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Shilajit is a natural substance found mainly in the Himalayas, formed for centuries by the gradual decomposition of certain plants by the action of microorganisms. It is a potent and very safe dietary supplement, restoring the energetic balance and potentially able to prevent several diseases. Recent investigations point to an interesting medical application toward the control of cognitive disorders associated with aging, and cognitive stimulation. Thus, fulvic acid, the main active principle, blocks tau self-aggregation, opening an avenue toward the study of Alzheimer's therapy. In essence, this is a nutraceutical product of demonstrated benefits for human health. Considering the expected impact of shilajit usage in the medical field, especially in the neurological sciences, more investigations at the basic biological level as well as clinical trials are necessary, in order to understand how organic molecules of shilajit and particularly fulvic acid, one of the active principles, and oligoelements act at both the molecular and cellular levels and in the whole organism.
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Hindawi Publishing Corporation
International Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease
Volume 2012, Article ID 674142, 4pages
doi:10.1155/2012/674142
Review Article
Shilajit
: A Natural Phytocomplex with
Potential Procognitive Activity
Carlos Carrasco-Gallardo, Leonardo Guzm´
an, and Ricardo B. Maccioni
Laboratory of Cellular and Molecular Neurosciences, International Center for Biomedicine (ICC) and University of Chile,
Millennium Building, Las Encinas 3370, ˜
Nu˜
noa, 780023 Santiago, Chile
Correspondence should be addressed to Ricardo B. Maccioni, rmaccion@manquehue.net
Received 22 August 2011; Accepted 17 December 2011
Academic Editor: Yoram Barak
Copyright © 2012 Carlos Carrasco-Gallardo et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons
Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is
properly cited.
Shilajit is a natural substance found mainly in the Himalayas, formed for centuries by the gradual decomposition of certain plants
by the action of microorganisms. It is a potent and very safe dietary supplement, restoring the energetic balance and potentially
able to prevent several diseases. Recent investigations point to an interesting medical application toward the control of cognitive
disorders associated with aging, and cognitive stimulation. Thus, fulvic acid, the main active principle, blocks tau self-aggregation,
opening an avenue toward the study of Alzheimer’s therapy. In essence, this is a nutraceutical product of demonstrated benefits for
human health. Considering the expected impact of shilajit usage in the medical field, especially in the neurological sciences, more
investigations at the basic biological level as well as clinical trials are necessary, in order to understand how organic molecules of
shilajit and particularly fulvic acid, one of the active principles, and oligoelements act at both the molecular and cellular levels and
in the whole organism.
1. Introduction
Shilajit also known in the north of India as salajit,shilajatu,
mimie,ormummiyo is a blackish-brown powder or an exu-
date from high mountain rocks, especially in the Himalayans
mountains between India and Nepal, although it has been
also found in Russia, Tibet, Afghanistan, and now in the
north of Chile, named as Andean Shilajit [1]. Shilajit has been
known and used for centuries by the Ayurvedic medicine,
as a rejuvenator and as antiaging compound. There are
two important characteristics of a rasayana compound in
the ancient Indian Ayurvedic medicine: that is, to increase
physical strength and to promote human health [2]. The
health benefits of shilajit have been shown to dier from
region to region, depending on the place from which it was
extracted [3,4].
2. Origins of
Shilajit
Considering its unique composition as a phytocomplex, very
rich in fulvic acid, researchers hypothesize that Shilajit is
produced by the decomposition of plant material from
species such as Euphorbia royleana and Trifolium repens
[4,5]. This decomposition seems to occur through centuries,
and on this basis, shilajit is considered a millenary product of
nature. However, further studies have identified that several
other plant organisms may generate shilajit,suchasmoldsas
Barbula, Fissidens, Minium, and Thuidium and other species
like Asterella, Dumortiera, Marchantia, Pellia, Plagiochasma,
and Stephenrencella-Anthoceros [4].
3. Molecular Composition of
Shilajit
Shilajit is composed mainly of humic substances, including
fulvic acid, that account for around 60% to 80% of the total
nutraceutical compound plus some oligoelements including
selenium of antiaging properties [6,7](Figure 1). The
humic substances are the results of degradation of organic
matter, mainly vegetal substances, which is the result of the
action of many microorganisms. Components are divided
operationally in humins, humic acid, and fulvic acids ac-
cording to their solubility in water at dierent pH levels.
