From the forthcoming book A Hermit’s Pharmacopoeia, Or Primary Botanical, Animal and Mineral Sources for Survival and Bigu to Battle Corpse Worm Infestation and Chu Pathogens, By Frederick R. Dannaway:
Shilajit, Shilajatu, Sila Jatu, Saileya, silaja, saila, dhatuja, silamya, sila sveda Moomiya, Mumie, mineral pitch, in English translations of Ayurvedic works Asphaltum punjabinum (asphalt from Punjab). Ayurveda identifies many kinds of shilajit, such as gold (Swarna), silver (Rajata), copper (Tamra) and iron (Loha).
“Silajatu originates from four metals- gold, silver, copper and black iron and is slightly sour (acid), astringent in taste (alkaline?) Katu in Vipaka (digestion) and is moderate (neither too hot nor too cold) in virya. This rasayana in effect and if applied methodically it is aphrodisiac and alleviates diseases. Its potency enhances if its is decocted in the paste of drugs which are meant for the alleviating the diseases arising out the imbalances of vata, pitta and kapha.” ~ Caraka Samhita
Known since ancient times as an almost miracle rejuvenative where traditions state that shilajit (purified and added with other herbs) can according to the Caraka Samhita “cure any chronic or obstinate type of diseases” (Puri 2007). It is said to have originated from the celestial friction when the king snake Vasuki Naga was being used by Gods and Demons to churn during Samudra Manthana Mandaracala (churning of the ocean). In the Rasanarva the origin of shilajit is expounded upon by Lord Shiva, saying that the origin of the drug is from the summer season where the mountain gets heated and releases the extract of the exudate of Dhatu called shilajit (Varanasi 2007). Other myths, also suggesting the origins of the time of the Samudra manthana, is that the God and demons, due to the friction and heat of the churning produced a sweat. The sweat of the gods mixed with the divine nectar, and the drug was distributed in small quantities in the mountains, melting in the suns rays and called lac or jatu giving shilajit its name. The word shilajit in Sanskrit means “exuded from the rocks” or “winner or sweat of the rocks” (early Europeans thought it was fossilized plants that have been exposed to the sun) and while there are many kinds, Puri satates that most kinds present today in the market and in India appear to be of the iron type. He describes it as light blackish brown, lustrous and with a smell of cow’s urine, burning without smoking and settling in water. The adaptogen and tonic products have been studied deeply in Russia, China and in Europe and many countries have their own unique fulvic acid based products. Russian cosmonauts and athletes take regular doses for training and many Olympic athletes swear by its stimulating and healing effects. Shilajit is a yoga vahin (potentiating another drug when added later) which makes it a popular addition to make energy and aphrodisiac products.
Mukherji, an eminent alchemical scholar, notes that there are two kinds of shilajatu, gomutra-shila-jatu, the variety smelling of cow’s urine and karpura-shila-jatu, the variety smelling of camphor. The former is most commonly available and the best of it is described as having essence or substance. Mukherji says that it exudes from heated rocks containing gold, silver, copper, iron, tin and lead with those from iron being the best. The kind from gold, silver, copper, and iron are especially indicated for the pacification of an abnormal excess of the system of vayu (air) and combined with pittam (animal heat), kapha (phlegm) only, and the three doshas (vayu, pitta, kapha) while that of iron is best for reducing the effects of age. Mukherji continues that shilajatu, is neither heating nor cooling, contradicting Puri, and it is preventing aging and senility. It has the property of removing mucus and other dirts of the system, it can cure excess phlegm, shaking the limbs, stone disease, sugar in urine, stricture and gleet, consumption, asthma, piles…hysteria, insanity, nausea, leprosy, worms, fevers, jaundice, dropsy, sperma-torrhoea, loss of appetite, obesity, pthisis, colic, enlargement of spleen… pain in the heart, dysentery, and all sorts of skin diseases and “it is useful as a medicine as well as in alchemy.” By taking shilajatu and milk and incinerated iron as well as many alchemical recipes of shilajatu.
