Rauwolfia (Drugs Containing Alkaloids): Pharmacognosy and Phytochemistry

Pharmacognosy and Phytochemistry of Rauwolfia


Sarpagandha, Chandrika; Chootachand; Indian snake root, Indian snakeroot, devil pepper.

Biological Source of Rauwolfia serpentina)

Rauwolfia consists of dried roots of Rauwolfia serpentina Benth., belonging to family Apocynaceae.

Morphological/Characteristics features Rauwolfia serpentina

  • It is a perennial shrub & The roots of rauwolfia are rarely branched.
  • The rootlets are 0.5-1mm in diameter.
  • Pieces of rhizomes are recognized by a small central pith but it closely resembles roots and sometimes they are attached to the small pieces of aerial stem.
  • The external surface/outer surface is greyish-yellow, light-brown or brown color.
  • The outer surface consists of wrinkles or longitudinal ridges with occasional scars of rootlets.
  • Bark exfoliates readily or may leave patches of exposed wood.
  • The drug occurs in cylindrical or slightly tapering, tortuous pieces, 2–10 cm long, 5–22 mm in diameter.
  • The shape of pieces are cylindrical, slightly tapering and tortuous.

Chemical Constituents

  • The chemical constituents of rauwolfia are alkaloids i.e. it consist of 40 types of alkaloids(about 0.7-2.4%).
  • Also it contain phytosterol, fatty acids, unsaturated alcohols and sugars as chemical constituents.
  • Reserpine and rescinnamine are alkaloids which have main therapeutical effect in rauwolfia.
  • Also it contain indole alkaloids and iridoid glycoside,7- epiloganin, which is a new sucrose derivative.
  • It also contain ajmaline and ajmalicine.

Uses of Rauwolfia serpentina

  • Rauwolfia is used in the treatment of systolic hypertension & in certain neuropsychiatric disorders.
  • Ajmalicine is isolated from rauwolfia which is used in the treatment of circulatory disease.
  • It has the property of hypotensive and tranquillizer.
  • It is also used in anxiety condition .
  • It is used as as hypnotic, sedative and antihypertensive.
  • It stimulates the central of peripheral nervous system.
  • Its roots have the property of increase the utrine contraction. It is also used in the treatment of intestinal disorders and anthelminthic bitter tonic and febrifuge.
  • It reduces blood pressure and cures pain due to affections of the bowels.

Geographical Source:

It is an erect, evergreen, small shrub native to the Orient and occurs from India to Sumatra. It is also found in Burma, Thailand, Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan and Java. In India it occurs in the sub-Himalayan tracts from Sirhind eastwards to Assam, especially in Dehradun, Siwalik range, Rohelkhand, Gorakhpur ascending to 1300 m, east and west ghats of Tamil Nadu, in Bihar (Patna and Bhagalpur), Konkan, Karnataka and Bengal.

Cultivation and Collection:

Roots and rhizomes are collected when the plant roots are two to four years old. The aerial parts and roots are separated. The roots are washed and dried in air. The roots containing moisture up to 12% should be protected from light.


The main constituent of rauwolfia, reserpine do not present in Rauwolfia densitiflora and Rauwolfia perakensis. They have stratified cork and stone cell.

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