Plant profile

Family : Apocyneae
English name: Rauwolfia root
Indian name: Sarpgandha ,Chandrika (Sanskrit),
Chandrabhaga, Chota chand(Hindi),
Sarppaganti, Sivan amalpodi (Tamil)

Species and Varietés : Rauwolfia serpantina benth,
Rauwolfia tetraphylla
Distribution: Andaman islands, South-east Asia, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Indonesia,
India (Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, North Bengal and Assam)


The plant is classified as a perennial under shrub , growing to a height of 60-90cm. Its leaves are simple, 7.5-10cm long and 3.5-5cm broad, elliptic or lanceolatre, glabrous, bright green above and pale green beneath, pointed and occurring in whorls of 3-5. The fruit is drupe, 0.5cm in diameter and shiny black when fully ripe. The root system consist of prominent, tuberous, soft tap root reaching a length of 30-50cm in 2 year old plant with diameter 1.2-2.5cm. The fresh root are bitter in taste.
R.serpentina is indigenous to the moist,deciduous forests of south-east Asia including Burma, Bangladesh, Sri lanka , Malaysia. It is also cultivated on small scale in India and Bangladesh. In India, it is found in central region i.e. between Sirmor and Gorkahpur district of UtterPradesh.The present day commercial supplies of root are mostly from UtterPradesh, Bihar, Orissa,Westbangal, Assam, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka and Maharastra.The annual requirement of roots in the country for the manufactured rauwolfia is estimated at about 650 tonnes. The world requirement of dried rauwolfia is around 20000 t/annum. This is possible only if the plant is brought under large scale cultivation in agro climately suitable areas.


About 30 indole alkaloids are reported in drug and total alkaloidal content of rauwolfia roots range from 0.7-3%,depending on source.alkaloids are concentrated in mostly in bark of roots.
The alkaloids of rauwolfia are classified in several classes:-

- indole alkaloids
- indoline alkaloids
- indolenine alkaloids
- oxyindole alkaloids
- pseudoindoxyl alkaloids

The most important alkaloid in rauwolfia is RESERPINE. It also contain oleo resin,phytosterol, fatty acids, alcohol, and sugars. The other alkaloids present in drug are ajmaline, ajmalicine, rauwolfinine, rescinnamine, reserpinine, yohimbine, serpentine and serpentinine.


Rauwolfia is mostly used as antihypertensive. Reserpine lowes the blood pressure level by depleting stores of catecholamines at nerve endings. Because of tranquillising effect , the drug is also use in mild anxiety conditions.


R.serpentina is indigenous to the moist, deciduous forests of south-east Asia including Burma, Bangladesh, Sri lanka, Malaysia. It is also cultivated on small scale in India and Bangladesh. In India, it is found in central region i.e between Sirmor and Gorakhpur district of Utter Pradesh. The present day commercial supplies of root are mostly from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Orissa, West Bengal, Assam, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka and Maharashtra.


Rauwolfia is grows in wide variety of soils alluvial loam to red lateritic loam or stiff dark loam.In its natural habitat it prefers clay or clayey loam with a large percentage of humus and it does not grow well in soil having ph 8 or above. The ideal ph for this crop is from 4.6-6.2.soils containing large quantities of sand, retard the growth of plants and make them more susceptible to root and leaf diseases.

R.serpentina can be grown under wide range of climate conditions. It flourishes in hot , humid conditions and can be grown both in the sun and in partial shade. It prefers a tropical or subtropical belt, having the benefit of monsoon rains. A climate with temperature range of 10-30*c seems to be well suited for this plant .The best area for its growth are those which combine high rainfall with properly drained soil. It is sensitive to water logging with severe winters.

PROPAGTION:- Rauwolfia is propagate by seeds and also by vegetative means like root -cuttings, root- stumps, stem -cuttings, and leaf- cuttings. The plant is usually propagated by seeds. The percentage of germination of seeds is ranging from 10-60%.The rate of germination depend on the percentage of fully matured, heavy seeds in a particular lot. Fresh seed, collected from ripe fruits and immediately sown, show higher percentage of germination.

The collection of mature seeds is usually done from September-February. Fruits mature between July-November. The germination gradual and growth of the seedling is slow. Germination starts after 15-20 days and continuous up to 40-50 days after sowing .the nursery should be kept moist throughout the germination period.

