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Sarpagandha: Rauwolfia serpentina

Best Ayurvedic herb for high blood pressure
Calms down the restless mind
Promotes natural sleep so a good supplement for insomnia and sleep disturbance.
Recommended in psychological problems.
Corrects the working of the digestive system 

Common Name:
Sarpagandha; Indian snake root (Eng.)

Sanskrit Name:

  • Sarpagandha;
  • Dhawalvitapa;
  • Chandramar;
  • Dhawalbarua;

Lt. Name:
Rauwolfia serpentina – Apocynaceae

Bio energetics:

  • Rasa: Tikta (Bitter)
  • Guna: Ruksha (Non - unctuous)
  • Virya: Ushna (Hot)
  • Vipaka: Katu (Pungent)
  • Prabhava: Nidra janana (Induces sleep)

Chemical composition of Rauwolfia serpentina Powder:

The root contains an alkaloid ophioxylin, an orange colored crystalline principle, resin, starch and wax. The total alkaloid yield is 0.5%. Five crystalline alkaloids isolated are ajmaline. Ajmalicine, serpentine, serpent-tinine and yohimbine. Other constituents identified are phytosterol, oleic acid and unsaturated alcohols or formula C25 H44O2. The root also contains a lot of resin and starch and when incinerated leaves about 8% of ash consisting mainly of potassium carbonate, phosphate, silicate and traces of iron and manganese. Structure elucidation of reserpine and deserpidine; essential oil (0.22%) from roots yielded chief terpene constituent – serpoterpine. Detection of reserpine, reserpinine, yohimbine, ajmaline, serpentine and serpentinine by PC. Stereo-chemical studies in structure elucidation of yohimbine and reserpine. Isolation of ajmaline, ajmalicine, reserpine, sarpagine, yohimbine, aricine and serpiline from roots.

Effect of Sarpagandha Powder on Tridoshas:

Sarpagandha Powder pacifies Kapha and Vata Dosha so it can be used in diseases of Kapha and Vata origin.

Home Remedial Uses of Sarpagandha Powder in Ayurveda:

  • Ruchya: Ruchi literally means interest; here it implies for interest in eating because of inadequate secretion of digestive juices. Rauwolfia serpentina powder is an Ayurvedic herb for loss of appetite.
  • Shool prashamani: Rauwolfia serpentina powder pacifies the Vata Dosha and it is the aggravation of Vata Dosha which is responsible for all painful conditions. So it is a recommended Ayurvedic herb for pain.
  • Nidra prada: It calms down the restless mind and induces natural sleep. Rauwolfia serpentina powder is a dietary supplement for insomnia and sleep disturbance.
  • Hridavasadini: Here Hrid is for heart and Avasadana means to decrease or to slow down. Rauwolfia serpentina powder slows down the heart rate thus it is a herbal remedy for high blood pressure
  • Kamavasadini: As Rauwolfia serpentina powder calms downs the restless mind it also decrease emotional upsets. It is a recommended supplement for excessive libido.
  • Jwara hanta: Rauwolfia serpentina powder is very useful to alleviate pyrexia and associated physical and psychological discomfort.
  • Krimi hanta: It is a anti bacterial and anti microbial Ayurveda herb.
  • Bhoot unmad hara: Bhoot Unmad means psychological upsets of super natural origin. It is one of the best dietary supplement for psychological disorders.

Research done on Sarpagandha Powder:

