Rhaponticum carthamoides is a rare endemic plant belonging to the Composite family. It is a big herbal perennial, reaching 130 cm in height. Leuzea grows on the mountain slopes in a limited area of southern Siberia (Altai, Sayan Mountains). It does not exist as a wild growing plant in other region of the world. Because of the limited distribution of Leusea in nature and because the plant grows slowly, the collection of wild-growing Leuzea in Russia is under government control and is restricted. The history of Leuzea as a medicinal plant began ages ago when local hunters watched the behavior of a variety of deer known as Marals. At the time of mating, when males fight each other and need to restore their strength, stags dig out and eat Leuzea root. Local healers discovered that consumption of dried Leuzea root by man also helped him recover from fatigue and increase his sexual potency. The plant was thereafter named Maral root, now the official common name of Leuzea.

For body builders and other athletes, a stronger and more powerful body is the holy grail. To this end, enter Rhaponticum carthamoides, a little-known plant which just may possess the power to turn the sports world on its ear. In Russia and Eastern European countries, Rhaponticum is regularly used in conjunction with Siberian ginseng and Rhodiola, to improve all parameters of sports performance. What makes Rhaponticum so special is that it appears to be a true anabolic agent, enabling the body to produce more lean muscle mass. This is good news for athletes who might otherwise be lured by steroids.

Also known as Maral Root, Rhaponticum carthamoides is an herbaceous perennial growing between 4,500 -6,000 feet above sea level. The plant can be found growing wild in Southern Siberia, Kazakhstan, the Altai region, and Western Sayan Mountains. Rhaponticum is also cultivated throughout Russia and Eastern Europe. Rhaponticum derives its traditional name, Maral Root from the Maral Deer who feed on it. As a traditional remedy, Rhaponticum has been used to allay fatigue, treat impotence, speed recovery from illness, and improve mood in cases of mild depression. Modern research conducted in Russia and Eastern Europe indicates that Maral Root may indeed exert a beneficial effect cases of impotence, improve memory and learning, increase working capacity of tired skeletal muscles, and possess anabolic and adaptogenic properties.

Rhaponticum carthamoides contains a number of antioxidant flavonoids and natural sterols, including a substance called 20-Hydroxyecdysone, which has been shown to increase protein production at the cellular level, and in turn enhance the production of muscle tissue. Research conducted in Russia shows that extracts of Rhaponticum can significantly increase muscle mass, while decreasing body fat in athletes who use it while exercising. Research also shows that Rhaponticum extract can help to increase work capacity and endurance, while reducing mental and physical fatigue.

Additional scientific studies performed on Rhaponticum have shown this herb improves overall physical performance, and shortens recovery time after an intense workout. Observations of the influence of Rhaponticum on the cardiovascular system have shown that its ability to increase physical work capacity is partially due to its ability to improve food supply to the muscles and brain. One study of 60 military cadets using rhaponticum extract documented an improvement in appetite, sleep, and general physical and mental state.

In athletes who use the roots regularly, Rhaponticum demonstrates a marked anabolic effect, and aids the body in the synthesis of protein. The full roots, also appears to protect the body from environmental stress. Rhaponticum is prescribed to athletes by Russian sports physicians in order to replenish depleted physical and psychical reserves that become exhausted as a result of hard training. After taking Rhaponticum carthamoides root tea or tincture, an increase in muscle mass and a decrease in fat tissue has been documented by researchers.

Scientific studies of Leuzea's influence on the organism began in Russia in the 1940's, during World War II, when the country had needed medication to help restore the strength of warriors …. An ethanol extract of dried Leuzea root contain tannins, phytoecdysones, flavonoids, glycosides, lignins, alkaloids, vitamins, organic acids and some yet-to-be-identified compounds.

Numerous experiments on animals and humans in clinical trials have made it possible to establish that Leuzea extract: • Increases the rate at which ATP (source of energy in cells) is restored; • Contributes to an increase of muscle mass; • Reinforces contractions of the heart muscles; • Improves blood circulation in muscles and brain; • Increases resistance to oxygen starvation; • Elevates the ability and mobility of spermatozoids in vitro; • Accelerates sexual maturity and the first pregnancy of female animals; • Prevents development of experimental hyper and hypoglycemia, leukocytosis, leucopoenia, erythrocytosis and erythropenit; • Improves transmition of impulse interneuronal synapse depressed by the drug sodium barbital; • Neutralizes the suppressive effect on the brain by sodium barbital; • Restores the capacity to focus, concentrate and perform mental work in men while mentally fatigued; • Increases the resistance to the common cold;

In addition, clinical trial have shown that Leuzea extract has the ability to prevent and eliminate stress-induced pathological conditions, especially during their initial stages. In particular, it improves the focus and attention in persons whose duties require great concentration (such as traffic controllers, pilots and cosmonauts). Leuzea extract prevents stress-induced sleep disorders and does not evoke an unpleasant sensations such as psychosis, retardation, slugish distress, apathy and headaches, which were observed following the intake of sleeping pills. The extract has a positive influence on the initial stages asthenia and sexual malfunction. It also slightly decreases the sugar content in the blood during the initial stage of diabetes mellitus.

Among various active constituents of Leuzea extract the most interesting is ecdysterone - a polyhydrodated sterol belonging to ecdysone group. The ecdysterone content in dried Leuzea root can reach as high as 0.7%. Ecdysterone also exists in some insects and crustaceans…. but not in vertebrate animals or in humans. In insects and crustaceans ecdysterone is synthesized in trase p?… as hormone to regulate protein synthesis.

Because ecdysterones are not known to exist in humans scientists study did not pay attention to man as subject for research of ecdysterone activity. Later scientists established that ecdysterone is physiologically active..... It has now been demonstrated that ecdysteron: • Possesses anabolic activity - the ability to increase muscle mass - while not destroying androgen function (in contrast to the well-known anabolic steroids); • Stimulates RNA synthesis in liver cells (thereby increasing protein synthesis); • Activates brain synthesis of glutamate decarboxylase (an enzyme which is responsible for synthesis of gamma-aminobutyric acid, an inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain); • Activates the brain synthesis of acetylcholine esterase (an enzyme which participates in regulation of nerve impulse transmssion in cholinergic neurons); • Activates synthesis of decarboxylase (an ezyme participating in formation of adrenaline); • Activates synthesis catalase (an enzyme that destroys H2O2, which can damage DNA and cellular membranes); • Activates synthesis of glucose dehydrogenase, acid phosphatase and malate dehydrogenase (enzymes which take part in cell energy generation); • Protects nuclear chromatin in chromosome component) in liver cells against free radical oxidation induced by tetrachloromethane in experimental animals, thus significantly increasing their survival; • Provides protective action experimental arteriosclerosis in rabbits; • Restores phospholipids og liver mitochondria pathologically changed by insulin insufficiency under experimental alloxan diabetes mellitus in animals; • Eliminates experimental arrhythmia and improves heart contractility during coronary artery occlusion in animals; • Has an immunomodulating effect on lymphocyte production by the spleen;

The mechanism behind the actions of ecdysterone is probably similar to that of human steroid hormones. This means that hormone receptors on human cells interact with the ecdysterone. Human endogenous hormones have, however, an advantage over ecdysterone because of their higher affinity to the hormone receptors. When human steroid hormones are produced in sufficient quantities in the body, ecdysterone cannot compete with endogenous hormones for the receptors and therefore does not have an effect. But when there is a deficiency in the body of its own hormones, ecdysterone can bind to unoccupied steroid hormone receptors, replacing the missing endogenous hormone.