Introduction to Shilajit

Shilajit is a truly remarkable substance with a long history of human usage for healing. It exudes from layers of rocks in many mountain ranges of the world, especially the Himalayas and Hindukush ranges of the Indian subcontinent.

Analysis has shown it to consist of a complex mixture of organic humic substances and plant and microbial metabolites occurring in the rock rhizospheres of its natural habitat.

The biological effects of shilajit (also known as silajit, shilajeet, silajatu, mumiyo and asphaltum) have been ascribed to two distinct classes of compounds. The low molecular weight bioactive organic compounds, such as oxygenated dibenzo-α-pyrones, act as the active substances, and medium molecular weight fulvic and humic acids act as carrier molecules for in vivo transportation of these bioactive molecules (Agarwal, Aqil, & Anwer, 2007; Agarwal, Khanna, Karmarkar, Anwer, & Khar, 2007).

Fulvic acid (FA) and humic acid have a microporous structure. FA and humic acid are thus capable of forming complexes with nonpolar solutes and drug molecules with low bioavailability (Agarwal, Khanna, Karmarkar, Anwer, & Khar, in press). These drug molecules can be entrapped in the void so as to increase their solubility and dissolution rate, thereby enhancing their bioavailability (Ghosal, 2003; Khanna, 2006).

Traditional Uses of Shilajit

Pure Shilajit as a Panacea

The Caraka Samhita discusses shilajit in a chapter on rejuvenation therapy (rasayana). It has been proposed that the modern equivalent of a rasayana is an adaptogenic substance. (Ghosal 1998).

The Caraka Samhita states that there is no curable disease in the universe, which is not effectively cured by shilajit when it is administered at the appropriate time, in combination with suitable drugs and by adopting the prescribed method. When administered to a healthy person, with similar conditions it produces immense energy. In the Sushruta Samhita, it is noted that there is no bodily distemper, which does not yield to shilajit’s highly curative virtues. When gradually taken, (in adequate doses) it tends to improve the strength and complexion of the body. (Bhishagratna 1998). This echoed in the Astanga Hrdayam which also states that it is the best rejuvenator (Murthy 2001).

Shilajit for Increasing Longevity

The Caraka states that it enables the user to witness a hundred summers on earth, free from disease and decay. Each tulä weight (7.75 lbs. or 3.5 kilos) of shilajit taken successively, adds a century to the duration of the human life, while ten tulä weight (77.5 lbs. or 35 kilos) measures extend it to a thousand years (Sharma 2000). Additional quantities are said to extend lifetime in increments of a century up to one thousand years. (Bhishagratna 1998).

Shilajit Research Papers

There is a wealth of scientific evidence available for the efficacy of Shilajit:

Acharya SB, Frotan MH, Goel RK, Tripathi SK, Das PK. Pharmacological actions of Shilajit. Indian J Exp Biol. 1988 Oct; 26(10): 775-7.

Agarwal, S.P., Khanna, R., Karmarkar, R., Anwer, M.K., Khar, R.K., 2007. Shilajit: a review. Phytotherapy Research 21, 401–405.

Agarwal, S.P., Anwer, M.K., Aqil, M., 2008a. Complexation of furosemide with fulvic acid extracted from Shilajit: a novel approach. Drug Development and Industrial Pharmacy 34, 506–511.

Agarwal, S.P., Khanna, R., Karmarkar, R., Anwer, M.K., Khar, R.K., 2008b.
Physico-chemical, spectral and thermal characterization of Shilajit, a humic substance with medicinal properties. Asian Journal of Chemistry 20, 209–217.

Bhishagratna KK. Susruta Samhita Vol 2, Chapter XIII. Varanasi, India: Chowkhamba Sanskrit Series Office, Varansi-1, 1998.

Bucci LR. Selected herbals and human exercise performance. American Society for Clinical Nutrition, 2000 Aug; 72(2 Suppl): 624S-36S. Review.

Chen, Y., Senesi, N., Schnitzer, M., 1977. Information provided on humic substances by E4/E6 ratios. Soil Science Society of America Journal 41,352–358.

Chopra, R.A., Chopra, I.C., Handa, K.L., 1958. Indigenous Drugs of India. U.N. Dhar and Sons, Calcutta. pp. 457–461.

Christl, I., Knicker, H., Kogel-Knabner, I., Kretzschmar, R., 2000. Chemical heterogeneity of humic substances: characterization of size fractions obtained by hollow-fibre ultrafiltration. European Journal of Soil Science 51, 617–625.

Dittmar, T., Koch, B.P., Hertkorn, N., Kattner, G., 2008. A simple and efficient method for the solid-phase extraction of dissolved organic matter (SPE-DOM) from seawater. Limnology and Oceanography: Methods 6, 230–235.

Einsiedl, F., Hertkorn, N., Wolf, M., Frommberger, M., Schmitt-Kopplin, P., Koch, B.P., 2007. Rapid biotic molecular transformation of fulvic acids in a karst aquifer. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 71, 5474–5482.

Frotan, M.H., and Acharya, S.B. Pharmacological studies of shilajit. Indian Journal of Pharmacolgy 1984 16,45.

Ghosal, S., 1989. Shilajit.6. The facets and facts of Shilajit. In: Vohara, S.B., Dandiya, P.C. (Eds.), Research and Development of Indigenous Drugs. Institute of History of Medicine and Medical Research, New Delhi, pp.72–80.

Ghosal S, Lal J, Singh SK, Goel RK, Jaiswal AK, Bhattacharya SK. The need for formulation of Shilajit by its isolated active constituents. Phytotherapy Res 1991; 5: 211-6.

