Copyright © 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.Phytother. Res. 21, 401–405 (2007)
Copyright © 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
(www.interscience.wiley.com) DOI: 10.1002/ptr.2100
Phytother. Res. 21, 401–405 (2007)
Shilajit: A Review
Suraj P. Agarwal, Rajesh Khanna1*, Ritesh Karmarkar, Md. Khalid Anwer and
Department of Pharmaceutics, Jamia Hamdard (Hamdard University), Hamdard Nagar, New Delhi 110062, India
Published online 13 February 2007 in Wiley InterScience
Roop K. Khar
1Present address: Dabur Research Foundation, 22, Site IV, Sahibabad, Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh?– 201010, India
Shilajit is a pale-brown to blackish-brown exudation, of variable consistency, exuding from layers of rocks in
metabolites occurring in the rock rhizospheres of its natural habitat. Shilajit has been used as a rejuvenator
verified by modern scientific evaluation. Shilajit has been attributed with many miraculous healing properties.
Keywords: Shilajit; humic substances; Ayurvedic rasayan; adaptogen.
mummiyo is a pale-brown to blackish-brown exuda-
Himalayan ranges of the Indian subcontinent (Kong
where it is collected in small quantities from steep
vary in their physiological properties.
has been used for ages as a rejuvenator and for treating
a number of properties of shilajit and has proven that
of such remedies described in our ancient texts, it is
Traditional medicine is an integral part of the health
which have been in use for ages in Asian countries but
remedies for a number of ailments. However, these
many mountain ranges of the world, especially the Himalayas and Hindukush ranges of the Indian subconti-
and an adaptogen for thousands of years, in one form or another, as part of traditional systems of medicine
Copyright © 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
nent. It has been found to consist of a complex mixture of organic humic substances and plant and microbial
in a number of countries. Many therapeutic properties have been ascribed to it, a number of which have been
Received 12 October 2006
Revised 24 November 2006
Accepted 11 December 2006
* Correspondence to: Rajesh Khanna, Dabur Research Foundation, 22,
Contract/grant sponsor: UGC, New Delhi.
Site IV, Sahibabad, Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh – 201010, India.
Contract/grant sponsor: CSIR, New Delhi.
mainstream medicine if their claims are evaluated
a folk medicine for over 3000 years as a rejuvenator
in the ancient texts. It has been said that there is hardly
scientific studies over the past 20–25 years have shown
of the ancient claims for this panacea and the modern
85%) and organic compounds derived from vegetation
amount of metamorphosis due to the high temperature
During warm summer months, shilajit become less
scientifically and documented systematically.
and adaptogen (Sharma, 1978). It has been used by
any curable disease that cannot be controlled or cured
that it is indeed a panacea in traditional medicine,
scientific findings that have validated these claims.
fossils that have been compressed under layers of rocks
and pressure conditions prevalent there (Ghosal et al.,
viscous and flows out between the layers of rocks.
Shilajit is one such remedy, which has been in use as
Vaidyas and Hakims for ages and has a unique place
with the aid of shilajit. Although this is a tall order,
effective in a number of ailments. This is a brief review
Shilajit mainly consists of paleohumus (around 80–
for hundreds of years and have undergone a high
1991a; Ghosal et al., 1997; Ghosal et al., 1993b).
Shilajit, also known as salajit, shilajatu, mumie or
in many mountain ranges of the world, especially the
found in Russia, Tibet, Norway and other countries,
samples from different region of the world, however,
ascribed a number of pharmacological activities and
Modern scientific research has systematically validated
et al., 1958; Ghosal, 1993). Since there are a number
validate their claims and uses.
cluding India. There are a number of natural remedies,
documentation. The world today is looking at these
tion, of variable consistency, from layers of rocks
et al., 1987; Srivastava et al., 1988) (Fig. 1). It is also
rock faces at altitudes between 1000 and 5000 m. Shilajit
Shilajit, an ancient traditional medicine has been
a number of disease conditions (Acharya et al., 1988).
shilajit is truly a panacea in Oriental medicine (Chopra
imperative that research is carried out in order to
care system in a number of developing countries in-
unfortunately lack systematic scientific evaluation and
remedies can only find a place for themselves in the
Figure 1. Rock shilajit in its raw form.
