Shilajit; Rebuilding Bone and Body in the Horse

The ‘Conqueror of Mountains and Destroyer of Weakness‘!  Shilajit goes by many names and has many catch phrases being used to testify to it’s ability to rebuild and strengthen the body, but it is more well known in Ayurvedic Medicine than it is in western culture.  This is an unfortunate thing as this is just one more example of an herb that can pack a real punch, helping to keep your horse in top shape, invigorate his body, and rebuild tissue. Are you looking to rebuild and support your horse? Then, let’s take a look at what Shilajit has to offer!

Shilajit and Rebuilding the Horse

Shilajit and Rebuilding the Horse

In the world of herbs, shilajit is just one of many which can impact the process of inflammation and provide antioxidant support.  However, in the grand scheme of things, what we are desiring for our own health and that of our horse, is to rebuild the body and promote longevity.  This is the concept of ‘rasayana‘ in Ayurvedic medicine and to an extent, the rebuilding of ‘Jing‘ in Chinese Medicine.  Essentially, it is like recharging or rejuvenating the internal battery within your horse’s body, which then fuels and supports other vital structures, organ systems, cellular processes, and encourages healing and repair.  Through this act, you are impacting inflammation, pain, providing antioxidant support, and rebuilding cell function, but it can be a slower process, involving more time.  Despite taking more time to see results, this process functions at the core of the horse, thus the end result is more substantial and long lasting.

Your horse’s body is not much different than your own.  It is subject to time, aging, wear and tear, and the impact of diet and stress.  As an analogy, the horse’s body is like a piece of metal being bent back and forth over time.  Time and the aging process weaken the body, as does increased training, competition and high levels of usage.  Stress, additionally adds to the weakening of the body, impacting overall integrity and strength.  The diet is meant to fortify and support the body, helping to provide proper nutrients and phytochemicals to promote cell health and regeneration, however, all too often the improper diet is provided and further weakens the body.  Bend that piece of metal enough and it becomes weaker with every motion, eventually breaking.

This then leads to the countless situations in which we find ourselves as horse owners and veterinarians, being presented a horse whose body has become weak and broken.  This is evident in the joint problems, the sore and unhealthy feet, the weakened and torn tendons and ligaments, sore backs, and other negative health issues in the horse.  Instead of recognizing what is occurring on a grand level, we generally just opt to mask or cover up symptoms through the use of medications to reduce pain, as an example.  Instead of seeing the root problem in a horse with a tendon issue, we just stall them, provide medications and essentially hope for the best.  Instead of seeing the root problem in a horse with foot issues or laminitis, we just trim the foot and apply fancy shoes, hoping for the best.  In using these typical therapies, you may be managing pain or inflammation on a certain level, but you are doing absolutely nothing to restore cellular function, enhance healing and support regeneration.  Thus, the problems persist in most cases.  Your horse may still be lame, may still have joint problems, or may still have ongoing tendon issues. 

While these efforts in the horse are noble in some respects and with all good intention, the truth is that they rarely help in the long-term, and in most cases, the problem is still present, growing bigger and bigger as time goes by.  I’ll firmly admit to this as a veterinarian, providing these therapies for a large percentage of my career.

In truth, you have to see the bigger problem if your desire is to truly help your horse.  You can’t cover up the symptoms and hope the issue resolves.  It won’t, in most cases.  To truly resolve the issue, or at least make a much bigger difference in the horse’s recovery, you have to see the root or core problem.  This root problem stems back to the body, as a whole, on a cellular level.  This is where the concept of rasayana or Jing come into play, as this approach helps us to provide for the horse’s body at a root level, rebuilding and sustaining that internal battery of energy which then fuels vitality, healing, and recovery.

Rebuilding the body at a core level is the desired approach, but as mentioned it takes more time and effort, but the results are well worth it!

Shilajit: Research and History

The name Shilajit literally means “rock over-powering” and this herb is also known by other names including mumie, mineral pitch, and asphaltum.  The phrase “Conqueror of Mountains and Destroyer of Weakness” is used in Ayurvedic medicine to refer to the inherent power of Shilajit, as a rasayana of sorts to rebuild the body.

Shilajit is a black-brown exudate or discharge found coming from rock formations in various mountain regions, most commonly found in the Himalayas.  The exudate is a mixture of vegetable and other organic material, breaking down over time and oozing from the rock.  It can be taken in whole form, as the exudate, but in most circumstances it is purified to reduce contaminants, including heavy metals and other toxic material. When purified, shilajit is a source of high levels of minerals and other active chemicals, including Fulvic acid, which can dramatically impact cellular function on many levels.

There are many organic and inorganic elements found within shilajit including fulvic acids, humic acids, iron, zinc, magnesium, copper, nickel, calcium, potassium, manganese, silicon, stronium, sodium, sulfur, iodine, phosphorus, carotenoids, terpenoids, vitamins B, C, E, polyphenols, phenolic acids, oxalic acids, and tannic acids.  One of the main ‘active’ ingredients based on research is the fulvic acids, which is concentrated in most shilajit extracts to 20-50%.  Fulvic acids, when combined with the natural mineral base of the shilajit, have been used and researched to promote health bone and joint function, among other vital cellular functions.

Shilajit has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries with the goal of rebuilding and supporting the body, helping it to become stronger and overcome illness.  If the body is strong, then it is more resistant to disease and injury, being more resilient. It is a mildly heating herb, meaning that it imparts a warming quality to the body.  Shilajit is traditionally used not just to rebuild the body, but specifically to impact the urinary system (kidneys/bladder), reproductive system, metabolism (insulin/glucose), purify and rebuild blood, and strengthen bones/joints.  It is also well-known as a nerve tonic of sorts, helping to build the mind or cognition, and settle nerves such as in anxiety or depression. Shilajit is considered a rasayna or rejuvenative herb, rebuilding the body, muscle, bone and increasing longevity.

