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Shilajit: Conqueror of Mountains & Destroyer of Weakness By: Jamie Munson

Introduction

   The fascinating herbal matter known as shilajit has profound effects on the physical body and mind including the capability of life expansion.  This thick, blackish-brown, sticky substance is made from plants and organic matter that have been trapped by many layers of rocks over millions of years in the areas surrounding India, China, Tibet, Nepal, Pakistan, Central Asia and Scandinavia.  The extreme variations of hot and cold weather combined with the massive pressure from the weight of the mountains creates the mineral rich matter to flow out of the rocks. [1, 2]  In some areas, foot-long scorpions will sting the rocks and the poison that is dispersed causes the shilajit to flow out of the rocks. [3] There are four different types of Shilajit:  Copper (Tamra) that is blue in color, Silver (Rajat) which is white in color, Gold (Sauvarna) that is red in color, and Iron (Lauha) which is blackish brown in color and is the kind that is used for healing. [4] 
 
   Shilajit was first discovered by Himalayan villagers.  They would observe large white monkeys gather and journey to the mountain tops each summer.  The monkeys were frequently seen eating a soft, black substance that the villagers eventually realized came from the Himalaya Mountains.  The villagers then started consuming this organic matter.  It didn’t take long for them to realize its’ amazing healing powers of both physical and mental health, as well as increased muscle and bone strength and the potential of increased longevity. [5] 
 
   Researchers have found plant organisms in shilajit from multiple species including:  Trifolium repens, Euphorbia royleana, Pellia, Minium, Barbula, Stephenrencella-Anthoceros, Fissidens, Asterella, Plagiochasma, Thuidium, Marchantia and Dumortiera. [6] Shilajit has been found in the Tibet, Altai and Caucasus Mountains, as well as the Gilgit Baltistan region of northern Pakistan, but it is found most commonly in the Himalaya Mountains.  There are many different names for this tar-like mass which are:  silajit, salajeet, shilajeet, mumijo, momia, moomiyo, shargai, black asphaltum, asphaltum punjabianum (Latin), mineral pitch or mineral wax (English), dorobi, barahshin, brag-shun or baraga shun, chao-tong, and wu ling zhi. [7] 
 
   Shilajit contains over 85 natural ionic minerals as well as fulvic acid, humic acid and imperative phytonutrients.   According to Chakrapani Ayurveda Clinic & Research Center in India, the chemical configuration of fulvic acid is:  “100% natural organic water extraction from 75 million year old earthly deposit and contains approximately 74 essential complexed and dissolved minerals and trace elements. It contains 42% fulvic acid solids.” [8] Andy Kahn writes in his report titled “What is Shilajit?” saying, “The fulvic acid in shilajit is in its most natural and pure form.  Fulvic acid is required to dilate the cell walls and transport the minerals deep into the cells.”  What he means by dilation of the cell walls is that fulvic acid increases intracellular mineral concentrations via facilitated transport.  If we can’t absorb the vitamins and minerals that enter our body, our tissues become deficient and we lack energy, both physical and mental.  These deficiencies may speed up the aging process also known as senescence.  Fulvic acid allows the 85+ minerals from shilajit to enter into the cells of the body rapidly and can “effectively prolong cell life and keep it healthy for a very long time.” [9] 
 
   The main chemical components of shilajit are:  humic acid, fulvic acid, benzoic acid, benzoates and high concentration of vitamin A, B, C esters.  It is made up of 60-80% organic matter, 20-40% mineral matter and 5% of trace elements. [10] Shilajit consists of mainly humic substances which are the end results of deterioration from plant and organic matter.  These microorganisms are split up into three subcategories:  humins, humic acid, and fulvic acids based upon their solubility in water and pH levels.  Fulvic acid is soluble in water under different pH conditions.  Humic acid is soluble in water under alkaline conditions.  Humins are not soluble in water under any pH condition.  Fulvic acid has a very low molecular weight and higher oxygen content than other humic acids which enables it to be absorbed really well into the intestinal tract and eliminated from the body within hours.  It increases permeability of bio-membranes, which makes it possible for better absorption or assimilation of other active components by sensitizing the cell membranes.  It also carries antioxidants, anti-inflammatory properties, memory enhancers, and anti-aggregation of tau proteins which help with Alzheimer’s disease.  Here are some other molecules found in shilajit:  dibenzo-alpha-pyrones, amino acids, sterols, eldagic acid, albumins, aromatic carboxylic acids, some fatty acids, gums, triterpenes, benzocoumarins, latex, polyphenols, resins, phenolic lipids and specific species of polysaccharides and lignins.  The variation in molecular components is generally determined by the region from which the shilajit is obtained and the source of origin is still under controversy. [11, 12]