2 International Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease
Shilajit
Selenium and
minerals
Dibenzo-α-
pyrones
Humic
substances
Humins Humic acids
Fulvic acids
-Antioxidant
-Anti-inflammatory
-Memory enhancer
-Antiaggregation of tau protein
Antiaging Alzheimers
disease
Figure 1: Shilajit, its main components, and potential uses based on properties of fulvic acid. This phytocomplex known as shilajit is mainly
composed of humic substances. One of them, fulvic acid, is known by its properties such as antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and memory
enhancer. Novel investigations indicate that fulvic acid is an antiaggregation factor of tau protein in vitro [1], which projects fulvic acid as a
potential anti-Alzheimer’s disease molecule.
Humins are not soluble in water under any pH condition.
Humic acid is soluble in water under alkaline conditions and
has a molecular weight of 5–10 kDa. Fulvic acid is soluble in
water under dierent pH conditions, and because of its low
molecular weight (around 2 kDa), it is well absorbed in the
intestinal tract and eliminated within hours from the body
[8,9]. It is likely that the curative properties attributable to
shilajit are provided by the significant levels of fulvic acids
that shilajit contains, considering that fulvic acid is known
by its strong antioxidant actions [9] and likely has systemic
eects as complement activator [10]. Recent studies on the
composition of Andean Shilajit in Chile have evidenced an
ORAC index between 50 and 500 Trolox units/g of material,
which is substantially higher than Noni and blueberries
(Quinteros et al., unpublished data). In this context, shilajit
seems to be a powerful antioxidant phytocomplex.
Other molecules present in shilajit preparations are eld-
agic acid, some fatty acids, resins, latex, gums, albumins, tri-
terpenes, sterols, aromatic carboxylic acids, 3,4-benzocoum-
arins, amino acids, polyphenols, and phenolic lipids [3,6,
11]. Certainly its molecular composition varies from region
to region. Newer investigations based on high-performance
size exclusion chromatography (HP-SEC) show that shilajit
contains specific molecular species of polysaccharides and
lignins [10]. As humic components, humins, humic acids,
and fulvic acids are found in all shilajit preparations, being
the last one, fulvic acids, the biologically active compound,
along with dibenzo-α-pyrones, which acts as carrier of other
substances [3].
4. Traditional Uses of
Shilajit
Shilajit is an important, known component of the ayurvedic
medicine given its characteristics as a rasayana. In this
context, health benefits such as an increase in longevity,
Tab le 1: Morphometric study of primary cultured rat hippocampal
cells exposed to Shilajit and the Brain Up-10 formulae that contain
Shilajit plus complex B vitamins (Vit B6, B9, and B12).
Control Shilajit∗∗ Brain
Up-10
Neuronal cells per field 367 ±23 345 ±42 396 ±16.0
Percentage of cells with
neuronal processes 18.0 ±2.1 26.0 ±3.2∗∗ 43.0 ±3.1∗∗
Fraction of axon-like
processes 0.22 0.29 0.41
Processes length (μm) 17.4 ±7.2 26.0 ±4.5∗∗ 39.6 ±8.0∗∗
HippocampalcellsweregrowninPetridishesinthepresenceofeither
10 mg/mL Shilajit or the formulation of Brain Up-10 [30] plus vitamins of
the B complex. In the control, cells were grown in culture medium without
Shilajit or the formulation. Mean of 5 determinations (n=5) (significance
of dierences with respect to control, ∗∗P<0.001).
rejuvenating, and arresting aging roles have been attributed
to it [3]. Traditionally, shilajit is consumed by people from
Nepal and the North of India, and children usually take
it with milk in their breakfast. The Sherpas claim to have
shilajit as part of their diet; they constitute a population of
strong men with very high levels of a healthy longevity. Our
laboratory has found evidence on the high activity of the
Andean form of shilajit in improving cognitive disorders and
as a stimulant of cognitive activity in humans [1](Ta ble 1 ).
