Health Guide

Indian snakeroot

What is it?

Indian Snakeroot is an herbal medicine that has been used in high blood pressure, to help people relax (sedative), and to reduce fever. It has also been used for diarrhea, dysentery, and to treat some psychiatric illnesses.

Other names for Indian Snakeroot include: Rauwolfia serpentina, Rauwolfia, and Snakeroot.

Ask your doctor, nurse, or pharmacist if you need more information about this medicine or if any information in this leaflet concerns you.

Before Using:

Tell your doctor if you

  • are taking medicine or are allergic to any medicine (prescription or over-the-counter (OTC) or dietary supplement)
  • are pregnant or plan to become pregnant while using this medicine
  • are breastfeeding
  • have a history of depression, breast cancer, have pheochromocytoma, or ulcers
  • have any other health problems, such as high blood pressure or heart or blood vessel disease


Talk with your caregiver about how much Indian Snakeroot you should take. The amount depends on the strength of the medicine and the reason you are taking Indian Snakeroot. If you are using this medicine without instructions from your caregiver, follow the directions on the medicine bottle. Do not take more medicine or take it more often than the directions tell you to.

To store this medicine:

Keep all medicine locked up and away from children. Store medicine away from heat and direct light. Do not store your medicine in the bathroom, near the kitchen sink, or in other damp places. Heat or moisture may cause the medicine to break down and not work the way it should work. Throw away medicine that is out of date or that you do not need. Never share your medicine with others.


  • Before taking Indian Snakeroot, tell your doctor if you are pregnant or breastfeeding
  • If you have a history of depression, breast cancer, have pheochromocytoma, or ulcers, you should not take Indian Snakeroot (1,2)

Side Effects:

Stop taking your medicine right away and talk to your doctor if you have any of the following side effects. Your medicine may be causing these symptoms which may mean you are allergic to it.

  • Breathing problems or tightness in your throat or chest
  • Chest pain
  • Skin hives, rash, or itchy or swollen skin

Other Side Effects:

You may have the following side effects, but this medicine may also cause other side effects. Tell your doctor if you have side effects that you think are caused by this medicine.

  • Call your doctor right away if you have fast or skipped heart beats, depression with suicidal thoughts, low blood pressure, hallucinations (seeing things that are not there), nightmares, or problems walking (2)
  • Decreased libido (sex drive), weight and water gain, upset stomach, diarrhea, increased appetite (hunger), and ulcers are all possible side effects with Indian Snakeroot use (2)


1. Blumenthal, Busse, Goldberg, et al: The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. The American Botanical Council, Austin, TX; 1998.

2. Fetrow C & Avila J: Professional's Handbook of Complementary and Alternative Medicines. Springhouse Corporation, Springhouse, PA; 1999.

Last Updated: 7/4/2018
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