Fulvic acid is one of the primary active components in shilajit that works to fully unlock all of its amazing nutritional benefits. To understand the beauty of shilajit, it’s crucial to take a look at what fulvic acid is and how it benefits us.
Fulvic acid is actually an umbrella term used to talk about a group of organic acids, namely fulvic acids, which are classified as one of three types of humic substances that make up humus, the decomposing organic matter in soil.
One can view humus like a charged organic sponge that holds moisture and contributes to the stability, structure and nutrient-storing ability of healthy soils.1
Organic matter turns into humus when subjected to the right conditions over time such as low temperatures, pressure, lots of moisture and a lack of light - all factors that allow for a wide diversity of soil organisms to thrive. This process is known as humification.
Humus is made up of three categories of organic acids: humins, humic acids and fulvic acids, all of which are long-term products of microbial and geological activity.
Alongside fulvic acids, humus consists of two other organic acids: humins and humic acids.
Each is composed of relatively long-chain carbon molecules that have formed complexes with oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen and sulfur, as well as many other trace elements.
Due to the negative charge of the organic acids that make up humus, it attracts many positively charged trace mineral ions (cations) like calcium, potassium and magnesium, allowing the soil to retain its nutrients and remain robust. This is also known as cation exchange.2,3
All of the components of humus are also capable of drawing out and chelating heavy metals and other toxins from the soil by a similar charge-based mechanism. This contains them safely versus letting them wash away and leaching out other soil nutrients in the process.
Particle size is one of the primary differences between humins, humic acids and fulvic acids, with particle size decreasing in that order. This size difference, alongside a few other characteristics, gives each group unique properties.
Humic acid / Wikimedia Commons
Because of its smaller particle size, fulvic acid can penetrate cells more easily than humic acid, allowing it to transport nutrients into the cells more effectively than humic acid.
Amazingly, fulvic acid can produce organic ionic minerals by bonding with and chelating inorganic minerals. Humic acid does not have this capability.
Fulvic acid / Wikimedia Commons
Humus tends to be an intense dark brown or black color, exactly like a mature compost heap. There is a reason it's lovingly referred to as "black gold" amongst organic farmers!
When the components of humus are separated out, the colors vary from the yellow hues of fulvic acid to the pitch black shade of humin. In it’s extracted form, fulvic acid can be either a liquid or a powder and it is often yellow, amber, brown or black in color.
As all these substances are naturally mixed together inside humus and each have their own variances in hue, so you won't be able to tell how much of each is in your compost just by looking at the color. The same applies to shilajit, one of the most abundant and naturally balanced sources of edible humic and fulvic acids!
Fulvic acid is made mostly from very small atomic units of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen which are electrically charged. This gives it a high affinity for attracting other equally tiny atomic mineral particles, and it often also contains close to 100 other trace elements as a result of its ionic nature.
Through humification (the transformation of decomposing organic matter into humus), all nutrients are recycled back into the food chain via mineralization.
The microscopic hairs on plant roots are the favored home to these bacteria, producing fulvic acid and other compounds which act as the bridge between organic lifeforms and inorganic trace minerals and metals.
Fulvic acid can almost be thought of as the ultimate end product of mineralization, as it is the fraction of humus that consists of the smallest ionic mineral particles. As a result, fulvic acid is highly compatible with the biochemistry of all life; being able to transport ionic trace minerals and other nutrients effortlessly through all cell walls whether they belong to bacteria, plants or animals.
Fulvic acid can be found alongside humic acid and humins in healthy soils, sediments and large bodies of water, occasionally also cropping up amongst rocks and coal. Commercial extracts of fulvic acid are often chemically extracted from fresh water lakes or deposits of peat and shilajit.
From plant life to animal life, fulvic acid plays an extensive role in transporting nutrients in and out of cells, facilitating biological trash removal, “digesting” inorganic compounds and balancing cellular electrolytes. It acts as a go-between by converting inorganic substances into their organic bioavailable forms.
Fulvic acid can do this because it has a high affinity for ionic particles, forming complex ionic trace mineral bonds between them. One molecule of fulvic acid is capable of holding up to 60 other ionic particles or trace minerals!
