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Serpentina and Its Benefits (Indian Snakeroot): How to Use

Uses|Precautions & Warnings|Side Effects & Interactions|Dosage
Serpentina and Its Benefits (Indian Snakeroot): How to Use

Here’s everything you need to know about serpentina and its benefits, as well as side effects: Serpentina, Rauwolfia, or Indian snakeroot is scientifically known as Rauvolfia serpentina, a type of flower related to milkweed. This herb is native to India and the root is the medically significant part, hence its name.

Uses

One of the active constituents of serpentina is reserpine. Reserpine is categorized as a rauwolfia alkaloid used to treat hypertension, usually in combination with other medications like diuretics.

It works by relaxing the heart muscles and blood vessels by blocking nerve signals. Relaxed blood vessels have less resistance, which lowers blood pressure. In addition, the heart beats more slowly, which allows it to recover and pump blood more efficiently.

Serpentina has been used to treat anxiety, insomnia, and certain mental diseases because it can depress the central nervous system. It was shown to decrease episodes of agitation, excitement, hallucinations, and withdrawal symptoms.

The use of serpentina and its benefits include more than just lowering blood pressure. Commonly used in both Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine, it has been used to treat a wide variety of ailments.

Traditional uses of serpentina/Indian snakeroot:

  • Lower blood pressure
  • Treat schizophrenia, anxiety, and other mental conditions
  • Promote uterine contractions
  • Relieve joint and body pain
  • Prevent seizures
  • As an antivenom or antitoxin for animal bites

Read more about other herbs that can help with hypertension:

tamang paggamit ng serpentina

Precautions & Warnings

Herbal and food supplements are generally safe to take in moderate amounts. However, the FDA does not approve food supplements to treat or prevent specific diseases. Because of this, there are no recommended doses.

Despite being advertised as “all-natural,” supplements must be treated as conventional medication. Some herbs can interact with other medications you are taking. As a result, this increases the risk of toxicity.

Before using serpentina for its potential benefits, inform your doctor if you:

  • Have ever had an allergic reaction to serpentina or related herbs.
  • Have a history of allergy to other medications, food, or other substances.
  • Are taking other medications.
  • Have underlying or pre-existing health conditions, such as:

Safety during pregnancy & breastfeeding

Serpentina is not safe to take while pregnant. Animal studies have shown that it can cross the placenta and harm the baby. As a result, do not take this herb unless approved by your doctor.

Do not breastfeed while using serpentina. Only use any preparation of serpentina if the potential benefits justify the risks, as determined by your doctor.

Side Effects & Interactions

Aside from knowing about serpentina and its benefits, it’s important to note that side effects can occur. Most significantly, changes in mood and mental state, including sedation, depression, and psychosis. Other side effects may include nasal congestion, nausea, vomiting, cough, nightmares, stomach ulcers, galactorrhea, and sexual dysfunction.

Serpentina has been shown to increase prolactin levels. Consequently, it may also slightly increase the chances of developing breast cancer in women who have undergone menopause.

In addition, human studies have shown that serpentina can harm the kidneys.

Interactions

To identify potential drug interactions, you should keep a list of all the drugs you are using. This includes prescription drugs, nonprescription drugs, and herbal products. Inform your doctor and pharmacist.

If you experience an adverse interaction, stop taking this medicine and continue taking your other medication(s). Inform your doctor immediately to reevaluate your treatment plan. If needed, your dose will be adjusted, substituted with another drug, or stopped.

Drug interactions

Drugs and their interactions with serpentina include:

  • Thiazide diuretics and antihypertensive medications may enhance hypotension.
  • Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) may cause excitation and increase blood pressure.
  • Digitalis and quinidine may induce cardiac arrhythmias.
  • CNS depressants may increase effects of sedation and bradycardia.
  • Ephedrine may be inactivated by serpentina.
  • Epinephrine effects may be prolonged by serpentina.
  • Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) may reduce the antihypertensive effects of serpentina.

Food and alcohol interactions

You can take serpentina with or without food. If you experience an upset stomach, taking this medication with meals may prevent discomfort. In addition, it is important to drink plenty of water.

Do not take serpentina with alcohol. Taking these together may increase CNS depression. Signs and symptoms of CNS depression include drowsiness, sedation, slowed heart and breathing rate, and inability to make decisions.

Disease interactions

High doses of serpentina may induce Parkinson-like symptoms and seizures. In addition, it may also damage the kidneys. This can reduce kidney function and the elimination of many drugs, resulting in toxicity. Do not use serpentina if you have any of the mentioned conditions.

Dosage

Disclaimer: the information here is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Therefore, it is important to consult your doctor or pharmacist before using serpentina.

Dosing for adults

Because serpentina is a food supplement with no approved therapeutic claims by the FDA, there is no recommended dose. So, consult with your doctor before taking any form of serpentina.

Dosing for children

There are no studies on children to support the safety of serpentina or if it has benefits. There is no recommended dose for kids. For safety, do not give serpentina to your child unless approved by a doctor.

Available preparations

  • Powder
    • Make tea or decoctions using the powder.
  • Capsules
    • Available as 500 mg oral capsules

In case of overdose

Lastly, overdose is rare but can occur. In case this happens, contact your local emergency services or go to your nearest hospital.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sources

Rauwolfia Serpentina. Sweetman, S. C. (2007). Martindale: The complete drug reference. London: Pharmaceutical Press. Accessed October 31, 2020

Reserpine. https://www.mims.com/philippines/drug/info/reserpine. Accessed October 31, 2020

Human kidney proximal tubule cells are vulnerable to the effects of Rauwolfia serpentina. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/292949310_Human_kidney_proximal_tubule_cells_are_vulnerable_to_the_effects_of_Rauwolfia_serpentina. Accessed October 31, 2020

Rauwolfia in the Treatment of Hypertension. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4566472/. Accessed October 28, 2020

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Written by Stephanie Nicole Nera, RPh, PharmD on Nov 13, 2020
Medically reviewed by Stephanie Nicole Nera, RPh, PharmD
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