Ghosal, S., 1990. Chemistry of Shilajit, an immunomodulatory rasayan. Pure and Applied Chemistry 62, 1285–1288.

Ghosal, S., 1992. Shilalit: its origin and significance. Indian Journal of
Indigenous Medicine 9, 1–4.

Ghosal S, Reddy JP, Lal VK. Shilajit I: chemical constituents. Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences 1976 May; 65(5): 772-3.

Ghosal S, Singh SK, Kumar Y, Srivatsava R. Antiulcerogenic activity of fulvic acids and 4-metoxy-6-carbomethyl biphenyl isolated from shilajit. Phytother Res. 1988;2:187-91.

Ghosal, S., 1993. Shilajit: Its origin and vital significance. In: Mukherjee, B. (Ed.), Traditional Medicine. Oxford – IBH, New Delhi, pp. 308–319.

Ghosal, S., Reddy, J.P., Lal, V.K., 1976. Shilajit I: chemical constituents. Journal of Pharmaceutical Science 65, 772–773.

Gondar, D., Lopez, R., Fiol, S., Antelo, J.M., Arce, F., 2005. Characterization and acid–base properties of fulvic and humic acids. Geoderma 126, 367–374.

Hockaday, W.C., Grannas, A.M., Hatcher, P.G., 2005. Interactions between black carbon and natural organic matter: influence on the sorptive uptake of pyrene by forest soil. Abstracts of Papers of the American Chemical Society 229, U886.

Jaiswal AK, Bhattacharya SK. Effects of Shilajit on memory, anxiety and brain monoamines in rats. Indian Journal of Pharmacology 1992; 24:12 – 17.

Kim, S., Kramer, R.W., Hatcher, P.G., 2003. Graphical method for analysis of ultrahigh-resolution broadband mass spectra of natural organic matter, the van Krevelen diagram. Analytical Chemistry 75, 5336–5344.

Koch, B.P., Dittmar, T., 2006. From mass to structure: an aromaticity index for high-resolution mass data of natural organic matter. Rapid Communications in Mass Spectrometry 20, 926–932.

Koch, B.P., Witt, M., Engbrodt, R., Dittmar, T., Kattner, G., 2005. Molecular formulae of marine and terrigenous dissolved organic matter detected by electrospray ionisation Fourier transform ion cyclotron resonance mass spectrometry. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 69, 3299–3308.

Koch, B.P., Witt, M., Kattner, G., Dittmar, T., 2007. Fundamentals of molecular formula assignment to ultrahigh resolution mass data of natural organic matter. Analytical Chemistry 79, 1758–1763.

Kramer, R.W., Kujawinski, E.B., Hatcher, P.G., 2004. Identification of black carbon derived structures in a volcanic ash soil humic acid by Fourier transform ion cyclotron resonance mass spectrometry. Environmental Science & Technology 38, 3387–3395.

Kujawinski, E.B., Freitas, M.A., Zang, X., Hatcher, P.G., Green-Church, K.B.,
Jones, R.B., 2002. The application of electrospray ionization mass spectrometry (ESI-MS) to the structural characterization of natural organic matter. Organic Geochemistry 33, 171–180.

Martin, F., 1975. Humic acids from lignite. 1. Analytical characteristics and thermal-degradation. Fuel 54, 236–240.

Schepetkin, I.A., Khlebnikov, A.I., Kwon, B.S., 2002. Medical drugs from
humus matter: focus on mumie. Drug Development Research 57, 140–159.

Schepetkin, I.A., Khlebnikov, A.I., Ah, S.Y., Woo, S.B., Jeong, C.S., Klubachuk, O.N., Kwon, B.S., 2003. Characterization and biological activities of humic substances from mumie. Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry 51, 5245–5254.

Schliebs R, Liebmann A, Bhattacharya SK, Kumar A, Ghosal S, Bigl V. Systemic administration of defined extracts from Withania somnifera (Indian Ginseng) and Shilajit differentially affects cholinergic but not glutamatergic and GABAergic markers in rat brain. Neurochem Int. 1997 Feb; 30(2):181-90.

Schnitzer, M., 1972. Chemical, spectroscopic and thermal methods for the
classification and characterization of humic substances. In: Proceedings International Meeting Humic Substances, Nieuwersluis, Wageningen, pp. 293–307.

Senesi, N., Miano, T.M., Provenzano, M.R., Brunetti, G., 1989. Spectroscopic
and compositional comparative characterization of i.h.s.s. reference and standard fulvic and humic acids of various origin. The Science of the Total Environment 81/82, 143–156.

Stenson, A.C., Marshall, A.G., Cooper, W.T., 2003. Exact masses and chemical formulas of individual Suwannee River fulvic acids from ultrahigh resolution electrospray ionization Fourier transform ion cyclotron resonance mass spectra. Analytical Chemistry 75, 1275–1284.

Stevenson, F.J., Goh, K.M., 1971. Infrared spectra of humic acids and related substances. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 35, 471–483.

Tan, K.H., Giddens, J.E., 1972. Molecular weights and spectral characteristics of humic and fulvic acids. Geoderma 8, 221–229.

Tiwari P, Ramarao P, Ghosal S. Effects of Shilajit on the development of tolerance to morphine in mice. Phytother Res. 2001 Mar; 15(2): 177-9.

Ziechmann, W., 1964. Spectroscopic investigations of lignin, humic substances and peat. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 28, 1555–1566.