Using Maralroot (Leuzea carthamoides, syn. Rhaponticum carthamoides)
Answered by: Conrad Richter
Question: Edith Wootton

Could you please tell me what you know about dosage, tincture extraction and any other information I should know about using my new Maralroot plant?

Maralroot (Leuzea carthamoides; also known as Rhaponticum carthamoides) is relatively unknown in the West. In Russia and eastern Europe, maralroot has a reputation for its "adaptogenic" action. Ginseng is an example of a well-known adaptogenic herb that helps to restore normal functioning in many body processes. For example, maralroot, like ginseng, has helped high performance athletes to recover from the stress of training.

There is little literature available in English that gives details on doses and how to prepare the medicine. There is virtually nothing in the popular literature, so we draw on some of the research that has been done over the past five decades in eastern Europe.

A 1987 Bulgarian study [1] looked at the dose-response of a root extract on learning and memory in rats. The root extract was administered orally at 0.25, 0.5 and 2.5 grams root per kilogram body weight for 10 days prior to memory and learning experiments. The low dose had no effect on learning and the high dose impaired learning, while the middle dose improved learning. The middle dose also eliminated completely a drug-induced memory impairment. We have no details on how the extract was prepared but our reading of the literature suggests that water-based and alcohol-based extracts of the root both work.

A 1995 Russian study [2] used a half glass of root extract 4-5 times a day for two months on humans to treat depression in alcoholics. The extract was prepared as a decoction, but at what ratio of root to water is not stated in the abstract of the study we looked at. A decoction is prepared by boiling the root in water for a period of time. In this case, it is not clear how long the decoction boiled.

There is a good summary of the pharmacological effect and use of maralroot in a Finnish-Hungarian paper [3] by Bertalan Galambosi and colleagues. It says that doses of up to 40 milligrams of extract per kilogram of body weight were shown to be non-toxic. It also says that maralroot rhizomes and roots are official in the Russian Pharmakopoeia. "The fluid extract and the crude ecdysteroid fraction obtained from the roots are used in the production of Ecdysten tablets which are used in the official medicine in Russia," according to Galambosi et al.

Typically, the roots are harvested in August or early September of the third year. Second year roots have much the same composition as thrid year roots, but the root size and yield is typically lower. Roots may be extracted fresh or dried. The procedure to dry the roots is the same for other roots such as echinacea and ginseng.

Because this herb is so new to the West, we do not have the benefit of years of trial and error as we do with most other herbs. For this reason alone one must exercise caution in using maralroot preparations. However, the research literature and the history of use in eastern Europe and Russia suggest that this herb is very effective and useful for many conditions.

Literature Cited:

[1] Mosharrof AH 1987. Effects of extract from Rhaponticum carthamoides (Willd) Iljin (Leuzea) on learning and memory in rats. Acta Physiol Pharmacol Bulg; 13(3):37-42. [Published erratum appears in Acta Physol Pharmacol Bulg 1987; 13(4):70.]

[2] Ibatov AN 1995. The use of a decoction of the rhizome of Leuzea carthamoides for the treatment of alcoholics with depressive states, Zh Nevropatol Psikhiatr Im S S Korsakova; 95(4):78-79.

[3] Galambosi B, Varga E, Hajdu Zs, Jokela K 1997. Introduction of Leuzea carthamoides DC as an adaptive medicinal plant in the nordic climate. Drogenreport 10:5-9.

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