Rauwolfia Serpentina (Sarpagandha)

Rauwolfia Serpentina is an evergreen, glabrous, perennial and woody shrub that grows to a height of 60 cm. Its roots are tuberous and pale brown. The green-colored leaves are spear-shaped and 7 to 10 cm long. The base is slender and tapered while the petioles are long.

White or violet-colored flowers attain a height of 1 inch and contain nectar below the corolla tube. The calyx (sepals collectively) is bright red and shorter than the corolla tube. On the other hand, the purplish-black drupes (indehiscent fruit) are slightly connate while the oval-shaped fruits are fleshy and shiny purple-black.

Origin & Types

In total there are 85 species, but the four most important ones are Rauwolfia micrantha, R. vomitoria, R. caffra and R. tetraphylla.

Rauwolfia Serpentina (Fact Sheet)

Scientific Name Rauwolfia Serpentina
Other Names
  • Indian snakeroot
  • Sepentina root
  • Rauvolfia root
  • Serpentine root
Plant Family Apocynaceae (Apocyns or Dogbane)
Country of Origin India, Sri Lanka, & Burma
Plant Height 60 cm
Length of Leaves 7 to 10 cm
Years Nurtured before Harvesting 12 to 18 months
Years of Mature 2 to 3 years
Parts of the Plant Used Leaves & Roots
Color Green
Best Time to Grow Onset of monsoon


Rauwolfia Serpentina (Sarpagandha)1

In India, Sarpagandha is available in the following states:

  • Uttar Pradesh
  • Jammu and Kashmir
  • Uttaranchal
  • Tamil Nadu
  • Meghalaya
  • Punjab
  • Sikkim
  • Kerala
  • Karnataka
  • Northeastern states

They are also found in lower hills of the Andaman Islands, Gangetic plains, Western and Eastern Ghats. It can be grown in shady areas and moist deciduous forests at an altitude of 4000 feet above the sea level.


Medicinal Uses & Health Benefits

  1. Cures Hypertension

    The root powder helps to lower and manage blood pressure. Presence of reserpine helps in inhibiting norepinephrine into secretory vesicles which eliminates serotonin and catecholamines from the central and peripheral axon terminals. It hence depletes the neurotransmitters. It can also reduce promulgation of the nerve impulses to suppress the sympathetic nerve function and decrease the heart rate as well as the arterial blood pressure.

  2. Cures Insomnia

    The hypnotic action of the root powder helped to induce sleep when mixed with rose water and drank 2 hours before going to bed. Hysteria and hypertension are curable when a gram of root powder is taken with milk thrice each day.

  3. Mental disorders

    The antipsychotic, sedative and anti-anxiety properties help in treating various mental disorders like insanity, anxiety, schizophrenia, epilepsy, and psychosis.

  4. Fever

    Mix the powder with coconut water or rose distillate for curing symptoms like irritability, hallucinations, and convulsions which results in plague or high fever.

  5. Eyes

    Several medicines made using the leaves or roots are beneficial when treating cataract.

  6. Women-specific problems

    |The root extract is useful in cases of difficult childbirth. If consumed along with ginger and black pepper, it can regularize menstruation. Some other possible treatments include gynecological problems such as molimina and frigidity.

  7. Sting Bite

    In different parts of the world, people use the plant to treat insect and animal bites which includes scorpion, snakes, reptiles and other poisonous insects.

  8. Digestive System

    The extract of the roots treats dysentery and stimulates uterine contraction. Additionally, regular consumption can balance Vata and pitta inside the body. Treating constipation, dizziness, edema, intestinal diseases, and rheumatism is also possible.

  9. Other Uses

    Some people also use the plant as a sedative and a tranquilizer. Other than that, its usage is common in various medicines meant to treat intractable skin disorders such as psoriasis, itching and excessive sweating. Some inferences state Rauwolfia Serpentina has the properties of controlling irregular heartbeats in the aged and can cure toxic goiter too.

Possible Side Effects

  1. Avoid consumption during pregnancy as it stimulates the uterus
  2. Don’t take it during the depression
  3. Harmful to children
  4. Harmful when consumed with Digoxin and Levodopa
  5. People suffering from high blood pressure need to be cautious while having it along with other medicines
  6. Alcoholic addicts must take precautions as the sleep-enhancing effect can further increase
  7. Other side effects include diarrhea, loss of appetite, impotence in men, swelling of feet, blood in vomiting, chest pain, skin rashes, itching, etc.

Cultivation & Propagation

Prepare the land with deep ploughings for better penetration of the roots. Remove the weeds, rocks, and clods from the field. The crop grows well in the subtropical and tropical areas under frost-free conditions and requires an annual rainfall of 300 to 500 mm.

The suitable temperature range is between 10 to 30 degree Celsius and climate having an even distribution of rainfall above 150 cm. Throughout its growth period, it needs irrigation for at least 16-17 days. In summer, it is done once in two weeks, while in winters, irrigation is required only once every 30 days.

Mix decomposed farm yard manure or natural organic manures like cow dung, garden manures and vermin-compost with the soil. Propagation is possible through seeds, roots, and stems. It is crucial to collect fresh heavy seeds for more germination to give a yield of about 65%. For instance, to cover the field of 1 hectare, we need 6 to 7 kg of seeds.

Cut the stems measuring 15 to 20 cm in length and plant them during June in the nursery beds. These beds should have the adequate moisture content. Post-germination, transplant the plants in the field with a spacing of 45 by 30 cm.

Rauwolfia Serpentina (Sarpagandha)


Well-drained black soils with abundant organic materials that are acidic are suitable for growing the plant. For mass cultivation, use clay loamy to silt loam soils that are rich in humus. The ideal pH content level is 4.7 to 6.5.

Health & Security

Insects like nematodes, caterpillars, and cockchafer grubs can adversely damage the plant. Additionally, diseases like Alternaria tenuis and leaf spot are also common. To protect the plant, prepare bio-pesticides from neem kernels, neem leaves, cow urine, Chitrakmool, and dhatura.

Harvesting & Storage

  • Select thinner roots and harvest them by digging deep into the soil
  • Roots mostly mature after 2 to 3 years of planting
  • For storing and drying, it is best to wash them and cut in 12 to 14 cm pieces
  • Has a moisture content of 9 to 10%, so store them in gunny bags in a temperate and dry environment

Marketing Rauwolfia Serpentina

The plant is currently endangered due to the indiscriminate collection and over-exploitation. Respective governments and authorities are taking crucial steps to sustain and harvest the crop on a large scale.


  1. https://www.ayurtimes.com/rauwolfia-serpentina-sarpagandha/
  2. http://www.planetayurveda.com/library/sarpagandha-rauwolfia-serpentina
  3. http://www.agrifarming.in/sarpagandha-cultivation-beginners-guide/
  4. http://shodhganga.inflibnet.ac.in/bitstream/10603/97767/8/08_chapter%201.pdf

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