What is shilajit

Shilajit also known as mumijo, mumie and momia, is a pale‐brown to blackish‐brown exudation (asphaltum) of variable consistency, exuding from layers of rocks as they become warm in the summer months in many mountain ranges of the world, especially the Himalayas and Hindukush ranges of the Indian subcontinent 1). Shilajit is derived from long-term humification of Euphorbia and Trifolium (clover) plants 2). Common people describe it from their knowledge as pahar‐ki‐pasina (sweat of mountains), paharki‐khoon (mountain blood), shilaras (rock juice), asphalt, bitumen, etc 3). Shilajit is composed of rock humus, rock minerals and organic substances that have been compressed by layers of rock mixed with marine organisms and microbial metabolites 4). Shilajit has been found to consist of a complex mixture of organic humic substances and plant and microbial metabolites occurring in the rock rhizospheres of its natural habitat 5). A derivative of Shilajit, fulvic acid complex, consists of naturally occurring low- and medium-molecular-weight compounds, including oxygenated dibenzo-alpha-pyrones and acylated dibenzo-alpha-pyrones 6). It is believed dibenzo-alpha-pyrone, fulvic acid and their derivatives are the principal constituents of Shilajit contributing to these effects 7). The fulvic acid stimulates blood formation, energy production, and prevents cold exposure and hypoxia 8). Fulvic acid actively takes part in the transportation of nutrients into deep tissues and helps to overcome tiredness, lethargy, and chronic fatigue 9). It also works effectively as a tonic for cardiac, gastric, and nervous systems, adaptogen and antistress agent 10).

Shilajit has been used as a rejuvenator and an adaptogen for thousands of years, in one form or another, as part of traditional systems of medicine in a number of countries. Shilajit is widely used in the preparation of Ayurvedic medicines and is regarded as one of the most important ingredients in Ayurvedic system of medicine, the traditional Indian system of medicine 11). Shilajit is used as an adaptogen 12).

Early Ayurvedic writings from the Charaka Samhita 13) describe Shilajit as a cure for all diseases as well as a Rasayana (rejuvenator) that promises to increase longevity.

Traditional uses of Shilajit primarily focus not only on diabetes and diseases of the urinary tract, but also on edema, tumors, muscle wasting, epilepsy and even insanity 14). Modern indications extend to all systems of the human body with a significant number of additions in the reproductive and nervous system 15).

Several toxicological studies, both acute and subchronic, have already been performed on Shilajit throughout the world. Oral LD50 (lethal dose 50 where 50% of the test subjects die) was found to be >2000 mg/kg 16) and Shilajit was proved to be safe at doses of 0.2–1.0 g per kg body weight when used chronically 17). Clinical evaluation of spermatogenic activity of processed shilajit in oligospermia 18) revealed that there was no alteration on objective features related to any systemic toxicities such as serum urea, uric acid, serum bilirubin, total protein, serum globulin, alanine aminotransferase (ALT), aspartate aminotransferase (AST) and alkaline phosphatase (ALP) 19). Besides, it was also observed that there was a significant improvement in semen volume (+37.6%), total sperm count (+61.4%), motility (12.4–17.4% after different time intervals), normal sperm count (+18.9%) and total testosterone (+23.5%) with concomitant decrease in pus and epithelial cell count compared with baseline value in 28 patients of oligospermia after 90 days of treatment with purified shilajit at a dose of 100 mg twice daily 20). An unpublished human safety study of purified Shilajit from Natreon, Inc., New Brunswick, NJ, USA by the present authors has demonstrated the safety of this product at 250 mg twice a day dosing 21) and an unpublished animal study in rats with 100 mg/kg body weight (equivalent to human dose of 850 mg) by Natreon showed a significant increase in testosterone levels 22). Processed Shilajit containing biologically active component di‐benzo‐alpha‐pyrone is earlier reported to increase the spermatogenic activity in selected patients of oligospermia 23).

Figure 1. Shilajit (asphaltum)


Shilajit traditional medicine uses

Shilajit is an Ayurvedic drug with a long history of human use and has been used in nervous, diabetic, urinary, immune, cardiac, and digestive disorders, and is also used as a performance enhancer 24). Traditionally, it has been recommended for the cure of almost all kinds of human diseases. Shilajit other uses are as a lithotriptic (an agent that effects the dissolution of a calculus), antiseptic 25), analgesic, anti asthmatic agent 26), and in the treatment of AIDS 27), parasitic infections 28), chronic fever, jaundice 29), obesity 30), sexual disorders 31), and thyroid disorders 32). Astanga Hradaya also states that it is the best rejuvenator 33). Ancient works such as the Hindu Materia Medica, Charaka Samhita, and Susruta Samhita also describe the medicinal properties of Shilajit.

Shilajit can be very useful in the treatment of high-altitude cerebral edema-like conditions of the brain as it maintains the extracellular volume in the body through its diuretic action, and removes the excess fluid and toxins from the brain as well as the body 34). It improves memory and enhances confidence for better handling of stress 35); it also has very good antioxidant properties 36).

Shilajit may play a potential role in the treatment of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases 37) as it is an immunostimulant and has been found to be very effective in treating immune, nervous, and urinary disorders 38). Jaiswal et al. 39) revealed its anxiolytic activity and its usefulness in the treatment of disinclination to work. Shilajit is also used as a tonic in the ayurvedic system of medicine due to the presence of humic acid, fulvic acid, coumarins, and triterpenes 40).

Shilajit benefits

Eastern European weightlifters have been using Shilajit as part of an “herbal anabolic stack” to promote better strength, recovery, and muscular hypertrophy 41). Traditional Ayurvedic use of shilajit as a tonic has some support from studies of the humic acids, fulvic acids, coumarins, and triterpenes that have shown antistress effects in animals 42). However, human data on this and other adaptogenic herbs are sorely lacking. Therefore, based on current clinical studies, shilajit has not been shown to be of any benefit for any human conditions.

Because consumers have access to a wide variety of herbal dietary supplements, future studies would be most pertinent if they would focus on outcomes important to male and female consumers.

Shilajit dosage

250 mg of oral Shilajit supplementation twice daily has been used in some clinical trials 43), 44).

Another study recommended dose of Shilajit for maintenance of optimal health is 300-500 mg/day 45). Shilajit is slowly metabolized and reaches a maximum level in the blood after 12-14 hours of consumption 46).

Shilajit side effects

Shilajit is safe and has been found to be quite safe for up to 3 g/kg body weight in mice 47). Shilajit should not be used with horse gram, meat of pigeon, Solanum nigrum (black nightshade) 48), 49). Raw and unprocessed Shilajit should not be used as it contains a significant amount of free radicals and has been found to be contaminated with different fungal organisms such as Aspergillus niger, A. ochraceous, and Trichothecium roseum 50).

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