Considering the actions of fulvic acid in preventing tau
self-aggregation into pathological filaments, this compound
appears to be of interest for prevention of Alzheimer’s disease
[1]. Other common traditional uses include its action in gen-
itourinary disorders, jaundice, digestive disorders, enlarged
spleen, epilepsy, nervous disorders, chronic bronchitis, and
anemia [2]. Shilajit has been also useful for the treatment
of kidney stones, edema, and hemorrhoids, as an internal
antiseptic, and to reduce anorexia. Also, it has been claimed
International Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease 3
in India to be used as yogavaha [12,13], that is, as synergistic
enhancer of other drugs. Organic components of shilajit play
also a role in transporting dierent mineral substances to
their cellular targets.
5. Novel Investigations
Preclinical investigations about shilajit indicate its great
potential uses in certain diseases, and various properties
have been ascribed, including (1) antiulcerogenic properties
[14]; (2) antioxidant properties [15,16]; (3) cognitive and
memory enhancer [1,10,17]; (4) antidiabetic properties
[18]; (5) anxiolytic [12]; (6) antiallergic properties and
immunomodulator [2,19,20]; (7) anti-inflammatory [21];
(8) analgesic [16]; antifungal properties [22]; (9) ability to
interact positively with other drugs [23]; (10) protective
properties in high altitudes [24]; (11) neuroprotective agent
against cognitive disorders [1, and Farias et al. unpub-
lished clinical trials]. Unfortunately shilajit lacks systematic
documentation and well-established clinical trials on its
antioxidative and immunomodulatory actions in humans,
and it is expected that considering the reported benefits
evidenced from trials will be obtained in the near future [25].
6. Patenting
A few patents already exist that protect the use of shilajit
in India and Nepal, such as US Patent 5,405,613—vitamin/
mineral composition [26]; US Patent application number
20030198695—Herbo-mineral composition [27]; US Patent
number 6,440,436—Process for preparing purified shilajit
composition from native shilajit [28]; US Patent number
6,558,712—Delivery system for pharmaceutical, nutritional
and cosmetic ingredients [29]. Other recent patent about a
phytocomplex with vitamins added is WO 2011/041920 [30].
7. Potential Risks
Studies indicate the shilajit consumption without prelim-
inary purification may lead to risks of intoxication given
the presence of mycotoxin, heavy metal ions, polymeric
quinones (oxidant agents), and free radicals, among others
[3]. Therefore, a purified, ready-for-use preparation for
human consumption must be used. However, recent studies
indicate that several ayurvedic products including shilajit
and other Indian manufactured products commercialized
by the Internet may contain detectable heavy metals levels
as lead, mercury, and arsenic [31]. This study showed the
presence of heavy metals and other minerals, including gems,
is associated with the belief that when mixed with shilajit
or other herbal preparations they generate a better response
from the body in a synergic manner. This is what is known
as rasa-shastra in ayurvedic medicine. Rasashastra experts
claim that if this is prepared, administered, and consumed
properly, it is safe and has therapeutic advantages [31]. It
is worth considering that recent clinical reports indicate
cases of lead poisoning in patients who have used ayurvedic
products against weakening [32,33].
8. Commentary and Discussion
Shilajit has a comfortable position as the rasayana because
of its excellence, well known in the Eastern culture, and now
being introduced with great interest in the occidental world.
The vast majority of published papers on this theme are
from India, leaving this sector of the planet as an expert in
their field, since this is a product that is extracted, marketed,
and investigated in these latitudes. However, this generates
a segmentation of shilajit, relegating it only to what has
always been assumed : a natural product that is part of
natural alternative medicine and not as a result of medical
and biotechnology innovation worldwide. This is evidenced
quite clearly by reviewing the literature today, and note that
the journals where studies on shilajit are published (jobs are
plentiful) are mainly reviewed in the Eastern. Given this, it is
necessary that shilajit break the cultural paradigm and enter
into the rest of the world by the hand of rigorous research
at the molecular and cellular levels, which could elucidate
the interactions of the active ingredients of the dierent
shilajit preparations with biomolecules. This will facilitate
our understanding of their mechanisms of action.
