What is shilajit?
Shilajit, also spelled shilajeet or salajeet, and also known as rock juice, mountain sweat, mountain blood, mountain oil, asphaltum, vegetable asphalt, mumiyo, mumijo, mineral pitch, mineral wax, and fulvic acid minerals, is a dark brown or black resin, paste, or tar-like sticky humic substance . It’s found at altitudes between 1,000 and 5,000 meters, in the mountain regions of the former USSR (Ural, Baykal, Sayan, Caucasus, Altai mountain regions, Kirgysia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan), as well as in Afghanistan, Bhutan, China, Nepal, Pakistan, and Tibet [2,3].
Shilajit is thought to form as a result of a long-term humification process unique to the environment and conditions of mountainous regions. Plant matter is fermented between layers of rocks, and transformed by microorganisms, resulting in the organic residues losing their original structure .
Microbial metabolism produces reduced sugars and amino acids, which undergo non-enzymatic polymerization, to form brown nitrogenous polymers .
Unlike a living cell, where the synthesis of biopolymers is governed by the genetic code, there is no established program of any kind in the humification process, so any substances can appear, either simpler or more complex than the original biomolecules. The resulting products again undergo transformation and synthesis reactions, and the process continues indefinitely .
The wild and frequent climatic changes in mountainous regions, such as freezing and thawing, and wetting and drying, combined with the intermixing of the reactants with catalytic mineral materials, facilitates the condensation and formation of shilajit .
Tests completed on various samples have determined shilajit to be between 500 and 15,000 years old, suggesting that the formation process may take several hundred years .
Shilajit is a complex natural mixture of organic and inorganic compounds in a rough 70:30 ratio, with an abundance of trace elements [9,11], and is primarily composed of humus substances, including fulvic acids, humic acids, humin, and hymatomelanic acid[8,9].
Shilajit also contains albuminoids, amino acids, oxygenated biphenyls, coumarin derivatives (benzocoumarin, DBPs; dibenzo-alpha-pyrones), fluorene, mycotoxins (trichothecenes, naptho-l-pyrones and alternariol), organic acids (benzoic acid and its derivatives, hippuric acid, and naphthenic acids), phenolic lipids, polymeric quinines, sterols, tannins, terpenes, and triterpenes [3,6,7].
Classified as an organomineral matter, shilajit also contains copper, zinc, lithium, chromium, silver, cobalt, phosphorus, vanadium, iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium, sodium, iodine, manganese, molybdenum, sulfur and silicon [8,9].
How does shilajit work?
Multiple mechanism of action have been observed in humans and animals, where potential benefits of Shilajit may be attributed to increased adenosine triphosphate (ATP) levels, activation of mitochondrial respiration, activation of Calcium ion (Ca2+) transport, dibenzo-alpha-pyrone (DBP) content, the ability of fulvic acid to chelate minerals and facilitate cellular penetration, and facilitating the regeneration of ascorbic acid (vitamin C).
Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) is found in all forms of life, and is an energy carrying molecule known as the “molecular unit of currency” of intracellular energy transfer .
ATP is a precursor to DNA and RNA, is used as a coenzyme, and captures chemical energy obtained from the breakdown of food molecules to provide energy to drive processes such as muscle contraction, nerve impulse propagation, and chemical synthesis .
A study on mice found that swimming severely depleted ATP levels in the muscle of mice, and that supplementation with shilajit reduced the depletion, almost doubling the levels of ATP in the muscle. ATP levels in the brain and blood were also increased .
An unpublished study on six humans found that supplementation with shilajit increased blood levels of ATP, ATP/ADP ratio, coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), total adenine nucleotides, adenylate energy charge, and uric acid, significantly increasing energy production and physical exercise .
Shilajit contains dibenzo-alpha-pyrones (DBPs), that are capable of permeating through the blood-brain barrier, and may protect brain and nerve tissue from free-radical damage.
DBPs also increase acetylcholine levels in rats, low levels of which have been associated with poor memory, concentration and Alzheimer’s disease .
Shilajit has been found to activate mitochondrial respiration but suppresses activity of succinate-oxidase and NADH-oxidase in mitochondrion .
The stimulating action of shilajit may be caused by the activation of Calcium ion (Ca2+) transport.
In rats, Shilajit increases superoxide dismutase, catalase, and glutathione peroxidase activities in the frontal cortex and striatum [18,19,20].
Shilajit has also been found to regenerate ascorbic acid, and trap hydroxyl radicals, and NO and SO radicals .
What are the benefits of shilajit?
Shilajit is used as a rejuvenator in traditional Russian and Ayurveda medicine [22,23], and has been used in the folk and herbal medicine of several countries for around 3,000 years. Administered both topically on the skin, and internally by swallowing or drinking with water, it has been used as an anti-inflammatory, as an antidote to poisons, and to treat neuralgia, trigeminal neuralgia, radiculitis, skin diseases, dislocations, bone fractures, arthritis, migraine, angina, ear disease, vertigo, gastrointestinal diseases, haemorrhages, genitourinary diseases, diabetes, jaundice, adiposity, enlarged spleen, digestive disorders/acid reflux, epilepsy, nervous diseases, elephantiasis, tuberculosis, chronic bronchitis, asthma, anemia, ameamenorrhea, dysmenorrhea, menorrhagia, eczema, leprosy, anorexia, osteoporosis and bites.
Shilajit also forms part of several medical drugs manufactured by pharmaceutical companies , and has been shown in studies to possess antimicrobial activity with respect to staphylococci, streptococci, coliform bacteria, enterococci, and Proteus[25,26]. Studies have found that Shilajit reduced the complex treatment period of patients with pulmonary tuberculosis by three to four times, and may act as an antidiabetic agent in addition to enhancing growth hormone levels in diabetic patients.