Copyright © 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Phytother. Res. 21, 401–405 (2007)
S. P. AGARWAL ET AL.
SHILAJIT IN ANCIENT TEXTS
form or another, under the indigenous systems of medi-
(Ghosal, 1994; Ghosal et al., 1995e). It has various
called asphalt, mineral pitch or Jews pitch. In Hindi,
ul-musa. It is also called, Momio in Persian, myemu in
ing of shilajit is ‘Conqueror of mountain and destroyer
used in ancient medical texts. The word dhatu was used
sapthadhatus of the body (Tewari et al., 1973).
VARIETIES OF SHILAJIT
been described in charka samhita, namely savrana, rajat,
blue in colour. Rajat is a silver shilajit and is white in
savrana shilajit are not found commonly but the
according to the therapeutic point of view (Ghosal
Shilajit has been used for thousands of years, in one
taste and its smell resembles pungent cow’s stale urine
girija (all meaning derived from rock). In English, it is
Bengali, it is called Silajatu. In Arabic, it is called Hajar-
Ghosal, 1993; Ghosal et al., 2000). The Sanskrit mean-
such as dathuras, dathusara, shiladhatu, etc have been
bility as rasayana, which increases the activity of the
cine such as Ayurveda, Siddha and Unani. It is bitter in
synonyms. In Sanskrit, it is called Silajit or Silaras, adrija,
Gujarati and Marathi, it is called Silajita, Shilajit. In
Russian and mumie in German (Chopra et al., 1958;
of weakness’. There are several other terms for shilajit
as a synonym of shilajit simply to emphasize its capa-
There are four different varieties of shilajit which have
and is red in colour. Tamra is a copper shilajit and is
shilajit and is brownish-black in colour. Tamra and
Himalayan ranges and is supposed to be most effective
tamra and lauha shilajit. Savrana shilajit is gold shilajit
colour while the lauha shilajit is an iron-containing
last variety, i.e. lauha shilajit is commonly found in
et al., 1995b, 1995c; Sharma, 1978; Chopra et al., 1958).
ORIGIN OF SHILAJIT
ing from a layer of rocks of mountains is basically of
focus on these points. It has been mentioned in Sushruta
rocks of mountains due to the strong heat of the sun,
which comes from rocks of mountains under the pres-
There are a number of hypotheses about the origin
of humus – the characteristic constituents of soil –
repens which occur in the vicinity of the shilajit bearing
There are many scientists who claim that shilajit exud-
Ancient texts of Sushruta samhita and rasarangini also
juice of plant emerges as a gummy exudation from the
shilajit is an exudation of latex gum resin, etc. of plants
on the origin of shilajit remains incomplete.
ried out on shilajit showed that it is mainly composed
plants, namely Euphorbia royleana Boiss and Trifoleum
vegetative origin (Chopra et al., 1958; Shakir et al., 1965).
samhita that in the month of May–June the sap or latex
and Rasarangini and Dwarishtarang also claim that
ence of harsh scorching heat. But exact scientific proof
of shilajit (Joshi et al., 1994). Early scientific work car-
together with other organic constituents. Latex bearing
rocks are thought to be the most likely source of shilajit
(Ghosal et al., 1976; Ghosal et al., 1988b). Other recent
Liverworts like Asterella, Dumortiera, Marchantia,
and these bryophytes are responsible for the formation
as copper, silver, zinc, iron, lead etc, which are similar
research claims that the mosses of species such as
Pellia, Plagiochasma and Stephenrencella-Anthoceros
of shilajit (Joshi et al., 1994). The bryophytes reveal the
to the elements present in shilajit.
