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Uses of Rauwolfia Vomitoria Afzel (asofeyeje) In African Traditional Medicine

July 10, 2010

The plant belongs to the family apocynacea and its common names include serpent wood, swizzler stick among others. The parts that are commonly used for herbal remedies are roots, root bark, leaves and stem-bark. In Nigerian local languages, it is called asofeyeje (Yoruba), akanta (Igbo language) and wada (Hausa). The plant is of different species. The Indian species is called Rauvolfia serpentina. The African species of the plant, Rauwolfia vomitoria had twice the amount of reserpine of the Indian species, Rauvolfia Serpentina (Kutalek and prinz 2007). The main alkaloid present in Rauwolfia which is called reserpine was first discovered by Swiss scientists, Schiller and Muller of CIB Pharmaceuticals in Switzerland in 1952. Reserpine according to Okpako (1991) is a major constituent of antihypertensive drugs.

Other chemical constituents of Rauwolfia Vomitoria include: Canembine, Corynanthine, Seredine, Yohimbine, Mitoridine, Purpeline, Pelirine, Semperflorine, Ajmaline, Raunticine, Raujemedine, Samatine, Deserpidine, Ajmalidine, Rauwolfine, Obscuridine, Obscurine, Rauvoxinine, Mitoridine, Vomilenine, Seredamine, Tetraphyllicine, Ajmalicine, Reserpiline, Reserpinine, Sarpagine, Vincamajine, Neoreserpiline, Aricine, Picrinine, Sandwichine, Rauwolfinine, Rauvomitine, Raucaffridine, Raucaffriline, Raunamine etc.

According to Kutalek and Prinz (2007) Rauwolfia is used traditionally against snake bites, fever and nervous disorders. In Ghana and Nigeria , it is used as emetic and purgative. In the same regions, children are treated with this plant for cerebral cramps, jaundice and gastrointestinal disorders. Kutalek and Prinz (2007) report further that a watery solution of the bark of Rauwolfia V.A. can be used against such parasites as lice and scabies. In Mali , the roots of rauwolfia is used to treat hemorrhoids and hepatomegaly. It is also used in Mali as sedative for mentally ill persons, good for treating tetanus and epilepsy.

The pygmies of Congo Basin administers Rauwolfia species together with traditional ash salt against diarrhea and with red palm oil against elephantiasis of the legs. It is used as abortifacient because it contracts the uterus after administration.

Sharma (2004)reports that the roots of Rauwolfia is good for the treatment of snake bites; insect stings; nevours disorders; mania; epilepsy; intractable skin disorders such as psoriasis, excessive sweating, itching; hypertension; sedative; uterine contration in child birth and gynaecological ointment for the treatment of penopausal disorders.

Sharma (2004) claims that the root bark constitutes 40-50 per cent of the whole root and the alkaloids content vary from 1.7 to 3 per cent. According to Sharma (2004) the root contains the alkaloids ophioxylin, resin, starch and wax. He explains that five crystalline alkaloids that could be isolated from the roots are ajmaline, ajmalicine, serpentine, serpentinine and yohimbine. Other constituents identified by Sharma (2004) include phytosterol, oleic and unsaturated alcohols.

Prajapati et al (2007) report that Rauwolfia Vomitoria (Asofeyeje) is a sedative, hypnotic and good for reducing blood pressure. Rauwolfia is good for treating insanity, anti-anxiety agent and stimulant to central nervous system. The root according to Prajapati et al (2007) is a good anthelmintic and an antidote to snake venom. Its decotion could be given during labour pains to increase uterine contraction. Juice of the leaves of Rauwolfia Vomitoria is used for the treatment of corneal opacity of the eyes.

Oyedeji (2007) confirms that Rauwolfia Vomitoria is good for the treatment of insomnia. Adodo (2006) analyses that rauwolfia vomitoria is efficacious in treating hypertension, impotence, insomnia and nervous disorders.

Lambo (1975) reports that Rauwolfia Vomitoria root (Asofeyeje) has effect on the brain and will restore mental activities to normal. It should however be moderately used as it atimes weakens the patient. Notable side effects of Rauwolfia alkaloids are depression and parkinsonia syndrome (Okpako 1991).

Odugbemi (2008) reports that rauwolfia vomitoria (Asofeyeje) is good for the treatment of hypertension, insomnia, nervous disorder, jaundice, fever, diarrhea, dysentery, scabies, mental disorders, anthelmintics and malaria.


Kutalek R. and A. Prinz (2007) African Medicinal Plants in Yaniv Z and U. Bachrach (eds) Handbook of medicinal plants: New Delhi , CBS publishers.

Sharma R. (2004) Agro- Techniques of Medicinal Plants: India , Daya Publishing House.

Prajapati N.D. et al (2007) A Handbook of Medicinal Plants: A Complete Source Book India , Agrobios Publishers.

Lambo J. O. (1975) Management of Hypertension in Traditional Medicine in Sofowora A (ed) Antihypertensive Agents from Natural Sources: Ile-Ife, University of Ife Press .

Okpako D.T. (1991) Principles of Pharmacology: A Tropical Approach: New York , Cambridge University Press.

Odugbemi T. (2008) A Textbook of Medicinal Plants from Nigeria : Lagos , University of Lagos Press.

Adodo A. (2006) Nature Power: Benin , Generation press.

Oyedeji L. (2007) Drugless Healing Secrets: Ibadan , Panse Press.

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Onike Rahaman holds masters degree.He is a professional administrator,writer,editorial consultant,linguistic activist,public commentator and a policy analyst.He is also into human rights advocacy and herbal research.