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Health Benefits Of Rauwolfia serpentina

Ayurveda believes that extracts are not as beneficial as the whole herb when utilized for remedial purposes. This hypothesis applies to be true in the case of the herb Rauwolfia serpentina (Indian snakeroot). This is so because the whole herb has components that eventually enhance bioavailability, reduce the side effects, help in smooth excretion, prevent development of drug resistance and help in biotransformation into pharmacoactive forms.

In terms of Ayurveda, the medicinal herb Rauwolfia is also referred to as Sarpagandha (meaning 'smelling like a snake'). At times, this herb is also called black snakeroot. It is ideally used for the treatment of hypertension and lack of sleep, among many others. Read on to gain insight about the fascinating facts and health benefits of this wonder herb [1] .


How Does Rauwolfia (Sarpagandha) Work?

This herb contains reserpine, which is also one of the chemicals that is found in several prescription drugs [2] . Reserpine possesses the capability to treat mild to moderate levels of schizophrenia, hypertension, insomnia, etc.

Medicinal qualities of Sarpagandha in terms of Ayurveda [3] :

  • Tikta Rasa (bitter taste)
  • Veerya Ushna (hot potency)
  • Prabhava Nidrajanaka (induces sleep)
  • Rooksha Guna (dry quality)
  • Vipaka Katu (pungent taste conversion post digestion)
  • Balances Vata and Kapha doshas

Chemical constitution of Sarpagandha in terms of Ayurveda [4] :

  • Ajmalicidine
  • Ajmalicine
  • Rouhimbine
  • Indobinine
  • Reserpiline
  • Reserpine
  • Sarpagine
  • Serpentine
  • Serpentinine
  • Yohimbine
  • Ajmalimine
  • Ajmaline
  • Rauwolfinine
  • Sandwicolodine
  • Serpinine


Health Benefits Of Rauwolfia

The following are the health benefits of using the herb Rauwolfia [5] :

Heals wounds (Vranahara)

Rauwolfia enhances wound healing. Wounds, especially such as ulcers, heal quite soon when this herb is applied externally.

Treats insect bites

Capable of removing the toxic effect of rodent bites. This is made possible due to the presence of reserpine element in Rauwolfia. Similarly, it also treats hives and rashes.

Removes worms (Krumihara)

Rauwolfia is capable of eliminating worm infestations from one's body.

Calms the mind and brain

Teas made using this herb shows a sedative and calming action. In excessive cases, it tends to be considered an antidepressant. Hypertension is treated by this herb due to the presence of reserpine in it.

Cures Vishamajwara

This is a variety of Jwara (fever) in terms of Ayurveda and usually refers to chronic and recurrent fever. Rauwolfia herb has been used since pre-vedic times to cure fever of all kinds. This is possible because this herb is a source of many phytoconstituents including alkaloids, carbohydrates, flavonoids, glycosides, phlobatannins, phenols, resins, saponins sterols, tannins, and terpenes.

Induces sleep

Being a sedative, presence of reserpine in Rauwolfia makes a person feel sleepy easily.

Treats schizophrenia

Rauwolfia alkaloids have been used for relief of symptoms in agitated psychotic states such as schizophrenia. It is helpful in controlling conditions of panic attacks and treatment of epilepsy.

How To Use Rauwolfia

External usage [6] :

  • Juices obtained from leaves can be used to treat corneal opacity.
  • Application of the herb's root powder at the site of a serpent bite can be helpful.

Internal usage [7] :

  • In case of Anidra (sleep disorders), the root of the plant, in the powdered form, works very well when consumed with ghee.
  • Sarpagandha bark skin is mixed along with milk and the roots of vyaghri and eranda. It is effective in destroying Ama and eliminating Vata from the gut. This cures gastrointestinal and abdominal issues.
  • The decoction of the root helps in increasing uterine contractions.
  • The paste of this herb's roots along with rose water is helpful in treating hypertension, headache and giddiness.

Precautions While Using Rauwolfia [8]

  • It should not be used by people who are depressed, pregnant ladies, breastfeeding mothers, small children, people who have gastrointestinal issues, people who are allergic to reserpine or similar medication.
  • It should not be combined with blood pressure medication (or any other medicine as well) and alcohol.
  • Use of this herb might cause issues such as dizziness, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, swelling in the lower extremities and loss of appetite.
  • Consumption of this herb might make gallbladder disease worse.
  • If one has been taking this herb regularly and wishes to discontinue, then the withdrawal should be gradual and not abrupt.


