Rauvolfia Serpentina
Reserpine or The Whole Herb?

Indian Snakeroot! Sounds really sinister doesn`t it, but Rauvolfia Serpentina or Rauwolfia (Snakeroot`s medicinal names) has been used in Indian, Chinese, and Western medicine for centuries not for just treating snake bite but for treating high blood pressure.

Many of you will not be familiar with this herb, especially its widely used compound Reserpine. Although successful in Western medicine, this alkaloid extracted and isolated from the whole herb has been reported to have its drawbacks, the very reason it was exchanged for other medicines with less side effects, and although still used, has been almost abandoned as a first treatment for hypertension.

Positive Action of Reserpine

How does reserpine reduce blood pressure?

It works on the sympathetic nervous system in two ways. It depletes catecholamines which are neurotransmitters, chemicals that link signals from one neuron cell to the next. (http://web.squ.edu.om/med-Lib/MED_CD/E_CDs/anesthesia/site/content/v03/030134r00.HTM)

Adrenaline which most of us are familiar with is a catecholamine which our bodies use when we are excited, or frightened. It causes us to act quickly, that is why it is called the fight or flight response. The body needs to get more blood and oxygen to the muscles ready for action, so your heart will beat faster and your blood pressure will rise. All natural mechanisms triggered by adrenaline. If however, it becomes depleted then the opposite occurs, blood pressure drops and the heart relaxes.

The second way it works is that when catecholamines called epinephrines are released into the blood stream during stress it triggers vasoconstriction of the arteries, reserpine causes reduction of epinephrine in blood plasma and so relaxes them. (http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/29/2/219.full.pdf)

Negative Effects

But what about the widely reported negative effects such as depression and suicide that has caused a dark cloud to overshadow the good that this herb was doing for patients? Also is it more beneficial to use the whole herb or extracted components from it?