9. Conclusion
Shilajit is a potent and very safe dietary supplement,
potentially able to prevent several diseases, but its main
medical application now appears to come from its actions in
benefit of cognition and potentially as a dietary supplement
to prevent Alzheimer’s disease. In essence, this is a nutraceu-
tical product. Considering the expected impact of shilajit
applications in the medical field, especially in neurological
sciences, more investigations at the basic biological level
are necessary, and certainly well-developed clinical trials, in
order to understand how its active principles act at molecular
and cellular levels.
Acknowledgments
These investigations have been supported by a CORFO Pro-
ject 10ANT 8051, VRI FONDEF project, and FONDECYT
1110373 from CONICYT and a grant from the Alzheimer’s
Association, USA. Authors acknowledge important collabo-
ration of Constanza Maccioni.
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... It is also found and used in Russia, Tibet, Afghanistan and in the north of Chile. The Sherpa, high-altitude porters and mountain guides of Nepal, include shilajit in their diet [97]. ...
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Shilajit has a longstanding use as an anti-aging and memory enhancing drug. It is known to have excellent anti-bacterial effects and is believed to be effective for cognitive enhancement, but is difficult to standardize because of the lack of quality control standards. This study, for the first time, proposes a quality control standard using a simultaneous analytical method for the drug’s multi-compound content using high-performance liquid chromatography-ultraviolet detection (HPLC-UV) as an aid for the internationalization of Mongolian Shilajit. Phenolic compounds 1-6 were isolated from Mongolian Shilajit extract using bioassay-guided isolation, and the isolated compounds were evaluated for cognitive-related anti-Alzheimer’s disease (AD) activities using 1,1-diphenyl-2-picrylhydrazyl (DPPH) free radical-scavenging, acetylcholinesterase (AChE), butyrylcholinesterase (BChE), β-site amyloid precursor protein-cleaving enzyme 1 (BACE1), and advanced glycation end-product (AGE) formation assays. The isolated compounds showed good effects for each activity. In addition, the isolated compounds were successfully quantified using a validated quantitative HPLC analysis method. As a result, the isolated compounds were suggested as standard marker compounds for Mongolian Shilajit. Also, we proved that the original material of Mongolian Shilajit is a lichen named Xanthoparmelia somloensis (Gyel.) Hale using HPLC-UV, ultra-high-performance liquid chromatography-electrospray ionization/hybrid linear trap-quadruple-orbitrap-high-resolution mass spectrometry (UHPLC-ESI/LTQ-HRMS).
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Objective: To evaluate the effect of Shilajit, a medicine of Ayurveda, on the serum changes in cytokines and adipokines caused by non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Methods: After establishing fatty liver models by feeding a high-fat diet (HFD) for 12 weeks, 35 Wistar male rats were randomly divided into 5 groups, including control (standard diet), Veh (HFD + vehicle), high-dose Shilajit [H-Sh, HFD + 250 mg/(kg·d) Shilajit], low-dose Shilajit [L-Sh, HFD + 150 mg/(kg·d) Shilajit], and pioglitazone [HFD + 10 mg/(kg·d) pioglitazone] groups, 7 rats in each group. After 2-week of gavage administration, serum levels of glucose, insulin, interleukin 1beta (IL-1β), IL-6, IL-10, tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α), adiponectin, and resistin were measured, and insulin resistance index (HOMA-IR) was calculated. Results: After NAFLD induction, the serum level of IL-10 significantly increased and serum IL-1β, TNF-α levels significantly decreased by injection of both doses of Shilajit and pioglitazone (P<0.05). Increases in serum glucose level and homeostasis model of HOMA-IR were reduced by L-Sh and H-Sh treatment in NAFLD rats (P<0.05). Both doses of Shilajit increased adiponectin and decreased serum resistin levels (P<0.05). Conclusion: The probable protective role of Shilajit in NAFLD model rats may be via modulating the serum levels of IL-1β, TNF-α, IL-10, adipokine and resistin, and reducing of HOMA-IR.
