Rauvolfia serpentina (L.) Benth. ex Kurz

DeFilipps, Robert A. & Krupnick, Gary A., 2018, The medicinal plants of Myanmar, PhytoKeys 102, pp. 1-341: 15

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Rauvolfia serpentina (L.) Benth. ex Kurz


Rauvolfia serpentina (L.) Benth. ex Kurz 


Myanmar: bommayazar, bomma-yaza. English: Indian snakeroot, serpent wood.


India to Java. In Myanmar, found in Bago, Chin, Kayin, Mandalay, Mon, and Yangon.


This astringent, sharp, and bitter plant is used to improve digestion, relieve gas, and stimulate taste buds, as well as to alleviate paralysis, trembling, male-related disorders leading to excessive semen, and gonorrhea. It is also used for other venereal diseases, hypertension, anemia, heart palpitations, impotence, and lack of semen. Leaf: Fresh juice used in medicines for eye conditions. Leaf, Root: Used as sedative. Root: Remedies made from the root are well known for reducing blood pressure, especially in young people with anxiety-related palpitations and hypertension. Root remedies are also used as a tranquilizer to calm aggression, restlessness, and excitability in patients with mental disorders. In addition, the root is used in tonics, sleeping aids, carminatives, fever reducers, and poison neutralizers. Pulverized root, in equal amounts with shein-kho ( Gardenia resinifera  ), eikthara-muli ( Euonymus kachinensis  ), and hsay-dan ( Hygrophila phlomoides  ), is either crushed with one betel ( Piper betle  ) leaf or mixed with sesame oil and applied all over an infant’s body (with the exception of the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet) as an inhaled therapy to relieve bronchitis and vomiting. Alternatively, the powder on a person’s warmed hands is applied as a chest rub for children. It is noted that following use of medicine made from this plant, the patient should eat foods with heating properties and bathe regularly.


Medicinal uses of this species in India are discussed in Jain and DeFilipps (1991). The species has been used for centuries in Indian Ayurveda medicine to treat snakebite and insanity. Ayurveda uses of R. serpentina  ( “sarpagandha”) are discussed in Kapoor (1990). Indigenous medicinal uses of this species in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands (India) are described by Dagar and Singh (1999).

Rauvolfia serpentina  is the source of the first modern plant-derived antipsychotic and antihypertensive drug, reserpine, used in psychiatry and for lowering blood pressure ( Shah 1995). Details of the active chemical compounds, effects, herbal usage and pharmacological literature of R. serpentina  are given in Fleming (2000) and Duke (1986). Medicinal properties of this species are discussed by Blackwell (1990).


Nordal (1963), Agricultural Corporation (1980), Forest Department (1999).