Indian Snakeroot (Rauwolfia serpentina)
Rauwolfia serpentina in India, is an erect, evergreen shrub,
merely 15 to 45 cm high. Its leaves are large, in whorls of three - dark green above and pale green below. The flowers are white, pinkish or red, occurring in whorls. Its fruit are tiny, oval, fleshy which turn a shiny purple-black when ripe. It is the roots of the plant that are mainly used for medicinal purposes.
In 1952, an U.S. physician named Wilkins demonstrated the positive effects of reserpine, one of 50 isolated from the root, was to revolutionize the treatment of mental illness and high blood pressure by the western medical. This drug rapidly replaced electric shock and lobotomy as treatments for certain types of mental illness. The snakeroot plant has been a part of Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years.
Rauwolfia serpentina is absorbed rapidly from the GI tract following oral administration, but the hypotensive effects usually are not observed for 2-3 weeks. The drug distributes throughout the body tissues and is completely metabolized in the liver to inactive derivatives. Metabolites of the drug are excreted gradually in the urine and feces; antihypertensive effects can last for weeks following discontinuance of therapy.