Sarpagandha: Overview, Benefits, and Side-Effects

Sarpagandha – Overview

Sarpagandha Plant botanical name – “Rauvolfia serpentina” is a 15 to 45 cm evergreen shrub which is famous in India for its tranquilizing and antipsychotic properties. It is used as a stress buster, sleep inducer and for treatment of paranoia and schizophrenia. It is also very effective in controlling hypertension. One can easily recognise Sarpagandha tree by its Whorls of white pinkish flowers with tiny oval fleshy purple black fruits and pale green bottom of sarpagandha leaves with dark green on top. Majorly the roots of the plants are used for medical therapies. Also known as snakeroot plant as used in snake and reptile bites too.

It was used to treat millions of Indians for Hypertension in 1940’s. Even being very popular in India this plant did not receive much attention from the westerners. It was when an article on “Rauvolfia” by an Indian physician Rustom Jal Vakil came out in 1943. And When in 1952 US physician Wilkins demonstrated the positive effects of reserpine a prescription drug – similar chemical found in Sarpagandha, this plant became the front page News. It was Indian Ayurveda that stopped and replaced electric shock and lobotomy as treatments for various types of mental illnesses.

Sarpagandha Different Names:

Sarpagandha, Sarpgandha, Pagla-Ka-Dawa, Patalagandhi,Rauvolfia serpentina, Serpentaire de l’Inde, Serpentine, Serpentine-Wood, Serpiria, She Gen Mu, Ajmaline, Arbre aux Serpents, Arbre de Serpents, Bois de Couleuvre, Chandrika, Chota-Chand, Covanamilpori, Dhanburua, Ophioxylon serpentinum, Racine de Couleuvre, Racine de Serpent, Rauwolfia, Rauwolfae Radix, Rauwolfia Serpentina, Serpiria, Rauwolfiawurzel

Sarpagandha Varieties

Rauvolfia tetraphylla is similar to Rauvolfia serpentina and is widely supplied as sarpagandha. Rauwolfia has about 26 different varieties.

  • Rauwalfia conescence
  • Rauwalfia densiflore: Contains sclerenchyma
  • Tratraphylla- it has uniform cork, scleroids of fibats but not resinnume
  • Rauwalfia Vomitoria
  • Rauwalfia beddomei
  • Rauwalfia caffra
  • Rauwalfia mambasiana
  • Rauwalfia cumminsfi
  • Rauwalfia Rosea
  • Rauwalfia obscura
  • Rauwalfia mambasiana
  • Rauwalfia Volkensii
  • Rauwalfia nitida
  • Rauwalfia Oreogition

Sarpagandha Benefits:

More evidence is needed to rate the effectiveness of Indian snakeroot as it is still a subject of study for researchers. But early findings show impressive results of sarpagandha uses in many disorders mentioned below:

  • Hypertension : Early research shows that Indian snakeroot has chemicals that lowers down the blood pressure. Therefore many people here are using sarpagandha for high blood pressure issues.
  • Insomnia : It is found in initial study that when mixed with two other herbs, people use sarpagandha for sleep.
  • Anxiety : 20 days regular use of sarpagandha showed good results in reducing anxiety in few people.
  • Liver Issues : Indian snakeroot is said to have ingredients which benefit the liver. Hence it is used for curing liver ailments.
  • Indian snakeroot is used in treatments of epilepsy.
  • It contracts the uterus and induces menstruation.
  • Sarpagandha is also used in treating early ejaculation.
  • The juice from its leaves can be used as a remedy for corneal opacity of the eye.
  • In serpent bite its root powder is applied at the site of the bite.
  • It is also used in anorexia, dyspepsia, worm, abdominal pain and other gastrointestinal issues.
  • Constipation
  • Snake or Insect bite
  • Joint Pain
  • Poor Blood Circulation
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Schizophrenia

More study in this field is required to gain solid facts and results on the proper effectiveness of this evergreen medicinal plant.

Sarpagandha Side Effects & Precautions

Sarpagandha is most probably safe when an appropriate extract is consumed under the supervision of a Physician or a Medical practitioner who is an expert in its use. Standardized Sarpagandha contains a set amount of medicine. It is unsafe to self medicate due to the presence of some chemicals like reserpine which can be very toxic if not taken in appropriate dosage and side effects may vary from nasal blockage, loose motion, vomiting to as severe as symptoms of Parkinson’s disease and coma. Hence its consumption should always be monitored under a medical professional’s supervision.

