December 1, 2023
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August-2023 Features/Columns

SHILAJIT

An Elixir of Life!

Words: Wolfgang Windmann, PhD

INTRODUCTION

Shilajit must be one of the most interesting natural remedies to come from Central Asia. It is certainly by far one of the least well known. That it has attracted so little attention does not reflect the enormous therapeutic potential of this pure, natural substance. Its profile has grown in the last few years, even in its homelands, as is evident in the increasing number of scientific studies being published. India, Pakistan, and Iran have all seen an increase in scientific efforts to explore the secrets of the effects of Shilajit. Attempts have been made through cutting-edge scientific methodology to pinpoint the healing powers attributed to it, but this natural substance is slow to surrender its secrets. Shilajit has had a somewhat mythical reputation for many years; it was difficult to obtain and problematic to deal with, given its somewhat idiosyncratic properties. The lack of standards in terms of identity, purity, and content (which persist to this day), coupled with the commercial interests of previous generations and political systems, resulted in many fakes and less effective, poor-quality products appearing on the market, which ultimately undermined buyers’ faith in its healing power over the long term. We first learned about Shilajit in Western Europe in the 1990s as it made its way here via two routes: the great wave of immigration from the states of the former Soviet Union at the start of that decade, followed by the popularization of Ayurvedic alternative therapy treatments at the end of the 1990s. Shilajit comes

treatments at the end of the 1990s. Shilajit comes from the Sanskrit and means “rock-overpowering,” while translated literally, Mumijo means “protecting the body from diseases,” and in Old Persian mum meant wax. The linguistic similarity of Mumijo to the word “mummy” has led to much confusion in Western Europe in particular.It has nothing to do with the infamous mumia vera aegyptiaca,1, 2, 3 a powder made from the ground, desiccated body parts of Egyptian mummies preserved with resin, asphalt, and extracts of cedar wood, used in traditional medicine to stop bleeding. Mumijo/Shilajit goes by different names in different linguistic regions, but most are descriptive, pointing to its outward appearance. It is described lit- erally as a kind of “sweat of the mountains.” In India it is known as Shilajit or silajatu, and in Ayurvedic medicine 4, 5 it has acquired the status of a Rasayana, an “elixir of life.”

According to Ayurvedic teaching, it energizes the vital juices, maintains youth, and revitalizes, featuring as an ingredi- ent in remedies for boosting vitality and physical condition by helping to maintain the delicate balance between the body’s various systems. In Myanmar it is known as kao-tun, the equivalent of “blood of the moun- tain,” and in the Altai Mountains of southern Siberia as barachgschin, or “oil of the mountains,” Tibet, Mongolia, and the Transbaikal region call it brogschaun, or “mountain juice,” while Iran and Iraq have various names, including arakul dshibal, which translates as “mountain sweat.” It is called Mumijo in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and most of the Commonwealth of Independence States (CIS). In addition to Mumijo and Shilajit, the terms mineral pitch, bitumen, and asphalt are also widely used, with bitumen and asphalt having a secondary meaning as the petroleum products of the same name. In China and Tibet it is known as zha-xun.In the countries of Central Asia, ancient lore tells of Shilajit’s effective, if sometimes apparently mystical, healing power. Study of the scientific literature and ancient sources reveals that it was frequently combined with honey as a treatment, for both practical and therapeutic reasons. Honey is an effective way of masking its somewhat penetrating and aromatic flavor, and the therapeutic effects of honey itself are already well documented. This, of course, presumes that the finest quality honey is used, one that has not been heat-treated and is as natural as possible. The results for its use in combination with manuka honey, which is well known for its therapeutic properties, are particularly promising.

APPLICATION

Shilajit can be used to treat all kinds of ailments including:

  • allergies
  • broken bones
  • bronchial disease
  • colds
  • gastritis and enteritis
  • hemorrhoids
  • immunodeficiency
  • impotence, infertility
  • metabolizing mineral deficiency, especially iron, selenium, magnesium, zinc, iodine, potassium, calcium, sulfur, manganese, molybdenum, and copper
  • osteoporosis
  • periodontitis
  • poor wound healing
  • phlebitis

We describe here Shilajit’s use for Osteoporosis. Please note that the doses indicated have been taken from the relevant publications cited in each case and their effectiveness has not been checked by the author.

OSTEOPOROSIS

Osteoporosis (literally, “porous bone”) has become endemic and in some Western countries it is now the cause of more hospital admissions than heart attacks and strokes combined. Respected institutions have suggested that higher life expectancy means that in fifty years’ time at least twice as many people will be suffering from osteoporosis than today. The disease is relatively simple to describe but has catastrophic consequences for those affected. More calcium is eliminated from the body’s bone structure than is deposited, resulting in a continuous calcium depletion. Bones become more porous and break more easily. The structural stability and robustness of bones is diminished.

WHO IS AT PARTICULAR RISK?

