Shilajit: A Miracle of The Himalayas

By: Dr. R. R Dhungana

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Bitumen, Asphalt, Mineral Pitch, Asphaltum, Mummio, Mumie, Momiai Faqurual Yahud, Hajar-ul-Musa, Shilajit, Silajit, Silaras, Shilajeet, Silajita, Ral-yahudi,Silajatu

Nomenclature:

Nepali Name: Shilajit

Ayurvedic (Sanskrit) Name: Shilajatu, Shaileya, Shilaz, Shaila-dhatuz, Shilamaya, Shila-sweda, Shila-nirayasa, Asmaj1 etc.

English Name: Asphalt, Mineral Pitch, Bitumen.

Latin Name: Asphaltum panjabanium

Introduction:

Shilajit literally means “winner of Rocks”. It is also interpreted as the “Destroyer of Weakness and the Builder of Strength” . Shilajit, the miracle of Himalayas, is found in the pristine mountains of Nepal. In the summer months baking under the hot sun, the mineral pitch oozes from cracks and fissures of the rocky landscape as Shilajit.

Shilijit has been using to treat a variety of diseases in Ayurveda. In Charaka(200 BC) and Susruta Samhita (200 AD)2. It has been described as a panacea as well as RASAYANA (rejuvenative) which can cure all ailments and prolongs the life18.

Recent studies have revealed Shilazit is naturally adorned with several medicinal properties. The natural elixir has an adaptogenic property which increases the cells ability to absorb nutrients including many important trace elements. Moreover, it is proved to be as an antioxidant which counteracts free radicals. Similarly, It has many beneficial effects in human systems and helps to maintain the homeostasis in body.

 

Geographical Distribution:

Shilajit is mainly collected from serene surroundings of the Western mountains of Nepal at altitudes between 2500-5000 m5. It has also been extracted from similar mountain ranges found in Afghanistan, Bhutan, China, Pakistan, Tibet and Norway at altitudes  between 1000 and 5000 m(Tien-Shan, Ural). However, Shilajit found in Nepal is considered as the best3 and also acquired good reputation in international market for its potency and purity. The shilajit engorged pristine mountains in Nepal is also acclaimed for a superfluity of highly potential medicinal herbs.

Structural variation and Identification:

Ancient Ayurveda Archaryas(sage) Charak and Susruta have  characteristically differentiated Shilajit into Four and Six types respectively in accordance with their origins, colors, tastes and properties. Although they unanimously cleared out that Shilajit having the color of Laccifer lacca18 (dark red or blackish brown) and smell just like that of Cow’s urine with salty and bitter taste has the best medicinal properties. As physical and medicinal properties also depend in altitude, humidity, weather conditions and on the region from which it is extracted4, modern researchers claim that Shilajit found in Nepal’s untouched mountains has the most excellent and beneficial qualities.3

   

Chemical constituents:4,5

Non humic substancs or Low molecular weight organic compounds - Dibenzo-alpha pyrones 0.4-1% (w/w), phospholipids, triterpenes and phenolic acids

Humic Substances: humic acid, fulvic acid 65-70% (w/w)

Minerals or trace elements - silica, iron, antimony, calcium, copper, lithium, magnesium, manganese, molybedenum, phosphorous, silica, sodium, strontium, zinc

 

Shilajit contains humic and non-humic substances as its bioactive organic compounds. A study done by S. Goshal shows that humic substances is responsible for the major organic mass (80-85%) of shilajit. Humic substances (HS) are complex mixtures formed during decay of latex and resin bearing plant . HS are generically classified into fulvic and humic acid fractions according to their solubility properties. Humic (HA) and fulvic acids (FA) are metal-organic complexes of soil humus, which contain nitrogen, oxygen and sulphur as heteroelements in their molecules. The medicinal properties of Shilajit are ascribable to non humic substance (oxygenated di-benzo-alpha pyrones), humic substance (fulvic acids) and minerals.

