What is reserpine used for?  

When we talk about health, we may already imagine medicine being one of the ways to achieve better health. While it is true that many health conditions may actually be treated with lifestyle modifications, there are still many more conditions in need of medicine to help a person heal or cope with the health conditions they have. You probably know by now that there are many kinds of medicine available and you may or may not be familiar with the common one. One of the common medications used in treating patients is reserpine.

Reserpine is in a class of medication known as rauwolfia alkaloids. It is classified as such a name due to the fact that it is found within the roots of Rauwolfia serpentina and Rauwolfia vomitoria. Rauwolfia serpentina is a climbing shrub found in India.  Reserpine has been one of the first antihypertensive agents to be developed for human use. Thus, if you ask what reserpine is used for, it is mainly used for treating those with high blood pressure or also known as hypertension.

Reserpine acts as an antihypertensive agent by depleting the sympathetic amines in both the central nervous system and periphery. This means that it has an effect on reducing the blood pressure by slowing the activity of the nervous system by making the heart beat a bit slow and relaxation of the blood vessels. Reserpine may be used as monotherapy which means only this medicine is used or be combined with other antihypertensive medications. This is considered a standard regimen in treating hypertension. Combination therapy is often given in patients with uncontrolled hypertension that does not respond well with one kind of antihypertensive medication.

Apart from the use of reserpine for hypertension, it is also known as the first generation of antipsychotic drugs. Reserpine blocks the reuptake of dopamine that leads to dissipation for the psychosis. It is considered an effective therapy for treating psychosis-indeed plant based therapies containing reserpine that have been used for centuries in India as treatments for illness we now know as schizophrenia. Discovery of dopamine receptors with the effectiveness of antipsychotic drugs in the 1970s lead to the hypothesis that blockade of these receptors and schizophrenia resulting from the abnormalities in dopamine receptors, can help physicians understand how to treat psychosis. This means that reserpine has been proved to actually tackle the dopamine issues that aid in treating psychosis.

Back to the main use of reserpine, which is an antihypertensive agent, it makes reserpine mostly available for treating hypertension. Reserpine can be found available in tablets form of 0.1 and 0.25 milligrams. Typical dose for adults is 0.05 to 0.25 milligram once daily. Common side effects include fatigue, sedation, difficulty concentrating, dry mouth, headaches, dizziness, depression, postural hypotension (blood pressure drops when changes in position such as from lying down to sitting up), male impotence and upset stomach.  

Reserpine that comes as a tablet, usually is taken by mouth, one time a day. It is best to take reserpine at the same time of the day to help maximise the drug effectiveness and maintain optimal action inside the body. Patients should not take reserpine more or less as instructed by the doctor. Patients have to continue taking reserpine despite feeling well. Patients should not stop taking reserpine cold turkey or without discussing it first with the doctor. Sudden stop from taking reserpine may actually lead to unwanted side effects and high blood pressure. Similar to many other medications, it is best for patients to let their healthcare provider know if they have another condition or take other medication for the health condition apart from hypertension, as it may affect the way medicine works, increase chances for adverse drug effect or make the underlying health conditions worse. Patients who have already take other antihypertensive drugs should notify their doctor about this before taking reserpine altogether.

Apart from medication, those with hypertension need to do more than just popping medicine prescribed by a doctor.  To achieve better health, they must adjust their lifestyles to be more active and eat healthy food which emphasises reduced sodium intake as well as maintain a healthy body weight. Lifestyle changes alone make up to 15% reduction of risk for heart diseases related to hypertension.  However, it is often difficult to carry out consistent lifestyle changes because continuous change has been shown to be an effective treatment for high blood pressure. 

It can be concluded that reserpine can be an antihypertensive agent and antipsychotic agent. Reserpine is also known as an adrenergic blocking agent as it affects the sympathetic nervous system. Reserpine is an alkaloid extract of the Rauwolfia serpentina. Reserpine is now available as tablets with either 0.1 or 0.25 milligrams. It is important for those with hypertension to get proper treatment and to take medicine regularly to reduce the risk for complications such as heart diseases.