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(also Rauwolfia), a genus of plants of the family Apocynaceae. The plants, which contain latex, include shrubs, subshrubs, and trees. The simple, entire, and often leathery leaves are usually in verticils of three to five. The flowers are in terminal or axillary inflorescences. The calyx is short and five-notched or five-parted; the corolla is tubular and has a five-lobed blade. There are five stamens, and the pistil has two carpels. The fruit consists of two drupes, one of which is usually rudimentary.
There are 40 to 50 species of Rauvolfia (according to other data, as many as 100), distributed in the tropics, except for those in Australia. R. serpentina, which grows in India, Burma, Sri Lanka, and Indonesia, is widely known. The underground organs of this plant and several other Rauvolfia species (for example, R. vomitoria in tropical Africa and R. tetraphylla in tropical America) contain more than 20 alkaloids, the most significant of which are reserpine, rescinnamine, yohimbine, ajmaline, and serpentine. Reserpine is used as a sedative and to lower arterial pressure; ajmaline is used as an antiarrhythmic. The alkaloids are used in the preparation of gendon.
REFERENCESAtlas lekarstvennykh rastenii SSSR. Moscow, 1962.
Rao, A. S. A Revision of Rauvolfia With Particular Reference to the American Species. Ann Arbor, Mich. 1957.
M. E. KIRPICHNIKOV