 

In Ayurveda, medicinal properties and actions of a drug are assumed and determined by its Rasa (taste), Guna (quality), virya(potency), Vipak (Bio-transformed Rasa or essence) and Prabhaba (specific potency). Shilajit has3

 

Rasa (taste) : bitter, salty, astringent, pungent, sweet and sour.

Guna (quality) :heavy, unctuous and soft

Virya (action): cold

Vipaka (Essence): Pungent

 

Medicinal Properties: 6,7,8

Aphrodisiac

Anti-ulcerogenic

Adaptogenic

Immunomodulator

Antioxidant

Analgesic

Anti-inflammatory

Antiallergic

Nutritive Tonic

Hypoglycemic

Cognition Enhancer

Anxiolytic

Diuretic

 

Medicinal use

Peptic Ulcer:

Peptic ulcer is the disease of Gastro-intestinal tract. Inner lining of Stomach or duodenum ulcerates most commonly by H pylori infection and NSAIDs that responsible for acid-pepsin imbalance in stomach. The most active component of Shilajit, Fluvic acid, has ulcer protective effect as it increases the mucous barrier which prevents the acid and pepsin to diffuse back to mucosal lining of stomach and decreases acid-pepsin secretion.9  

 

Diabetes Mellitus (DM)

DM II is characterized increased blood sugar level by the combination of peripheral insulin resistance and inadequate insulin secretion by pancreatic beta cells. Shilajit plays a significant role in reduction of blood glucose level10. Gupta et al suggested that long-term treatment with shilajit increases the number of B-cells of pancreas11.  Moreover, Shilajit prevents  Diabetes by the regulation of Th1 and Th2 cell activity. T helper cells are a sub-group of lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell, that play an important role in establishing and maximizing the capabilities of the immune system.12

Sexual problems.

Shilajit is the  best natural aphrodisiac. It has the capacity to increase sexual power in men. In Ayurveda, Shilajit is prescribed  as a medicine for common sexual problems like loss of libido, erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation. Shilajit has the spermatogenic effect which  triggers the production of sperm cells and corrects the oligospermia13.

 

Arthritic conditions:

Shilajit has both analgesic and anit-inflammatory properties. It works effectively to lower down the painful conditions and inflammation in Osteoarthritis, Rheumatoid arthritis and other joint related diseases.14 Besides, the antioxidant and immunomodulater properties booster the immunity system and help to correct the autoimmune disease like Rheumatoid arthritis. In bone and muscle injuries, shilajit reduces the inflammation, bolsters healing process and shortens the recovery period.

 

 

General debility and malnutrition:

Shilajit has beneficial effects in enhancing vigor and vitality. The active constituent, Fulvic acid acts as carrier molecule to the bioactive substances during their systemic transport.4,6 Moreover, the trace elements like iron, calcium, magnesium, manganese, phosphorous and zinc contribute the body for healthful condition. In general, shilajit helps to correct the general debility accelerating the processes of protein and nucleic acid metabolism and stimulating energy providing reactions by proper utilization of food. It is also added up with immunomodulator property which engulfs the foreign invaders and helps to get rid of chronic gastrointestinal diseases and their bad consequence, the malnutrition . Even taking it in disease free condition, replenishing the body with lost energy, mineral and vitamins, shilajit, the miraculous gift of nature, rejuvenates the body and helps to prolong the life.

Neurological Disorders:

Shilajit acts as a nootripic (concentration and memory enhancer)  substantially increasing the neurochemicals like Dopamine and Acetylcholine. Attributable effects of dopamine are enhancement of attention, alertness, and antioxidant activity and responsible for short term memory. Cerebral dopamine depletion is the hallmark of Parkinson's disease15. Similarly ,Acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter, responsible for long term memory. Research has indicated that lower levels of acetylcholine are associated with Alzheimer's disease.

 

Digestive disorder.

