Shilajit -- A Review

(Author Unknown)

Shilajit (Asphaltum) is a reputed remedy of Ayurveda, the ancient system of medicine. Charaka Samhita, the classical Ayurvedic treatise on medicine has described physical properties and therapeutic uses of Shilajit. Ayurveda considers the drug to be anti-diabetic, anti-inflammatory and urinary antiseptic. Modern clinical studies have shown anti diabetic and antioxidant activity of Shilajit. Recently Shilajit has been used in treatment of Alzheimer's disease.

The origin of Shilajit is a controversial subject. It is basically a pale brown to blackish exudate from rocks of Himalayas. The word ‘shila’ signifies rock and in Sanskrit it is considered to be a product obtained from rocks. The drug is collected in raw form and then purified according to methods written in classical Ayurvedic texts.

The composition of Shilajit is still a subject of discussion. It contains number of organic acids like fulvic acid, humic acid and hippuric acid. Traces of benzoic acid are also present. Besides these, a special group of compounds known as benzopyrones are also present. Humic acid is fraction in Shilajit, which is insoluble in water .It, is dark brown to black in color. The fraction of humic acid is light brown to yellow brown in color. The standardization of Shilajit is based on fulvic acid. The chemical formula, structure and characteristics of fulvic acid have been determined by Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Imaging (NMR).

Modern clinical research has thrown light on anti-diabetic effects of Shilajit. In addition anti oxidant and aphrodisiac activity has been reported. Dr. Salil K. Bhattacharya and scientists from the Neuropharmacology Laboratory, Department of Pharmacology, Institute of Medial Sciences, at Banaras Hindu University in India, undertook extensive clinical studies on the subject. What they proved was that it was the fulvic acid fraction in Shilajit, and other closely associated humic compounds, that were responsible for the anti-diabetic activity and long reputed historical success of that preparation. Dr. Bhattacharya recognized that the fulvic acids showed significant success in preventing and combating free radical damage to pancreatic islet B cells, which is the widely accepted cause for diabetes mellitus. What he discovered was that the fulvic acid significantly increases superoxide dismutase (SOD) activity. Dr. Bhattacharya’s clinical studies showed that fulvic acids diminished the development and progression of diabetes, and assisted in the treatment.

Extensive human clinical studies carried out in various medical schools and hospitals in China have shown significant success in treatment of diabetes patients. Studies show that patients become more energetic. The tingling, painful feeling and numbness experienced in the nerve endings disappear or are reduced. In China, the pharmaceutical uses of fulvic acids have now been approved for both internal and external use, because they have shown that they are both safe and effective. Recently it has been found that systemic administration of defined extract of Shilajit differentially affects cholinergic but not glutamatergic and gabaergic markers in rat brain.

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