Java devil pepper

Java devil pepper

Java devil pepper

Java-devil-pepper extract

Specification & Spread

Java devil pepper roots — radices rauwolfiae serpentinae
Java devil pepper — rauwolfia serpentina benth.
Dogbane family — apocynaceae.

It is an evergreen shrub containing laticifer, 0.2-0.6 (1) m tall
It has a small vertical rhizome with numerous adventitious roots and a long stem curved root with large lateral roots.
The stem is ascending, covered with a whitish cork.
The leaves are arranged in whorled by 3-4, less often opposite or alternate, oblong-elliptical, obovate or obverse-lanceolate. It is acuminate at the apex, narrowed at the base in a short petiole, thin, bare, shiny and 7.5-17.5 cm long.
The flowers are white or pink, collected in the apical, rarely axillary, dense umbellate inflorescences. The calyx and pedicels are bright red.
The fruit consists of two succulent red stones.

Spreading. Naturally it grows in India, Thailand, Burma, Sri Lanka and Indonesia. It is cultivated in India. The raw materials are currently imported to Russia.

Habitat. It grows on the edges of tropical rain forests.

Other species
Emetic snakewood (Rauwolfia vomitoria Afz.), which grows in tropical Africa from the west coast to Mozambique, quadriphyllous snakewood (R. gray-haired) (R. tetraphylla L. = R. canescens L.), widely spread in South America, India, Australia, and also kaffra snakewood (R. caffra Soud.) growing in Africa are also used as sources of reserpine. The first two species are promising for introduction into industrial culture in the Transcaucasus. A micro-cloning technology has been proposed at the St. Petersburg Academy of Chemical Pharmaceutics for breeding, and a method for obtaining tissue culture biomass, the source of Aymalin, has been developed and introduced.


The roots contain the sum of alkaloids – derivatives of indole, constituting 1-2%.

Currently, more than 50 alkaloids are isolated:

  • reserpine,
  • aymaline,
  • serpentine,
  • rescinamine,
  • yohimbine,
  • and etc.

Harvesting and storage of raw materials

Harvesting. In places of natural growth, the roots are harvested in the fruiting phase of plants with a well-developed root system. On the plantations in India, the roots are dug up in the third or fourth year of the plant life.

External signs of raw materials

The pieces of roots, cylindrical or split longitudinally, are covered with a brown cork.
The outer surface is longitudinally wrinkled.v
The fracture is smooth. On the fracture a yellow wood is visible.
The bark is narrow, but alkaloids are localized in it. Therefore the presence of pieces of roots with peeled bark is a defect in the raw material.
The smell is characteristic and unpleasant. The taste is not determined(!).

Properties and application

Devil pepper alkaloids have different pharmacological properties. It mainly affects the central nervous system,
reserpine and to a lesser extent rescinam have a sedative and hypotensive effect,
yohimbine – alpha-blocking,
aymaline – antiarrhythmic effect.

The main pharmacological property of reserpine is its sympatholytic effect, due to the depletion of norepinephrine resources in adrenergic nerve endings.

Reserpine has a complex effect on the body. The effect on the peripheral nervous system is largely due to its antihypertensive effect, and its effect on the central neurochemical processes is neuroleptic.

Under the influence of reserpine, systolic and diastolic pressure gradually decreases with various forms and stages of hypertension. The best effect is observed in the early stages of hypertension, in the absence of pronounced organic changes in the cardiovascular system. The antihypertensive effect lasts relatively long after discontinuation of reserpine.

Along with lowering blood pressure, kidney function improves:

  • the renal blood flow increases,
  • glomerular filtration increases.

There is evidence of the positive effect of reserpine on lipid and protein metabolism in patients with hypertension and coronary atherosclerosis.
Aymalin does not possess neuroleptic activity, moderately lowers blood pressure.

A characteristic feature of aymalin are:

  • antiarrhythmic properties.

Application of devil pepper

  • for lowering blood pressure in hypertensive illness, as well as in mental disorders,
  • mild hypotensive and sedative effects, it also has antiarrhythmic and antispasmodic properties,
  • effective remedy for the relief of atrial fibrillation.

Reserpine is a part of a number of combination medicines used in hypertension.


Since there are alkaloids in the composition of such a plant, it has some side effects. In case of overdose or misuse of rauwolfia, serious disturbances can occur in the important circulatory system and severe depression is often observed. In quite rare cases, there is a slowdown of movements.