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Rauvolfia serpentina

Contributor: Pankaj Oudhia

Copyright (c) 2002. All Rights Reserved. Quotation from this document should cite and acknowledge the contributor.

Scientific Name: Rauvolfia serpentina (L.) Benth. ex Kurz. (Syn. Ophioxylon sepentinum L.)

English Name: Rauvolfia root, serpentine

Trade Name: Serpentine Roots

Common (Indian) Names:
Assamese: Arachoritita
Bengali: Chandra
Hindi: Chandrabhaga, Chota-chand, Sarpagandha
Canarase: Sarpangandha, Sarpagandhi, Shivanabhiballi, Sutranavi, Patalagandhi
Malyalma: Churannavilpori, Suvapavalporiyam
Marathi: Harkaya: Harki
Oriya: Patalagarur, Sanochado
Sanskrit: Sarpagandha, Chandrika, Patalguruda
Tamil: Chevanamalpodi
Telugu: Patalaguni, Patalagaruda, Sarpagandha

Family: Apocynaceae

Habitat: Moist forests shady places near rain-forest.

Status: The natural reserves of this plant are declining, especially after reports of its medicinal properties appeared in literatures. International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) has kept this plant under endangered status.

Distribution: The snake-weed genus includes about 50 species, this has fairly wide area of distribution, including the tropical part of the Himalayas, the Indian peninsula, Sri Lanka, Burma, and Indonesia.

Related Species

Rauvolfia tetraphylla L. (Syn. R. canescens L.; R. heterophylla Roem. and Schult.). In Hindi, it is named Barachandrika. Found in Bihar, Orissa, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala states of India. Native to West Indies. Its roots are often used as an adulterant of R. serpentina.

Rauvolfia vomitoria Afzel. and R. caffra. Both are African species. Having medicinal properties similar to R. serpentina but with low total alkaloid content and also low in serpentina.


Botany: An erect perennial shrub with a long, irregularly, nodular, yellowish root stock.

Leaves: In whorls of 3, thin, lanceolate, acute, bright green above and pale beneath.

Flowers: in irregular corymbose cymes, white, often tinged with violet.

Fruit: Drupe, single or didymous, shining black, the inflorescenece with red pedicels and calyx and white corolla.

Flowering Time: March to May in Indian conditions.

Natural Components: The root contains ophioxylin (an alkaloid having orange colored crystalline principle), resin, starch and wax. The total alkaloid yield is 0.8%. Five crystalline alkaloids isolated are ajmaline, ajmalicine, serpentine, serpentinine, and yohimbine.

Useful Parts: Roots and leaves.

Medicinal Properties and Uses: According to Ayurveda root is bitter, acrid, heating, sharp, pungent and anthelminic. Drug Rauvolfia consists of air-dried roots. Rauvolfia preparations are used as antihypertensive and as sedative. It is also used for the treatment of various central nervous system disorders associated with psychosis, schizophrenia, insanity, insomnia, and epilepsy.

Ayurvedic Preparations: Sarpagandha ghanavati, sarpagandha yoga, Sarpagandha churna, Mahesvari vati etc.

Cultivation: This plant is under cultivation in India, Sri Lanka, and Java. Experiments on cultivation are in progress in the United States.

Climate: it grows luxuriantly well where the rainfall is 2500 mm or more. The areas having more equable climatic variations seem to be more suited than the areas having higher climatic variations.

Soil: It prefers soil with plenty of humus and rich in nitrogenous and organic matter with good drainage. Alkaline soils are not suitable for commercial cultivation.

Propagation: Can be propagated both through seeds and vegetatively, but propagation by seed is preferred.

Seed Rate: 10 kg/ha.

Nutrients: Generally organic cultivation is practiced. Initially before sowing 10–15 tonnes of farm yard manures/ha are used.

Spacing: 45 × 30 cm.

Plant Protection: Serious and major infestation of any insect of diseases have not been reported.

Maturity Period: 3 Years. At this time the subaerial parts dry and main root reach a depth of 0.9 meters.

Average Yield: 2700 to 3300 kg dried roots/ha and 8–10 kg seed.

Resource Person:
Pankaj Oudhia
Society for Parthenium Management, (SOPAM)
28-A, College Road, Geeta Nagar
Raipur- 492001 India

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Last modified: July 15 2020 by aw