What is Rauvolfia Serpentina? What are the Benefits of Indian snakeroot, Uses and Side Effects of Serpentine Root?

Table of Content

1. Introduction
2. What is Rauvolfia Serpentina? 
3. History & Properties of Sarpgandha
4. Ayurvedic properties of Rauvolfia Serpentina
5. Health Benefits of Indian snakeroot
6. Uses of Serpentine root
7. Modern Medical Applications of Sarpgandha
8. Traditional Formulations and Recipes
9. Side Effects of Serpentine Root? 
10. Future Directions in Sarpgandha Research
11. Frequently Asked Question

1. Introduction

Rauvolfia Serpentina, also known as Indian snakeroot or Serpentine root, is a plant species native to India and Southeast Asia. It has been used in traditional medicine for centuries, particularly in Ayurveda, for its various health benefits. The plant contains a group of alkaloids called reserpine, ajmaline, and serpentine, which are known to have medicinal properties.

In this article, we will explore the benefits of Indian snakeroot, its uses, and potential side effects. We will also examine the scientific evidence behind these claims and discuss the plant's role in modern medicine. Whether you are interested in alternative medicine or simply curious about the health benefits of natural remedies, this article will provide you with a comprehensive overview of Rauvolfia Serpentina.

2. What is Rauvolfia Serpentina? 

Sarpgandha botanical name is Rauvolfia Serpentina, its other common names are Indian snakeroot, devil pepper, or serpentine root.

It is a flowering and evergreen plant and found in sub-Himalayan moist forests in Sikkim, Assam in India, as well as in tropical parts of Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Africa, and the Americas.

The flowers are white and sometimes pinkish or red, the flowering time of the plant is March to May in India. The leaves are bright green and mainly found in whorls of three.

The fruits of the plant are green in color when young and purple when they are ripe, looking like a berry.

Rauvolfia Serpentina

3. History and Properties of Sarpgandha

The serpentine root was introduced to modern medicine by Dr. Ganpath Sen and Dr. Kartik Chandra Bose, renowned Ayurvedic physicians of Kolkata. Based on studies they found that the root contains serval alkaloids.

The quantity of alkaloids has been fairly high in the dried roots. The roots contain a lot of resin and starch and when incinerated and provide ash consisting mainly of potassium carbonate, phosphate, silicate, and traces of iron and manganese. 

In Ayurveda Rauvolfia Serpentina roots are used for their medicinal benefits, it is light brown and tuberous and twisted looking like a snake in shape.

Dried roots are mainly used. It is the most important and effective herb for high blood pressure and high blood sugar and sedative and tranquilizing effect.

It has carminative, hypotensive, sedative, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory properties. It is bitter in pungent, astringent, bitter in taste, and hot in potency.

Sarpgandha root produces Alkaline reserpine, a plethora of phytonutrients compound that has antihypertensive and antipsychotic effects on the human body.

4. Ayurvedic properties of Rauvolfia Serpentina

Rauvolfia serpentina, also known as Sarpagandha or Indian Snakeroot, is a valuable medicinal plant in Ayurveda. It has been traditionally used for its various therapeutic properties. 

Ayurvedic properties of Rauvolfia serpentina:

1. Rasa (Taste): Sarpagandha is considered to have a bitter taste (Tikta Rasa).

2. Virya (Potency): It is cooling in nature (Sheeta Virya).

3. Vipaka (Post-digestive taste): The post-digestive taste is pungent (Katu Vipaka).

4. Dosha Effects: Rauvolfia serpentina primarily balances Pitta and Kapha doshas. Due to its cooling nature, it may increase Vata dosha in excess or for certain individuals.

Ayurvedic Uses:

  1. Hypertension Management: Sarpagandha is well-known for its antihypertensive properties. It helps in lowering blood pressure by acting on the cardiovascular system.

  2. Sedative and Anxiolytic: The herb has calming and sedative effects, making it beneficial for managing anxiety, stress, and insomnia.

  3. Cardiovascular Health: Sarpagandha supports heart health by regulating blood pressure and promoting healthy heart function.

  4. Nervous System Support: It is used to manage certain neurological disorders, such as tremors and convulsions.

  5. Mental Health: In Ayurveda, Sarpagandha is used to address certain mental health conditions, such as depression and hysteria.

