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 Table of Contents  
ORIGINAL ARTICLE
Year : 2022  |  Volume : 3  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 30-36

A survey on supply status of Shilajatu (Asphaltum Punjabinum) its sources, processing media and cost in India


1 Department of Rasa Shastra and Bhaishajya Kalpana, Shri Dhanwantri Ayurvedic P.G. Medical College and Research Centre, Mathura, Uttar Pradesh, India
2 Department of Rasa Shastra and Bhaishajya Kalpana, All India Institute of Ayurveda, New Delhi, India

Date of Submission05-Feb-2022
Date of Decision30-Mar-2022
Date of Acceptance01-Apr-2022
Date of Web Publication15-Jun-2022

Correspondence Address:
Rohit Singh
Department of Rasa Shastra and Bhaishajya Kalpana, Shri Dhanwantri Ayurvedic P.G. Medical College and Research Centre, Semri, Mathura - 281 401, Uttar Pradesh
India
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/ijaim.ijaim_7_22

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  Abstract 


Introduction: Survey studies are used as a tool to analyze and explore human knowledge and practices in reference to a particular attribute. It is also used to assess the status of raw materials, drugs, etc. In the market to find out price variation, quality, adulteration, etc. It comprises a variety of data collection techniques with the most common being questionnaires and interviews. Ayurvedic medicines and products got a huge surge in its demand during the COVID-19 pandemic. Shilajatu is one such drug whose increased worldwide consumption leads to scarcity, replacing with substitutes or adulterants to the sample and, in turn, compromising the quality, safety, and efficacy of the products. A current survey study has been planned to document the different aspects pertaining to Shilajatu, i.e., availability status, price, etc.
Methodology: A questionnaire comprising open- and closed ended questions was designed and a survey (face-to-face interview) was conducted at preidentified major supply markets of Shilajatu in India.
Results: A wide range of variation in price/kg of Shilajatu has been found in the study. It has been revealed that the major supply of Shilajatu in India is from Nepal, commonly used processing media is water, and trading cost ranges between Rs. 350 to Rs. 2200/kg and Rs. 1500 to Rs. 10,000/kg for Ashuddha and Shuddha Shilajatu, respectively.
Conclusion: The present study provides comprehensive data pertaining to supply sources, type, price, processing media, and availability of Shilajatu in India and emphasizes the urgent need of strict regulatory provisions for crucial drugs such as Shilajatu.

Keywords: Processing media, shilajatu, shodhana, supply sources, survey, trade markets


How to cite this article:
Singh R, Yadav P, Prajapati PK. A survey on supply status of Shilajatu (Asphaltum Punjabinum) its sources, processing media and cost in India. Indian J Ayurveda lntegr Med 2022;3:30-6

How to cite this URL:
Singh R, Yadav P, Prajapati PK. A survey on supply status of Shilajatu (Asphaltum Punjabinum) its sources, processing media and cost in India. Indian J Ayurveda lntegr Med [serial online] 2022 [cited 2022 Aug 8];3:30-6. Available from: http://www.ijaim.in/text.asp?2022/3/1/30/347502




  Introduction Top


A survey study is defined as “The amassment of information from a sample of individuals through their responses to questions.”[1] It can be conducted by using quantitative research strategies (e.g., using questionnaires with numerically rated items), qualitative research strategies (e.g., using open-ended questions), or both strategies (mixed methods). Survey studies are often used to describe and explore human knowledge, practices, and behavior in reference to a particular aspect.[2] Medical research questionnaires or surveys are vital tools used to gather information on individual perspectives in a large cohort and to find out the availability, quality, substitution, adulteration, and processing techniques of a drug. Survey research comprises a variety of data collection techniques, with the most common being questionnaires and interviews. Questionnaires generally comprise a series of items reflecting the research aims. Interviews are an important tool for data collection used in survey research. It may be conducted by phone, computer, or in person. It has the advantage of visually identifying the nonverbal response of the interviewee and subsequently being able to clarify the intended question. An interviewer can use probing statements to obtain more information about a topic and can request clarification and elaboration of an unclear response.[2]

Health-care market in the world is experiencing an accelerated demand for ayurvedic medicines and products for the past 10–15 years. Increasing preference and acceptance of people for ayurvedic medicines and natural products has projected Ayurveda globally. The world has witnessed a meteoric surge in demand for ayurvedic medicines and products in the current COVID-19 pandemic. In a study, it has been reported that international trade in ayurvedic medicines and products was 60 billion US dollars in the year 2000 and was expected to achieve the mark of 5 trillion US dollars by 2050 with an average annual growth rate of 7%.[3] A reputed market research firm has valued the ayurvedic market size at USD 6.50 billion in 2020 and is projected to hit USD 21.12 billion by 2028, with a compound annual growth rate of 15.63% from 2021 to 2028.[4] As per the Ministry of AYUSH, there are 8407 licensed pharmacies in the country for AYUSH drug manufacturing. The quantum of total licensed pharmacies for all the four systems, i.e., Ayurveda, Unani, Siddha, and Homoeopathy, was reported to be 7345 (67.4%), 566 (6.7%), 151 (1.8%), and 345 (4.1%), respectively.[5] The therapeutic use of herbal remedies is being widely embraced even in many western countries, as complementary and alternative medicines are now being accepted in the mainstream health-care system in the United Kingdom and the rest of Europe, as well as in Australia and North America.[6],[7],[8]

