In Ayurvedic Rasa Shastra, Shilajit is an important drug. It is known by various synonyms in Sanskrit like Adrijatu, Ashamasara, Atithi, Girija, Girijatu, Jatu, Sheleya, Shiladhatu and Shilajatu. In English, it is known as Black Bitumen and Mineral Pitch. Technical name is Asphaltum punjabianum.
The ancient Indians were aware about properties of shilajit. Although there is no description of shilajit in Vedas but Ayurvedic texts like Charaka Samhita have given extensive explanation about shilajit. Shusruta Samhita and Asthangsangreha have indicated shilajeet in the treatment of diabetes insipidus. Charaka has mentioned four varieties of shilajit whereas Sushruta recognizes six varieties of shilajit. Some texts on Rasa Shastra (Indian Alchemy) describe two varieties of shilajit:
Shilajit is found in the Tibet, Altai and Caucasus Mountains, as well as the Gilgit Baltistan region of northern Pakistan, but it is found most commonly in the Himalaya Mountains. Discovery of Gomutra Shilajit has been reported from South India.
Shilajit is obtained as exudates from rocks (Rajagopalan, 1984; Ghosal, 1992). The exudate contains 50 % pure Shilajit and rests are impurities. Some times Shilajit is obtained in pure form (Rajnath & Prasad, 1942). Shilajit has been described as bitumen varying greatly in consistency from a free flowing liquid to hard brittle solid; a mineral resin, a plant fossil exposed by the elevation of the Himalayas, a substance of mixed plant and animal origin and an inorganic material (Tewari, Tewari & Joshi, 1973).
Vegetable sources of Shilajit
- Euphorbia royleana (Euphorbiaceae): Shilajit has been regarded as the latex of a species of Euphorbia. Shilajit is reported to contain a large number of organic compounds; the analysis of the latex of Euphorbia royleana Boiss
- Styrax officinalis (Styraceae): Shilajit is thought to be largely the result of humification of the plant S. officinalis.
- Trifolium repens (Fabaceae): T. repens has also been found growing abundantly in the vicinity of shilajit-bearing rocks and are responsible, at least in part, for the formation of shilajit.
- Shilajit having odor like cow-urine.
- Shilajit having odor like camphor.
According to Charaka Samhita shilajit is soft and has light brown color. Charaka further indicates that best shilajit looks like oleoresin of Commiphora mukul (Guggul), has bitter and pungent taste and smells like cow-urine. Shilajit which is available with us today varies in consistency from a free-flowing liquid to a hard brittle solid. Shilajit present in the market is only stone mixed with mud. It does smell like cow-urine. It is amorphous and colourless. If we compare ancient and modern description of shilajit it can be said both differ in consistency.
Purification of Shilajit
Method 1: Impure shilajit is washed with potassium carbonate (Yavakshara), Kanjee and cow-urine and dried in sunlight.
Method 2: Impure shilajit is boiled in cow-milk, decoction of Triphala and expressed juice of Eclipta alba (Bhringraja) and dried.
- Shilajit is semi-solid. It is thicker than honey but soft as compared to confection.
- Some pharmacies sell shilajit in crystalline form which becomes moist when exposed to air.
- Dried shilajit is black in colour and smells like cow-urine.
- Shilajit in semi liquid state is yellowish-brown and smells like cow-urine.
Moisture, benzoic acid, hippuric acid, fulvic acid, fatty acids, gum, albuminoids, foreign matter, resin and wax.
According to Agnivesha, shilajit, if administered after taking into-consideration all relevant facts, is beneficial in all major diseases. Ayurveda classifies shilajit as rasyana (tonic). It can be taken by healthy persons also. It proves that shilajit has preventive and curative properties. Vagbhatta describes shilajit as anti-aging, tonic, aphrodisiac and nootropic. Shilajit purified in proper manner, is highly useful in the treatment of diabetes-mellitus, pyrexia, nutritional deficiency anaemia, aphagia, pain in abdomen, over-weight, diseases of the abdomen, enlarged spleen, chest-pain and diseases of the skin. Medicinal uses of shilajit collected from various sources are described below:
- Urinary diseases: Shilajit is administered with sucrose and honey. Dose of shilajit can be given from 250 mg to 2 G.
- Shilajatu Vatika is given in anaemia, skin diseases, fevers, spleen diseases, asthma, haemorrhoids, fistula-in-ano, pyuria, seminal diseases, cough, haemorrhage, epistaxis and menorrhagia. The formulation is given with juice of pomegranate or aromatic water. Consumption of Dolichos lablab is contraindicated with Shilajatu Vatika.
- Shilajatvadi Vati is given in spermatorrhoea. It is given with expressed juice of Parmelia perlata.
Modern investigations have demonstrated antioxidant, anti-anxiety, antidiabetic and aphrodisiac, ulcer healing, hepatoprotective and anti-inflammatory effects of shilajit. A clinical study in Russia has demonstrated efficacy of shilajit in enlarged prostate. Dr Salil Kumar Bhattachyra of Banaras Hindu University unlocked the mechanism of antidiaberic action of shilajit.
Obesity: In a clinical study evaluation anti-obesity property of Shilajit, 66 patients diagnosed with obesity were treated with Shilajit processed with Agnimantha. When the therapy was completed, significant reductions of body weight as well as body mass index were observed.
Diabetic neuropathy: Recent trials conducted in China have demonstrated usefulness of shilajit in the treatment of diabetic neuropathy. Clinical studies have shown that patients taking shilajit standardized to fulvic acid noted reduction in tingling, painful felling and numbness associated with diabetic neuropathy. Seeing the promising results of shilajit pharmaceutical use of fulvic acid is approved externally as well as internally in China.
Oligozoospermia: In a clinical study, 60 male patients having history of infertility were assessed. 35 males having total seminal counts below 20 million ml (-1) semen were placed in the category of oligozoospermic were and enrolled in the study. They were instructed to take PS capsule in a dose of 100 mg by oral mode twice a day after consuming major for a period of 3 months. Twenty-eight patients completed the study. They showed significant (P < 0.001) improvement in seminal count including number, morphology, morphology and motility. There was significant decrease of semen mlondialdehyde content.
- Acharya SB et al: Pharmacological Actions of Shilajit. Indian J Exp Biol. 1988 26(10), 775-777.
- Ghosal S, Reddy JP, Lal VK. Shilajit I: chemical constituents. Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences.1976 May; 65(5): 772-3.
- Ghosal S. Chemistry of shilajit, an immunomodulatory Ayurvedic rasayan. Pure & Appl. Chem., Vol.62, No.7, pp.1285-188, 1990.
- Ghosal, S. (1998). The faces and facts of shilajit. Proc.National Symp.A Development of Indigenous Drugs in India. New Delhi.72-80.
- Rajagopalan K. Shilajita (asphaltum). Anc Sci Life 1984; 4, 1 (Editorial).
- Rajnath, Prasad B. A note on the occurrence of Shilajit. Indian Science Congress, 1942.
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