  • Consumed by mouth: Sarpagandha might be unsafe if consumed directly by mouth. It contains chemicals which can lower blood pressure and heart rate significantly. Depression could also be one of the major side effects in case of long term use. Other conceivable symptoms of Indian snakeroot incorporate nasal blockage, loss in appetite and weight, laziness, and dehydration.
  • Diabetes: If taken with other diabetic medicines, Sarpagandha can make one’s sugar levels go too low and results can be fatal.
  • Gallbladder: Some chemicals present in sarpagandha plants or sarpagandha medicines might worsen the gallbladder disease.
  • Stomach Ulcers: Some studies also show that Indian snakeroot should not be consumed by those who had a history of having stomach ulcers or ulcerative colitis as the chemicals in the plant may resurface them.
  • Central nervous system faces it’s more adverse effects as reserpine makes it difficult to concentrate and perform complex tasks.
  • Pregnancy and Breastfeeding: No confirmed effects of sarpagandha are known in such medical situations but it is found that chemicals in snakeroot can affect at the time of birth. Also these chemicals can reach to breastmilk and might harm the infant. So it is advised to avoid using sarpagandha in such scenarios.
  • Driving: Sarpagandha has a slow reaction time therefore It is advised not to consume it while driving or when using dangerous equipment as
  • Surgery: Do not use sarpagandha 2 weeks from any scheduled surgery as it can interfere with the surgical framework by increasing blood pressure and heart rate.
  • ECT: It should not be consumed by those who are going through shock treatments.

Medication Interactions:

  • Interaction with Antipsychotic drugs: Sarpagandha has a calming effect hence when taken with other such medicines might create different side effects.
  • Interaction with Alcohol: People consuming sarpagandha should avoid alcohol as it creates drowsiness and different other unwanted symptoms if both the snakeroot and alcohol are consumed together.
  • Sleeping medications: Sarpagandha and sleeping pills if consumed together can cause severe drowsiness and sleep.
  • Interaction with Lanoxin/Digoxin : Digoxin helps to increase the heartbeat whereas snakeroot plant lowers the heartbeat. If taken together will definitely decrease the effectiveness of lanoxin.
  • Interaction with Levodopa: Levodopa is used as a medicine for Parkinson’s disease. Though there are not many proofs to show side effects but it is advised not to use sarpagandha and levodopa together.
  • Depression Medications: Medicines like phenelzine, tranylcypromine are used in depression which might react with the chemicals in the snakeroot plant and give side effects to the patients.
  • Propranolol: Both propranolol and sarpagandha are used to lower the blood pressure. When both consumed together can make the blood pressure go too low.
  • Stimulant Drugs: Drugs like diethylpropion (Tenuate), epinephrine, phentermine (Ionamin), pseudoephedrine (Sudafed) are consumed to speed up the nervous system. Sarpagandha also has a similar effect. If both consumed together might give out severe side effects like increased blood pressure and heart rate.
  • Interaction with Ephedrine: Ephedrine speeds up the nervous system and makes you feel jittery whereas sarpagandha has a calming effect and makes you sleepy. Consuming these together may either neutralise the effects of both or cause side effects.
  • Interaction with Diuretic Drugs: Water pills like chlorothiazide (Diuril), chlorthalidone (Thalitone), furosemide (Lasix), hydrochlorothiazide (HCTZ, HydroDuril, Microzide) etc decreases potassium in the body which can affect the heart and also increase the chances of side effects from Indian snakeroot.

Dosage, Preservation, Adulterant:

Several factors like age, health, medical condition etc determine the right dose of sarpagandha. Enough research is not done on sarpagandha plants which makes it difficult to determine the appropriate dosage. It should always be kept in mind that when it comes to medicines, say it be allopathic or ayurvedic or natural ingredient, taking wrong dosage could be fatal or of no use. Always follow the directions of usage and dosage printed on the labels of the products. It is always advised to consult a professional medical practitioner before using it.

Insomnia 250mg- 1 gram/day divided in dose/day

Hypertension- 250mg- 2gm per day divided into dose/day

Maintenance Dose- 100-250mg once a day

Rescinnamine- 500mg oral

Baidyanath tablets are Ayurvedic sarpagandha tablets made from sarpagandha churna. It is used for hypertension, snake bites, sleeplessness, depression etc.

Rauwalfia root is taken from a 3-4 year old plant andand is stored in a dry place after being washed. Products available in market are from sarpagandha root stem. The stem is having less amounts of required ingredients hence there is a chance of adulteration in commercial medicines. Some of the ayurveda sarpagandha medicines are Sarpagandha ghanvati, siledin, Cardostab, Norbeepee.

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