  • Anti Hypertensive: Reserpine, an alkaloid substance with powerful sedative effect is found in the root. The role of reserpine in reducing blood pressure can be described as follows. Dopamine, epinephrine (adrenaline), and noradrenaline are a group of hormones (neurotransmitters) known collectively as catecholamines. These are produced in the adrenal glands and are released into the bloodstream in response to physical or emotional stress. Noradrenaline constricts the blood vessels increasing the blood pressure and adrenaline increases the heart rate and metabolism. Reserpine works by significantly lowering catecholamines stores in adrenergic nerves and in the heart. This slows down the heart rate and helps open up capillaries and arterioles which in turn cause a reduction in blood pressure.
  • In a group of older, arteriosclerotic hypertensive patients treated with an extract of Rauwolfia over a long period, a mild hypotensive effect was noted after weeks, or occasionally months, of therapy. No dramatic responses were seen, but the so-called “tranquilizing” effect was readily apparent and was appreciated by the patients. Side effects were usually relatively minor, were transient and rarely necessitated stopping the drug.
    • Rauwolfia Serpentina—Prolonged Use in Elderly Hypertensive Patients Mortimer B. Lipsett, Albert H. Levine, and Ralph Goldman
  • The hypotensive action of Rauwolfia Serpentina (N.O. Apocynacae) has been subjected to clinical trial in a series of fifty cases of essential benign hypertension. Tablets of the dried root of this plant were prescribed in optimum doses, the patients being subjected to periodical check-ups of the blood pressure, according to a pre-arranged plan. Within a week of R. Serpentina therapy, 77 per cent of cases showed a drop of blood pressure ranging from 2 to 38 mm, with an average drop of 13 mm. R. Serpentina, therefore, satisfies all the criteria of a successful hypotensive agent formulated. Judging from the results of the present investigation, it has a definite place in the treatment of cases of high blood pressure.
    • A Clinical Trial Of Rauwolfia Serpentina In Essential Hypertension By Rustom Jal Vakil
  • Antidiarrhoeal property: Doses of 100, 200 and 400 mg/kg R. serpentina leaf methanol extracts were administered to castor oil induced diarrhoea mice to determine its antidiarrhoeal activity. All doses of the extract and the reference drug atropine sulphate (3 mg/kg, i.p.) produced a dose-dependent reduction in intestinal weight and fluid volume. The extracts also significantly reduced the intestinal transit in charcoal meal test when compared to diphenoxylate Hcl (5 mg/kg, p.o.). The results show that the extract of R. serpentina leaves has a significant antidiarrhoeal activity and supports its traditional uses in herbal medicine.
    • Antidiarrhoeal activity of leaf methanolic extract of Rauwolfia serpentina Ezeigbo II , Ezeja MI, Madubuike KG, Ifenkwe DC, Ukweni IA, Udeh NE, Akomas SC
  • The crude extract of Rauwolfia serpentina as well as its total alkaloids possesses a blocking action on pressor as well as depressor reflexes originating from the carotid sinus. Respiratory and circulatory reflexes due to stimulation of the KCN-sensitive chemoreceptors are however not affected in a specific way.
    • The action of rauwolfia serpentina on vasomotor reflexes G. K. Ray, P. K. Roy, S. R. Dasgupta and G. Werner

Useful part of Sarpagandha:


Doses of Sarpagandha:

For hypertension: 1-3gm; for inducing sleep: 3-6gm; Insanity: 3-6gm

Possible Side effects:

Side effects during treatment:

  • Dizziness
  • Diarrhea, nausea and vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Swelling of feet and lower legs
  • Nightmares or early morning sleeplessness

Side effects after stopping treatment:

  • Mental depression, nervousness or anxiety
  • Lack of energy or weakness
  • Impotence or decreased sexual interest
  • Irregular or slow heart beat


  • Rauwolfia serpentina should not be given in bronchial asthma, ulcerative colitis, renal impairment, pain of Pitta origin and severe debility. In higher doses, Sarpagandha shows untoward effects like depression, diarrhea, depressed libido etc.
  • Women, who are pregnant, may be pregnant, or plan pregnancy in the near future should not ingest Rauwolfia serpentina or preparations made from them.
  • Rauwolfia serpentina may also be harmful for people with any chronic disease of the gastrointestinal tract, such as stomach or duodenal ulcers, gastroesophageal reflux disease (reflux esophagitis), ulcerative colitis, irritable bowel syndrome, and diverticulosis.

Drug Interactions

  • Significant increase in blood pressure might occur when the drug is taken along with cough and flu medicine or appetite suppressants.
  • Alcohol should not be consumed in association with reserpine because it can cause severe impairment of reactions.
  • Anti-psychotics and barbiturates increase the drug's effects. If taken in combination with digitalis glycosides, it can cause slow heart rate. The drug effects are reduced and other undesired muscle movement effects may occur when it is taken in association with levodopa (medication for Parkinson's disease).

Some combinations of Sarpagandha Powder in Ayurveda:

Sarpagandhadi Churna; Sarpagandha yoga; Sarpagandha Vati

Best recommended Uses of Sarpagandha Powder in Ayurveda:

  • Sarpagandha Powder is very useful in hypertension. It lowers the blood pressure; calms down the mind and induces sleep.
  • Sarpagandha powder is also useful in conditions of too provoking thoughts specially related with sexual indulgence.

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