Herbs Profile

Sarpagandha (Rauwolfia Serpentina)

sarpagandhaSarpagandha is a strong remedy for reducing blood pressure, sedating the nervous system and inducing sleep. Sarpagandha means ‘smell of the snake’ and it is renowned as an antidote for poisonous snake bites.

Common name Rauwolfia (E), Indian snake root (E) Sanskrit Sarpagandha Latin Rauwolfia serpentina–Radix (Apocynaceae)


  • Rasa (taste) Bitter
  • Vırya (energy) Hot
  • Vipaka (post-digestive effect) Pungent
  • Guna (quality) Dry, light
  • Dosa effect VPK−
  • Dhatu (tissue) Blood, nerve, reproductive
  • Srotas (channel) Mental, nervous, circulatory, reproductive


Indole alkaloids Reserpine, rescinnamine, resperpinine, ajmaline

(WHO 1999, Williamson 2002)


  • Aparajita Alleviates insanity
  • Nidrajanana Promotes sleep
  • Sulaprasamana Pain relieving analgesic
  • Dıpana Enkindles the digestive fire
  • Amapacaka Digests ama toxins
  • Visaghna Destroys poisons
  • Krmighna Anthelmintic
  • Hrdaya Treats the heart


Sedative, nervine, carminative, hypotensive, vasodilator, cardiotonic, alterative, antispasmodic, analgesic


Nerves Sarpagandha’s sedative properties are legendary. It nourishes majja dhatu and reduces vatato benefit insomnia and agitation. It is also used in manic psychological disturbance as a sedating tranquilliser. It is a wonderful brain tonic going directly to manovahasrotas (Gogte 2000).

Heart Its affinity for the blood takes it directly to the heart. It swiftly dilates the blood vessels, causing high blood pressure to drop and the heart rate to reduce. Use drop-by-drop doses until the blood pressure has reduced. If the dose is wrong it can cause hypotension and lead to giddiness and sleepiness. It is a symptomatic remedy that treats the high blood pressure via the nervous system and so benefits high blood pressure caused by high vata and arteriosclerosis. It should be used with a diuretic to prevent fluid retention and to support its antihypertensive effect (WHO 1999, Tillotson 2001).

Pain Its analgesic properties are useful in dysmenorrhoea with a spasmodic uterus and also in colic from intestinal inflammation and spasm (Gogte 2000).


* Jatamamsi, brahmi, licorice, gotu kola in nervous conditions.

* Arjuna, cardamom, rose in high blood pressure and palpitations.

* Turmeric, fennel, ginger in pain.


Pregnancy, breast-feeding, asthma, ulcers, kidney pain and depression.


Do not use with alcohol, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), beta-blockers or MAO inhibitors, levodopa, tricyclic antidepressants, or digoxin, as they may interact with or potentiate the herb. Sarpagandha can cause diarrhoea, low libido and weight gain in larger doses.


250–750mg per day powder or 2–12 drops of a standardized tincture (1.0% weight/volume total alkaloids) (Tillotson 2001).


  • Sarpagandha is a thin shrub growing up to 1m in height. It grows all over India and Sri Lanka.
  • It is an exceptionally powerful herb and must be used with caution and only when true high blood pressure or tension is diagnosed.
  • Check the legal status of using this herb as it is subject to various rulings in different countries. It is banned for use in the UK unless prescribed by a doctor.
  • Only use under the guidance of a trained herbalist as misuse can cause severe reactions.
  • It has a controversial reputation due to the isolated alkaloid reserpine causing such strong side-effects. The whole root is much safer.
  • It is CITES Appendix 2 listed and must be sold with the appropriate trade documents.

About the author

Dr. Ram Mani Bhandari

Experienced holistic doctor, healer, teacher, and writer
Specialized in Ayurvedic detox (Panchakarma)
Trained in India and Nepal, the original lands of Ayurveda
Graduate in Ayurvedic Medicine and Surgery (B.A.M.S.) from the Institute of Medicine at Tribhuwan University in Kathmandu.
Professional member of Australasian Association of Ayurveda (AAA)
Owner of Sunshine Ayurveda

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