Shilajit has also been shown to cause a decrease in pain, disappearance of inflammation, and quicker healing following burn injuries , and cause a more rapid healing in the ear disease suppurative otitis and wounds in general, as well as accelerating bone regeneration after bone fractures in animals, children and adults[29,30,31,32,33,34,35].
Shilajit has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties in humans in the treatment of gum disease , osteoarthrosis, rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, and cervical spondylosis, in the prevention of ulcers, and in arthritis and swelling in rats.
It is possible that Shilajit’s anti-inflammatory properties are due to it containing benzoic acid, fulvic acids, 40-methoxy-6-carbomethoxybiphenyl, and tirucallane-type triterpenoids, as these compounds are known to possess strong anti-inflammatory properties [40,41,42,43].
Shilajit has also been shown to improve the transport of antibacterial drugs to the targeted area of inflammation .
In mice, Shilajit stimulates lymphopoietic erythropoiesis in acute radiation disease, resulting in a more rapid restoration of the number of lymphocytes in peripheral blood, bone marrow, and spleen .
Positive results have been seen during the treatment of eczema and psoriasis , which is thought to be due to the fact that Shilajit contains biphenyl and benzocoumarin compounds, which have significant antiallergic activity, with mast cells stabilized by Shilajit resulting in significantly less degranulation[40,48].
Shilajit contains DBPs, that are capable of permeating through the blood-brain barrier, and may protect brain and nerve tissue from free-radical damage. DBPs in shilajit increased acetylcholine levels in rats, low levels of which have been associated with poor memory, concentration and Alzheimer’s disease , and has been shown to improve learning and memory in rats[49,50,51], which has led to it being classified as a “medha rasayana” or nootropic agent.
Shilajit has also been found to be an inhibitor of the development of tolerance to morphine in mice, and to be effective as a painkiller in rats .
It is notable that fulvic and humic acids found in shilajit appear to increase the number and functional activity of macrophages, neutrophils and killer T-cells [53,54]. Humic acids were first discovered to have anabolic properties when given to chickens in 1951, with average body mass increased by 5-7%[55,56,57]. This was confirmed in rats in 1966, which concluded that the body is able to utilize food better when supplementing with shilajit. Fulvic acids may also act as carrier molecules or chelating agents for smaller, more bioactive compounds.
Shilajit was secretly used by the former USSR to enhance the physical and mental performance of Olympic athletes and special military forces for nearly 40 years. Applications included reducing stress-related injuries, benefitting recovery, as well as increasing strength and muscle mass. Much of the research conducted by the former USSR into shilajit is classified and has not been released [24,59,60].
Studies have given positive indications for these types of potential benefits [61,62], including some that suggest shilajit may relieve fatigue and increase energy and endurance[14,15].
In men, Shilajit has been found to increase sperm count, sperm motility, testosterone levels and FSH levels [63,66].
Why PlantPills shilajit?
PlantPills Gold Standard Shilajit is collected from the Russian Altai/Altay Mountain Range in Central Asia, an area where Russia, China, Mongolia and Kazakhstan converge . The only processing applied is a simple purification process, to remove anything that is not shilajit. This is performed at low temperatures to preserve the active components that are sensitive to heat. Care is taken to ensure that nothing is added or taken away, so the shilajit retains its whole, authentic and natural composition.
Shilajit has been used for 3,000 years in its natural form as a sticky tar-like substance, and the majority of research has used shilajit in this form. Applying processing to shilajit to attempt to powder it, or otherwise isolate, extract, refine or standardise it, results in a product that is derived from shilajit, but is no longer natural, whole shilajit. Processing shilajit in this manner means that some original components are missing, and of the remaining ones, some are denatured due to processing methods such as heat.
As a result, processed shilajit and products derived from shilajit do not exhibit the same actions and benefits as natural whole shilajit.
Natural variations in composition and its relative rarity have given rise to adulterated and counterfeit shilajit products, and testing methods used to determine humic acid and fulvic acid levels in shilajit have proven unreliable .
Due to these issues the Association of Official Analytical Chemists, AOAC International, developed a consensus-driven testing standard for verifying and establishing the contents of humic ores such as shilajit .
Any supplier of shilajit should be able to provide the AOAC test performed by a third party laboratory for the current batch. This proves that the shilajit is authentic and genuine, and gives a reliable indication of the humic and fulvic acid levels. If a supplier can’t provide the AOAC test results, the authenticity of the product is unknown.
The AOAC test performed by a third party laboratory for the current batch of PlantPills Shilajit is displayed below. This details humic acid, fulvic acid, moisture, organic matter and sulphur levels.
Also below is the third party laboratory test showing levels of Calcium, Copper, Iron, Magnesium, Manganese, Phosphorus, Potassium, Sodium and Zinc in the current batch.
Additional third party laboratory tests for the current batch viewable below include the microbiological certificate of analysis, heavy metal content and aluminium content.
Aluminium content of some shilajit has been a contentious issue, and should be tested by a third party laboratory for every batch. One serving (0.25g) of PlantPills Shilajit contains the same amount of aluminium as two slices of bread, or two chicken breasts, or 50 grams of pasta, or 5 grams of chocolate [70,71,72].
These tests verify that PlantPills Shilajit is authentic, high quality, and safe for human consumption.
Pack sizes are 100 grams, 200 grams, 500 grams, 1 kilogram, 2 kilograms and 10 kilograms.
Different pack sizes are selectable in the basket.