What Is Shilajit?
Shilajit is an astonishing sticky tar-like resinous substance that is neither completely plant nor of animal origin. In nature, Shilajit is a type of mineral pitch that is made up of humus and decomposed plant remains, exuded from the rocks present in the Himalayas at an altitude of 1000 to 5000 metres above sea level.
Ancient ayurvedic scriptures detail that in the summer months of Jeshta and Ashada, the mountains get heated up due to the direct sun rays melting the layers of the mountain and yielding a resin-like semisolid liquid substance known as Shilajatu. But originally, several million years ago, when the Indian subcontinent collided with the Asian continent, the Himalayan mountains were formed crushing and trapping the tropical forests in between the huge boulders. When these components get pressed between massive layers of rocks for millions of years, they were converted into a tar-like gummy substance that may be black, brown or white in colour, and look like asphalt. Whenever there is a crack in the rock due to excessive heat, the material oozes out of it and settles on the rocks. The exuded herbs-mineral, known as Shilajit is rich in minerals and nutrients and has an abundance of bio-active humic and fulvic acid. These are found in high altitude mountains of Kashmir, Bhutan, Japan, Gilgit and Tibet.
Common Names Of Shilajit
Shilajit is usually known as Asphaltum, Black Bitumen, or Mineral Pitch in English. Other names that refer to Shilajit in Ayurveda in other states within India include Silajat, Shilajatu, Silajatu, Kanmandam, Saileya Shilaja, Moomie, Moomiyo, Punjabinum, Memiya, Shiladhatuja, Adrija, Shilasweda, Shilaniryasa, Asmaja, Asmajatuka, Shilamaya, Girija, Gaireya.
Types Of Shilajit
The types of Shilajit are characterised by the type of mountainous rocks from which it exudes:
Rocks containing Gold (Charka Samhita Shilajit):
Shilajit oozing out of these rocks have a Japa (i.e. Hibiscus flower) or reddish colour and has Madhura and Tikta Rasa and Katu Vipaka.
Rocks containing Silver (Rajat Shilajit):
Shilajit coming out of these rocks are whitish in colour and have a Katu Rasa and Madhura Vipaka.
Rocks containing Copper (Tamra Shilajit):
The exudation from these types of rocks has a peacock-throat-like an appearance, i.e. bluish-purple colour and shows Tikta Rasa and Katu Vipaka.
Rocks containing Iron (Lauha Shilajit):
Considered the best variety, the exudation looks quite similar to the gum of Guggulu (i.e. Commiphora mukul) and portrays Tikta and Lavana Rasa and Katu Vipaka.
Chemical Composition of Shilajit
The confirmation of this essential mineral compound is basically influenced by attributes such as the type of plant species involved, the geological nature of the rock, surrounding temperature, altitude and humidity of the particular region.
Shilajit usually comprises 60-80% organic matter, 20-40% mineral matter and 5% of trace elements. Several reports and scientific data suggest that it contains around 80 bio-active components including fatty acids, benzoic acid, hippuric acid, resin and waxy materials, albuminoids, gums, and vegetable matter. Being a Phyto-complex, Shilajit mainly contains (60 – 80%) of humus substances like humans, humic acids and fulvic acid. Additionally, it also contains triterpenes, sterols, ichthyol, ellagic acid, resin, aromatic carboxylic acid, 3, 4-benzocoimiarins, amino acids, phenolic lipids, minerals like silica, iron, antimony, lithium, manganese, calcium, copper, molybdenum, phosphorus, sodium, zinc, selenium and small amounts of dibenzo-α-pyrones (metabolites derived from plants, fungi, animal faeces or mycobionts). But the curative and therapeutic properties of Shilajit mainly come from the presence of fulvic acid that helps in treating a wide range of conditions.