Shilajit has beneficial effect on every digestive organs. It balances the secretion of gastric juices, bolsters pancreatic enzyme activities, increases the production of bile juice from liver, promotes the absorption of food from small intestine and cleans the large intestine. In ayurveda, it has been using for liver diseases16, IBD, IBS, colitis and mal-absorption syndrome.

 

Others:

Shilajit can also be useful on other conditions and diseases  like obesity, hyperlipidemia, allergic rhinitis, sinusitis,  burning micturation, dysuria16, anemia16, Skin diseases and Indigestion. 

 

Dosage:  250 mg to 1 gm17 Daily, generally with milk or lukewarm water,

preferable time: two hours before meal

Preferable duration: 7-49 days18 (for Rejuvenative purpose)

 

Diets and Behaviors: during medication period, if one wants good result, he/she should take liquid diet and meat soup and should avoid heavy exercise, excessive exposure to heat, sour, pungent and excessive hot, heavy, spicy and oily food and alcoholic drinks.19

 

 

Precautions:

Pitta Prakriti person, Heart burn, Acid Reflux, weak and febrile person, pregnant and lactating mother, children.

 

Contraindication:

Gouty Arthritis (Halpern 2003).

 

References:

  1. Shastri, Kashinath. Edited Rasatarangini. Motilal Banarasidas, Delhi, 2004.
  2. Shukla, Dr Bidyadhara, Tripathi, Dr Rabidatta. Ayurveda ka Itihas yabam Parichaya. Chaukhamba Sanskrit Pratisthan, Delhi, 2003.
  3. Sapkota, Dr.Chandraj. Rasausadhi Chikitsa Vigyan. Gyankungja Prakasan, 2010.
  4. 4.    Gosal, Shibnath. Chemistry of shilajit, an immunomodulatory Ayurvedic rasayan, Pure & Appl. Chem., Vol. 62, No. 7, pp. 1285-1288, 1990.

  5. Kong, Y.C. et al. (1987) Chemical studies on the Nepalese panacea-shilajit. Int. J. Crude Drug Res. 25:179-182.
  6. SHILAJIT: UNRAVALING THE MYSTERY (2007) ( A product write-up by Sabina Corporation) retrieved from http://www.sabinsa.com/products/standardized-phytoextracts/shilajit/shilajit.pdf,July 28, 2011

 

  1.  Mohd. Aamir Mirza et al. Shilajit an Ancient Panacea. IJCPR , Vol.1, Issue 1 (2-11), May 2010 – July 10. Retrieved from http://www.ijcpr.com/PDF,IJCPR/Vol1/Issue1/IJCPR,Vol1,Issue1,Article1.pdf

 

  1. Misra, Siddinandan. Ayurvedia Rasasatra. Chaukhamba orientalia, Banaras, 2oo6.
  2. S. Ghosal, S.K. Singh, Y. Kumar, R.S. Srivastava, R.K  Goel, R. Dey and S.K.Bhattacharya, Phytother. Res.,2, 187-191 (1988).

10. N. A. Trivedi, B. Mazumdar, J. D. Bhatt, K. G. Hemavathi. Effect of shilajit on blood glucose and lipid profile in alloxan induced diabetic rats, Indian J Pharmacol. Vol 36, Issue 6, 373-376, December 2004 

 

11. Gupta SS. Effect of Shilajit, Ficus Bengalensis & ant. Pituitary extract on glucose tolerance in rats. Indian J Med Res 1966;54:354-66.

 

12. Basnet, Purusotam. Shilajit: A Himalayan Natural Resource for the Prevention of Diabetes, Univerisity of Tromso, retrieved from

www.norinnova.no/content/.../file/Poster+Shilajit-Purusotam+Basnet.pdf. July 28, 2011

13. Park JS, Kim GY, Han K. The spermatogenic and ovogenic effects of chronically administered Shilajit to rats. J Ethnopharmacol. 2006 Oct 11;107(3):349-53

14. Talbert, Robert. Shilajit, A Materia Medica Monograph, Aug 30, 2004. Retrieved from www.jivaka.com/org/docs/paper/Talbert%20Paper.pdf, July 28, 2011

15. Vernier,Phillipe et al. The Degeneration of Dopamine Neurons in Parkinson’s Disease, Ann. N.Y. Acad. Sci. 1035: 231–249,2004. Doi: 10.1196/annals.1332.015

16. Vagbhatta Acharya. Rasa Ratna Samuchaya. Edited by Dattatreya Anantha Kulkarni. Maharchanda Lachmandas Publications, 1998.

