AKA: Indian snakeroot, Rauwolfia serpentaria, Rauwolfia serpentina, ser-pentwood.

Effects: Dilates the blood vessels and contains the alkaloid reserpine, which has a tranquilizing effect. It is used to treat insomnia and Raynaud's disease. Though it contains some yohimbine, it should not be considered a substitute for yohimbe.

Precautions: It should not be taken by anyone who suffers from an allergy to rauwolfia alkaloids, depression, peptic ulcers, or ulcerative colitis. Those who suffer from epilepsy or who have had surgery in the past two months requiring general or spinal anesthesia should consult a physician first. Those over age sixty may suffer increased adverse reactions or side effects. Performing isometric exercises while on rauwolfia may cause the blood pressure to rise too high.

Common side effects to prescription rauwolfia alkaloids include depression, dizziness, headache, faintness, drowsiness, lethargy, red eyes, stuffy nose, impotence, reduced sex drive, diarrhea, and dry mouth. Less common side effects include black stools, bloody vomit, chest pain, shortness of breath, heartbeat that is irregular or slow, stiffness (muscles, bones, and joints), trembling in the hands, and swelling in the feet and legs. Rare side effects include a rash or itchy skin, sore throat, fever, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, unusual bruising or bleeding, jaundice, painful urination, and nightmares.

Overdose symptoms include drowsiness, a pulse that is slow and weak, breathing that is slow and shallow, diarrhea, flushing, coma, lowered body temperature, and pupils contracted to pinpoints.

The effects of rauwolfia alkaloids may be increased by other antihypertensives, betaadrenergic blocking agents, Carteolol, and Lisinopril, and decreased by Sotalol. Rauwolfia alkaloids can increase the effects of antidepressants, antihistamines, central nervous system depressants, Ethinamate, and Methyprylon, and decrease the effects of aspirin, levodopa, Pergolide, and terazosin. The effects of both rauwolfia alkaloids and Dronabinol, Fluoxetine, Guanfacine, Loxapine, or Sertraline are increased when combined. When combined with oral anticoagulants, it can result in an unpredictable increase or decrease in the anticoagulant effect; with anticonvulsants, it can result in changes in the seizure pattern; with Clozapine, the two could be toxic to the central nervous system; with digitalis preparations, it could result in an irregular heartbeat; with Leucovorin's high alcohol content, it could cause some side effects; with any mind-altering drug, it could cause excessive sedation; with MAO inhibitors, it could cause severe depression; with Nabilone it could cause increased depression of the central nervous sytem; with Nicardipine or Nimodipine, it could result in a drop in blood pressure; and with Procarbazine, there could be a marked increase in blood pressure.

Combining rauwolfia alkaloids with alcohol can lead to greater intoxication, while carbonated beverages can decrease the rauwolfia effect, cocaine can increase the risk of heart block and high blood pressure, spicy foods can cause an upset stomach, and marijuana can cause drowsiness, low blood pressure, and depression.

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  • pirkko
    Can rauwolfia treat dizziness?
    2 years ago

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