TRANSPLANTING:- Seedlings of 40-50 days which have 4-6 leaves are ready for transplanting. The seedlings are carefully dug out and tap root should be cut. Then these are dipped in a 0.1% solution of emisan fungicide before planting, to protect them against soil-borne fungus causing damping off disease. The field is then divided in small plots for irrigation. The seedlings are transplanted in to the furrows, by making holes large enough to receive the seedlings along the accompanying clump of earth. A spacing of 30cm between the plants should be maintained.

VEGETATIVE PROPAGATION:- As collection of seeds from wild sources is both laborious and costly. Vegetative propagation by root or shoot cutting is advocated for raising plantations to collect the seeds as well as to quickly multiply the genetically superior clones.

BY ROOT-CUTTINGS:- Large tap root s with few lateral secondary rootlets are used.Cuttings of 2.5-5.0cm length are planted in holes at the beginning of the monsoon and are completely covered with earth. About 100 kg of root cuttings are required to plant 1 hectare.
BY ROOT STUMPS:-Nn this propagation is done by using about 5 cm of root with a portion of stem above the collar. This method gives about 90-95% success. Such plant transplanted in May-July in irrigated fields become well established by the end of September.
BY STEM-CUTTINGS:- Hard wood cuttings are found to be better than soft wood cutting. Cuttings of 15-22 cm length with three internodes are the most suitable .Stem cutting planted in the nursery during the early monsoon or June and kept moist until they give about 40-65% sucess rate.


The use of organic manure, leaf mould and compost is recommended to increase the quantity of nutrients in the soil and improve the drainage. Nitrogenous fertilizers induce more vegetative growth, followed by organic manure. Application of phosphates induces more growth than nitrogen alone. It is better to apply 25-30 t of well rotted FYM at the time of land preparation and 10 kg N, 60 kg P2O5 and 30 kg K2O per hectare in moist soil.


The crop is irrigated fortnightly in the hot dry season and about once a month in winter. The crop is cultivated under rain fed conditions also but yield is considerably poorer.


About 2 weeding are necessary during the monsoon and one hoeing at the end of growing season or December.

Insect pests:-
1. Root knots appear as galls of various sizes, covering the root system. Application of 25 kg of 3 G carbofuran or 20 kg of 10 G phorate granules per hectare will control them.
2. A pyralid caterpillar causes appreciable damage the leaves. These are controlled by spraying 0.2% Rogor.
3. Cockchafer grubs attack the seedling about 2 cm below the hypocotyls, resulting in their drying up. To control the attack of grubs, mix phorate granules with the soil at the time of nursery preparation.

1. Leaf spot caused by Cercospora rauwolfia manifests as dark-brown colored spots on the upper surface of the leaf and yellowish-brown on lower surface. To control this disease Dithane Z-78 or M-45 @ 0.2% is to be sprayed in early June, before the monsoons and repeated at monthly intervals until November.
2. Alternaria tenuis attacks the leaves, resulting in minute, brownish or dark-coloured circular spots with a yellowish margin on ventral side of leaves. This fungus also affects the flowers and fruits. To avoid this problem crop is sprayed with 30 g Blitox in 10 liters of water.
3. Mosaic is common disease which is avoided by selecting proper seeds.


The roots of exploitable size are generally collected 2-3 years after planting i.e from 18 months on ward. The root s dug out in winter, when the plants have shed their leaves are richer in total alkaloid content than the roots harvested in August. A light irrigation is given in advance to facilitate easy digging of roots. The root are freed from adhering soil, washed and air dried till they become brittle and packed in gunny bags. They are stored in cool, dry place to prevent mould.


The optimum yield of roots is obtained by propagation through seeds. The yield of fresh roots per plant varies widely from .1-4 kg .the total yield of roots in the case of plants raised from seeds is about 1175 kg/ha on air dried bases as compare to 175 kg/ha in case of plants raised from stem cuttings and 345 kg/ha in case of root cuttings.


• A text book of Cultivation of Medicinal and Aromatic Crops By A.A.Farooqui And B.S.Sreeramu.
• Text book of Pharmacognosy and Phytochemistry Part-1 By Vinod D.Rangari.
• Text of Parmacognosy By C.K.Kokate.
• www.indianspecies.com
• www.gardenguides.com/herbs/rauwolfia

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