Sarpakshi (Ophiorrhiza mungos) – Uses, Qualities, Side Effects, Research

By Dr Renita D’Souza
Sarpakshi (Ophiorrhiza mungos) is an Ayurvedic herb best used as antidote for snake poison. It is also used to treat worm infestation, wounds, indigestion, diarrhoea, flatulence etc.

Botanical Name – Ophiorrhiza mungos
Family – Rubiaceae

Indications, qualities

Krimi – worm infestation, infection
Visha – toxic condition, poisoning
Scorpion bite
Rat bite
Snake bite
Wound, Ulcer

Medicinal Qualities
Taste – Pungent (katu), Bitter (tiktha)
Virya (potency of the herb) – Hot

Morphology, uses, controversy

Morphology of Ophiorrhiza mungos
Ophiorrhiza mungos is an deep rooted, erect herb. Leaves are 10 – 20 cm long, elliptic or elliptic-lanceolate, hirsute on veins below. Flowers are whitish pink arranged in dense, branched, scorpioid cymes, at branch-ends. Capsules 2-3 cm long, 4-6 mm wide, obcordate shaped, laterally compressed, glabarous. Seeds are many, angular.


  • Decoction of the plant is used in indigestion and diarrhoea. It improves appetite and digestive fire.
  • Mongoose eat this plant after bitten by snake as an antidote for snake poison. Thus the plant gets ‘mungos’ as name of species.

Some authors consider Polygonum plebejum as Sarpakshi.
Sarpakshi is also one among the synonyms of Durva.

Sanskrit verse

Used part, side effects, chemistry

Part used
Whole plant

Side Effects of Sarpaksi
There are no recorded side effects.
High dose can cause gastric irritation or burning sensation due to its hot potency.

Phytochemicals of Ophiorrhiza mungos
Alcohol extract contains alkaloids, carbohydrates, glycosides, phytosterols, phenolic compounds, tannins and flavonoids. Aqueous extract contained alkaloids, carbohydrates, glycosides, phenolic compounds, tannins, flavonoids, gums and mucilage.

Interaction with medicines, supplements

Can this be used while taking Homeopathic medicine?
Yes. This product does not react with homeopathic medicine.

Can this medicine be continued while taking supplements like multivitamin tablets, Omega 3 fatty acids etc?
Yes. Generally, this product goes well with most of the dietary supplements. However, if you are taking more than one product per day, please consult your doctor for an opinion.

With western medicines
Seek your doctor’s advice if you are taking this product along with other western (allopathic / modern) medicines. Some Ayurvedic herbs can interact with modern medicine.
If both Ayurvedic and allopathic medicines are advised together, then it is best to take Allopathic medicine first, wait for 30 minutes and then take the Ayurvedic medicine.

Research, distribution, vernacular

Anti cancer Activity – A study conducted to evaluate anticancer activity of the alcohol and aqueous extracts of leaf of Ophiorrhiza mungos L. on DAL in mice have concluded its potent anticancer activity.
Anti venom activity – A study done to evaluate the neutralising effect of Ophiorrhiza mungos root extract against Russell’s viper have concluded that root extract of Ophiorrhiza mungos possess potent anti snake venom activity.

Distribution of Indian Snake Root
It is found in Andaman Islands, Assam, Bangladesh, China, East Himalaya, Malaya, Myanmar, Nicobar Islands, Sri Lanka, Thailand

Names in different Languages
Hindi Name – Sarhati
English Name – Mongoose plant, Indian snake root
Kannada Name – Garuda paathaala, Bili garuda paathaala
Tamil Name – Kirippuntu, kirippurantan
Telugu Name – Sarpaakshi chettu, Sarpaari chettu
Malayalam Name – Avlipori, Chembajarinjil
Marathi Name – Mungusvela, Nagvelli

Category, synonyms

Classical Categorisation
Bhavaprakasha Nighantu – Guduchyadi Varga
Dhanvantari Nighantu – Karaviraadi Varga
Kaiyadeva Nighantu – Aushadi Varga
Shodala Nighantu – Karaviraadi Varga
Raja Nighantu – Mulakaadi Varga

Sanskrit synonyms
Gandali, Nadikalaapaka
Kshirapushpika, Sukshmapatratara,
Mahasughada, Suvaha, Gandanakuli
Nakuleshta, Chatraki, Vishamardini
Phanihantri, Nakuladya, Ahimardini
Mahahiganda, Ahilata

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