the exact chemical nature of shilajit. Earlier work
and waxy materials, gums, albuminoids and vegetable
search in the 1980s showed that the major organic mass
acid, ichthyol, ellagic acid, resin, triterpenes, sterol,
major physiological action of shilajit was found to
acted as carrier molecules for the active ingredients
such as the plant-species involved, the geological nature
obtained from India in the region of Kumoan contains
(15.5%) and Russia (19.0%). On the other hand, the
the pH of 1% aqueous solutions varied in the shilajit
(Peshawar) and 8.2 for Russia (Tien-Shan). Similarly,
Barbula, Fissidenc, Minium, Thuidium and species of
were present in the vicinity of shilajit-exuding rocks
occurrence of minerals and metals in their tissues such
Extensive research has been carried out to determine
included benzoic acid, hippuric acid, fatty acids, resin
(Kong et al., 1987; Ghosal et al., 1976). Extensive re-
components such as benzoic acid, hippuric acid, fatty
acids and phenolic lipids (Ghosal et al., 1988b). The
alpha-pyrones along with humic and fulvic acids which
The composition of shilajit is influenced by factors
altitude, etc. For example, it was found that shilajit
with shilajit obtained from Nepal (15.4%), Pakistan
quantities in shilajit obtained from Nepal. Similarly
(Kumoan), 7.5 for Nepal (Dolpa), 6.8 for Pakistan
these countries also varied (Ghosal et al., 1991b).
PURIFICATION AND FORMULATION OF
Modern research has shown that shilajit in its natural
meric quinones, reactive free radicals, etc. Mycotoxins
are believed to be a causative factor in aging. Poly-
purify the shilajit before it is consumed. The findings
on shilajit showed that its major organic constituents
matter with benzoic acid being the active ingredient
of shilajit comprised humus (60–80%) along with other
aromatic carboxylic acid, 3,4-benzocoumarins, amino
be due to the presence of the bioactive dibenzo-
(Ghosal, 1990; Ghosal, 1980).
of the rock, local temperature profiles, humidity and
a higher percentage of fulvic acids (21.4%) compared
bioactive low molecular compound is found in high
obtained from different countries, namely, 6.2 for India
humic constituents in shilajit samples obtained from
form is often contaminated by varying amounts of
are produced by mold or fungi and can cause illness or
meric quinones are an oxidation product of quinic acid
impurities such as mycotoxins, heavy metal ions, poly-
death in man. Free radicals can be harmful to cells and
which is found in some plants. Hence, it is necessary to
Copyright © 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Phytother. Res. 21, 401–405 (2007)
are consistent with the ancient texts which recommend
the purification of shilajit before consumption (Ghosal
et al., 1996).
USES OF SHILAJIT IN TRADITIONAL
Shilajit has an important and unique place in tradi-
jaundice, gallstone, digestive disorders, enlarged spleen,
has also been ascribed a potent aphrodisiac property.
tant aspects of an Ayurvedic rasayana (Ghosal, 1990).
anorexia. Shilajit is prescribed along with guggul to treat
used to treat osteoarthritis and spondylitis.
enhances the property of other drugs). Shilajit is soaked
Bachanania lactifolia (piala), Acacia fernesiana (acacia),
(bala). Work has recently been initiated to further in-
tional texts such as Ayurveda Siddha and Unani medi-
epilepsy, nervous disorder, chronic bronchitis, anemia.
According to Ayurveda, shilajit arrests the process of
Shilajit is useful for treating kidney stones, oedema,
fractures. It is believed that it goes to the joints and
Shilajit is also used as yogavaha (Ghosal et al., 1991b;
in the decoction of one or more of the following plants as
Terminalia tomentosa (asana), Catechu nigrum (catechu),
vestigate this property of shilajit (Khanna, 2005).