Shilajatu is one such drug of prime importance that has been praised and used for centuries by ayurvedic physicians, as a Rasayana, i.e., rejuvenator and antiaging compound.[9] It is said to be ooze out from mountains due to strong sun rays specifically in the month of Jyestha and Ashadha.[10] Apart from this, it is indicated in numerous diseases such as Prameha (diabetes), Kamala (jaundice), Pandu (anemia), Mutra roga (uUrinary disorders), Jwara (fever), Yakshma (tuberculosis), Pleeharoga (spleen disorders), Hridroga (cardiac disorders), Twak roga (skin disorders), and Medoroga (obesity).[11] Similarly, a myriad number of therapeutic activities such as immunomodulatory, antioxidant, antimicrobial, and antidiabetic have been reported in numerous scientific studies.[12] Owing to its wide therapeutic attributes, commercialization, and lack of uniform identifying parameters, various adulterants such as sand, feces of goat, bitumen, gum of Vanjha, alum earth of Nepal, momia (found in Russia), aluminum sulfate, and calcium sulfate are being mixed with Shilajatu. A substance named bitumen[13] is used in road construction, waterproofing, etc. It is often mixed or traded as Shilajatu. Laconically, enormous demand, consumption, and lack of systemic approach in Ayurveda drug regulatory framework to track availability and authenticity of Ayurvedic raw drugs gave rise to scarcity, the addition of substitute or adulterate to the sample, and, in turn, compromising the quality, safety, and efficacy of the products. Considering these aspects, the present survey study has been envisioned to document the various facets pertaining to Shilajatu, i.e., current availability status, price range, and type of media used for its processing.

Aim

This study aimed to know the supply sources and processing media used for the Shodhana of Shilajatu in India.


  Methodology Top


To identify the supply sources, availability, and media used for the Shodhana (processing) of Shilajatu, a questionnaire comprising open and closed ended questions was designed and get validated by a panel of subject experts after in-depth discussion at the All India Institute of Ayurveda, New Delhi. A pan India survey (face-to-face interview) was conducted at preidentified major supply markets of Shilajatu in India, namely Amritsar, Delhi, and Mumbai. Traders in Nepal, Indore, Chennai, Kolkata, and Kerala [Figure 1] were interviewed over the telephone in May and June 2019 to collect the data regarding the dimensionalities of Shilajatu, which was divided into four parts as follows:
Figure 1: Places of Shilajatu procurement and survey

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  1. Type of Shilajatu being traded, i.e., Swarna, Rajata, Tamra, or Lauha, etc.
  2. Cost of Shuddha (processed) and Ashuddha (raw stone) Shilajatu
  3. Shodhana drava (processing media) being used for Shilajatu
  4. Supply sources of Shilajatu in India.



  Results Top


In the survey, a total of 20 traders – Delhi: 8 [Table 1], Amritsar: 8 [Table 2], and Mumbai: 4 [Table 3] of Shilajatu – were interviewed face to face and one trader [Table 4] each in Nepal, Indore, Chennai, Kolkata, and Kerala (Kochi) were interviewed over the telephone. Samples of Shilajatu were procured from each site and are presented in [Figure 2], [Figure 3], [Figure 4], [Figure 5], [Figure 6], [Figure 7], [Figure 8].
Table 1: Findings of survey at New Delhi


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Table 2: Findings of survey at Amritsar


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Table 3: Findings of survey at Mumbai


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Table 4: Findings of survey at Indore, Nepal, Kerala, and Kolkata

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Figure 2: Nepal Shilajatu sample

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Figure 3: Amritsar Shilajatu sample

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Figure 4: Delhi Shilajatu sample

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Figure 5: Mumbai Shilajatu sample

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Figure 6: Indore shilajatu sample

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Figure 7: Kochi (Kerala) Shilajatu sample

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Figure 8: Kolkata Shilajatu sample

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The following outcomes were revealed in the survey:

