Rauwolfia – Uses, Botanical Source, Characters, and Chemical Constituents


Rauwolfia Serpentina, Rauwolfia Root, Indian Snake root, Sarpagondha, Chhotachand

Botanical source:

Rauwolfia consists of the dried roots of Rauvolfia serpentina Benth., a large shrub Apocynaceae.

Geographical source:

The Plant is indigenous to Bangladesh, India, Burma, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia.

Macroscopical characters:

The drug occurs in pieces, about 8 to 15 cm long and 0.5 to 1.0 cm thick. The roots are subcylindrical or slightly tapering, somewhat tortuous in shape and rarely branched. The outer surface is dull yellowish brown in colour and possesses faint longitudinal ridges. They have a short fracture. The transversely cut surface shows a pale yellowish white, finely radiate compact wood with 3 to 8 growth rings. The bark is about 0.5 to 2.0 mm wide. The drug has a bitter taste but no specific odour.

Microscopical characters:

The bark is composed of a stratified cork with alternating bands of smaller and larger suberised cork cells. These cells are isodiametric in surface view. The phloem consists of narrow rays of sieve tubes and parenchyma and

alternates with broader medullary rays, which are 2 to 4 cells wide. The parenchyma cells contains small starch grains and prisms of calcium oxalate. The central dense woody tissue consists of many small vessels, small groups of fibers and lignified xylem parenchyma. The starch grains are mostly simple and rounded, occasionally they occur as 2 to 3 compound grains.

Rauwolfia Microscopical charactersFig. 59: Rauwolfia. A, piece of root; a, transverse surface of root· B diagrammatic t.s. of root; C, t.s. of cork; D, t.s. of the secondary wood; E, fibres and vessel; F, starch gains, ck, cork; f, fibre; m.r., medullary ray; pd, phelloderm; ph, phloem, p.xy, pnmary xylem; r, growth ring; rl, resin material; s, starch (Reconstructed from Trease & Evans and Wallis).

Rauwolfia Microscopical charactersChemical constituents:

Rauwolfia contains 1.2 to 1.4 percen of total indole alkaloids, the most important of which are reserpine, deserpidine and rescinnamine. Its other constituents include resinous matter, fatty acids, unsaturated alcohols, dextrose and sucrose.


Rauwolfia is used in reducing high blood pressure and as a sedative in the treatment of insomnia, anxiety, msan1ty and certain other neuropsychiatric disorders.

Substitutes and adulterants:

The roots of other species of Rauvolfia have been frequently used to substitute and adulterate Rauwolfia. These include Rauvolfza canescens, R. micrantha, R. densifiora, R. perakensis and R. vomitoria (African Rauwolfia).

1 thought on “Rauwolfia – Uses, Botanical Source, Characters, and Chemical Constituents”

Leave a Comment