Uses Around the World

   Shilajit is one of the most impeccable tonifying and rejuvenating herbal remedies that exist, which is why it is referred to as the conqueror of mountains and destroyer of weakness.  It states in the Charaka Samhita, “There is no curable disease in the universe which is not effectively cured by silajatu when 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.” [13] 
 
   The Yoga of Herbs by Dr. David Frawley and Dr. Vasant Lad says, “Shilajit possesses great curative powers and is considered capable of treating many diseases, particularly those of the aging process.”  The indications for shilajit in this book are:  parasites, diabetes, skin diseases, obesity, insanity, jaundice, epilepsy, gall stones, asthma, dysuria, menstrual disorders, cystitis, sexual debility, edema, hemorrhoids, and kidney stones.  They also list a precaution of not using shilajit for febrile diseases which are conditions characterized by fever. [14]
   
   The Way of Ayurvedic Herbs by Karta Purkh Singh Khalsa and Michael Tierra state that shilajit is unique in being a strong detoxifier yet an incredible builder of muscle and tissues.  They also say that this treasure of healing is the best for tonifying the kidneys and urinary system.  Its remarkable effects even go so far as to dissolve gallstones and kidney stones. [15]
 
   Shilajit ingestion is recommended during rejuvenation therapy which is described by Lord Punarvasu Atreya in the Charaka Samhita as “…ambrosia and is beneficial to the gods, the sons of Aditi. It has unimaginable and wonderful (beneficial) effects.  It promotes life, maintains positive health, preserves youth and cures morbid sleep, drowsiness, physical as well as mental fatigue, laziness and weakness.  It maintains proper balance among vata, kapha and pitta; it produces stability, cures slothness of the muscles, stimulates the enzymes responsible for digestion and metabolism and brings about excellence in luster, complexion as well as voice.  By the administration of this therapy, the great sages like Cyavan etc. regained their youth and were liked most by women.  Their muscles became compact, even and well proportioned.  Their bodies became compact and stable.  They were endowed with excellence of strength, complexion and senses. They were persons of unchallengeable prowess everywhere.  They developed powers of resistence to hardships.” [16]
 
   Vata, pitta and kapha mentioned above are known as the three doshas in Ayurveda.  Dr. Halpern states in his book, Principles of Ayurvedic Medicine, “The physiology of the human being is governed by three main forces, which are commonly known as the three doshas.”  Dosha literally means to cause harm, which is what happens in the body when they are not functioning correctly.  When they are in balance, they keep the body healthy and all the systems working smoothly.  The doshas reflect the three basic functions of all existence which include:  the force behind all physical creation with kapha, the force that has a difficult time maintaining creation with pitta, and the force that basically destroys creation with vata.  “Kapha energy creates only by building new tissues.  Pitta maintains by regulating metabolism and vata destroys through the wear and tear of action and activity.” [17] Each individual has their own make up of all three doshas which is what makes everyone unique.  This is referred to as their constitution.  Ayurvedic practitioners look at the individual’s constitution to determine how best to treat any imbalance they may be experiencing. 
 