Inside the human body, this translates to significantly improved absorption of trace minerals and other essential nutrients. Apart from this, Fulvic Acid also alters a cell’s membrane, making it more permeable and allowing more nutrients to pass through. Furthermore, it helps the gut to be more hospitable to probiotic bacteria, ensuring more nutrients can be processed and produced by them, in turn providing more for us as a whole.
The affinity fulvic acid has for trace minerals is what allows it to bind to pollutants, facilitating their eventual recycling back into nature via decomposition.
Another feature that makes fulvic acid so rejuvenating is that it is the most powerful natural electrolyte. Electrolytes are needed for the maintenance of good health in any organic body. They restore each individual cell to its ideal chemical balance, effectively lengthening the cell’s lifespan. When this electrochemical potential is exhausted, the cell dies.
Fulvic acid is a universal substance that not only enhances the quality of soil but also appears to enrich the overall vitality of the body. According to ongoing research, the list of potential fulvic acid benefits currently under scientific investigation is increasing nearly every day!
Below are twelve beneficial effects of fulvic acid that put it into the category of a superfood.
A balanced, healthy diet is always the best way to ensure optimum consumption of electrolytes and trace minerals and promote maximum health in the areas of metabolism and digestion. But what if food alone isn’t enough?
We need to eat dirt! There are nutrients in the soil that we cannot get from plants, such as humic acids and fulvic acids, that are very beneficial for our health. Humic acids are a rich source of nutrition for plants, of which fulvic acids make up the largest component. Although unfortunately nowadays, even dirt is depleted of minerals and nutrients from overproduction and erosion, and polluted with chemicals! So finding a source of fulvic acid unaffected by these factors is essential. So consuming fulvic acids directly offers us a rich source of nutrition, and it also enhances the absorption of its own nutrients and of other nutrients we consume by making our cell membranes more permeable to these nutrients.
One of the best known nutritional benefits of fulvic acid includes supporting gut health as well as boosting metabolism.
Since fulvic acid has a very small molecular weight and size, it can easily penetrate cellular membranes and deliver nutrients directly to where they need to go.4
It does more than this, however, as it acts to enhance the permeability of cell walls, allowing for larger particles to be absorbed too! This aids greatly with the assimilation of nutrients and helps to equip cells with all they require to create the enzymes needed during digestion.
What many do not realize about the bacteria in our gut is that they act like our very own microscopic laboratories, synthesizing all sorts of compounds our bodies need. Fulvic acid creates the ideal environment that beneficial bacteria need to thrive. These probiotic bacteria produce many vital nutrients that we, in turn, require to thrive by feeding off what we eat, making everything from fatty acids to neurotransmitters like serotonin!5
In fact, scientists are starting to think that more neurotransmitters are made in our gut than in our brains and that lacking a healthy microbiome could be detrimental to many aspects of our well-being.
If one ingests fulvic acid with trace minerals as found in shilajit, then one supplies their gut bacteria not only with the perfect pH to live in but also a wealth of nutrients to feed from.
Fulvic acid has also been shown to speed up the metabolism of both proteins and carbohydrates, which are less easily digestible than fats.
Photo by Alicia Harper from ProbioticReviewGirl.com
It is common knowledge that humic and fulvic acids act as environmental janitors so-to-speak, effectively binding to undesirable particles in the soil and large bodies of water, making them inert. Various studies have been published on how fulvic acid is capable of binding to pollutants such as several chemical pesticides6 and mercury.7
Due to these chemical properties, researchers are currently investigating fulvic acid's potential as a cellular cleansing agent. While the results so far have been promising, the evidence is minimal and thus nothing is conclusive as of yet.
One such investigation revealed that factory workers who were continuously exposed to heavy metals benefited immensely by supplementing with fulvic acid on a daily basis.8
Fulvic acid also appears to have a natural affinity for binding to free radicals and other undesirable cellular by-products. In theory, it potentially renders these undesirables inactive and therefore may help to facilitate a peaceful removal of our body's molecular trash!
