Adaptogenic maral root shows early promise for stress relief but more research is needed.
Maral root is an alpine plant that has long been used as an adaptogen. It may help with stress through:
- Reducing anxiety. Maral root appears to have anxiolytic effects.
- Improving stress resistance. Maral root boosts immunity and helps the body deal with stress.
Maral root (Rhaponticum carthamoides) is a perennial herb that inhabits the high altitude regions of Eastern Europe and Siberia. Its potential capacity to invigorate animals that consume it, including the deer or maral after which it’s named, has led to speculation that it may toughen the body and boost immunity.
As is the case with other adaptogens of Russian origin – such as eleuthero and rhodiola – maral root has deeply embedded associations with strength, libido, and stress resistance. Indeed, it has been used in traditional Russian and Chinese medicine for centuries to enhance physical strength and sexual performance.
Ecdysteroids are the main ingredient of maral root. Ecdysteroids are hormones involved in the molting and maturation of various plants and insects. In insects, ecdysteroids seem to be involved in multiple processes, including stress resistance, suggesting a link to maral root’s adaptogenic qualities.1
How Maral Root May Help With Stress
Bolster Stress Resistance
As far as bioactive ingredients go, the prime component of maral roots is the ecdysteroid known as ecdysterone.2 In conjunction with other other ecdysteroids and phenolics, ecdysterone seems to not only affect the cardiovascular and central nervous system, but also protein synthesis (i.e., muscle growth) and sexual function.
Although the specific mechanisms by which ecdysterone and other components of maral root work remain unclear, maral root extracts have demonstrated antioxidant, immune-boosting, and stress-resisting effects.3
Maral Root Uses & Proposed Benefits for Stress
As an adaptogen, maral root is used to defend against external stressors, be they environmental or physiological. This gives it a wide range of applications, including:
- Boosting the immune system
- Antioxidant activity4
- Reducing anxiety
- Helping with sleep
- Lowering blood pressure
- Reducing mental and physical fatigue
However, as the case with many adaptogenic herbs, there is a distinct lack of clinical research evidence to back these and other uses of maral root.
Although limited, the available research sheds a positive light on maral root’s ability to strengthen the body’s defense against external stressors.
In this investigation, 6-month old male rats on a high-fat diet were given extracts of either Rhaponticum cathamoides (ERC), Glycyrrhiza glabra (EGG), or Punica granatum extracts (EPG) at 300 mg per kg of body weight every day for 8 weeks. Levels of stress markers IL-6 and corticosterone were lowered in all rats, but the ERC group also had significant improvements in TNF-α and adrenal corticosterone levels.
- The study concluded that “ERC powder supplementation improved glucose and lipid metabolism…supporting the strategy of R. carthamoides use for safe relief of metabolic syndrome and its related disturbances such as inflammation, stress, and hepatic steatosis.”5
In experiment I of this investigation, male rats given N-feruloylserotonins (a substance drawn from maral root) showed a reduced level of stress after swimming, but not other activities. In experiment II, N-feruloylserotonins reduced anxiety in rats undergoing a maze test.
- The study concluded that “N-feruloylserotonins have selective stress-reducing effects in stress-sensitive animals.”6
In this investigation, Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cells exposed to maral root extract demonstrated significantly higher gene expression and protein levels of antioxidants when exposed to an oxidative agent.
- The study concluded that “R. carthamoides may possess antioxidant properties that protect CHO cells against oxidative stress.”7
Clinical studies directly examining the relationship between maral root and stress in humans are currently lacking.
Dosage for Stress
- There is currently no known dosage of maral root for stress
- Maral root supplements typically come in the form of root power with doses of 1 teaspoon (~4 grams) daily
Supplements in Review Says
- Maral root powder, 1 teaspoon (~4 grams) for stress.
Maral root seems to show early promise in stress resistance but more research is required. Maral root exhibits potential as a stress resistor but the lack of clinical studies makes it subject to scrutiny. Although likely to impart anxiolytic and immune-boosting benefits, this adaptogen needs more evidence before it can be recommended.
The safest bet for maral root supplementation is root powder. Maral root powder at about 1 teaspoon per day seems to be the best option.
- Uryu O, Ameku T, et al. Recent progress in understanding the role of ecdysteroids in adult insects: Germline development and circadian clock in the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster. Zoological Letters. 2015 Nov;1(32). ↩
- Baltaev UA. Phytoecdysteroids of Rhaponticum carthamoides III. Rhapisterone C. Chemistry of Natural Compounds. 1992 Mar;28(2):198-200. ↩
- Kokoska L, Janovska D. Chemistry and pharmacology of Rhaponticum carthamoides: a review. Phytochemistry. 2009 May;70(7):842-55. ↩
- Kolechkar V, Opletal L, et al. Evaluation of natural antioxidants of Leuzea carthamoides as a result of a screening study of 88 plant extracts from the European Asteraceae and Cichoriaceae. J Enzyme Inhib Med Chem. 2008 Apr;23(2):218-24. ↩
- Dushkin M, Khrapova M, et al. Effects of rhaponticum carthamoides versus glycyrrhiza glabra and punica granatum extracts on metabolic syndrome signs in rats. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2014 Jan 20;14:33. ↩
- Yamamotova A, Pometlova M, et al. The selective effect of N-feruloylserotonins isolated from Leuzea carthamoides on nociception and anxiety in rats. J Ethnopharmacol. 2007 Jun 13;112(2):368-74. ↩
- Skala E, Sitarek P, et al. Antioxidant and DNA Repair Stimulating Effect of Extracts from Transformed and Normal Roots of Rhaponticum carthamoides against Induced Oxidative Stress and DNA Damage in CHO Cells. Oxid Med Cell Longev. 2016;2016:5753139. ↩