Shilajit: A Humic Matter Panacea for Cancer

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International Journal of Toxicological and Pharmacological Research 2012; 4(2): 17-25

ISSN: 0975-5160

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Review Article

Shilajit: A Humic Matter Panacea for Cancer

1 Kishor Pant, Bimala Singh, Nagendra Thakur

Department of Microbiology, School of Life Sciences, Sikkim University 6th Mile Samdur, Tadong, Gangtok, Sikkim, India


Cancer is the leading cause of death after cardiovascular disease. The primary etiologic agents for cancer include mutagens, toxins, free radicals, heavy metals, blood sugar, virus, radiations apart from many other factors including inflammation which can increase the risk of cancer development and progression. Shilajit is a blackish–brown coloured herbomineral medicine, collected from the high altitude mountains of many parts of the world. Shilajit refers to the humic matter that contains 60-80% of fulvic acid (FA) and humic acid (HA). The biological activity of Shilajit is mainly attributed to these humic compounds HA and FA. In this review we have focused on the cancer chemopreventive and therapeutic properties of Shilajit and humic compounds. Shilajit and HA possess anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antimutagenic, antitoxic, antiviral, heavy metal chelating, antitumor, apoptotic and photo-protective properties. These properties make Shilajit useful agents for cancer therapy and prevention. In addition, Shilajit has no reported side effects and can be administered as a nutritive and rejuvenating tonic and combats age related problems.


Cancer is the second leading cause of death after the cardiovascular disease and is the major public health problem, causing approximately 7 million deaths every year worldwide. The existing treatment approaches and surgical techniques have not been able to cope effectively with this dreaded disease. The conventional therapies like chemotherapy, radiotherapy, immunotherapy and surgical approaches for cancer treatment are not very efficient. Thus, there is an imperative requisite for the development of the mechanism-based approaches for the cancer management and chemoprevention by non-toxic and natural agents. Shilajit is blackish-brown herbal compound and composed mainly of humic acid components namely humic acid and fulvic acid. Humic acid and fulvic acid have been reported to possess cancer preventive properties (23). It has been shown that these compounds can inhibit mutagenesis and have free radicals scavenging, photoprotecting, anti-inflammatory and toxic compound removing properties that can inhibit the cancer development. Shilajit is non-expensive, non-toxic compound which can be taken orally or as a part of the daily diet. Therefore, it is logical that future clinical studies should focus on examining the efficacy of Shilajit and its active constituents in chemoprevention as an alternative to pharmacological agents. In this review, we address the use of Shilajit and its constituents for the prevention and management of cancer. Chemoprevention is the use of pharmacological or natural agents to check, detain or render the null and void the process of the cancer development (Carcinogenesis) (1). It is accepted that an effective and acceptable chemopreventive agent should have certain properties like: (a), little or no toxic effects in healthy cells; (b), high efficacy against various factors; (c), potential of oral consumption; (d), identified mechanism of action; (e), low cost; and (f), acceptance by humans (1). Shilajit is one such compound, which has been used in Ayurveda for centuries. The humic compounds of Shilajit can be a potential cancer chemopreventive agent. Antiinflammatory, anti- oxidative, antiviral, anti-mutagenic, immunomodulatory and several other effects of Shilajit have been already reported. Shilajit: Shilajit is considered as the wonder drug of the ancient Indian medicinal practice (Ayurveda). It is a blackish-brown coloured partly solid matter having sharp odour of the cow’s fusty urine and contain the pungent tang, formed by the long-term humification process of many plants (2, 3). Shilajit means ‘Shilaras’ in Sanskrit (4) and its other meanings are ‘conqueror of the rocks’ and ‘destroyer of the weaknesses’(5). Shilajit is referred to as silajatu in Bengali (4), Uerangyum or Perangyum in Tamil (4, 6), Hajar-ul-musa in Arabic (4), Mummio or Mumie in Russian (7), Asphalt, Mineral Pitch and Jew’s pitch in English (4, 6), Asphaltum in Latin (8), and in Botanical terms it called as Bitumen mineral (9). Shilajit is considered as a vital prescription in the ancient Hindu material remedies and presently also extensively used by the Hindu physicians for a variety of diseases. Prehistoric ayurvedic writings ‘the Charaka Samhita’ and ‘Susruta Samhita’ explain the use of Shilajit as a treatment for all ailment of body as well as a rasayana (rejuvenative) to increase the longevity (10). Shialjit is usually isolated from the high altitude rocks of the Himalayan regions mainly from Kashmir, Arunachal Pradesh, Uttrakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Australia, Afghanistan, Russia, Nepal, Bhutan and Norway (4, 11). There are several varieties of Shilajit described by the Charaka Samhita namely rajat Kishor Pant (silver Shilajit), tamra (copper Shilajit), lauha (iron Shilajit) and sarvana (gold Shilajit) (4, 12). Shilajit contains a humic substance fulvic acid (FA) and humic acid (HA) (60-80%), minerals (20-40%) and up to 5% of trace elements (Fe, Ca, Cu, Zn, Mg, Mn, Mo, P) (13, 14). The primary and key active components responsible for the Shilajit activities is the fulvic acid (FA) and humic acid. By the virtue of the FA Shilajit has many biological functions and uses (15, 16), which acts as carrier molecule. The low molecular weight bioactive organic compound such as oxygenated dibenzo-α-pyrones is also present in Shilajit. Shilajit has been used for the treatment of hypersensitivity, diabetes, digestive disorder, nervous ailment, tuberculosis, chronic bronchitis, asthma, anemia, eczema, bone fractures, genitourinary ailment and many other diseases (17, 18). Fulvic acid is the main constituent of Shilajit and along with FA and HA it also contains minerals in ionic form. These minerals are transported to cells and tissues by fulvic acid, which maintains the electric potential of the cells of the body and thus possibly prevents its death, provides the longevity and might act as a rejuvenator. It helps in metabolism and energy production in the body. It can also act as detoxifying agent in the body and can function as immunomodulator and helps in haematopoiesis. Pharmacological Action