Rauwolfia Alkaloids (Reserpine)

  • L. G. Howes
  • W. J. Louis
Part of the Handbook of Experimental Pharmacology book series (HEP, volume 93 / 1)


Reserpine (Fig. 1), an alkaloid derived from the roots of certain species of Rauwolfia, was isolated in 1952, and about 50 Rauwolfia alkaloids are known. Extracts of Rauwolfia, a plant genus belonging to the Apocynaceae family, were used by the Hindus for a variety of diseases including snake bites because of the resemblance of the roots to a snake (Rauwolfia serpentina). It was also used for the treatment of cardiovascular diseases, insomnia, and insanity (Weiner 1985). Reference to the medical use of Rauwolfia alkaloids appeared in the Western literature as early as 1563 (Bein 1956). In 1931 Sen and Bose reported in the Indian Medical Journal that the whole root could be used for the treatment of hypertension and psychosis. Widespread interest in their use for the treatment of hypertension, however, was aroused much later after Vakil (1949) published his findings on the use of Rauwolfia alkaloids in the British Heart Journal. Parental usage became popular for hypertensive emergencies but has a tendency to produce excessive sedation.


Tyrosine Hydroxylase Storage Vesicle Reserpine Treatment Extraneuronal Uptake Noradrenaline Depletion 
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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • L. G. Howes
  • W. J. Louis

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