The exudes of the crude shilajit, collected from high Himalayan mountains, is purified in a simple method consisting of boiling the rocks and water to separate the water-soluble and water insoluble compounds (Puri 2007). The water soluble portion is kept and sun dried, the resultant extract dried by the sun is called “Surya tapi” and is considered the highest grade shilajit product available. Puri records another method of purification where the raw materials placed in a drum of water and stirred and the resulant suernatant fluid is collected and dried as shilajit while other methods of purification with amalaki (Emblica officinalis), or the three fruits triphala (E.officinalis, Terminalia belerica, T. chebula) or a mixture of the ten roots (dashmula). Other sodhana methods include triturating the water washed resin in a decoction of Neem, Guduci, and Indraya in an iron container for 7 times with each drug. The principle solvents to remove impurities in the Rasayana literature are mainly hot water and triphala, or guggulu and other plants such as Cardamom and ksara. Mukherji describes in detail eight processes to purify shilajatu and describes the burning without smoke as proof of purity. Another purity test is to put pure shilajit in water through the tip of a thin erect glass it will come down slowly after spreading like a fibre. Yet another process is Satwapatana which is where the essence of the drug is obtained by high temperatures leaving the minerals behind while the crude material is burned off. Some other substances and high temperature processes yield a finished material that is hard like iron (Varanasi 2007).
Some tribes think shilajit is the feces of mountain rats or beavers, and these rodents do apparently eat shilajit and other plants and defecate it mostly undigested during winter hibernation, where the locals collect and much esteem it as medicine. Folklore suggests villagers observed wild animals and monkeys “licking” and noticed seemingly beneficial results and took the exudate themselves and experience rejuvenation. Some authors in India and early European investigators of Ayurveda thought shilajit “an impure sulphate of alumina or an encrustration of aluminous shale on the rock, but the later sutides showed that is predominantly consisted of organic compounds, which lead to speculation of its vegetable origin” (Puri 2007). In appearance it is an oleo-resin, but as Puri notes, other studies have noted its origin may have been from the dried latex of the den droid Euphorbia spp.. (E. royleana is the chief suspect) Here the sap is said to burst in the hot sun and mix with the mineral rich soil. Russians however consider junipers as the botanical origin, the theory being that “juniper berries got biotransformed by decades of exposure to sun and then seeped down into the rocks. Another 40-50 years to the thick black paste was exuded from rocks by geothermal pressure” (Puri 2007).
The extensive folk use of shilajit is well attested in ancient sources and in modern formula as well such as the Ayurvedic drugs Navaratnakalp Amrit and various rasayana formula. Its used to facilitate fasting and yogic regimens and also in Panchkarma (where one rises before sunrise in winter months taking a high dose 200mg to 1500mg) with honey or milk, and 2-3 hours later some milk, rice or barley, and Puri says that barley was considered essential but the bean, kulath Dolichos biflorus containing urease enzymes and is a diuretic is strictly forbidden, as it would render shilajit ineffective. All food items considered hot nature are to be avoided, or those that increase metabolic rates, as shilajit is itself said to increase body heat. Ancient texts stress that milk must be used with shilajit, upon ingesting it there is a immediate depletion of body fat and cholesterol and milk provides the nutrients that saves the body from sudden attack. Puri notes that “various constituents in shilajit work better in a medium of milk” and that “probably shilajit gets unbound with proteins or fats of milk and forms a complex compound, which as no side effect. Shilajit in a bound form is released to the body slowly, which has a better bioavailability for a longer duration.” Those intolerant of milk are advised to use cow’s urine or dilute solution of vinegar for taking shilajit. Shilajit is advised to be taken for 7-21 days or periods of 49 days in view of bio-availability to the human system.
