Indole Alkaloids. 2. Indoline Alkaloids of intermediate basicity: Reserpiline, Ajmaline, Iso- Ajmaline, rauwolfinine are tertiary Indoline alkaloids. 3. Strong Anhydronium Bases: Serpentine, serpentinine and alsotonine are strongly basic anhydronium alkaloids.
While Ajmalinine, Ajmalicine, Chandrine, renoxidine, reserpinine, Sarpagine, Tetraphyllicine, Yohimbine, 3-epi-ayohimbine are the other alkaloids present in Rauwolfia serpentina. Reserpine is the most important alkaloid present in root, stem and leaves of the plant. It contains not less than 0.15% of Reserpinerescinnamine group alkaloids, calculated as Reserpine. The percentage of alkaloid depends on geographical place from where the plant is collected and also the season of collection. Generally samples from Assam have a higher percentage of alkaloid (2.57%) and December is the best month for the collection for getting more percentage of alkaloid.
High blood pressure: The Rauwolfia herb is the best remedy for high blood pressure and it has been adapted by medical fraternity in most countries. Those alkaloids which have a direct effect on hypertension have been isolated in it and are widely used by the practitioners of modern medicine. But they have certain unpleasant side effects which the drug taken in its raw form, does not have. Half a teaspoon of its powder taken thrice a day is effective in relieving hypertension.
In insanity: The Rauwolfia plant is highly beneficial in treating insanity. One gram of powdered root can be taken twice a day with 250 ml of goat’s milk, sweetened with sugar candy. It is unsuitable for those with a low blood pressure, depressed and hypotensive patients.
In insomnia: Rauwolfia is a wee-known remedy in treating insomnia because of its sedative properties. The very first dose of Rauwolfia enables the patient of a phlegmatic and gouty nature to go to sleep. About 0.6 to 1.25 grams of the powder of its root is mixed with some scented vehicle and taken. It is non-stimulating and should be given in doses of 0.25 grams to the patient at bedtime for sound sleep.
In Hysteria: Rauwolfia is useful in treating hysteria. One gram of powdered root can be administered thrice with milk. Treatment should be continued till a complete cure is obtained.
In itching skin: It relieves itching in urticaria. One gram of powdered root can be taken with water
Other uses: It is used as an antidote to the bites of poisonous reptile like snakes. It is also used to treat dysentery and other painful affections of the intestinal canal. The root of Serpentina also possess anti bacterial properties.
Side Effects
Taking Sarpagandha without speaking to a doctor is highly harmful. Either you will be taking too little (making it ineffective) or taking too much, which can result in diarrhea, stomach cramps, nasal congestion, vomiting, and convulsions in some cases.
It is unsafe for pregnant and lactating women to take Sarpagandha without a doctor’s consultation since it contains chemicals that can harm the baby