  6. Antispasmodic: It has antispasmodic properties, which can help in relieving muscle spasms and cramps.

5. What are the Health Benefits of Serpentine Root?

Sarpagandha is a well-known herb in Ayurveda science for its amazing effect, it balances Vata and Kapha doshas.

It is highly beneficial in detoxifying the poison of snakes, spiders, and Scorpios, it is also helpful in high fever and worm infestation. Indian snakeroot is an effective herb for lowering blood pressure and reducing fever.

It helps to stimulate uterine contractions and promote expulsion of the fetus. This however is not corroborated and may be regarded as folklore. 

Here are some awesome health benefits of serpentine 

For High blood pressure

The root powder of Sarpgandha / Rauvolfia Serpentina is beneficial in hypertension, it was reported that sarpgandha lowers systolic and diastolic blood pressure.

It is helpful to relax the blood vessels and regulate nerve function in the muscles which leads to the heart. It is found to be effective in lower down blood pressure.

Practitioners of ayurvedic medicine have preferred to use its root in powder form. Half tsp of powder with water, thrice a day is effective in relieving hypertension.

For Insomnia

Insomnia is a sleep disorder disease, in which a person is trying to sleep but is unable even if they have sufficient time.

According to Ayurveda disturbance of Vata dosha, disrupts the nervous system which leads to Insomnia.

Sarpgandha root powder contains alkaloids and holds a strong sedative that influences an agitated brain. It lowers mental stress, anxiety, and tension, calm the nervous system, and promotes restful sleep.

One dose of Rauvolfia Serpentina enables the patient of a phlegmatic and gouty nature to go to sleep. It is non-stimulating and for sound sleep should be given in a dose of 0.25gm to the patient at bedtime. 

A chronic patient should take 0.25 gm, both in the morning and at night before retiring.

For Skin

Sarpgandha has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, that fight off free radical damage in our body.

A combination of leaves and root powder is very useful in the treatment of damaged tissue in skin infection, injuries, and conditions like eczema, and psoriasis. It also treats boils, acne, and scar.

For High-Grade Fever

Sarpgandha contains analgesic and anti-pyretic properties which helps to reduce high fever, In Ayurveda, the main reason for fever is Ama, which is a toxin that persists in the body because of improper digestion.

Fever can cause due to accumulation of ama. It brings down the body temperature to the normal range.

Hypertension Management

One of the primary benefits of Serpentine root is its ability to manage high blood pressure. The alkaloids present in the plant help relax blood vessels, reducing the strain on the heart and improving blood flow.

Anxiety and Depression

Serpentine root is known to have a calming effect on the mind and can be used to treat anxiety and depression. It has been shown to reduce anxiety levels and improve mood.

Pain Relief

Some research suggests that Serpentine root may help regulate blood sugar levels in people with diabetes.


Some research suggests that Serpentine root may help regulate blood sugar levels in people with diabetes.


The plant contains antioxidants that can help protect against oxidative stress, which is linked to various chronic diseases.

Indian Snakeroot

6. What are the uses of Serpentine Root?

The Indian snakeroot is available in three forms, powder, Ghan Vati, and capsules, there is no prescribed dosage of this herb.

You can also make a Sarpgandha tea to relax. Oral consumption of this herb is dependent upon case-to-case and person-to-person.

For safety concerns, reach out to an Ayurvedic doctor for better use of this herb. For external use first, try a small patch on your skin and check the allergic reaction and hypersensitivity, to avoid any harmful side effects on the skin.

7. Modern Medical Applications of Sarpgandha

While Sarpgandha has deep roots in traditional medicine, modern science has also recognized its potential in various medical applications. Here are some of the contemporary uses of Sarpgandha:

Antihypertensive Medication:

The alkaloids present in Sarpgandha, particularly reserpine, have been isolated and used in the production of antihypertensive drugs. These drugs help regulate blood pressure and are prescribed for individuals with hypertension.

Antipsychotic Medication

Sarpgandha's reserpine alkaloid has antipsychotic properties and has been used in the treatment of certain mental health conditions, such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

Antiarrhythmic Effects

Ajmaline, another alkaloid found in Sarpgandha, has antiarrhythmic properties and is used to manage irregular heart rhythms.

