Rauvolfia-Sarpagandha: Know cultivation techniques, medicinal uses and its health benefit

     Rauvolfia (Sarpagandha)


Rauvolfia serpentina (L). Benth. ex Kurz. (Apocynaceae) commonly known as Sarpagandha is an important medicinal plant of Indian subcontinent and South East Asian countries. The plant grows generally in the region with annual rainfall of 200-250 cm and up to an altitude of 1000 m and favours deep fertile soil rich in organic matter. Poor seed germination rate, over exploitation and loss of habitat are the major causes of decline of this species from its natural habitat.

  1. Classification:

Kingdom: Eukaryota

Sub-kingdom: Streptophyta

Class: Tracheophyta

Sub-class: Eudicoyledonous

Order: Genitales

Family: Apocyanaceae

Genus: Rauwolfia

Species: serpentina

Nepali name: Sarpagandha, Chandamaruwa

English name: Serpentine, Sarpent Wood

  1. Origin and Distribution:
  • Southeast Asia. (India, Mayanmar, Srilanka, Malayasia, Indonesia), Rauvolfia vomitoria – West Africa. (Senegal, Congo, Mozambique).
  • Distributed from east to central Nepal in Tropical zone India, Bangladesh, SriLanka, Malaya, Indonesia, Thailand, Myanmar, West Africa, Adman Island, Nepal, Zaire. Zaire is the largest producer and exporter of the drug to Europe
  1. Plant Description:
  • A small evergreen, perennial glabrous under shrub, 60- 90 cm high, un-branched or
  • Root 4-12 cm long, 2-2 cm thick, grey with longitudinal and transverse striations.
  • Leaves; simple, opposite, whorled, 4 to-10cm long, and 5-6cm broad, ex-stipulate, tapering at the ends, upper surface shining (bright green) and smooth while lower surface is pale green. Peduncle deep red, around 1.5 cm long, in small clusters or corymbs.
  • Flowers; bisexual, hypogynous, regular, whitish or pinkish in color, peduncle deep red around 1.5 cm long. Calyx – 5, gamosepalous. Corolla 5, gamopetalous, salver- shaped; Stamens – 5 alternating with the petals, anthers small, acute. Carpels 2, connate. Style filiform.
  • Fruit; small, round, drupe – like, 1- seeded, purplish or blackish when fully ripe.
  • Seeds; small, often with a crown of long silly
  1. Cultivation:
  2. Climate and Soil
  • Tropical and subtropical, thrives well in humid tropical areas. Average rainfall ranges between 160- 500cm/annum. Grows up to an elevation of 1000 – 1200m. Frosty weather is not suitable for its cultivation. Temperature between 100C to 400
  • It thrives well in deep fertile soils which rich in organic matters. It grows in sandy – loam, alluvial loam to clayey – loam soils. It prefers neutral or slightly acidic soils (pH 4- 3)
  1. Propagation
  • Through seeds, Stem cuttings and Root cuttings or Root
  • Preparation of Land:
  • 2-3 ploughings, 1-2 harrowing and leveling is required. The land should be cleared off weeds and brought to a fine tilth. A well rotted FYM or compost at 25-30 tones / ha is added during land preparation. It should be planted about 6-7 cm apart at a depth of 1cm. Ideal time for raising the nursery is April, May – June or July –
  • Seed Rate:
  • 5 -8 kg of seeds /ha. In N.B -1.5 – 2.5 kg/ha. 100 120kg of root / stem cuttings /
  • Preparation of Nursery Beds:
  • Nursery beds should be located in a shady place with adequate irrigation facilities. Seeds The NB should be kept moist throughout the germination period. The seeds can be treated in the Thiram @ 3g/kg of seeds prior sowing. Mix phosphate granules or 10G Phorate granules @ 20 -25 kg /ha with the soil at the time of preparation.
  • Vegetative propagation:
  • By Root cuttings – cuttings of 3-5 cm length are planted in holes at the beginning of the monsoon June – July and are almost completely covered with earth, leaving only 1 cm above the surface.100 -120 kg of root cuttings /ha.
  1. By Root stumps:- About 5 cm of root with a portion of the stem above the collar has transplanted in May –July into irrigated field. It becomes well established by the end of September –October.
  2. By Stem cuttings:- Hard wood cuttings of 15-25cm length with 3-4 internodes has been planted in the nursery beds during June – July and kept moist until they
  • Sowing Season: April – May or June – August.
  • Sowing Methods:
  1. Broadcasting. 2. Line sowing. 3. Transplanting – The seeds are collected during September – November or collected upto February and give good results. The matured seeds are thoroughly dried in the sun and stored in dry places. The seeds germination is low percentage but quite variable ranging from 20- 70 % only. The seeds should be soaked in 10% sodium chloride solution and only those seeds which sink to the bottom should be used. Treatment of root cuttings with hormones (IAA, IBA, NAA, and GA3) has been found satisfactory results. Seeds should be planted or dibbled or broadcast in well prepared main field with the onset of monsoon. Immediately after sowing heavy watering is essential. Seedlings can be transplanted in the field after 8 -10 weeks growth. Root cuttings of 2.5 -5cm size are planted in soil horizontally and irrigated frequently. About 15 -20cm long stem cuttings having at least 2 buds are planted in field.
