Rauvolfia serpentina

Benth. ex Kurz.

Family ► Apocynaceae.

Habitat ► The sub-Himalayas tract from Punjab to Nepal, Sikkim, Bhutan, Assam, Western Ghats and the Andamans.

English ► Rauvolfia root, Serpentina Root, Indian Snakeroot.

Ayurvedic ► Sarpagandhaa of Ayurvedic texts was not the Sarpagandhaa of modern medicine. (Sarpagandhaa was equated with Naakuli, Sarpach-hatrikaa and Varshaasu Chha-trikaaraa. Sarpagandhaa and Sarpasugandhaa were synonyms of Naakuli.)

Folk ► Chhotaa Chaand.

Action ► Root—decoction is employed to increase uterine contractions and for expulsion of foetus in difficult cases. The total alkaloidal extract of the root induces bradycardia, hypotension, sedation. It finds application in hypochondria, neuropsychi-atric disorders, psychosis and schizophrenia.

Key application ► In mild, essential hypertension (borderline hypertension, especially with elevated tension of the sympathetic nervous system, for example,

Rauvolfia tetraphylla Linn. 539

sinus tachycardia, anxiety, tension and psychomotor irritation, when dietetic measures alone are not sufficient. (German Commission E.)

(Average daily dose: 600 mg drug corresponding to 6 mg total alkaloid.) Treatment is usually administered with a diuretic to prevent fluid retention which may develop if Rauvolfia root is given alone. (WHO.) Contraindicated in depression, bleeding disorders, gastric and duodenal ulcers. (Sharon M. Herr.) Also contraindicated in pregnancy, since it has both teratogenic and abortifacient potential. (Francis Brinker.)

The root and root bark are rich in alkaloids, the most important being reserpine, others, around 30, which include ajmaline, ajmalicine (raubasine), ajmalicine, yohimbine, coryanthine, iso-ajmaline, neo-ajmaline, papaver-ine, raubasine, rauwolscine, rescin-namine, reserpine, sarpagine, serpentine, serpentinine, serpinine and de-serpidine.

Reserpine is hypotensive and tranquilizer, used for certain forms of mental disorders. Ajmalicine (raubasine) and rescinnamine are also hypoten-sive and tranquilizer. Deserpidine is sedative, as well as hypotensive. Aj-maline exhibits antiarrhythmic activity.

A number of Rauvolfia species are found in India: R. beddomei Hook. f.; R. densiflora Benth ex Hook. f. (Himalayas, Khasi and Aka Hills; Western and Eastern Ghats); R. micrantha Hook. f; known as Malabar Rauvolfia, (Kerala, up to an altitude of 300 m)

The roots of R. beddomei contain ajmalicine, sarpagine and serpentine, but no reserpine. R. densiflora yielded 0.51% of total alkaloids (reserpine 0.01%). R. micrantha gave ajmalicine, raunamine, reserpiline, sarpagine, neosarpagine, in addition to reserpine.

(In classical Ayurvedic texts, Nakuli and Gandha-naakuli were included in compound formulations for mental diseases.)

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