Rhaponticum carthamoides (Willd.) Iljin is a perennial herb, commonly known as a maral root or Russian leuzea, which has been used for centuries in eastern parts of Russia for its marked medicinal properties. This review based on 117 literary sources, with many of them being originally published in non-English languages (mainly in Russian), discusses the current knowledge of traditional uses, chemistry, biological effects and toxicity of this species. Several different classes of compounds were previously isolated from various parts of R. carthamoides of which the main groups are steroids, particularly ecdysteroids, and phenolics (flavonoids and phenolic acids) accompanied with polyacetylenes, sesquiterpene lactones, triterpenoid glycosides and terpenes (essential oil). A comprehensive account of the chemical constituents is given in this review (figures of 120 structures are shown). Various types of preparations, extracts and individual compounds derived from this species have been found to possess a broad spectrum of pharmacological effects on several organs such as the brain, blood, cardiovascular and nervous systems as well as on different biochemical processes and physiological functions including proteosynthesis, work capacity, reproduction, and sexual function. Moreover, the extracts and preparations from the plant, which are hopefully safe, exhibited various additional biological effects e.g. antioxidant, immunomodulatory, anticancerogenic, antimicrobial, antiparasitic and insect antifeedant or repellent activities. The results of data analysis on the chemical, pharmacological and toxicological characteristics of R. carthamoides support the view that this species has beneficial therapeutic properties and indicate its potential as an effective adaptogenic herbal remedy. Finally, some suggestions for further research on chemical and pharmacological properties are given in this review.