17. Baidya, Pandit Sri Lalchandra Ji. Edited Bhasijya Ratnawali. Motilal Banarasidas,Delhi, 2007.

18. Sukla, Bidyadhara. Tripathi, Rabidatta. Edited Charak Samhita. Chaukhamba Sanskrit Pratisthan, Delhi, 2006.

19. Dwadupantha, Bhajandas Swami. Rasa Darpan. Vol.1. Nath Pustak Bhandar,Hariyana, 1997 

 

Research articles:

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, 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.

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

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

Goel RK, Banerjee RS, Acharya SB. Antiulcerogenic and antiinflammatory studies with shilajit. Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 1990 Apr; 29(1): 95-103.

Gupta SS, Seth CB, Mathur VS. Effect of Gurmar and shilajit on body weight of young rats. Indian J Physiol Pharmacol. 1966 Apr; 9(2): 87-92.

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

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.

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.

Peerzada, N.H., M. Nojek, M.I. Bhatti and S.A. Tariq. 1992. Shilajit: Part 1. Bioavailability of nutrient metals, biological, thermal and spectroscopic properties of shilajit from Australia and Pakistan. Sci. Int. (Lahore),4 (1), 39-44. (CA: 117: 205044y).

Bhattacharya SK, Sen AP (1992) Effect of Shilajit on rat brain monamines. Phytotherapy Res.Vol 6, 163-164.

Bhattacharya SK, Satyan KS, Chakrabarti A (1997) Effect of Trasina, an Ayurvedic herbal formulation, on pancreatic islet superoxide dismutase activity in hyperglycaemic rats. Indian J Exp Biol; 35(3):297-299

Bhattacharya, Sen AP and Ghosal S (1995). Effects of Shilajit on biogenic free radicals. Phytotherapy Res. Vol 9, 56-59.

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

Kong, Y.G., et al. (1987) Chemical studies on the Nepalese panacea-shilajit. Int. J. Crude Drug Res. 25:179-182.

N. A. Trivedi, B. Mazumdar, J. D. Bhatt, K. G. Hemavathi. Effect of shilajit on blood glucose and lipid profile in alloxan induced diabetic rats, Indian J Pharmacol. Vol 36, Issue 6, 373-376, December 2004 

Gupta SS. Effect of Shilajit, Ficus Bengalensis & ant. Pituitary extract on glucose tolerance in rats. Indian J Med Res 1966;54:354-66.

Basnet, Purusotam. Shilajit: A Himalayan Natural Resource for the Prevention of Diabetes, Univerisity of Tromso

Park JS, Kim GY, Han K. The spermatogenic and ovogenic effects of chronically administered Shilajit to rats. J Ethnopharmacol. 2006 Oct 11;107(3):349-53

Agarwal SP, Khanna R, Karmarkar R, Anwer MK, Khar RK. 2007. Shilajit: a review. Phytother Res 21: 401–405.

Bhaumik S, Chattopadhyay S, Ghosal S. 1993. Effect of Shilajit on mouse peritoneal macrophages. Phytother Res 7: 425–427

Tiwari VP, Tiwari KC, Joshi PJ. An interpretation of Ayurvedika findings on Shilajit. J Res Indigenous Med 1973;8:57.

 

By Dr Raja Ram Dhungana
BAMS (Bachelor in Ayurvedic Medicine and Surgery), IOM, TU
APDCR (Advanced PG Dip. in clinical Research), Cliniminds