While the process is very slow and spans over the course of decades, scientists have observed that fulvic acid is even capable of tackling radioactive particles! Don’t get too excited yet though, as there is currently no research to suggest that it works the same way in the body. There have, however, been a few synergistic scientific observations that indicate fulvic acid may be able to buffer our defenses against radiation.8
The immune system can be seen as a complex network of cellular signals, designed to deal with any threats we may encounter from open wounds to bacterial invasions. The way cells signal one another to alert the immune system of danger involves the use of compounds such as cytokines and interleukins. Some of these compounds trigger transient inflammatory reactions while the body is dealing with any given threat - a necessary, yet sometimes unpleasant series of events. To prevent these reactions from getting out of control, another wing of the immune system is dedicated to calming them down and keeping them contained to one area.
Fulvic acid appears to have the potential to tap into the way the immune system communicates, helping to boost its efficiency. This is highlighted by preliminary research (done on rats) and anecdotal reports which note how fulvic acid seems to boost the immune system’s firepower as well as reduce or speed through unpleasant reactions. In each context, fulvic acid promoted a quicker resolution of the problem and supported overall well-being.
Research has suggested that it is also likely to support our mitochondria due to its ability to penetrate into the cell, deliver nutrients and potentially stimulate a biological clean-up. When our mitochondria are functioning optimally, they produce powerful antioxidant compounds such as SOD (superperoxide dismutase) and glutathione. Antioxidants protect us from the damages of free radicals and help to keep the immune system contained.
Moreover, fulvic acid speeds up the absorption of vitamins and trace minerals, which are needed to keep our immune systems in check. Fulvic acid has the added benefit of containing a wealth of trace minerals such as zinc, magnesium, potassium and more.
From multiple different angles, fulvic acid has shown promise in speeding up recovery time after surgery, injury and intensive exercise.
After surgery, injury or intense exercise, the body’s cells require nutrients to recover quickly and effectively. Fulvic acid enhances the absorption of minerals needed for recovery such as magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, boron, iron, zinc, copper, calcium, manganese, silicon, strontium and more. It also enhances the absorption of amino acids and vitamins from foods consumed in the diet.
Fulvic acid is also noted by some to be a great post-workout recovery aid. After a few months of using it, many have anecdotally testified that it completely takes away painful lactic acid syndrome. This is where too much lactic acid builds up in the muscles after intense exercise.
Fulvic acid will also replenish electrolytes and rehydrate you, which is ideal after breaking a sweat!
In those with brain injuries, fulvic acid may prove to be useful as nutritional support that complements recovery.
Pexels - Polina Tankilevitch
Pexels - Polina Tankilevitch
Aside from experimental data indicating that it promotes better wound healing, preliminary research suggests that fulvic acid may indeed support a healthy, vibrant complexion.
For example, in a 4-week study involving 36 participants with chronically damaged skin, it was seen that fulvic acid nearly restored all their skin back to its former glory and functioning even better.10 Although promising for the future of skincare, further trials are required before one can make any definitive conclusions.
Speaking of skincare, fulvic acid has been shown in a test-tube study to permeate through all levels of the skin, tightening it and helping tone skin muscles by inducing more muscle contractions.11 This would not only help to fight off wrinkles but, when combined with fulvic acid’s unique properties, it would keep our skin in good condition by removing toxins and free radicals, as well as helping to retain moisture, protect against further damage and replenish the nutrients our skin needs to be radiant!
Last, but not least, fulvic acid has been shown to prevent the breakdown and glycation of collagen in mice!12 In this study, fulvic acid increased cell viability by about 26% with no side effects, and collagen degradation was inhibited by up to 61% in the presence of a collagen cleaving enzyme known as MMP-8. These results suggest a possible anti-aging effect of fulvic acid.
Just like us, mice need collagen to keep their skin in good shape, along with many other organs such as the kidneys. It is also a well-known fact that collagen breakdown increases with age, and when combined with glycation, the result is usually paired with an increase in age-related diseases.13
However, more research is still required to assess whether fulvic acid would have these activities and effects in our bodies too.
Fulvic acid is able to boost energy levels in multiple ways, all of which involve the mitochondria.
Animal mitochondrion diagram / Wikimedia Commons
Mitochondria are tiny cellular “organs” (organelles) that are inside all of our cells but particularly more abundantly within cells found in the nervous system, muscle tissue, the heart, brain, and gut.
These microscopic organelles take oxygen and other nutrients and produce energy from the electrons that these substances carry. The energy is stored in the form of ATP (adenosine triphosphate), which the body breaks down and uses to finance every single thing it does, from blinking to digestion to thinking to movement.