The appropriate dosage is highly important. The roots and leaves are the parts of the herb that are used for medicinal purposes. However, always consult an Ayurvedic expert before the consumption of this herb (in any form).

  • In case the need is to normalize high blood pressure, the roots powder should be about 1 to 2 grams.
  • In case the need is to induce sleep and avoid anxiety and restlessness, the dosage is about 3 to 6 grams.

What Experts Say Based On Research [9]

Reserpine has been found to be the major alkaloid present in this herb. The highest concentration of reserpine is in its roots. Scientists are of the opinion that this is the most prevalent indole alkaloid in the plant. After oral ingestion, reserpine is believed to travel to the various parts of the body such as the liver, spleen, brain, kidney and adipose tissues. Some studies have also shown that it reaches the red blood cells and peripheral neurons as well. It is believed to be present in breast milk when orally consumed by a lactating mother and in case of pregnant ladies, it can cross the placenta and blood-brain barrier.

Experts support the idea of giving lower doses of Rauwolfia because the results are amazing and there is a significant improvement in the blood pressure levels in people with hypertension. Doctors who have participated in research studies say that Rauwolfia's performance is quite equivalent to that of other antihypertensive drugs. This herb is also known to perform very well alongside diuretics, angiotensin 2 receptor blockers and angiotensin-converting enzyme.

To Conclude...

Sarpagandha's usage in medicine dates back to centuries. It was initially incorporated in the lifestyle for treatment of anxiety issues. Positive results made this herb quite popular and was eventually being used to attain relief from central nervous system disorders (psychic and motor) such as schizophrenia, epilepsy, insanity, insomnia and psychosis. The roots of this herb have also found medicinal usage and are being tried out to relieve symptoms of diarrhoea and dysentery.

When combined and used with extracts of other plants, this herb can clear up ailments like cholera, fever and colic. In complicated child-birth issues, Rauwolfia has found ample usage. This is so because of this herb's ability to stimulate uterine contractions [10] .

With such miraculous benefits, Rauwolfia is surely one of the best medicinal herbs. However, intake of it with utmost precaution is essential so that no side-effects are observed.

View Article References  
  1. [1]   Singh RK, Singh A, Rath S, Ramamurthy A. A review ofSarpgandha– whole herb v/s Reserpine–its Alkaloid inthe management of the hypertension, InternationalAyurvedic MedicalJournal. 2015; 3(2):565-569.
  2. [2]   Mittal B, Meenakshi Sharma A, Gothecha VK. Phytochemical and pharmacological activity of Rauvolfia Serpentina - a review, International Journal of Ayurvedic & Herbal Medicine . 2012; 2(3) :427-434.
  3. [3]   Rastogi S. (2010). Building bridges between Ayurveda and Modern Science. International journal of Ayurveda research, 1(1), 41-46.
  4. [4]   Rastogi S. (2010). Building bridges between Ayurveda and Modern Science. International journal of Ayurveda research, 1(1), 41-46.
  5. [5]   Kumari R, Rathi B, Rni A, Bhatnagar S. Rouvolfia Serpentina L. Benth: phytochemical, pharmacological and therapeutic aspects, International journal of pharmaceutical sciences Review amd Research. 2013; 23(2):348-355.
  6. [6]   Poonam Agrawal S, Mishra S. Physiological, biochemical and modern biotechnological approach to improvement of Rauvolfia serpentina, Journal of Pharmacy and Biological Science. 2013; 6(2) :73-78.
  7. [7]   Poonam Agrawal S, Mishra S. Physiological, biochemical and modern biotechnological approach to improvement of Rauvolfia serpentina, Journal of Pharmacy and Biological Science . 2013; 6(2) :73-78.
  8. [8]   Bein in Chen & Mukerji, 87-92; Ann. N.Y. Acad. Sci., 1955, 61, 4; Woodson et. al., 119-29; Martindale, I, 742; Chem. Abstr., 1965, 63, 17002; 1966, 64, 20491; 1965, 62, 5689; Vavrik, Experientia, 1965, 21, 701.
  9. [9]   Lobay D. (2015). Rauwolfia in the Treatment of Hypertension. Integrative medicine (Encinitas, Calif.), 14(3), 40-46.
  10. [10]   Lobay D. (2015). Rauwolfia in the Treatment of Hypertension. Integrative medicine (Encinitas, Calif.), 14(3), 40-6.

Story first published: Wednesday, February 13, 2019, 13:04 [IST]
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