Anti-Anxiety Medication

Due to its sedative and anxiolytic effects, Sarpgandha has been explored as a natural remedy for anxiety disorders and generalized anxiety.

Insomnia Treatment

Sarpgandha's ability to induce restful sleep has led to its inclusion in some over-the-counter sleep aids and supplements.

8. Traditional Formulations and Recipes

Throughout its history, Sarpgandha has been featured in various traditional formulations and recipes in Ayurveda. Here are some examples of how Sarpgandha is used in these formulations:

Sarpgandha Churna

This is a powdered form of Sarpgandha root. It is often used in Ayurvedic preparations to address hypertension. A common dosage is half a teaspoon of Sarpgandha Churna mixed with water, taken three times a day.

Sarpgandha Ghrita

Ghrita refers to medicated ghee. Sarpgandha Ghrita is prepared by mixing Sarpgandha root powder with ghee. It is believed to have a calming effect on the mind and is used in Ayurveda to manage anxiety and insomnia.

Sarpgandha Kashayam

Kashayam is a herbal decoction prepared by boiling herbs in water. Sarpgandha Kashayam is used to regulate blood pressure and promote cardiovascular health. It is typically consumed in small quantities under the guidance of an Ayurvedic practitioner.

Sarpgandha Taila

Taila means oil, and Sarpgandha Taila is an oil infusion of Sarpgandha root. It is applied topically for its anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties, making it useful for conditions like arthritis and muscle pain.

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9. Sarpgandha Side effects

Sarpgandha / Indian snakeroot is an Ayurveda herbal medicine, it generally does not trigger any minor or major side effects if it’s taken in a prescribed manner. But some side effects can cause due to physical conditions and dosage, which are mentioned below.

  • If the Indian snakeroot is not used in the prescribed dosage, then it may cause nausea, abdominal cramps, loss of appetite, nasal congestion, skin rashes, and drowsiness.
  • It is not safe for pregnant ladies, and breastfeeding women.
  • It is not safe to take sarpgandha in gallstone condition, it may worst the situation.
  • Do not take if you are suffering from stomach ulcers and ulcerative colitis.
  • It may react with some prescribed medication and should not be taken with a hypotensive drug.
  • In some cases, sarpgandha can cause vomiting, and swelling in the lower legs.
  • Do not take sarpgandha if there is a surgical procedure that happened, stop taking it before 2 weeks of planned surgery.
  • If you are diabetic and on other medication then do not take Sarpgandha, it may drop the sugar level too low.
  • It is highly recommended that do not take sarpgandha if someone is depressed.

Some drugs may interact with Sarpgandha, you should avoid taking Sarpgandha when you are on the below-listed medicine or consult your Ayurvedic doctor first.

Digoxin, Levodopa Anti-depressants, Anti-psychotic drugs, Stimulant drugs, Anti-diabetic drugs, Anti-hypertensive drugs, Anti-coagulants/ anti-platelet drugs.

10. Future Directions in Sarpgandha Research

The ongoing research on Sarpgandha holds promise for discovering new therapeutic uses and refining existing treatments.

  • Exploring Specific Alkaloids: Investigating the individual alkaloids present in Sarpgandha, such as reserpine and ajmaline, to understand their distinct effects and potential applications in precision medicine.

  • Clinical Trials: Conducting larger-scale clinical trials to assess the long-term safety and efficacy of Sarpgandha-based treatments for conditions like hypertension, anxiety, and sleep disorders.

  • Combination Therapies: Studying the synergistic effects of Sarpgandha when used in combination with other herbs or pharmaceuticals to enhance treatment outcomes.

  • Bioavailability Enhancement: Researching methods to improve the bioavailability of Sarpgandha's active compounds, making it more effective and accessible for patients.


Sarpgandha is a magical herb and can cure many diseases if it’s taken under prescription. The Ayurvedic herbs must be taken under appropriate and prescribed doses, as well as on the skin.

To prevent any unfavorable side effects and enjoy the excellent advantages. It provides for remedying innumerable health issues and uplifting overall well-being.

Note: This post is about educating about the benefits and uses of Bishop weed, consult the Ayurvedic doctor before starting.

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11. Frequently Asked Question

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