Osteoporosis can affect anyone. Those at particular risk include preand post-menopausal women; the female sex hormones (estrogens) have a significant effect on the bone remodeling process, and a particular risk has been identified in women who have menstruated for fewer than thirty-five years. It is advisable to be aware of the risk of osteoporosis and take action in good time in order to help prevent it, perhaps discussing it with your doctor, who will advise on your specific risks and measure your bone density, if required. A bone density reading will indicate the degree of any calcium loss in your bones.

The table on page below lists the amounts of calcium that people in each age group should take to ensure their body has sufficient levels. Advice for preventing osteoporosis has changed considerably since the 2010s. Whereas taking calcium supplements on their own was previously advised, we now know much more about the vital role played by vitamin D3, which ensures that calcium is absorbed by the bones rather than being deposited in the body’s tissue and vessels as excess. Of course, a calcium pill can be taken daily with food and is often recommended, particularly for those with a poor diet. Make sure that it is the right kind of calcium that the body can process—not everything labeled “calcium” actually is calcium. Calcium supplements bought from discount stores are often calcium carbonate, only 20 percent or so of which can be absorbed by the body, with the balance having to be excreted unused. On the other hand, some 90 percent of the calcium in calcium gluconate (from pharmacies) is easily absorbed by the body, for example. These tablets can be a little more expensive, but the calcium is considerably more accessible for the body, generally making it a better choice. Before opting to take a course of calcium gluconate, ask your doctor or pharmacist for up-to-date information, and particularly if you have a special condition/illness or if you are pregnant. Taking calcium alone, however, is not sufficient, as the calcium must be absorbed to optimal effect, as indicated above. Vitamin D3 performs this role, therefore it is important to keep an eye on the levels of this vitamin as well.

Recommended calcium intake for the body.
Age Daily dose of calcium in mg
14 to 6700
27 to 9800
310 to 12900
413 to 141000
515 to 241200
625 to 50900
7From 51800
Increased requirement for calcium.
Increased requirement for
1Nursing mothers1300 mg
2Pregnant women1200 mg
3Post-menopausal women who have had no
hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
1500 mg
HOW CAN SHILAJIT HELP?

Shilajit’s use in traditional folk medicine to prevent osteoporosis is based on the same principle as its use to help heal fractures. Like vitamin D3, it helps with the deposition of calcium in bones. Except for mineral deposits of strontium, Shilajit is the only natural substance we know of with appreciable levels of strontium. To help prevent osteoporosis, a dose of 0.2–0.5g Shilajit taken twice a day is recommended. The zinc present in Shilajit also has a valuable role to play in maintaining bone health. Zinc is an essential constituent of bone growth6, 7 and zinc levels in bone decrease with age and postmenopause. Zinc has a wide range of properties, affecting such functions as the formation and mineralization of osteoblastic bones by promoting the differentiation of cells into osteoblastic (bone-forming) cells and inhibiting oesteoclastic (bone-resorption) function.

Calcium content of foods
FoodAverage calcium content per 100 g (3.5 oz)
1Whole (full-fat) milk 3.5%100
2Hard cheese800
3Camembert500
4Gouda, medium-aged900
5Alpine cheese 45%1200
6Emmental 45%1020
7Poppy seeds1448
8Sesame seeds783
9Soya beans250
10Snap peas (sugar snap peas)310

Excerpted from ‘Shilajit: The Ayurvedic Adaptogen for Anti-aging and Immune Power’

REFERENCES
  1. Benno R. Meyer-Hicken. Über die Herkunft der “Mumia” genannten Substanzen und ihre Anwendung als Heilmittel. Doctoral thesis, Kiel 1978.
  2. Various authors. Merck Index. 3rd edition, 1910, 341.
  3. Der Apothekerpraktikant. 2nd edition, 1939, 662.
  4. Gupta, S.H., Stapelfeld, E. Ayurveda Medizin. 3rd edition, Thieme, 2019.
  5. Zoller, A., Nordwig, H. Heilpflanzen der ayurvedischen Medizin. Haug, Heidelberg.
  6. 90 Yamaguchi, M. Role of nutritional zinc in the prevention of osteoporosis. Mol Cell Biochem. 2010 May;338(1–2):241–54. doi: 10.1007/s11010-009-0358- 0. Epub 2009 Dec 25. PMID: 20035439.
  7. 91 Jiménez, M., Abradelo, C., San Román, J., Rojo, L. Bibliographic review on the state of the art of strontium and zinc based regenerative therapies. Recent devel- opments and clinical applications. J Mater Chem B. 2019 Mar 28; 7(12):1974– 1985. doi: 10.1039/c8tb02738b. Epub 2019 Feb 27. PMID: 32254801.

Wolfgang Windmann, Ph.D., holds a degree in pharmacy and a doctorate in natural sciences from the University of Würzburg. He has been working with Shilajit since 1994 and has twice traveled to Central Asia to study its formation and extraction. He runs a pharmaceutical company with a focus on natural products and lives near Leer in East Frisia, Germany.

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