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Indian snakeroot

Scientific name of Indian snakeroot: Rauwolfia serpentina

Family:  Apocynaceae

Name of Indian snakeroot in different languages:

Sanskrit: Saptaparna, Vishaltvak, Sharad, Suparnak, Sahachad, Yugmaparna, Munichad, Bahuparna, Shalmalipatrak, Madagandha, Gandhiparna.

English: Sarpagandha  

Hindi: Chota chand, Chandrabagha.

Malayalam: Sarpagangdhi സർപ്പഗന്ധി, Amalpori.

Tamil: Charpaganda-சர்பகந்தா, Chivanamalpodi

Kannada:  Sutranbli

Telungu:  Patalagandhi

Plant description:

It is an erect perennial shrub generally 15-45 cm high, but growing up to 90 cm under cultivation. Roots nearly vertical, tapering upto 15 cm thick at the crown and long giving a serpent-like appearance, occasionally branched or tortuous developing small fibrous roots. Roots greenish-yellow externally and pale yellow inside, extremely bitter in taste. Leaves born in whorls of 3-4 elliptic-lanceolate or obovate, pointed; flowers numerous borne on terminal or axillary cymose inflorescence; corolla tubular, 5-lobed, 1-3 cm long, whitish-pink in colour; stamens 5, epipetalous; carpels 2, connate, style filiform with large bifid stigma; fruit is a drupe, obliquely ovoid and purplish black in colour at maturity with stone containing 1-2 ovoid wrinkled seeds. The plant is cross-pollinated, mainly due to the protogynous flowers.

Leaf Arrangement

Shape- lanceolate Margin-Entire Venation-pinnate
 Margin_Entire  Venation-pinnate


Useful plant parts:

Root, Seed

Medicinal uses:

Dried root is the economic part. It is a sedative and is used to control high blood pressure and certain forms of insanity. In Ayurveda it is also used for the treatment of insomnia, epilepsy, asthma, acute stomach ache and painful delivery. It is used in snake-bite, insect stings and mental disorders. It is popular as ‘Madman's medicine’ among   tribals. ‘Serpumsil’ tablet for high blood pressure is prepared from Rauvolfia roots.

Reserpine is a potent hypotensive and tranquillizer but its prolonged usage stimulates prolactine release and causes breast cancer. The juice of the leaves is used as a remedy for the removal of opacities of the cornea, anti tumorous. Prevent tumor cells growth, mental disorders.

Chemical content:

Over 200 alkaloids have been isolated from the plant. Rauvolfia root contains 1.4-3% alkaloids, the alkaloids are classified into 3 groups, viz. reserpine, ajmaline and serpentine groups., other constituents are yohimbine, Ajmaloon reserpine, ajmaline, deserpidine, rescinnamine, serpentinine.

Medicinal Properties

Root is bitter, acrid, laxative, anthelmintic, thermogenic, antihypertensive, antidote, diuretic and sedative, and Anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antidiuretic, antifungal,  antiproliferative and anticholinergic.


Among the different species of Rauvolfia, R. serpentina is preferred for cultivation because of higher reserpine content in the root. The plant can be propagated vegetatively by root cuttings, stem cuttings or root stumps and by seeds. Seed propagation is the best method for raising commercial plantation. Seed germination is very poor and variable from 10-74%. Seeds collected during September to November give good results. It is desirable to use fresh seeds and to soak in 10% sodium chloride solution. Those seeds which sink to the bottom should only be used. Seeds are treated with ceresan or captan before planting in nursery to avoid damping off. Seed rate is 5-6 kg/ha. Nursery beds are prepared in shade, well rotten farm yard manure is applied at 1 kg/m2 and seeds are dibbled 6-7 cm apart in May-June and irrigated. Two months old seedlings with 4-6 leaves are transplanted at 45-60 x 30 cm spacing in July -August in the main field. Alternatively, rooted cuttings of 2.5-5 cm long roots or 12-20 cm long woody stems can also be used for transplanting. Hormone (Seradix) treatment increases rooting.

False snake root-Rauvolfia tetraphylla Linn Wild Sarpagandhi-Kattamalpory
Sarpagandhi-Amalpory kattu-sarpagandy

It is one of the ingredients in the Ayurveda medicines like:-



Kamentose tablets

Sumanas Tablet


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