Mukherji says shilajatu will produce an appreciable effect within a week, and it should be taken with a vegetarian diet and milk, and the best results will be attained at a minimum of three weeks but six weeks, if all regulations are followed, is said to prevent senility, and make a person live a happy and healthy life for a 100 years. Mukherji describes the dietary restrictions as to avoid fried foods, roasted (with or without oil) sour, fermented or heavy meals. The person should also avoid, not only during the period of use but preceding and following, physical exercise, exposure to sun , exposure to wind, thing which trouble the mind, heavy food, inflaming foods (sour, pungent, fried, fermented etc.) and he should drink rain water. Impure shilajit can cause all manners of evil, such as inflammation, hysterical fits, giddiness, hemorrhage, loss of appetite and constipation.
Ayurveda describes the use of shilajit as an anabolic agent that supports muscle strength as well as healing skin and soft tissues. For healing skins and tissues, fresh coconut is grated, roasted slightly, and the juice of the coconut is mixed, the whole of which is boiled vigorously in four times milk, till dry, and add raisin, sugar and honey as per taste and to this is added one gram of shilajit. Use for 40 days. Rasayana describes its effects as promoting immunity, arresting aging and promoting sexual potency. Many recipes abound for combinations soothing mental fatigue, urino-genital system and for diabetes. As a sexual tonic, triturate the wet shilajit 20 grams, with organic compound of tin 20 gm, organic compound of iron 10 gm, mica compound 6 gm and make pills of 250 mg. Take one pill in the early hours.
For a fatigued brain, take 250 mg of shilajit with a teaspoon of butter. More and more complicated recipes abound for specific conditions or applications but Russian studies have shown simple methods and extracts have clinically been proven to exhibit biostimulator, elevating immune system and neurohormonal regulation, controlled oxidation-reduction process and had a positive influence on mineral metabolism. Studies confirmed its role in effect memory, reducing anxiety as well as an anabolic agent in the healing/training of sportsman and military elite. Puri summarizes the anti-stress and adjuvant effects by the many human and animal tests conducted around the world confirming its positive benefits in training, healing, memory and stress reduction. It exhibits anti-inflammatory activity, anti-allergic as well as regulating hormonal activity and significantly anti-ulcer and preventing diet induced high cholesterol. Polyherbal formulas including shilajit have proven effective in certain types of diabetes, increasing insulin secretion and repairing/regenerating pancreas tissues. Other studies confirm its use in anemia, urinary stones, heart disease, rheumatism, gout and nervous system diseases and the healing of fractures and torn ligaments (Dash 2003). For sexual potency one may add Ashwaganda, and indeed one finds it sold today as an herbal or natural Viagra.
The chemical break down of shilajit can be classified as humic (80-85%) and non-humic and studies have ruled out certain sample as from Euphorbia but that there was a humification of resin bearing plants which account for 80 % of humus components. The two compounds of most interest are fulvic acid and humic acid, and Puri states “Fulvic acid has the lowest weight component containing uronic acids, phenolic glycocides and amino acids, while humic acid is composed of high molecular weight compounds and contains a high proportion of phenolics” and fulvic acid may have a role as a carrier molecule for more bioactive compounds, explaining the adaptogenic properties. The Russian scientist Dr. Sarymsakov said shilajit contained over 30 micro-nutrients, 10 metal oxides, 6 amino acids and many other phytoconstituents.
Alchemical texts like the Rasa Ratna Samucchaya state the shilajit posesses all the properties of rasa, uprasa (the eight uprasa are sulphur, red ochre, vitriol or sulphate of iron, alum, orpiment or trisulfide of iron, collyriums and kankustha), parada (mercury), ratna (precious gems) and lauha (metals) together in itself. Shilajit is one of the eight rasas and is said to be especially effective when taken with powdered metals or bhasmas or with the metals and triphala abd pippali and other herbs, ghee and honey for a year. There is a steady evolution in the sophistication of the use of shilajit from the simple animal inspired investigations of licking the crude resin to extraction methods towards alchemical recipes. One particularly interesting recipe can be classed as a siddhanjana or magical eye ointment that used camphor, shilajit called margapasanam and a number of other potentially psychoactive herbs, metal oxides and minerals that allowed one to see the seven netherworlds of patala.*
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.