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Leuzea root Review Article

 

Botanical illustration of Rhaponticum carthamoidesRussian non-hormonal non-anabolic muscle enhancer herb whose ingredients have been proven in clinical studies to be muscle enhancer tonic while exhibiting no undesirable side effects.
See also: Immunostimulators, Mumijo , Schisandra

Rhaponticum carthamoides: a powerful adaptogen with no known toxicity
Rhaponticum carthamoides is a perennial herb, also known as Leuzea carthamoides, or by its common names “maral root” or “Russian leuzea”.

It reaches up to 150 cm of height (sometimes more), and grows endemically in Siberia, but has also recently been introduced to Europe, where it is grown for its beneficial health effects. Continue reading...

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HISTORY:
The use of R. carthamoides as a medicinal herb has a very interesting history. It goes back in time, centuries ago, when the first Russian settlers in the Atlay mountains observed that the maral deer (Cervus elaphus sibiricus) kept digging out and eating the herb. The deer herds seemed to quickly regain their strength after feeding on the plant (Kokoska and Janovska, 2009). This is how the plant got its name “maral root”. The plant has been used in folk medicine since then. It has played important roles in ancient medicine of China, Mongolia, Tibet (Timofeev, 2006), Russia, Siberia and other countries.

The first significant scientific studies of R. carthamoides were probably those that begun in the 1940’s in Russia; it was during World War II and Russian scientists were searching for plants that can enhance their soldiers’ performance (Antoshechkin, 2000). The Russians valued the plant as an “adaptogen” and in 1961 it was listed as an official medicine in the Russian pharmacopoeia (Winston and Maimes, 2007). The Russians commonly call the plant “Leuzea”; this is why today the plant is also called “Russian leuzea” by non-locals. Because the plant was referred to by its scientific name Leuzea carthamoides for so long, this name is as popular today as Rhaponticum carthamoides – even though certain scientists suggested that we use Rhaponticum carthamoides as the official name for the plant (Greuter, 2003).


What are adaptogens?
The word “adaptogen” was first used in 1947 by Soviet scientist Dr. Nikolai Lazarev, who defined it as a substance that helps the body adapt to stressful physical, chemical, or biological factors.
At the time, Dr Lazarev was working for the military, looking for substances that could enhance the performance of soldiers (Winston and Maimes, 2007).

In the late 1950’s, Dr I. I. Brekhman contributed much to the study of adaptogens, by studying Panax ginseng, which is another adaptogen plant.

In 1969, Brekhman and Dardymov updated the definition of adaptogens to include substances that share the following characteristics:

a) They have no or relatively low toxicity to those who take it.
b) They enhance the “non-specific” resistance of the organism.
c) They normalize the functions of organs and systems.

(Winston and Maimes, 2007)

As we shall further see, R. carthamoides fits well into this definition.

Rhaponticum carthamoides on 1985 USSR stamps

The adaptogenic properties of R. carthamoides
Following Russians’ extensive scientific research on R. carthamoides, the plant had gained great popularity because of its adaptogenic properties. Specifically, it was shown to increase stamina and strength, acting both on the physical and psychological levels. Among its users were soldiers, athletes, and workers.

By 1985, the plant was so popular that it earned a place on USSR stamps (see figure).

Today, the plant is widely sold and used for its numerous beneficial effects. Some of these will be discussed later.


Botanical illustration of Rhaponticum carthamoides

CHEMICAL COMPOSITION
Several different classes of compounds have been isolated from the different plants of R. carthamoides. These can be divided into: ecdysteroids (50 different ones, 20E being the most abundant), and phenolic compounds (specifically flavonoids, phenolic acids, tannins and lignans). Other compounds found in parts of the plant, though in lesser amounts, are certain polyacetylenes and sesquiterpene lactones. Certain triterpenoid compounds have also been isolated from the plant’s roots (Kokoska and Janovska, 2009).

R. carthamoides also contains an essential oil that consists mostly of esquiterpenes, 13-norcypera-1(5),11(12)-diene, cyperene and the aliphatic compound aplotaxene (Havlik et al., 2009).


R. CARTHAMOIDES’ THERAPEUTIC EFFECTS
Since the 1940’s, several experiments and clinical tests were done using extracts from various parts of the R. carthamoides plant.
The following are only some of the beneficial effects attributed to R. carthamoides.


