Reserpine is a naturally occurring drug that has been used for centuries in ancient India. It is extracted from the root of Rauwolfia vomitoria, plants found extensively in Africa. In traditional herbal medicine, the root was brewed as a tea and used in humans to treat hypertension, insanity, snakebite, and cholera. The purified alkaloid, reserpine, was isolated in 1952 and is considered the first modern drug for the treatment of hypertension. Reserpine irreversibly binds to the storage vesicles of neurotransmitters, particularly norepinephrine, serotonin and dopamine. Eventually, catecholamine depletion occurs because of the body's inability to store these neurotransmitters.In India Rauwolfia has been used since centuries for relief of central nervous system disorder including anxiety , excitement etc.
The chief use of the drug is as a sedative and hypnotic and for reducing blood pressure. The drug is now largely used in insanity and high blood pressure. The alkaloids stimulate the central nervous system. It is more suitable for cases of mild anxiety or patients of chronic mental illness.