   Charaka Samhita states that shilajit should be taken in a hot decoction along with other herbs that alleviate vata, which include qualities of heavy, moist, dense, and heating.  Charaka Samhita goes on to say that shilajit mixed with iron and taken with milk is an elixir for long life and happiness.  It promotes wealth, memory, and intellect while producing sturdiness of the body and preventing diseases and the ageing process. [18]

Ayurvedic Classification

   The energetic qualities of herbs are classified into three groups known as rasa, virya and vipaka. Rasa is the taste you experience and your first initial reaction to the substance.  There are six tastes in Ayurveda:  sweet, sour, salty, pungent, astringent, and bitter.  These six tastes can either increase or decrease the doshas which will have a positive or negative effect on the body.  Dr. Halpern states in his book Principles of Ayurvedic Medicine, “When a person consumes the proper amount of each taste, the body responds with the production of healthy tissues and normal physiology.  When too much or too little of a specific taste is taken, the body responds with faulty function.  The result is disease.”  Virya means potency and refers to the heating or cooling effect the substance will have on the body.  If it has a warm virya, it will pacify vata and kapha while increasing agni.  If it has a cool virya, it will pacify pitta while decreasing agni.  Our digestion is created by a force in our body that is referred to as agni.  The tastes that have a warm virya are pungent, sour and salty.  Cooling virya tastes include sweet, bitter and astringent.  Vipaka is the long term, post-digestive effect the substance has on the body after it is digested.  The three vipakas are sweet, sour and pungent but should not be confused with the rasa qualities because they have different effects on the body.  Dr. Halpern goes on to describe the three vipakas with their long term effects as, “Substances with a sweet vipaka nourish the body.  They are most often alkaline substances that increase saliva.  They also aid elimination.  Substances with a sweet vipaka tend to increase kapha dosha and pacify vata and pitta doshas.  Substances with a sour vipaka increase the acidity of the body, improve the function of the digestive enzymes and generally aid digestion.  They are also somewhat nourishing and generally increase the tissues of the body.  They also improve elimination.  Substances with a sour vipaka increase the pitta and kapha doshas and pacify the vata dosha.  Substances with a pungent vipaka are purifying and reduce the dhatus of the body.  They tend to constrict the tissues of the body and dry them out.  In the colon, they are likely to increase gas. Substances with a pungent vipaka increase the vata and pitta doshas while pacifying the kapha dosha.” [19] When Dr. Halpern mentions that a substance will increase a dosha, this means it will vitiate the dosha or cause an imbalance in the body if used over a period of time.
 
   According to The Yoga of Herbs, the rasa of shilajit is astringent, pungent, and bitter.  The astringent taste has a cool virya and a pungent vipaka and its most prevalent qualities are dry and cool. This taste will pacify pitta and kapha dosha while vitiating vata dosha.  The pungent taste has a warm virya and a pungent vipaka and its major qualities are hot, dry, mobile, and light.  This taste will pacify kapha while vitiating pitta and vata.  The bitter taste has a cool virya and a pungent vipaka and its main qualities are light, dry, cool, and mobile.  This taste will pacify pitta and kapha while greatly vitiating vata.  The virya of shilajit is warm and its vipaka is pungent.  The warming effect vitiates pitta but it is a wonderful substance to use with vata and kapha doshas. [20, 21]
 
   One of the oldest classical Ayurvedic text books titled Charaka Samhita describes shilajit as cooling, bitter and saline; and pungent in vipaka from the stone that contains iron.  It also states that shilajit has the smell of cow’s urine. [22]

Review of the Research Literature

   An article written by Cathy Wong, ND Alternative Medicine Expert says “Shilajit is touted as a natural remedy for the following health problems:  anemia, asthma, chronic bronchitis, chronic fatigue syndrome, diabetes, digestive disorders, eczema, high cholesterol, osteoarthritis, and ulcerative colitis.” It also protects against osteoporosis by strengthening bones, alleviates anxiety, protects against stress, and may be very useful in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. [23] 
 
   The Indian Materia Medica states that shilajit is a laxative, antiperiodic, febrifuge, and a bitter stomachic tonic.  It is used with neem-bark and black-pepper as an antiperiodic to people suffering with fevers in the form of an infusion. [24] An antiperiodic is “a drug that prevents the regular recurrence of symptoms,” and febrifuge is a medicine used to reduce fever which is also known as an antipyretic.    [25, 26]   
 