Anti-fatigue effects:
R. carthamoides extract (RCE) seems to normalize and optimize heart rate and arterial blood pressure; effects thought to be responsible for its nonspecific mental and physical tonic properties.

Several studies confirm these effects. Some of these were conducted with sailors as subjects, because of their predisposition to sleep disorders and fatigue that can occur because of long voyages. The results showed prevention of fatigue and improvement of healthy sleep (Yance, 2004).


Anabolic effects:
Clinical tests with RCE on athletes in Russia showed that the plant significantly increased protein synthesis and working capacity of athletes (Yance, 2004; Kokoska and Janovska, 2009).

The plant is known to influence metabolism in such a way, that eliminates myocardial tension, improves muscle-fat ratio, increases the levels of haemoglobin and erythrocytes, and raises the levels of protein in the blood (Yance, 2004).

Hence, it can significantly increase muscle growth and stamina and promote recovery of muscles.


Normalization and prophylaxis of the cardiovascular system:
Several studies on animals have shown that RCE can act as a prophylactic measure for the cardiovascular system as it acts as an anti-arrhythmic (Yance, 2004). It can also decrease blood pressure, improve problems of reduced blood viscosity in myocardial infarction, increase the levels of erythrocytes and haemoglobins in blood, etc (Kokoska and Janovska, 2009).


Protective effects on the central nervous system (CNS):
Studies taking place on animals showed that RCE can prevent brain damage caused by cerebral ischemia (Yance, 2004). It also acts as a CNS stimulant, antagonises the effects of certain narcotics, improves learning and memory, and reduces anxiety (Kokoska and Janovska, 2009).
Another study on humans studied the plant’s effects on the CNS. The results revealed the plant’s potential for preventing depression in depressive alcoholics (Kokoska and Janovska, 2009).


Possible anti-diabetic effects:
A study on diabetics who were administered RCE together with Rhodiola rosea and Eleutherococcus senticosus extracts, showed significant normalization effects on levels of blood glucose (Yance, 2004).


Antioxidant effects:
Studies on humans have shown that RCE has powerful free radical scavenging activity. This effect is most probably mediated by the extract’s flavonoids and flavonols (Kokoska and Janovska, 2009).


Enhancement of the immune system:
Administration of RCE on long distant runners showed that RCE helps restore blood IgG, IgA, and C3 levels that are caused by heavy exercise. Animal studies also showed ways by which that RCE could enhance the immune system, including stimulation of T-lymphocytes and NK cells (Yance, 2004).


Anticarcenogenic effects:
RCE (specifically the root extract) was found to inhibit proliferation of human breast cancer cell line MCF-7. Another study on the effects of a mixture of Panax ginseng, Eleutherococcus senticosus and R. carthamoides root extract on mice showed it to inhibit the carcinogenesis induced by transplacental administration of N-nitrosoethylurea. A clinical study on humans showed that a mixture containing R. carthamoides, Rhodiola rosea, Eleutherococcus senticosus and Schizandra chinensis, was able to enhance the immune system of ovarian cancer patients by increasing their number of T cell subclasses CD3, CD4, CD5 and CD8, and increasing their number of IgG and IgM antibodies (Kormosh et al., 2006).


Antimicrobial effects:
Various studies have shown the powerful antimicrobial effects of R. carthamoides against many species of fungi and bacteria. Some of the microbes inhibited by R. carthamoides are Bacillus cereus, Staphylococcus epidermidis, Bacteroides fragilis, Proteus vulgaris, Aspergillus niger and Penicillium verrucosum, Staphylococcus aureus (19 different strains), Candida glabrata, Candida tropicalis, Aspergillus fumigatus and Trichophyton mentagrophytes (Kokoska and Janovska, 2009).
RCE (specifically, ecdysten) was also shown to be a potential powerful treatment for patients with giardiasis (Osipova, 2002).


Sexual enhancing effects:
In men suffering infertility, the administration of RCE (specifically, ecdysten) was shown to increase the copulative function and improve the quality of their sperm. In men that were in the stage of recovery after myocardial infarction, RCE was shown to improve their sexual activity.(Yance, 2004; Kokoska and Janovska, 2009).