PRECLINICAL RESEARCH ON THE ACTIVITY
Antiulcerogenic and antiinflammatory activity
from different locations to evaluate their possible role
ratio and decreased the gastric ulcer index, indicating
ity in all three models of acute, subacute and chronic
paw oedema in rats, having an effect comparable to
Shilajit is perhaps the first agent to possess both
compared with unprocessed shilajit and vitamin C
cine. Shilajit is prescribed to treat genitourinary disorder,
Shilajit is given along with milk to treat diabetes. Shilajit
aging and produces rejuvenation which are two impor-
piles, internal antiseptic, adiposity, to reduce fat and
forms a callus quickly. The same combination is also
Ghosal et al., 1995c) (yogavaha is an agent which
this is said to increase their efficacy: Shoria robusta (sala),
Terminalia chebula (myrobelan) and Sida cordifolia
Studies were carried out on shilajit samples collected
found that shilajit increased the carbohydrate/protein
was also found to have potent antiinflammatory activ-
found to significantly reduce carrageenan-induced hind
(0.25 mg/kg, i.p.) (Goel et al., 1990).
this unique property of shilajit can be safely utilized in
as antiulcerogenic and antiinflammatory agents. It was
an increased mucus barrier (Ghosal et al., 1988a). Shilajit
inflammation. Shilajit, at a dose of 50 mg/kg was also
phenylbutazone (100 mg/kg, i.p.) and betamethasone
antiulcerogenic and antiinflammatory activities and
The antioxidant property of processed shilajit was
(ascorbic acid). Processed shilajit exhibited significant
ized free radicals. The dihydroxybenzo-alpha-pyrones
the antioxidant activity.
nitric oxide free radicals. Chemical polymerization by
tection of methyl methacrylate against hydroxyl radical-
free radical. Processed shilajit efficiently trapped nitric
cessed shilajit provided greater free radical protection
lipid peroxidation and gluthathione content in rat liver
hydroperoxide and ADP/Fe++ complex in a dose de-
and inhibited the ongoing lipid peroxidation which was
antioxidant activity of itself and also had the ability to
in shilajit caused recycling (regeneration) of ascorbic
In another experiment, processed shilajit was tested
free radicals was measured with and without processed
induced polymerization and significantly inhibited the
oxide free radicals. The antioxidant effects were con-
(Ghosal et al., 1995b; Bhattacharya et al., 1995).
homogenates was also investigated. It was found that
pendent manner (Ghosal, 2000). Shilajit also decreased
induced by these agents immediately after its addition
shilajit as an Ayurvedic medha rasayana (enhancer of
of ethyl acetate extractive and fulvic acids obtained
paradigms. It was found that processed shilajit and
sition and memory retention in old albino rats (Ghosal
the above parameters.
the administration of streptozotocin (STZ) 45 mg/kg
cells was assessed on days 7, 14, 21 and 28 following
istered concurrently from 28 days. It was found that
Similarly STZ also induced a decrease in pancreatic
on days 14, 21 and 28. Shilajit at a dose of 50 and
regenerate (recycle) ascorbic acid after it had neutral-
acid. Unprocessed shilajit did not consistently exhibit
for its ability to neutralize sulphite anion, hydroxy and
shilajit. Processed shilajit provided almost complete pro-
polymerization of methylmethacrylate by the sulphite
centration dependent. Higher concentrations of pro-
In a separate experiment, the effect of shilajit on
shilajit inhibited lipid peroxidation induced by cumene
the rate of oxidation of reduced glutathione content
to the incubation system (Tripathi et al., 1996).