In research, Shilajit has been heavily explored, but as with most, the research findings are pushed off and ignored in traditional medicine.

  • Research supported to benefit cognition, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s (1)
  • Positively impact bone and cartilage health and healing (2)
  • Anti-inflammatory and anti-arthritic effect in dogs (3)
  • Skeletal muscle adaptation, repair and regeneration (4)
  • Antimicrobial activity to reduce harmful bacteria of the respiratory and digestive tract (5)
  • Antiviral properties (Cagno, 2015)
  • Increases testosterone, free testosterone and DHEAS (Pandit, 2016)
  • Reduce healing time of bone fracture (Sadeghi, 2020)
  • Impact cholesterol, lipids and increase antioxidant protection (Sharma, 2003)
  • Anti-ulcer effect and anti-inflammatory properties (Goel, 1990)

The research goes on and on with shilajit, with the common denominator of rebuilding cellular function.  This rebuilding of cellular function can be evident in ATP or energy production, reproductive health, cognitive health, bone and muscle strength or even a strengthening of the immune response.  The bottom line is that cellular health is being restored.

Shilajit:  The Rock To Rebuild the Horse

Shilajit is just one of many rejuvenative herbs, intended to rebuild the body and promote longevity based on traditional herbal usage.  If you look to the bottom line in the multitude of health and lameness issues in the horse, the root problem is a breakdown in the horse’s body as a whole, which is then evident in specific areas.  You may see joint problems, tendon issues, back problems, a lack of focus, allergies or even reproductive issues, but these are isolated and specific.  The root problem is that your horse’s body is not working properly, on a cellular level.

Try not to get too caught up in the specific problem, but instead see the greater picture when it comes to your horse’s health and soundness!  If you get too focused, then your therapy becomes too focused and more times than not, the end result is short-lived at best.

Shilajit is one herb to be used with others to get to that root problem of cellular dysfunction in your horse.  It can be used in a variety of ways with many end goals or purposes.  In our hands, shilajit is used as a general restorative or rejuvenating herb, along with others to help create balance and support cellular function in the horse.  We tend to use it generically, almost in every case, but specifically, Shilajit has been proven to benefit:

  • Tendon/ligament injury recovery
  • Joint pain and discomfort
  • Sore feet/ laminitis/pedal osteitis
  • General detoxification after long-term medicine usage
  • Energy enhancer to reduce fatigue and increase performance
  • General anti-anxiety and anti-depressant properties

Almost every horse that is encountered in our facility benefits from shilajit, but it is combined with other herbs that help to target more specific problems.  Keep in mind that shilajit, based on mode of action, is not a ‘quick-acting’ herb.  It will not abolish pain in a day or two like a medication, or even like a higher dose of curcumin can in some cases.  Shilajit is designed and intended to rebuild the body, from the inside out, and this takes time.  However, this is your desired goal, to rebuild the body of your horse, not just cover up or mask symptoms.  In most cases, benefits can begin to take hold in about 2-4 weeks, with increasing benefits over time.  Most horses will see the highest level of  benefit after 6 months of daily usage and supplementation. 

Here is a case study looking at pedal osteitis and ‘kissing spine’ lesions, improving with shilajit supplementation over a period of 5 months.  The improvements in the bone are quite remarkable, considering that bone remodeling not only takes time, but is often unheard of in general veterinary medicine outside of a typical bone fracture.

What do we notice in our equine patients when using shilajit as a part of their recovery and maintenance? 

  • First, they just feel better, have more energy, and more vitality.
  • Second, they tend to heal a lot faster, recover from tendon/ligament injuries quicker and foot issues resolve quicker and more completely.
  • Third, when maintained on shilajit, their injury rate is dramatically reduced, overall they are stronger, and more resilient.

Are there any side effects when using shilajit in the horse?  To date, we have not encountered any and that is at some high doses twice daily.  In theory, based on herbal energetics, shilajit is a warming herb by nature, and thus should likely be used with caution in horses that are already ‘hot’ by nature, or prone to overheating.  This overheating aspect of shilajit is not common in our experience, as most horses that benefit are run-down, fatigued, and colder in nature.  In some, it can be ‘heavy’ on the digestive system, creating some mild digestive upset, but this is usually countered with the proper diet and other concurrent herbal usage along with the shilajit.

Formulas with Shilajit to Benefit Your Horse:

  1. Cur-OST EQ Bone Support
  2. Cur-OST Shilajit 20% Bulk
  3. Cur-OST EQ Core Support  (coming soon)

 

Author:  Tom Schell, D.V.M, CVCH, CHN

 

References:

  1. Carrasco-Gallardo, C et al. Shilajit: A natural phytocomplex with potential precognitive activity. Int J Alz Disease. Dec 2011
  2. Labban NY. Shilajit; A novel regulator of bone/cartilage healing. Doctorate Thesis. Indiana University. 2013
  3. Lawley, S et al. Antiinflammatory and anti-arthritic efficacy and safety of purified shilajit in moderately arthritic dogs. J Vet Sci Anim Husb. 2013, 1(3):302
  4. Das, A et al. The human skeletal muscle transcriptome in response to oral shilajit supplementation. J Med Food. 19(7), 2016, 701-709
  5. Hayat A, Sher Ali F. Antimicrobial activity of Shilajit. Vol 4(2), July 2013, 10-12

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