PRECAUTIONS AND SAFETY:

R. carthamoides is often confused with other plants – such as species of the genera Centaurea, Cnicus, Fornicium, Leuzea, Serratula, and Stemmacantha (Kokoska and Janovska, 2009); which means that it’s possible that some of the marketed products supposed to contain R. carthamoides will contain a different plant instead. Therefore, one should be careful regarding the quality of the product that is being bought.
R. carthamoides should not be taken by pregnant women due to the lack of research, and the possibility of the plant to stimulate labor (Winston and Maimes, 2007).


TOXICITY:
R. carthamoides is known to be very safe even at high doses (Kokoska and Janovska, 2009).


DOSAGE:
Tincture (1:4): 40 to 80 drops to be taken three times a day.
Decoction: 1-2 tablespoons of dried root added to 12 oz. water. Decoct for 15-20 minutes and then steep for 40 minutes. Take 4 oz. of the decoction per day.
Capsules: Two 5% ecdysterone capsules to be taken twice per day (Winston and Maimes, 2007).



DRUG INTERACTIONS:
There is not sufficient data regarding the possibility of R. carthamoides interacting deleteriously with other drugs.
In regards to beneficial drug interactions, R. carthamoides was extensively shown to counteract the side effects of steroids (Winston and Maimes, 2007) and of alcohol (which also gave it a place in some alcoholic beverages; Kokoska and Janovska, 2009).


Scientific synonyms for this plant include:

Cnicus carthamoides
Leuzea carthamoides
Stemmacantha carthamoides
(USDA, ARS, National Genetic Resources Program)

Other names attributed to this plant around the world:
Sinops, radic Echinopsis, radix Rhapontici, Cnicus, Stemmacantha, leuzea rapontica, maral koren, hirschwurzel, rhapontikum, bergscharte, maraljuuri, parcha caflorova, maralrot, rapontik, szczodrak krokoszowy, velikogolovnik, levzeja saflorovidnaja, bolshegolovnik alpiyskiy, papontik, izjubreva trava, maralova trava, aranay-ubjusu, sinott, nijniy uyman, etc (Timofeev, 2006).






References:

Antoshechkin A, 2000, Leuzea and your health: The Siberian wonder-plant which improves stamina, slows the effects of aging, and increases your resistance to disease, Ceptima Pub.

Greuter W, 2003, The Euro+Med Treatment of Cardueae (Compositae): Generic Concepts and Required New Names, Willdenowia;33(1):49-61

Havlik J, Budesinsky M, Kloucek P, Kokoska L, Valterova I, Vasickova S, Zeleny V, 2009,Norsesquiterpene hydrocarbon, chemical composition and antimicrobial activity of Rhaponticum carthamoides root essential oil, Phytochemistry;70(3):414-8.
Kokoska L, Janovska D, 2009,Chemistry and pharmacology of Rhaponticum carthamoides: a review, Phytochemistry;70(7):842-55.

Kormosh N, Laktionov K, Antoshechkina M,2006,Effect of a combination of extract from several plants on cell-mediated and humoral immunity of patients with advanced ovarian cancer,Phytother Res.;20(5):424-5.
Osipova SO, Islamova ZhI, Syrov VN, Badalova NS, Khushbaktova ZA, 2002, Ecdysten in the treatment of giardiasis, Med Parazitol (Mosk);(1):29-33.

Timofeev NP, 2006, Leuzea carthamoides DC.: “Application Prospects as Pharmpreparations and Biologically Active Components", in Functional Foods for Chronic Diseases (Ed. DM Martirosyan), D&A Incorporated, p. 105-120.

USDA, ARS, National Genetic Resources Program, Germplasm Resources Information Network - (GRIN) [Online Database], National Germplasm Resources Laboratory, Beltsville, Maryland.
URL: http://www.ars-grin.gov/cgi-bin/npgs/html/taxon.pl?31089 (24 October 2011)

Winston D, Maimes S, 2007, Adaptogens: Herbs for Strength, Stamina, and Stress Relief,Healing Arts Press.

Yance, D,2004,Rhaponticum carthamoides: Monograph and Review of the Literature, American Herbalists Guild;5(2):9-17.



 

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