SARPAGANDHA (Rauwolfia serpentine)
The Sanskrit word sarpagandha literally means one which smells like a serpent. It is mentioned in all ancient Ayurvedic scriptures for its special property, as a sedative. It is also cited to have a special potency as an anti-epileptic and as a remedy for gysteria. Maharishi Charka has categorized it as svapna janana – sedative Sarpagandha, during last few decades, has attracted the attention of the scientists for its anti hypertensive property.
The plant is found in almost all parts of India up to an altitude of about 1000 meters. It grows in Bengal, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Sri Lanka, Burma and Jawa, in abundance. An erect glabrous shrub grows 0.33-1 meter in height. The leaves whorled, 7-15 cm long and 5-6 cm broad, bright green above and pale beneath. The flowers about 1.5 cm long, petals white or pinkish. Peduncle deep red, in small clusters. The fruits, drupes, small, round, dark purple when ripe. The roots 40 cm long and 2 cm in diameter, hard when dry, grayish in color.
The botanical name of sarpagandha is Rauwolfia serpentine and it belongs to family Apocynaceae. The root contains an alkaloid ophioxylin, an orange colored crystalline principle, resin, starch and wax. The total alkaloid yield is 0.5%. Five crystalline alkaloids isolated are ajmaline. Ajmalicine, serpentine, serpent-tinine and yohimbine. Other constituents identified are phytosterol, oleic acid and unsaturated alcohols or formula C25 H44O2. The root also contains a lot of resin and starch and when incinerated leaves about 8% of ash consisting mainly of potassium carbonate, phosphate, silicate and traces of iron and manganese. About 7 species of Rauwolifa are uninvestigated. Structure elucidation of reserpine and deserpidine; essential oil (0.22%) from roots yielded chief terpene constituent – serpoterpine. Detection of reserpine, reserpinine, yohimbine, ajmaline, serpentine and serpentinine by PC. Stereo-chemical studies in structure elucidation of yohimbine and reserpine. Isolation of ajmaline, ajmalicine, reserpine, sarpagine, yohimbine, aricine and serpiline from roots.
While selecting the raw material (root), care should be taken to see that the bark is intact. If the bark is peeled off, the quality of the root is severely affected as the bark contains more alkaloid than the woody portion. Among commercial supplies, this raw material is often adulterated with stems of Rauwolfia serpentine, roots of other Rauwolfia species and roots of the Clerodendrum species.
Sarpagandha is bitter and pungent in taste, pungent in the post digestive effective and has hot potency. It alleviates kapha and vata doshas but aggravates the pitta dosha. It has a special potency as a sedative, anti-epileptic and anti-hysteric. It possesses light and dry attributes. It is beneficial in the treatment of hypertension (ati asrabhinodana), fever, psychogenic disorders (manasa roga) and worm infestations.
The roots of sarpagandha have great medicinal value. Sarpagandha is seldom used externally. Orally, it is used in gastrointestinal maladies like anoresia, dyspe-psia, worms and abdominal pain. For this purpose, sarpagandha, kutaja bark skin and vyaghri eranda roots are mixed (in 1:2:3 proportion) and given with the milk. It destroys ama and eliminates vata from the gut. In fever associated with delirium or agitation, sarpagandha works well as it relieves the fever, along with digests the ama. In hypertension the paste of its roots, mixed with rose water and rock candy ameliorates mental stress. Headache, giddiness and induces sound sleep. In hyper excited patients of hysteria and epilepsy, sarpagandha renders a calming effect on mind. It also acts as a catalyst to sadhaka pitta and imparts a nervine activity. In insomnia, it works well when given along with ghee.
Sarpagandha works well with Kutaj skin, given with the buttermilk in treating bacillary dysentery. In chronic fever, the root powder is given by itself. In serpant bite, the powder of its roots is given orally, as well as, applied topically on the site of bite. Sarpagandha , being an uterine stimulant, is beneficial in dysmenorrheal and is salutary in the delivery of the placenta and to augment the uterine contractions (labor pains). In males, it is used to suppress the excessive sexual vigor, as it depresses the libido. The juice of the leaves is used as a remedy for the removal of opacities of the cornea. Recently, Sarpagandha has regained the attraction of scientists as a safe antihypertensive medicine.
Sarpagandha should not be given in bronchial asthma, ulcerative colitis, renal impairment, pain of pitta origin and severe debility. In higher doses, sarpagandha shows untoward effects like depression, diarrhea, depressed libido etc.
Classical Ayurvedic Preparations
- Sarpagandha Ghana vati
- Sarpagandha yoga
- Sarpagandhadi curna
- Mahesvari vati etc.