There’s a fabulous kidney tonic that I want to tell you about if you don’t already know it – shilajit.
Sometimes spelled silajit, shilajeeta, or shilajeet, it is also called ashmaja, black bitumen E, “seat of the rock,” mineral pitch, mineral wax, mineral resin, herbo-mineral compound, vegetable asphalt, moomiyo, mumijo, momia sharga, shilajit mumiyo, black asphaltum, barahshin, dorobi, baraga shun, brag-shun, chao-tong, and wu ling zhi (which usually refers flying squirrel feces).
Shilajit is not a plant but an excretion from rocks found in the mountains, mainly the Himalayas near the northern region of the Ganges River, although it has been found all over the mountains of Asia and Europe, and possibly the Rockies of North America. As such, it is considered a mineral medicine in Ayurveda.
In Sanskrit, shilajit means “rock-invincible.” Although its origins aren’t known for certain, many speculate the source of this “tar” is from a prehistoric herb that exudes through creases in the earth due to the pressure in its subterranean layers. Others say it’s created by mosses and liverworts, which break down rocks.
In some places, shilajit oozes out, while in others it appears in coagulated form. Sometimes it emerges where scorpions sting the rocks.
Some earlier reports suggested that shilajit is mainly composed of humus, which is the characteristic organic constituent of soils. Regardless, it seems to be the result of the composted residue of resinous- or latex-containing plants, although local environment, temperature, humidity and rock geology contribute as well.
Quite simply, shilajit is a very powerful substance. Warming in energy, it both rejuvenates and detoxifies (by “scratching” accumulated toxins from the tissues and channels). It especially treats the urinary, nervous and reproductive systems and yet also lowers blood sugar, builds stamina, and increases strength. In Ayurveda, shilajit is considered one of the “excellent” medicines.
In Western herbalism shilajit is considered an adaptogen and rejuvenative; in TCM, it is a Kidney and Spleen Yang tonic; while in Ayurveda it is a strong rejuvenative (rasayana) and carrier (yogavahi) that enhances the properties of other herbs with which it is combined.
The Russians have been using and researching the properties of their local form of shilajit, called moomiyo, for over 90 years, while it has been used in folk medicine for almost 2,000 years as a daily recuperative health tonic due to its healing, anti-aging, and anti-inflammatory properties. Unani-Tibb medicine (Greco-Arabic) used moomiyo as an antidote for poisons and to treat many diseases.
Shilajit is high in fulvic and humic acids (humic acid is a type of fulvic acid). Fulvic acid has a powerful antibiotic property that unlike pharmaceutical antibiotics, doesn’t cause resistant strains of disease nor kill favorable bacteria. These acids are a complex mixture of many different carbon-rich materials that occur naturally and in unison all over the world in coals, plants, and water sediments (fulvic acid is actually a kind of humic acid, but with larger oxygen concentrations to warrant its own name). These acids are powerful electrolytes, free radical scavengers, antioxidants, chelators, detoxifiers, and nutrients. In fact, they are often sold together as supplements today.
Shilajit’s many powerful functions were first observed by villagers who, watching monkeys chew on a substance flowing from rocks, attributed their strength and longevity to this mineral. The villagers began to consume it themselves, afterward reporting many health improvements.
Shilajit is similar to soma, the mythical substance discussed in the Vedic text, Rig Veda, that is considered to be the elixir of immortality. Soma “dwells within the mountainous rock where it grows” and is “plucked from between the rocks by mountain dwellers and brought to the priests-alchemists who prepared the soma by washing and grinding and cooking.” This surely sounds like shilajit!
In Russia, moomiyo (shilajit) is thought to be the most powerful adaptogen known (a natural substance that increases the body’s resistance to stress and fatigue). It has been used by the Russian military, cosmonauts, and Olympic and other athletes to increase strength, lean muscle mass, mental and physical recuperation from stress, and to enhance physical performance. This is due to its ability to boost energy metabolism, promote muscle growth, and increase strength through its anabolic process. It also helps the body quickly recover from emotional, mental, and physical stress and heals inflammation of the muscles and joints.
Below I list many of shilajit’s powerful functions indicated by Ayurveda. Note that I have personally created the following classifications so you won’t find this anywhere else. In Five Element Theory, when you strongly support and tonify the Kidneys, you directly support the Liver, indirectly support the Heart and stop draining the Lungs and Spleen. This may help in understanding all its far-reaching ramifications.
Further, most people think of Yang tonics as being very heating. While this is true for many of them, some Yang tonics are milder and nourish both the Yin and Yang, for example, cordyceps (chong xia cao), cynomorii (suo yang) and cuscuta (tu si zi). Shilajit is in this latter category, although if taken in higher doses, it could create Heat in a true Yin Deficient condition.
As a Spleen Yang tonic, shilajit treats:
As well, as a Spleen Yang tonic it:
As a Kidney Yang tonic, shilajit:
Shilajit’s positive effects on the Heart treat:
It benefits the Lungs to address:
Shilajit’s effects on the Liver may help with:
Other benefits of shilajit:
Good quality shilajit is considered harder to find in the Himalayas now (say Ayurvedic practitioners, Alan Tillotson and Todd Caldecott), but is found in Russia and other European mountains. It appears to also exist in the U.S. Rocky Mountains, although there is no history of its use here.
Try these sources for shilajit:
Tattvas Herbs: www.tattvasherbs.com
Banyan Botanicals: www.banyanbotanicals.com
 Ayurveda minerals, professor Dr. P.H. Kulkarni, Sri Satguru Publications, Delhi, India, 1998
Latin: Asphaltum punjabianum, A. bitumen
Part used: The black variety is used for healing (there are four varieties: red, yellow, blue and black)
Chemical constituents: Humus, minerals, di-benzo-alpha-pyrones, lime salts, mica, water, urea, benzoic acid, hippuric acid, fulvic acid, biphenyl metabolites
Energy and flavor: Warm; bitter, pungent (some say also salty and astringent); pacifies kapha
Properties: Adaptogen, rejuvenative, carrier (yogavahi), anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, alterative, diuretic, lithotriptic, antiseptic, aphrodisiac, nervine, tonic, antidiabetic
Uses: For all systems, especially urinary, nervous and reproductive
Preparation: Shilajit is first purified for use, often macerating it with triphala and bhringaraja (Eclipta alba) and left to dry. The raw tar is mixed with water, filtered, and the water evaporated in the sun. This process is repeated six more times. Good quality should not smoke on burning.
Dose: If it comes as a paste, roll into pea-sized balls in cinnamon powder and take 1-3, 3x day (roll up the whole mass at once for ease). Ideally, get in capsule form and take 1/4-5 g/day; some recommend taking 12g/day minimum for 2 months for maximum benefit; stir into milk for rejuvenation.
To take as a Rasayana (rejuvenate): first prepare the body by starting with oleation, followed by purifying the body with appropriate therapies, such as cleansing the stomach and intestines. Then consume ghee prepared with bitter-tasting herbs for three days, followed by triphala for 3 days. Then take 10-40g daily for 1-7 weeks.
Caution: Do not use raw shilajit as it can be contaminated with toxic fungi. Do not use if there are high uric acid levels; do not take with heavy or hot-natured foods; caution in Yin Deficiency with Heat signs; no herb-drug interactions known.