  • It has been found that the chief source of Shilajatu supply in India is Nepal followed by Pakistan, Afghanistan, China, and Russia but the main source of supply in Amritsar is found to be Pakistan
  • The cost of Ashuddha Shilajatu was observed in the range of Rs. 350 to Rs. 2200/kg
  • Shuddha Shilajatu is being traded at the price of Rs. 1500 to Rs. 10,000/kg, but in Kolkata, a very different crystalline compound is sold as Shuddha Shilajatu at a price of Rs. 300/kg
  • Alua (Kumari Ghana Sara/Aloe vera extract) is also sold as Shuddha Shilajatu at the rate of Rs. 300/kg in the Pydhonie market, Mumbai
  • Two traders, one at Amritsar and one at Mumbai, claimed to have a top quality of Shuddha Shilajatu, as they have collected Shilajatu exudates from mountain ranges of Gilgit-Baltistan themselves. That is why we were selling it at a price range of Rs. 20,000 to Rs. 50,000/kg
  • The trader at Chennai claimed that the supply of Shilajatu there is from Delhi itself. Therefore, the sample has not been procured from Chennai, as the Delhi sample has been already procured. To confirm the claim, the trader was asked for his procurement place of Shilajatu in Delhi and found to be the same from where we have procured the sample
  • The type of Shilajatu being sold in India is found to be Lauha Shilajatu. Traders identify it on the basis of physical characteristics mentioned in Ayurvedic literature,[18] as no analytical parameters were being used by the traders for identification
  • On interviewing the traders, as per their verbal statements, the most common media for Shodhana (processing) used by them was found to be water,[19] followed by Gaumutra[20] (cow's urine) and Triphala kwatha.[21]



  Discussion Top


Survey research is an effective way of collecting information from a large cohort and renders greater statistical and analytical value and broader information comprising various aspects. Large-scale consumption of medicinal plants for medicine, nutraceuticals, and cosmetics leads to the scarce availability, substitution, and adulteration which, in turn, negatively affect the quality, safety, and efficacy of the herbal products and the same has been found in the survey of Shilajatu.

The present study revealed that escalated demand, overconsumption, and arduous extracting and collection process lead to the scarcity of Shilajatu which further gives rise to adulteration and escalates price. Some commonly used adulterants were found to be alua, gum of Vanjha, and latex of various plants. It has been also found that there is a wide price difference between samples of Shilajatu in the same marketplace. The same variation has been observed between the samples collected from other parts of India. The disaccord of cost is probably due to the difference in the quality of Shilajatu samples and variation in the transportation charges from the source to the trade market. The most common media for processing raw Shilajatu stone is found to be water followed by Gomutra and Triphala kwatha. Water is frequently used to process probably because of its sufficient, economic, easy availability, and great solubility. Moreover, the mechanism of Shodhana (processing) of Shilajatu with water is comparatively easier than with other media such as Triphala kwatha and Godugdha (cow's milk). The major source of supply of Shilajatu in India has been revealed to be Nepal. Pakistan, Afghanistan, and China are some other countries that supply Shilajatu to India. The vendors have procured the Shilajatu stone from the markets of the above-mentioned countries. These countries lie in the temperate and torrid climate zone[22] where the temperature ranges in higher degrees and is comparatively warm throughout the year. This type of warm climate may influence soil microbial communities and their enzymatic dynamics which typically accelerates soil organic matter decay and humification[23] which further acts as a precursor for Shilajatu formation. The warm climatic condition also aids in the secretion of Shilajatu that is why Acharya Sushruta specified the season of Jyeshtha and Ashadha.[11] The other probable reason behind the above-mentioned countries being the major supply sources is their close geographical position to Himalayan mountain ranges[24] where Shilajatu is found in a significant amount.[25],[26] The main source of supply in Amritsar has been found to be Pakistan, possibly due to its close geographical proximity to Amritsar. The type of Shilajatu being sold in India is found to be Lauha Shilajatu. Traders identify it on the basis of physical appearance as mentioned in Ayurvedic classics. Moreover, the book of standards for ayurvedic drugs, i.e., Ayurvedic Pharmacopoeia of India, is also lacking the standards parameters and quality tests pertaining to Shilajatu due to which its identification and quality testing have become difficult. Therefore, the present study invites focus on the urgent need of rational consumption and strict regulatory provisions for crucial drugs such as Shilajatu which has high therapeutic value and global demand along with well-demarcated classification between medicinal raw drugs, nutraceuticals, and cosmetics. To achieve more in-depth knowledge regarding Shilajatu, well-designed surveys involving a larger sample size from different parts of the country can be initiated.


  Conclusion Top


It has been revealed in the present study that the major supply source in India is Nepal, therefore trader's claims like particular sample is from Pakistan or Afghanistan etc. having superior quality is just a marketing strategy to sell the product at a higher price. It has been observed that the raw drug supply sector in India is not well regulated as the government has no specific or well-demarcated policies and provisions for regulating the cost, sale, and purchase of raw drugs having medicinal properties which give rise to the adulteration, unjustified cost variation, etc. Moreover, similar aspects have been surfaced in the present study. In nutshell, the current study provides comprehensive information and data pertaining to supply sources, type, price, processing media, and availability of Shilajatu in India which might be useful for the general public as well as researchers to gain a preliminary insight on the same.

Acknowledgment

We would like to thank the All India Institute of Ayurveda, New Delhi, for providing funds to carry out the work under the MD dissertation.

Financial support and sponsorship

This study was financially supported by the All India Institute of Ayurveda, New Delhi, for providing funds to carry out the work under MD Dissertation.

Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.



 
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    Figures

  [Figure 1], [Figure 2], [Figure 3], [Figure 4], [Figure 5], [Figure 6], [Figure 7], [Figure 8]
 
 
    Tables

  [Table 1], [Table 2], [Table 3], [Table 4]



 

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