Fulvic acid was found to deliver more energy-supplying nutrients to the mitochondria, as well as increasing the uptake of oxygen. Furthermore, fulvic acid facilitates electrolyte balance in cells, which speeds up the flow of electrons that the mitochondria use when creating energy.14
In other words, fulvic acid encourages the body to produce larger amounts of energy at a much faster rate than normal!
New models of aging are being considered by researchers world-wide and one of them, once again, relates back to the mitochondria.15
The mitochondria regulate our body’s stress response, our immune system and the lifespan of each of our cells. We need our mitochondria for energy and so that our bodies can manufacture their own antioxidants, which are two important factors that are compromised in the elderly.
As explained above, fulvic acid plays an intimate role in protecting our mitochondria from damage, supplying them with the nutrients they need as well as heightening their capacity for creating energy.
The fact that fulvic acid potentially keeps our mitochondria functioning better for longer suggests that all our cells would live for longer, which would automatically ensure that we do too.
However, don’t get too excited! Even though we know that fulvic acid helps the mitochondria to function better, no precise scientific trials have been carried out to confirm yet that it would directly increase our lifespan.
Pexels - Edu Carvalho
Aside from supplying you and your brain with more energy, one experimental animal study suggests that fulvic acid may actually make us smarter and more able to lay down information in our brains!
When supplemented with fulvic acid, old albino rats seemed to learn new things faster and remember them better than the control group of rats.16 While the trial has only been carried out on rats so far, the similarities between our brains and theirs open up a realm of exciting possibilities that will hopefully be explored in future studies.
Other preliminary research revealed that fulvic acid may have the potential to keep our minds sharp, young, and flexible by promoting a smooth-firing nervous system. Fulvic acid in a test tube was able to dissolve proteins that are known to clump or harden up with age and interfere with nerve signaling in the brain.17,18 It also promotes the nourishment of our nervous system by enhancing nutrient absorption from our diets, including the nutrients that our brains need to function!
Some indirect links suggest that fulvic acid may support healthy hair and enhance hair regrowth. This is partly due to its gut health and antioxidant effects. Fulvic acid promotes a healthy environment in the gut in which probiotic bacteria can thrive, and probiotics may promote healthy hair and hair growth.19 Hair follicles degrade from free radical damage20, and fulvic acid has powerful antioxidant activity while also promoting the formation of the body’s own powerful antioxidants, which would protect and possibly revitalize hair follicles.
The available research isn’t strong enough to prove fulvic acid’s effectiveness in hair regrowth, but if your hair is falling out, ruling out nutritional deficiencies and supplementing with fulvic acid would be a wise place to begin.
Quality research in humans has not been done yet to support the effectiveness of fulvic acid in promoting healthy blood sugar levels. However, traditionally it has been used for such purposes, and some animal studies do suggest this potential due to its effects on gut health, inflammation and the immune system.21
People with blood sugar imbalances often suffer from elevated blood sugar levels because the cells have stopped responding properly to the signaling of insulin and therefore don’t take sugar in sufficiently. The excessive sugar in the bloodstream damages nerve endings, and it also gets converted into fat. Nerve cells in various parts of the body are notoriously adversely affected, such as those in the eyes, feet, hands, kidneys, blood vessels, and even those in the brain and heart. Other noted changes in those with high blood sugar levels include increased oxidative stress, inflammation, and altered gut flora.21
In rats, shilajit (which contains fulvic acid) has been shown to reduce high blood sugar levels and increase the activity of SOD (superoxide dismutase, a powerful antioxidant made in the body) in the beta cells of the pancreas, as well as other antioxidant enzymes such as catalase (CAT) and glutathione peroxidase (GPx).22-25 This is important because oxidative stress can damage these beta cells in the pancreas that produce insulin.26
Pexels - Polina Tankilevitch
In animal models, fulvic acid has been shown to reduce inflammatory cytokines and markers such as TNF-α, IL-1 and IL-6.21,22,27 These are similar effects to those of NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), which are commonly prescribed to help deal with the adverse effects associated with high blood sugar.28 Fulvic acid has been suggested as a possible adjunct to NSAID use.29
People with unhealthy blood sugar levels have altered gut flora. In loach fish, fulvic acid was found to increase levels of healthy flora in the gut and reduce levels of harmful flora.30 Shilajit, which contains fulvic acid, has long been used to promote digestive health, and fulvic acid helps create healthy conditions for optimal gut flora balance.