   An abstract from Pubmed states that “The safety of shilajit is well documented based on animal and human studies.  Various research studies indicate that shilajit exhibits antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, adaptogenic, immunomodulatory, and anti-dyslipidemic properties.  Animal and human studies indicate that shilajit enhances spermatogenesis.  Furthermore, animal and human data support its use as a ‘revitalizer’, enhancing physical performance and relieving fatigue with enhanced production of adenosine triphosphate which is the body’s energy source.  Key constituents in shilajit responsible for these effects appear to be dibenzo-a-pyrones and fulvic acid and their derivatives.” [27]
 
   A study on the effects of shilajit as an anti-microbial, anti-oxidant and anti-ulcerogenic on gastric ulcers in rats comes to the conclusion of having strong anti-microbial actions against:  Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Staphylococcus aureus, Bacillus subtillis, Escherichia coli, and Candida albicans.  The article continues to say “The presence of polyphenols compounds such as fulvic acids, triterpenoids and benzoic acid in shilajit samples have antioxidant activity, cellular repairing and regeneration, played very important role in decrease acid pepsin secretion, cell shedding, gastric ulcer index, tendency to increase mucin secretion and carbohydrate/protein ratio which have very important role as anti-oxidant effect and anti-inflammatory.”  This was in regards to morphological and histological findings of the stomach. It is also listed in this section that anti-anxiety and anti-stress effects of shilajit, assists in the healing of gastric ulcer, as well as the anti-inflammatory action in helping wound healing occur more rapidly.  The conclusion of this study states that shilajit has antiulcer, antioxidant, hypolipidenic, regenerative and repairing effects on ulcer induced rats.  The antiulcer effect may be due to the combination of actions including:  anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, anti-oxidant, anti-anxiety, anti-stress, healing and regenerative effects.  Further investigations of the total and complete action of shilajit are required before all actions can be affirmed. [28]
 
   Shilajit was a component in another study for its effects on behavioral symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) by regulating the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis and mitochondrial bioenergetics in rats.  The main ingredients of shilajit used were dibenzo-a-pyrones and fulvic acid.  The rats were forced to swim for 15 minutes for 21 consecutive days to bring upon CFS.  The rats were given treatments of shilajit for 21 days prior to being exposed to the swimming exercises.  CFS behavior consequences were measured by immobility and the climbing period.  Post-CFS anxiety levels were determined by elevated plus maze (EPM) tests.  “Shilajit reversed the CFS-induced increase in immobility period and decrease in climbing behavior as well as attenuated anxiety in the EPM test.  The results indicate that Shilajit mitigates the effects of CFS in this model possibly through the modulation of hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis and preservation of mitochondrial function and integrity.  The reversal of CFS-induced behavioral symptoms and mitochondrial bioenergetics by Shilajit indicates mitochondria as a potential target for treatment of CFS.” [29]
 
   Shilajit was used in a new drug preparation called Mumiyo-Vitas in patients with objective and subjective symptoms with obstruction to the urinary bladder who had prostate hyperplasia.  This study consisted of 38 patients that had stage I-II benign prostate hyperplasia.  They were given 0.2 grams of Mimiyo-Vitas one to two times a day for six months.  “Effects were studied of the drug on the urologic symptomatology and quality of life of patients presenting with ongoing micturitional disturbances, functional state of detrusor vesicae, prostate volume and urethral resistance.”  The results showed therapeutic benefits in these patients. [30]
 