The study was carried out to test the validity of use of
native shilajit and a preparation consisting of a mixture
avoidance, elevated plus-maze and open field behavior
fulvic acids) significantly increased the learning acqui-
erratic response (both augmentive and retardative) in
memory and learning) in albino rats. Processed shilajit,
from processed shilajit were evaluated in an active
its active constituents (total ethyl acetate fraction and
et al., 1993a). However, shilajit native produced an
Diabetes mellitus was produced in male albino rats by
with superoxide dismutase activity of pancreatic islet
shilajit at a dose of 50 and 100 mg/kg, p.o. was admin-
was further increased progressively on days 21 and 28.
ent on day 7 and increased progressively, thereafter
s.c. on two consecutive days. Hyperglycemia along
STZ administration. In two separate other groups,
STZ induced significant hyperglycemia by day 14, which
islet cell superoxide dismutase activity which was appar-
Copyright © 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Phytother. Res. 21, 401–405 (2007)
blood glucose level in normal rats but attenuated the
cally significantly. Similarly, both doses, i.e. 50 and
14 onwards, the effect of lower dose being statistically
islet superoxide dismutase activity, leading to an accu-
both effects of STZ possibly by its action as a free
onset diabetes mellitus (Bhattacharya, 1995).
Memory enhancement and anxiolytic activity
tropic and anxiolytic activity in Charles Foster strain
while the anxiolytic activity was studied and evaluated
nanotropic and anxiolytic activities. The biochemical
cant effect on rat brain monoamines and monoamine
hydroxy indole acetic acid concentration and an increase
insignificant effect on noradrenaline and 3-methoxy-4-
brain 5-hydroxytryptamine turnover, associated with an
and Bhattacharya, 1992).
and organic constituents isolated from them were stud-
a combination of the total ethyl acetate extract and
induced immobility in albino mice (Ghosal et al., 1991b).
fulvic acids, 4′-methoxy-6-carbomethoxybiphenyl and
stituents provided satisfactory significant protection to
S. P. AGARWAL ET AL.
100 mg/kg, p.o. had no dispersible per se effect on the
though only the effect of the higher dose was statisti-
decrease in superoxide dismutase activity from day
hyperglycemia may be due to a decrease in pancreatic
been confirmed by these experiments. Shilajit prevents
writing of Ayurveda that shilajit can prevent maturity
hyperglycemic response of STZ from day 14 onwards,
100 mg/kg p.o., of shilajit reduced the STZ-induced
insignificant. An earlier observation that STZ-induced
mulation of free radicals and damage of beta cells has
radical scavenger. This experiment supports the earlier
The effect of shilajit was investigated for putative nano-
passive avoidance learning acquisition and retention
these studies indicated that shilajit had significant
cated that acute treatment with shilajit had an insignifi-
acute (5 days) dose treatment caused a decrease in 5-
dihydroxyphenyl acetic acid concentration with an
chemical studies on shilajit indicate a decrease in rat
in memory and anxiolytic activity in albino rats (Jaiswal
albino rats. The nanotropic activity was assessed by
by the elevated plus-maze technique. The results of
studies carried out for the level of monoamines indi-
metabolite levels. However, it was observed that sub-
in the level of dopamine, homovallanic acid and 3,4-
hydrophenylethylene glycol levels. The observed neuro-
increase in dopaminergic activity leading to an increase
Shilajit collected from India, Nepal, Pakistan and Russia
that shilajit from Kumoan (India), Dolpa (Nepal) and
statistically significant improvement in forced swimming
ied for their antistress effect in albino mice. It was found
fulvic acids extracted from Kumoan shilajit produced a
The effect of shilajit and its main active constituents
relation to the degranulation and disruption of mast
3,8-dihydroxy-dibenzo-alpha-pyrone were studied in
cell against noxious stimuli. Shilajit and its active con-
antigen-induced degranulation of sensitized mast cells,
tion (Ghosal et al., 1989). These findings are consistent
markedly inhibited the antigen induced spasm of sensi-
with the therapeutic use of shilajit in the treatment of
mice that were given either shilajit extract or a placebo.
