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Rauvolfia sandwicensis
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Gentianales
Family: Apocynaceae
Genus: Rauwolfia
Ruiz & Pav.

About 85 species known.

Rauwolfia (also spelled Rauvolfia) is a genus of evergreen trees and shrubs in the Apocynaceae family. The approximately 85 species in the genus can mainly be found in tropical regions.

Rauvolfia caffra is the South African quinine tree. Rauvolfia serpentina, or Indian Snakeroot or Sarpagandha, contains a number of bioactive chemicals, including ajmaline, deserpidine, rescinnamine, serpentinine, and yohimbine. Reserpine is an alkaloid first isolated from R. serpentina which was widely used as an antihypertensive drug. It had drastic psychological side effects and has been now replaced by blood-pressure-lowering drugs that lack such adverse effects.

Other plants of this genus are also used medicinally, both in conventional western medicine and in Ayurveda, Unani, and folk medicine. Alkaloids in the plants reduce blood pressure, depress activity of central nervous system and act as hypnotics.


Threat Status

The natural reserves of this plant are declining as a result of over-harvesting. IUCN has kept this plant under endangered status, and it is listed in CITES Appendix II.


People who are pregnant, may be pregnant, or plan pregnancy in the near future should not ingest Rauwolfia plants or preparations made from them. They may also be harmful for people with any chronic disease of the gastrointestinal tract, such as stomach or duodenal ulcers, esophageal reflux (reflux esophagitis), ulcerative colitis, spastic colitis, and diverticulosis. No "safe" dosage has been established.

Selected species

  • Rauwolfia caffra
  • Rauwolfia canescens
  • Rauwolfia micrantha
  • Rauwolfia serpentina
  • Rauwolfia tetraphylla
  • Rauwolfia vomitoria


  • Lewis, W.H. and M.P.F. Elvin-Lewis. (2003). Medical Botany. Hoboken: Wiley. pg 286
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Rauwolfia". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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