  • Spacing: – 45x30cm or 45x45cm or 45x60cm or 60x60cm.
  • Manures: 30 -40 tones of FYM / Compost/ha.
  • Fertilizers: 100:50:50kg of NPK / ha. N is preferably applied in two split doses. One 70 – 75 days after planting and the other during the succeeding spring 10 – 20:50-60:30-40 kg of NPK/ ha also been recommended. Application of phosphate induces more growth of thick as well as their
  • Intercultural: The field should be kept free from weeds by frequent weeding and hoeing. About 3 -4 weddings are required in the initial period of growth of the plant. 1 -2 hoeing is required during its growing period.
  • Intercrops: When Rauvolfia is raised as a pure crop, the growing of intercrops such as maize, cowpea, egg plants, radish, wheat, onion, garlic, soybean, cole crops gives larger overall profit. Partial shades are preferable to direct exposure to
  • Irrigation: 3-4 irrigations However the crop is required monthly irrigation from January to May and after a period of 40 – 45 days during winter. The crops can be cultivated under rainfed conditions also.
  • Diseases: 1. Cercospora leaf spot (Cercospora rauvolfiae). 2. Leaf blotch (Cercospora serpentinae). 3. Target leaf spot – (Corynespora cassicola). 4. Alternaria leaf blight (Aternaria tenuis). 5. Anthracnose (Colletotrichum gloeosporioides) 6. Die – back (Colletotrichum dematium). 7. Powdery mildew (Leviellula taurica). 8. Fusarium wilts (Fusarium oxysporum F. rauvolfiae). 9. Root knot (Meloidogyne ) 10. Mosaic. Spray Dithan Z-78 or Dithan M-45 @ 0.2% in early season. Spray Blitox @ 30g in 10lit of water/ha.Root knot (Heterodera spp.) Application of 3g carbofuran or 20 kg of 10 G Phorate granules /ha.
  • Insect pests: 1. Cockchafer (Anomala polita), 2. Pyralid caterpillar (Glyphodes vertumnalis), 3. Caterpillar (Daphnis nerii, Deilophola nerii). Spray 0.2% Roger.
  1. Harvesting and Yield:
  • Under irrigated conditions, Rauvolfia gives optimum yield only after 2 – 4 years of planting. However, under ideal conditions the crop can be harvested even after 2 years.
  • The ideal time for harvesting the crop is November – December when the plant becomes dormant and the alkaloid content in the roots is the highest. The crops can be harvested in January and February also.
  • A light irrigation should be given in advance to facilitate easy digging of roots.
  • Harvesting is done by digging up the roots by spades.
  • The harvested roots are washed thoroughly and properly dried under the sun.
  • They are cut into small pieces 3-15cm and 3-20 mm in diameter.
  • Dried roots are powdered, then strained through a piece of muslin and finally stored up in various airtight containers.
  • Care should be taken to keep the root –bark intact as the bark constitutes 40-50% of the whole root has higher alkaloid content.
  • Yield: 11 – 12 tones / ha. The yield of fresh roots per plant varies widely from 0.1 -4.0 kg. A yield 2.2 tones /ha in air dried root has been obtained from 2 year old plant and 3.5 tones /ha from a 3-4 year old plantation under irrigated conditions.
  • Improved Variety – RS-1.
  1. Chemical Evaluation:
  • About 50 – 60 alkaloids are found in different species of Rauvolfia and about 30 alkaloids have been isolated from Rauvolfia serpentina.
  • The root contains ‘Ophioxylin’ coloured crystalline principle resin, starch and wax etc.
  • The most important alkaloids are Reserpine, Reserpinine, Ajmaline, Sarajmaline, Ajmalicine, Serpentinine,Serpentine, Rescinnamine, Deserpidine and 3 – epiyohimbine. The total alkaloid content ranges from 8 to 3.0%.
  • The root bark contains up to 9.7% total alkaloids with 3.0% ajmaline and 0.90% reserpine.
  1. Key Action:
  2. Medicinal Uses:
  • Rauvolfia is the most important one regarding its medicinal values and was known in India, Germany, Indonesia and Nepal from very ancient times (more than 4000 years).
  • The hypertensive property of Rauvolfia was first discovered by Chopra in 1953.
  • Schiller and Muller, Swiss scientists of CIB Pharmaceutical, Switzerland in 1952 had isolated and identified most active alkaloid Reserpine from this plant.
  • Rauvolfia is commercially important and used for isolation of therapeutically important indole alkaloids.
  • It is a tonic and febrifuge.
  • The juice of leaves is used for removal of opacities of the corners of the eyes.
  • The roots are used mainly in the treatment of mental disorders, hypertension and mania.
  • The alkaloid ajmaline is used as antiarrthymic agent. The alkaloids reserpine and reserpidine are used for lowering blood pressure. In case of insomnia and nervous breakdown, it is given as sedative.
  • The decoction of roots is used to increase uterine contractions in labours.
  • It is also used for treatment of snake – bite, insect stings, intractable skin, epilepsy and dysentery and diarrhea.

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