extract or a placebo. It was found that the white blood
and time of exposure was increased (Bhaumik et al.,
phages and activated splenocytes of tumor-bearing
mined on the levels of brain monoamines in rats. It was
tryptamine and 5-hydroxy indole acetic acid and in-
mitter levels are similar to those seen in cases of in-
tized guinea-pig ileum and prevented mast cell disrup-
Shilajit as an immunomodulator agent was studied in
tored prior to and at intervals after receiving the shilajit
served activity increased as the dose of shilajit extract
activated, to different degrees, murine peritoneal macro-
In another experiment, the effect of shilajit was deter-
5 days significantly reduced the level of 5-hydoxy
metabolites in rat brain. These changes in neurotrans-
its use as an ayurvedic rasayana (Ghosal, 1990).
Anti AIDS activity
(Ghosal, 1990, 1992a, 1992b, Ghosal, 1998; Ghosal et al.,
ies in AIDS patients with a multi-component natural
of the essential constituents was conducted. Of the 36
improvement. Their CD4 and CD8 cell counts were
received the treatment for 1 year, showed a distinct
PATENTS ON SHILAJIT
justify its claims. A research study on shilajit bioactive
patents so far filed on shilajit: US Patent No. 5,405,613
composition (Ghosal, 2002a); US Patent No. 6,440,436
The white blood cell activity was studied and moni-
cell activity was increased by shilajit extract. The ob-
1993). Shilajit and its combined constituents elicited and
animals at early and later stages of tumor growth.
found that shilajit at a dose of 25 and 50 mg/kg i.p. for
creased the level of dopamine, noradrenaline and their
creased humoral (immune) activity and hence validate
Shilajit is endowed with both immunopotentiating
reducing properties (Ghosal, 2000; 2002a). Clinical stud-
three supportive ingredients, in which shilajit was one
the formulation for 6 months showed positive signs of
356 ± 203 and 984 ± 356, respectively. Ten patients who
1995a, 1995d; Bhaumik et al., 1993) and viral load
product-formulation, comprising three essential and
patients enrolled, 22 who received the treatment with
increased from 259 ± 119 (CD4) and 733 ± 483 (CD8) to
CD4, 516 ± 272; CD8 1157 ± 428 cell counts (Ghosal,
improvement in the symptoms and augmentation in the
Extensive research has been carried out on shilajit to
and restorative properties. The following is a list of
Patent application No. 20030198695 – Herbo-mineral
constituents proved that they have healing, antiaging
– vitamin/mineral composition (Rowland, 1995); US
SHILAJIT Download full-text
Copyright © 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Phytother. Res. 21, 401–405 (2007)
– Process for preparing purified shilajit composition
tional and cosmetic ingredients (Ghosal, 2003).
is very useful in many diseases and serves as a potent
from native Shilajit (Ghosal, 2002b); US Patent No.
6,558,712 – Delivery system for pharmaceutical, nutri-
Shilajit is a humus rich blackish-brown substance, which
prescribed. Although these and many other claims of
tonic. It is perhaps the best rasayana Ayurveda has
shilajit had been mentioned in ancient texts, they lacked
oriental medicine. Since there are a number of tradi-
undertaken based on modern scientific methods possi-
and financial aid given for the project.
scientific validation. Modern research has validated
tional medicines available with varied claims regarding
bly leading to more panaceas in traditional medicine.
these claims and has proven shilajit to be a panacea in
their therapeutic activity, it is necessary that research be
We thank UGC, New Delhi and CSIR, New Delhi for the fellowship
Acharya SB, Frotan MH, Goel RK, Tripathi SK, Das PK. 1988.
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Bhattacharya SK. 1995. Shilajit attenuates streptozocin induced
diabetes mellitus and decrease in pancreatic islet superoxide
dismutase activity in rats. Phytother Res 9: 41–44.
Bhattacharya SK, Sen AP, Ghosal S. 1995. Effects of Shilajit on
biogenic free radicals. Phytother Res 9: 56–59.
Bhaumik S, Chattapadhay S, Ghosal S. 1993. Effects of Shilajit
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