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A tri-monthly newsletter published by Centre for studies in Ethnobiology, Biodiversity and Sustainability (CEiBa) that focusses on a diverse array of topics, mostly covering ecology and environment, natural and cultural history to oral history and conservation. The purpose is to introduce awe-inspiring facets of natural or semi-natural world to a wider group of readers who tend to distance themselves owing to inherent complexities of dry scientific findings. Moreover, it is also a vehicle of communication of aspiring scholars who wish to share their fascinating 'research stories'. CEiBa is a non-profit research and education center (registered under Indian Trust Act, 1882) and its activity hinges on various aspects of human-nature interface, bio-cultural diversity, and the path to sustainability.
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The effect of Shilajit was investigated for putative nootropic and anxiolytic activity, and its effect on rat brain monoamines using Charles Foster strain albino rats. Nootropic activity was assessed by passive avoidance learning and active avoidance learning acquisition and retention. Anxiolytic activity was evaluated by the elevated plus-maze technique. Rat brain monoamines and monoamine metaboliteswere estimated bya HPLC technique. The results indicated that Shilajit had significant nootropic and anxiolytic activity. The biochemical studies indicated that acute treatment with Shilajit had insignificant effects on rat brain monoamine and monoamine metabolite levels. However, following subacute (5days) treatment, there was decrease in 5-hydroxytryptamine and 5-hydroxyindole acetic acid concentrations and an increase in the levels of dopamine, homovanillic acid and 3.4-dihydroxyphenyl-acetic acid concentrations, with insignificant effects on noradrenaline and 3-methoxy-4- hydroxyphenylethylene glycol levels. The observed neurochemical effects induced by Shilajit, indicating a decrease in rat brain 5-hydroxytryptamine turnover, associated with an increase in dopaminergic activity, helps to explain the observed nootropic and anxiolytic effects of the drug.
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The effects of shilajit and the combined effects of its main constituents, fulvic acids (FAs), 4'-methoxy-6-carbomethoxybiphenyl (MCB) and 3,8-dihydroxy-dibenzo-α-pyrone (DDP), were studied in relation to the degranulation and disruption of mast cells against noxious stumuli. Shilajit and different combinations of FAs. MCB and DDP provided statistically significant protection to antigen-induced degranulation of sensitized mast cells, markedly inhibited the antigen-induced spasm of sensitized guinea-pig ileum, and prevented mast cell disruption induced by compound 48/80. The findings are appraised in view of the clinical use of shilajit in the treatment of allergic disorders in Ayurvedic medicine.
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The antifungal activity of methanolic crude extract of Tectona grandis, Shilajit, Valeriana wallachi was investigated against Alternaria cajani, Curvularia lunata, Fusarium sp., Bipolaris sp. and Helminthosporium sp. at different concentrations (1000, 2000, 3000, 4000 and 5000 μg/ml). Better antifungal activity was observed with the extracts of Valeriana wallachi, that showed excellent inhibitory activity against Helminthosporium sp. (96.15%) followed by Shilajit extract against Alternaria cajani (95.12%) and Helminthosporium sp. (95.00%) at concentration of 5000 μg/ml. Among different fungi tested Bipolaris sp. and Fusarium were found to be more sensitive to crude extract when compared to others. The increase in the production of phenolics in the extract can be correlated with the induction of resistance in treated plants against phytopathogenic fungi. HPLC analysis of the crude extract of medicinal plants showed four different Phenolic acids (Tannic acid, Gallic acid, Ferulic acid and Caffeic acid). The results of the study provide scientific basis for the use of the plant extract in the future development as antioxidant, antibacterial, antifungal and anti-inflammatory agent.
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Shilajit is an asphalt-like substance found embedded in rocky sediments in the Himalayas in western Nepal at altitudes between 2500-5000 m. It is popularly used in Nepal as a tonic. Chemical analysis of shilajit revealed that two-thirds by weight of this medicinal material was extractable by warm 50% alcohol. Repeated crystallization of the hydroalcoholic extract has led to the isolation of crystals, which were subsequently identified as calcium benzoate. The antiseptic properties of benzoates may account for the antiseptic effects of shilajit in places where hygiene remains at a low level.
