Health Benefits of Indian snakeroot

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Indian snakeroot Quick Facts
Name: Indian snakeroot
Scientific Name: Rauvolfia serpentina
Origin Indian subcontinent and East Asia (from India to Indonesia)
Colors Black or purple
Shapes Drupe, round, 0.5 cm in diameter
Indian Snakeroot is a species of flower which belongs to milkweed family Apocynaceae. It is native to Indian subcontinent and East Asia. The root of the plant is used in Asian medicine that includes traditional Ayurvedic medicine. It has active ingredients which have been identified through various studies and primary psychoactive components found to be rescinnamine, reserpine and deserpidine.

Rauvolfia serpentine root has been used for centuries in India. It possess sedative and hypnotic properties. It is found in tropical Himalayas in lower Hills of Himachal Pradesh, Kashmir, Jammu and Uttaranchal and at moderate altitude in North Bihar, Sikkim, Uttar Pradesh, Patna, Bengal, Bhagalpur, Burma, Assam, Konkan, Andaman, Sri Lanka, Deccan Peninsula, Tenasserim, Pegu along with Ghats of Travancore, Malay Peninsula, Java and Ceylon. It is found at the height of 4000 ft. sea level in moist jungle and shaded areas. India started cultivation in different areas such as Lucknow, Dehradun, Indore and Jammu.

Rauvolfia serpentine is used since pre-Vedic period for treating snake bite, hypertension, insect stings, insomnia, psychological disorders, epilepsy, gastrointestinal disorders, fever, wounds and schizophrenia. It is well described and used by ancestors of Ayurveda.


In India, Rauvolfia serpentine was used for treating various maladies such as insect bites, snake bites, malaria, febrile conditions, dysentery and abdominal pain. It was also used as febrifuge, uterine stimulant and cure for insanity. It was mentioned as long ago as 1000 bc in Indian manuscript and also known as chandrika and sarpagandha.

Genus Rauwolfia was named in the honor of German physician Dr. Leonhard Rauwolf who studied plants while travelling in India in 16th century. Rauvolfia serpentine was selected due to its long and tapering snake like roots. Mahatma Gandhi, an Indian political leader, used Rauwolfia to make tea and is consumed in the evening to relax after busy and overstimulated day.

Rustom Jal Vakil, an Indian physician is regarded to be responsible for introducing Rauwolfia to Western medicine. The data was collected on patients who were treated with Rauvolfia for 10 years (from 1939 to 1949). In 1949, he published watershed paper on antihypertensive properties in British Medical Journal. The results detailed about treating 50 patients having high blood pressure with Rauwolfia root. By 1949, more than 90% of Indian physicians used this herb for treating high blood pressure.


Rauvolfia serpentine is a tropical shrub and its height ranges from 1.5 m (5ft) by 1.5 m (5ft). The plant has lengthy roots that goes deep in the soil and does not have branches. They are usually 3 to 7 inches long, clustered and lens shaped. Stem is covered with thick bark. The plant bloom flowers in winter months (November-December). Flowers are pink or white in color and form in clumps. Fruits are small drupes which are green initially and turn purple black when ripened. It is cultivated in various parts of India, Sri Lanka, China, Bangladesh and Japan. It prefers bio rich acidic sandy soil and temperature between 10 to 38 degrees.

Health Benefits of Indian snakeroot

  1. Antipsychotic activity

Rauvolfia serpentine is used for treating schizophrenic and tardive dyskinesia. This herb is used as a febrifuge and also relieves fever.

  1. Treat insomnia

Rauvolfia serpentina is an aid for treating insomnia due to its sedative properties. This plant is beneficial for treating insanity. Take 1 g of powdered root with 250 ml goat’s milk sweetened with sugar candy twice a day.

  1. Treats hysteria

Rauvolfia serpentina is used to treat hysteria. Take 1 g of powdered root thrice with milk. Use it till it is completely cured.

  1. Anti-hypertensive activity

It is used for treating high blood pressure and is used by medical fraternity in most of the countries. The alkaloids have direct effect on hypertension and used in modern medicine. It also provides relief from itching in urticarial.

  1. Cancer treatment

Indian snakeroot is used for treating breast cancer. The research and analysis showed no increment in rate of breast cancer was found in patients using Rauvolfia serpentina.

Medicinal uses

  • Roots are used for treating hypertension and lower blood pressure.
  • Use it in decoction to treat painful bowel and promote uterine contractions when giving birth.
  • Leaves juice is used to eliminate opacities of cornea of eyes and also treat wounds and itches.
  • Roots, leaves and bark are used for scorpion and snake poisoning.
  • It is used for treating mental diseases such as schizophrenia, epilepsy, bipolar disorder, insomnia, seizures and sleep problems.
  • In Orissa, root decoction is used as antidote for snake venom.
  • In Kandhmala district of Orissa, rootpaste is taken with honey or raw milk in empty stomach twice a day for 21 days to treat mental disorder.
  • Kol tribes mix roots of Indian snakeroot with Cissampelos pareira in equal quantities with water and is taken twice a day for five day to cure malaria.
  • In Kalahandi, this plant is used for treating dysentery and fever.
  • Malamalasar tribe use the root extract for treating intestinal disorders.
  • The tribes of Madhya Pradesh use the root decoction and black pepper to eliminate intestinal worms.
  • For scabies, use the mixture of leaves of A. paniculata and Nyctanthes arbortristis with Rauvolfia serpentine root.

Side effects

  • Reserpine found in Rauvolfia serpentine causes adverse effects such as diarrhea, vomiting, headache, dizziness, hypersensitivity reactions and anxiety.
  • People with gastroesophageal reflux disease and peptic ulcer should use it with caution because reserpine increases gastric acid secretion.
  • People might experience the adverse reactions such as diarrhea, vomiting, syncope, arrhuthmias, dyspnea, bradycardia, epistaxis dizziness paradoxical anxiety, headache, nervousness, depression, dull sensorium, nightmares, muscular aches, drowsiness, weight gain, pseudo lactation, hypersensitive reactions, optic atrophy and deafness.
  • The overdose of Rauwolfia Serpentina causes following effects such as slow heart rate, heating sensation in the body, drowsiness and dizziness.
  • Avoid by lactation mothers and during pregnancy.
  • People with inflammatory bowel disease, gastritis, slow heartbeat, depression, peptic ulcers and parkinsonism should not use Rauvolfia Serpentina.


Children: 100 mg to 300 mg

Adults: 200 mg to 600 mg

Maximum possible dosage: 2 grams per day (in divided doses)

Twice or thrice a day with cow’s milk, rose distillate or water

Best time to take: After food






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