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Shilajit, also known as silajit, salajeet or mumijo, momia and moomiyo, "shargai", is a thick, sticky tar-like substance with a colour ranging from white to dark brown (the latter is more common), sometimes found in Caucasus mountains, Altai Mountains, and Tibet mountains and mountains of Gilgit Baltistan PakistanIt is used in Ayurveda, the traditional Indian system of medicine. It has been reported to contain at least 85 minerals in ionicform, as well as triterpenes, humic acid and fulvic acid. A similar substance from the Caucasus Mountains, and the Altai Mountains is called mumijo (Russian).
Shilajit is a Sanskrit word meaning "rock-invincible." It is also spelled "shilajeet," and "salajeet(سلاجیت)" in Urdu and is known by various other names, such as shilajita mumiyo, mineral pitch or mineral wax in English, black asphaltum, Asphaltum punjabianum in Latin, barahshin, dorobi, baraga shun or brag-shun, chao-tong, and wu ling zhi (which generally refers to the excrement of flying squirrels). Shilajit is commonly called shilajitu in Ayurveda.The wakhis call it "baad-a-ghee"(evils feces).
Mumijo is a word of Greek origin. The substance is mentioned in the works of Aristotle and Avicenna as a remedy with antiseptic and general stimulant properties used in Caucasus mountains. Most scientists agree that people observed wounded animals frequenting caves with mumijo and so discovered the substance. Similar substances are used for medicinal purposes throughout Tibet.
Shilajit is a substance mainly found in the Altai, Himalaya, and Caucasus mountains. The color range varies from a yellowish brown to pitch-black, depending on composition. For use in Ayurvedic medicine the black variant is considered the most potent. Shilajit has been described as 'mineral oil', 'stone oil' or 'rock sweat', as it seeps from cracks in mountains due mostly to the warmth of the sun. There are many local legends and stories about its origin, use and properties, often wildly exaggerated. It should not be confused with ozokerite, also a humic substance, similar in appearance, but apparently without medicinal qualities. Some marketers of dietary supplements pretend to sell mumio, while in fact they are offering cheap raw ozokerite, a substance used, for example, in cosmetics. Genuine mumio/shilajit should melt in the hand and has a distinct smell of bitumen, whereas ozokerite melts at 164-169 °F.
Once cleaned of impurities and extracted, shilajit is a homogeneous brown-black paste-like substance, with a glossy surface, a peculiar smell and bitter taste. Dry shilajit density ranges from 1.1 to 1.8 g/cm3. It has a plastic-like behavior, at a temperature lower than 68°F it will solidify and will soften when warmed. It easily dissolves in water without leaving any residue, and it will soften when worked between the fingers. Purified shilajit has an unlimited shelf life.
It is still unclear whether shilajit has a geological or biological origin as it has numerous traces of vitamins and amino acids. A mumio-like substance from Antarcticawas found to contain glycerol derivatives and was also believed to have medicinal properties.
Image: By Chirag jindal (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
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