   Processed shilajit was used in a study for the safety and spermatogenic activity in patients with low sperm count which is highly common with male infertility.  60 men participated in this evaluation and they all had a sperm count below 20 million.  They were given 100 mg capsules of processed shilajit two times a day after large meals for 90 days.  Total luteinising hormone, follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), semenogram, and serum testosterone were all recorded before the treatment and after it was finished.  Oxidative stress and the content of semen and biochemical parameters for safety were observed as well.  The results showed that “28 patients who completed the treatment showed significant (P<0.001) improvement in spermia (+37.6%), total sperm count (+61.4%), motility (12.4-17.4% after different time intervals), normal sperm count (+18.9%) with concomitant decrease in pus and epithelial cell count compared with baseline value.  Significant decrease of semen MDA content (-18.7%) was observed.”  MDA was the marker for oxidative stress.  “Serum testosterone (+23.5%; P < 0.001) and FSH (+9.4%; P < 0.5) levels significantly increased.”  The study also came to the conclusion that shilajit was safe to use at that dosage. [31]
 
   Another study was done on the effects of shilajit as a fertility agent in male and female rats. They were given shilajit orally to seven week old rats for a total of six weeks.  The male rats had significantly higher sperm count numbers in the testes and epididymides.  There was also an increase in the number of seminiferous tubular cell layers in the testes of the treated rats.  The effects of shilajit in the female rats were observed by the ovulation inducing activity. Ovulation was induced in seven out of nine rats over a five day period.  The results showed that shilajit has a positive effect on spermiogenic and ovogenic conditions in mature rats. [32]
 
   Shilajit was used in a study on the effects of intracranial pressure, brain edema, and neurologic outcomes following a traumatic brain injury in rats.  They observed how shilajit affected intracranial pressure (ICP), blood-brain barrier (BBB) permeability, brain edema, and neurologic outcomes after brain trauma.  The rats were given shilajit at one, 24, 48, and 72 hours following the head trauma.  Shilajit treated groups showed a significant decrease in brain water. Intracranial pressure also showed a major decrease at 24, 48, and 72 hours after trauma.  There was an improvement in the rate of neurologic outcomes with shilajit treated groups at four, 24, 48, and 72 hours after trauma.  The conclusion of the study states “The present results indicated that Shilajit may cause in improvement of neurologic outcomes through decreasing brain edema, disrupting of BBB, and ICP after the TBI” (trauma brain injury). [33]
 
   A remarkable study was conducted on 20 patients with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and their effects of taking shilajit with Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ART).  ART is a successful treatment that reduces both the morbidity and mortality of HIV infection but it is not accessible in many countries and very expensive.  Unfortunately, it is a rarity that HIV will be eliminated, and resistance to the drug is a total setback while undergoing long term therapy.  Shilajit is a rasayana, meaning it helps to build a healthy immune system which is very imperative with people who are HIV positive.  The conclusion of the effects of Shilajit+ART in patients with HIV show they “responded better to ART both clinically and biochemically.  The results show that Shilajatu decreases the recurrent resistance of HIV to ART and improves the outcome of the therapy.” [34]
 
   Shilajit was used in a study for its role in the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease.  “Studies suggest that shilajit and its active principle fulvic acid, as well as a formula of shilajit with B complex vitamins, emerge as novel nutraceutical with potential uses against this brain disorder.”  Nutraceuticals are important in the prevention of this disease, along with a healthy diet and nutritional supplements. [35] Recent investigations of a different study show that fulvic acid blocks tau self-aggregation as well.  This opens a lot of doors in the search for preventing Alzheimer’s disease.  This study also states that shilajit is “a nutraceutical product of demonstrated benefits for human health.” [36]
 
   There are many benefits attributed to shilajit based upon:  tradition, classical text books of Ayurveda, natural instinct from animals, personal accounts, and most recently scientific studies.  Many of the biochemical processes have been defined; however, the full effects of shilajit on the human organism requires further investigation.  There is hope for a very promising future in the mental and physical longevity of this organic mineral resin from the Himalaya Mountains. 
 

About the Student Research Papers

The papers published on our website have been written by students of the California College of Ayurveda as a part of their required work toward graduation. After reviewing each paper, Dr. Halpern selects those papers that he feels are appropriate to publish. The information in each paper should not be construed as the final word on any subject nor should it be assumed that errors do not exist.