Humic Substances: Medicinal Effects
With more and more scientific research being done on fulvic and humic acids, we thought we would turn the blog over to F. Dousty, Ph.D Analytical Chemist to touch a little bit on the benefits as well as the historical use.
Humic substances are diverse mixtures of naturally occurring organic molecules, that are produced through chemical and biological transformation of organism residues. These deposits are widely distributed in several areas of the world. Humic and Fulvic acids are the two main fractions that are extracted from these deposits. The major difference between humic and fulvic acids is that fulvic acids have lower mass compared to humic acids.
Many have heard about the role of humic substances within the environment and agriculture, however, the therapeutic effects of humic substances in humans do not seem to be equally acknowledged; although, it is interesting to know that there is a significant amount of traditional evidence and scientific research that support the medicinal values of these natural compounds. Moreover, in the past few years, attention to the pharmaceutical benefits of these compounds has been widely increased, alongside other natural products in search of novel drugs.
Therapeutic effects of humic substance with scientific evidence
Several scientific studies have shown the antiviral property of humic substance against numerous viruses, such as cytomegalovirus (CMV), vaccine viruses, and human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) and type 2 (HIV-2). Viruses attach to the host cell surface by their positively charged domains and replicate themselves. Humic substances that possess negative charges, occupy these positively charged domains and inhibit virus replication.
Anti inflammatory activity
Many have heard of the healing effects of peat therapy. It is interesting to know that these curative effects are attributed to anti-inflammatory properties of humic substances. Numerous research groups have studied the anti-inflammatory capabilities of humic substances in more detail. It is shown that humic substances suppress the exudation and the proliferation phases of the inflammatory process.
Humic substances contain many oxygen-containing functional groups (⎯COOH and –OH), which are responsible for their high antioxidant properties. This antioxidant activity makes them capable of neutralizing free radicals, by direct interaction and inhibiting oxidation processes. These processes protect living organisms from the detrimental action of ecotoxins, light, and ionizing radiation.
In all phases of the process of wound healing, oxygen plays a very vital role such as stimulating the formation of new blood vessels and assisting the growth of new skin. Humic acids have been shown to be able to produce activated oxygen species. This is attributed to the favourable effects of humic substance on wound healing.
Traditional use of humic substances in oriental medicine
Various natural humic substances have been used traditionally for thousands of years.
About 1000 BC, the ancient Indian Ayurvedic texts of Charaka Samhita and Sushruta Samhita described shilajit, as a rasayana (rejuvenator) and a panacea (cure) for all diseases. Ayurvedic believed that humic substances increase human longevity. Shilajit is discharged from the Himalayan rocks and is a complex mixture of organic humic mixtures present in the rock rhizospheres.
Now we know that humic substances perform as powerful antioxidants and protect the cells from free radicals. Accumulated damage from free radicals is considered to cause us to experience aging and that validates Ayurvedic faith in shilajit as an important rasayana (rejuvenator).
Folklore medicine in Tibet, Greece, and China have used similar rock extract for thousands of years for the treatment of bone fractures, dislocations, diseases of the skin, peripheral nervous system health, and also as soothing and an anti-inflammatory agent.
These are just a few examples of the uses of humic substances in oriental and traditional eastern medicine, with no reports or cases of toxicity, which is a tribute to their safety in human use. In addition, in the past few decades, so many studies have been conducted internationally based on currently accepted safety and toxicity protocols and have provided scientific evidence on their safety in humans and animals.
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