Since improved nutrient absorption, bioavailability and boosted energy levels are some of the main benefits of fulvic acid, there’s reason to suggest that it could be excellent support for the body in terms of blood sugar health. It is always important, however, to consult with a physician before adding anything to a protocol, especially if you are using medication since supplements can affect the effectiveness of medications.
From ancient times, substances rich in fulvic acid have been used for male health, vitality and vigor. In one clinical trial performed on 60 men, 100 mg twice daily of a fulvic acid-providing compound boosted testosterone by 23.5% as well as enhanced sperm count and motility.31 Another study administered a compound providing 125 mg of fulvic acid twice daily over 90 days to men aged 45 to 55 years.32 Significant increases were found in testosterone of 20.45%, in free testosterone of 19.14%, and in DHEAs (dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate), the precursor to testosterone, of 31.35% by day 90. This is very exciting news for men! How much of these effects can be attributed directly to fulvic acid is unclear, but it is likely to contribute to the positive outcomes.
In spite of the many anecdotal testimonies, traditional uses and scientific observations regarding fulvic acid, nobody actually understands how it works!
Many studies have been done to try and get a grip on what fulvic acid looks like on a molecular level to try and find its pure underlying structure – but to no avail33.
Every time fulvic acid is extracted from a natural source, it looks different, and every time it is exposed to a new environment with different ionic particles, it changes in make-up and structure.
In fact, it is so tricky to ascertain fulvic acid’s nature that sending the same sample of organic matter to multiple laboratories will give you a different reading each time.
For the same reasons, nobody can give an exact amount of how much fulvic acid is inside a substance at any given time; they can only give an indication.
Fulvic acid almost appears sentient when one considers how it selectively provides organic trace minerals to any living cell, while attracting and facilitating the removal of inorganic toxins. In many cases it even converts toxins into particles that the organism can use for its benefit, and the toxins it cannot convert, fulvic acid helps to eliminate them from the system.
This counts for anything it comes into contact with, whether dirt, water, plants or animals – fulvic acid just seems to know what’s required for well-being at the cellular level in any given situation!
There is a good chance that science will never understand how it works, what its pure form looks like or how to artificially make it.
All we know at this point is that all life on Earth would suffer without it, which is why it is important to ensure we include it in our diets.
Asking why we need fulvic acid is essentially the same as asking why we need nutrients, as fulvic acid plays a big role in helping us to absorb trace minerals. We need both in the right quantities to survive and thrive. The simplest way for us to obtain nutrients is by consuming natural, plant-based foods, which contain an abundance of vitamins, trace minerals and more. Doing that alone is not enough, however!
Dating far back through history, peloids such as peat, shilajit and nutritious soils were used to treat wounds and heal all sorts of conditions, as it was believed they had medicinal effects.
These ancient soils were a rich source of fulvic acid, which is likely to be one of the reasons our predecessors benefited from them.
Shilajit is the oldest documented remedy that contains fulvic acid, with an impressive track record dating back more than 3,000 years. Ayurvedic practitioners still use it today as part of their approach for every kind of condition from diabetes to asthma.
The Chinese were among some of the first to have recorded using peat on open wounds medicinally from the 15th century, followed by the Europeans who favored mud baths as a treatment for arthritis. Today mud baths are still used in spas as a part of balneotherapy to rejuvenate the body.
Hospitals and combat medics during WW1 used processed peat to treat open flesh wounds on the battlefield.
This practice lost popularity through advances in medicine until just recently. Scientists are now beginning to come full circle after doing more research on fulvic acid. A few of these research papers show promising results that suggest fulvic acid and soil-based organisms may boost immune function when fighting infections, facilitate pain relief and speed up wound healing. Presently, however, fulvic acid is used mainly as a nutritional supplement.
In spite of a rich history rooted in traditional medicine, there is inconclusive evidence to confirm that shilajit or fulvic acid will help to cure or treat any medical conditions. There is, however, a small, growing body of supportive data that is opening the gates toward further discussion, new research and perhaps a brighter future!