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The chemical polemics in the reported literature on shilajit are resolved. This study shows that humification of latex and resin-bearing plants is responsible for the major organic mass (80-85%) of shilajit. The low mol. wt. chemical markers (&lo%), viz. aucuparins, oxygenated dibenzo-K -pyrones and triterpenic acids of the tirucallane type (free and conjugated), occurring in the core structure of shilajit humus, are the major active constituents of Himalayan shilajit. The therapeutic effects of shilajit are the consequences of hormonal control and regulation of immunity.
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The radicophilicity (antiradical–antioxidant effects) of processed shilajit (SJP) to oxygen-derived free radicals and nitric oxide (NO), and the attendant H2O2 cleaving effect were evaluated. SJP provided complete protection to methyl methacrylate (MMA) against hydroxyl radical-induced polymerization and acted as a reversible NO-captodative agent. SJP (20 and 50 mg/kg/day, i.p., for 21 days) induced a dose-related increase in superoxide dismutase (SOD), catalase (CAT) and glutathione peroxidase (GPX) activities in frontal cortex and striatum of rats. The data were comparable to those of (−)-deprenyl (2 mg/kg/day, i.p., for 21 days) in respect of SOD and CAT activities. These findings are consistent with the therapeutic uses of shilajit as an Ayurvedic rasayan (rejuvenator) against oxidative stress and geriatric complaints.
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Diabetes mellitus was induced in male Wistar rats by the administration of streptozotocin (STZ, 45 mg/kg, s.c. on 2 consecutive days). Hyperglycaemia and superoxide dismutase activity of pancreatic islet cells was assessed on days 7, 14, 21 and 28, following STZ administration. In two other groups, shilajit (50 and 100 mg/kg, p.o.) was administered concurrently for 28 days. STZ induced significant hyperglycaemia by day 14, which increased progressively on days 21 and 28. STZ also induced a decrease in pancreatic islet cell superoxide dismutase, which was apparent by day 7 and increased progressively, thereafter on days 14, 21 and 28. Shilajit (50 and 100 mg/kg, p.o.) had no discernible per se effect on blood glucose levels in normal rats but attenuated the hyperglycaemic response of STZ from day 14 onwards, though only the effect of the higher dose was statistically significant. Similarly, both the doses of shilajit reduced the STZ-induced decrease in superoxide dismutase activity from day 14 onwards, the effect of the lower dose being statistically insignificant. The findings confirm earlier observations that STZ-induced hyperglycaemia may be the consequence of a decrease in pancreatic islet superoxide dismutase activity, leading to accumulation of free radicals and damage of the β-cells. Shilajit attenuates both these effects of STZ possibly by its action as a free radical scavenger. The findings support the postulate that shilajit can prevent maturity onset diabetes mellitus.
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The effects of shilajit and the combined effects of its main constituents, fulvic acids (FAs), 4′-methoxy-6-carbomethoxybiphenyl (MCB) and 3,8-dihydroxy-dibenzo-α-pyrone (DDP), were studied in relation to the degranulation and disruption of mast cells against noxious stimuli. Shilajit and different combinations of FAs, MCB and DDP provided statistically significant protection to antigen-induced degranulation of sensitized mast cells, markedly inhibited the antigen-induced spasm of sensitized guinea-pig ileum, and prevented mast cell disruption induced by compound 48/80. The findings are appraised in view of the clinical use of shilajit in the treatment of allergic disorders in Ayurvedic medicine.
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Fulvic acids (FA) and 4′-methoxy-6-carbomethoxybiphenyl (MCB, 1), two major organic compounds isolated from Shilajit (a humus product), were screened for anti-ulcerogenic activity in albino rats. Both FA and MCB showed significant anti-ulerogenic effects in the battery of tests accepted for this purpose. The mechanism of anti-ulcerogenic action was studied with MCB on the basis of its effects on mucin content (gastric juice carbohydrates and carbohydrate/protein ratio) and on the concentration of DNA and protein in the gastric juice. The MCB-induced changes in the mucosa provided resistance against the effect of ulcerogens and also against shedding of mucosal cells. A preliminary acute toxicity study indicated that both FA and MCB had a low order of toxicity.