Medicinal Plants

Serpent wood (Rauvolfia serpertina)


  • Serpent wood is an erect, evergreen, perennial, glabrous medicinal shrub growing to a height of 30-90 cm.
  • Roots contain more than 50 alkaloids which are widely used in Ayurveda , Unani, Allopathy systems of medicine to cure high blood pressure, mental disorders, epilepsy, gynecological disorders etc.
  • The plant is reported to be growing wild in Godavari belt, Chittor and Visakhapatanam districts. The crop can be grown in Andhra Pradesh in acidic(pH 4.0-6.3) to neutral(pH 6.5-7.5) well drained, deep , fertile soils rich in organic matter. Sandy or clayey soils are not suitable.


  • There are no released verities in this crop


  • The crop can be propagated by seeds, root and shoot cuttings, however, the root yield of the crop raised from seeds is far more than the yield obtainable from plants developed from root and shoot cuttings.
  • Direct sowing of seeds is not recommended due to erratic/poor germination freshly collected seeds should be used as they lose viability on storage for more than six months.
  • Seeds should be soaked in 10% sodium chloride( common salt) solution and only those seeds that sink in to the bottom should be used after treating them with seed dressing fungicides to prevent damping off disease.
  • Seeds (8-10 kg) are dibbled in nursery beds in May-June moths at a depth of 0.1-1.0 cm in rows and 6-10 cm apart with 2.5-5.0 cm inttrarow spacing. Germination starts in 3-6 weeks and 40-60 days old, 7.5-12.0 cm tall seedlings with 4-6 leaves are ready for transplanting


  • The field is cleared of weeds/bushes, ploughed, harrowed and planked to good tilth.
  • The seedlings are carefully removed from the nursery beds with minimum damage to the roots and transplanted in the main field either in shade( in banana, papaya or mango orchards) or in the open during rainy season with a spacing of 30-60 cm between rows and 30 cm between the plants.
  • The field should be immediately irrigated. There after, the crop is maintained by periodical weedings and weekly irrigations during summer and biweekly irrigations during winter


  • The crop is fertilized with 10 tonnes of FYM , 50 kg urea, 200 kg single super phosphate and 50 kg muriate of potash per hectare at the time of planting.
  • In addition 100 kg urea is top dressed in two equal splits of 50 kg each during the growing season. During second and subsequent years 100 kg urea is top dressed in two or three equal splits

Pests and diseases

  • Caterpillars(Glyophodes vertumnalis), moths(Deilephila merii), grubs(Anomala polita,) damage the crop. Spraying the crop with systemic insecticides like monocrotophos control them.
  • Diseases like leaf spot(Cercospora rauvolfea, Coryncospora cassiicola). Leaf blotch(Cercospora serpentina), leaf blight (Alternaria tenuis), anthracnose( Colletotrichum dematium), die back (Leviellula taurica) and wilt (Fusarium oxysporum, F. rovulfii) damage the crop.
  • 2-3 sprays of 0.2% Zineb or Mancozeb ands 0.3% copper oxy chloride are recommended to control them

Harvesting and profits

  • 2 to 3 years old crop is harvested during winter or summer months for roots .Roots grow 0.6-1.0 meter deep, therefore, are to be dug up. The field is irrigated to facilitate digging.
  • Tap root along with fibrous roots are collected, washed of adhering soil, air dried in sun to 8-12% moisture, cut in to pieces of 10-20 cm length and stored in air tight containers in cool dry place .
  • Irrigated, two year old crop on an average yields 1000 kg of dried roots and under ideal conditions the crop can yield upto 2000 kg of dried roots .
  • At a price of 60 per kg of dried roots, the gross profit ranges from RS 60,000 TO Rs 1,20,000 per hectare for two years and a net profit from Rs.35,000-95,000 per hectare per two years.
  • Total alkaloid content in the root ranges from 1.40-2.38 per cent and the important root alkaloids are ajmalicine, ajmaline,reserpine,serpentine etc. There is no organized market in Andhra Pradesh.
  • Recently a firm in Visakhapatnam is encouraging its cultivation with buy-back arrangements. Farmers are advised to make market arrangements before taking up cultivation