Hindawi Publishing Corporation
International Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease
Volume 2012, Article ID 674142, 4pages
: 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, ˜
noa, 780023 Santiago, Chile
Correspondence should be addressed to Ricardo B. Maccioni, firstname.lastname@example.org
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
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.
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 . 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 . The
health beneﬁts of shilajit have been shown to diﬀer from
region to region, depending on the place from which it was
2. Origins of
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 .
3. Molecular Composition of
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 diﬀerent pH levels.
2 International Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease
Humins Humic acids
-Antiaggregation of tau protein
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 , 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 diﬀerent 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  and likely has systemic
eﬀects as complement activator . 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 . 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
4. Traditional Uses of
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
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∗∗
10 mg/mL Shilajit or the formulation of Brain Up-10  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 diﬀerences with respect to control, ∗∗P<0.001).
rejuvenating, and arresting aging roles have been attributed
to it . 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 (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
. Other common traditional uses include its action in gen-
itourinary disorders, jaundice, digestive disorders, enlarged
spleen, epilepsy, nervous disorders, chronic bronchitis, and
anemia . 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 diﬀerent 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
; (2) antioxidant properties [15,16]; (3) cognitive and
memory enhancer [1,10,17]; (4) antidiabetic properties
; (5) anxiolytic ; (6) antiallergic properties and
immunomodulator [2,19,20]; (7) anti-inﬂammatory ;
(8) analgesic ; antifungal properties ; (9) ability to
interact positively with other drugs ; (10) protective
properties in high altitudes ; (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 .
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 ; US Patent application number
20030198695—Herbo-mineral composition ; US Patent
number 6,440,436—Process for preparing puriﬁed shilajit
composition from native shilajit ; US Patent number
6,558,712—Delivery system for pharmaceutical, nutritional
and cosmetic ingredients . Other recent patent about a
phytocomplex with vitamins added is WO 2011/041920 .
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
. 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 . 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 . 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 diﬀerent
shilajit preparations with biomolecules. This will facilitate
our understanding of their mechanisms of action.
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.
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-
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