Trace minerals are part of the raw base materials our cells use to build or create anything in the body on a microscopic level. They are used to catalyze reactions, produce everything from new tissues to energy and are also required as coenzymes for the absorption of other nutrients like vitamins.
While we need to make sure to get enough minerals, the most challenging part of optimizing our nutrition is its delivery into the cells. All nutrients have to bypass our immune system, be processed by our gut bacteria and get through cellular membranes, or they will not be absorbed at all.
Our ancestors used to consume ultra trace amounts of fulvic acid on a daily basis in the form of organic produce which, unbeknownst to them, would enhance the way they absorbed dietary nutrients.
Unfortunately, poor modern farming practices such as pesticides, chemical fertilizers, overproduction and erosion, have encouraged the Earth's soils to suffer from both severe mineral depletion and a loss of healthy bacterial diversity. The ground is exhausted, barren and sick. Thus, plants lack the necessary components that support nutritional absorption, such as fulvic acid.
Due to these modern conditions, it has become a fact that we do not get enough trace minerals from the food we eat and thus a fulvic acid supplement is desirable for optimal health and well-being.
Even though scientists are a bit clueless about fulvic acid's chemical formula, they do know how to identify it based on its unique yellow color (once extracted) and also due to a few chemical properties that only it can display.
Fulvic acid is composed of particles that are much smaller than humic acid. All the particles in fulvic acid are ionic by nature, which is not strictly the case with humic acid or humin, even though they also do tend to have charged particles and also contribute to the mineral holding capacity of soils.
The ionic nature of fulvic acid makes it incredibly easy for ions to bind to it or be exchanged for other ions. This is what contributes to the way it holds nutrients in the soil, but more importantly to how it interacts at the cellular levels in our bodies. Our cells are designed to absorb ionic particles with a charge along an electric-potential gradient, meaning that ions with the right charge (usually also bound to a substance) are propelled to move to an area lacking that charge to achieve an electro-chemical balance (i.e. inside the cell).
Scientists are starting to look seriously at fulvic acid as a carrier molecule for drug delivery due to its ionic nature and incredibly high biocompatibility. Cells allow fulvic acid inside of them very easily due to its ionic nature. This is also why fulvic acid substances like shilajit have been used in medicinal preparations for centuries, as it increases the effects of anything it is paired with by making it easier for cells to absorb.
Fulvic acid is ionic and not colloidal. It should be noted that humic acid is comprised of a mixture of both ionic and colloidal particles. Contrary to popular belief, colloidal particles also have a charge, however, the charge is a lot weaker than ionic particles as colloids are already contained within a strong bond, suspension or crystalline structure, as opposed to ionic particles which are more free (or loosely bound as seen in fulvic acid), charged and easily exchangeable.
Scientists have found it impossible to synthesize fulvic acids in a laboratory from scratch due to their complexity. With names like “10H-pyrano(4,3-b)(1)benzopyran-9-carboxylic acid”, who can blame them?
This is because fulvic acid is composed of a series of ionic trace mineral bonds and tends to change its structure and function depending on what elements it’s exposed to. Only nature could produce such complicated substances! Therefore, the only way to produce it commercially is to extract it from an organic substance that already contains natural fulvic acid.
Both fulvic and humic acid have a high affinity for binding to toxic compounds in soil and water, keeping them subdued and essentially rendering them chemically inert. With toxic metals such as lead and aluminium, humic and fulvic acid are known to adsorb to their surface, meaning that they form a protective layer around the substance and keep it trapped. This is similar to chelation, however in chelation, only the atomic binding sites on the ion are "plugged up" with a suitable charge, whereas adsorption covers the entire particle. Fulvic acid and humic acid can do both, effectively acting as the universal janitors of the environment!
This same ability is also what allows these compounds to exchange beneficial mineral ions and form the amazing trace mineral complexes that they are famous for in both the agricultural community and natural supplement world.
You may be wondering how these substances seem to allow for only the good mineral ions (like potassium, magnesium, etc) to be exchanged with plants and our cells, while trapping only the bad ones. Scientists are still trying to get a grip on fulvic acid's nature and ascertain exactly how it is able to do this, however, the most likely answer at this point lies within the charge of the ions it possesses.
If you take a trip back to chemistry class, you may remember that all atoms have an outer shell with electrons and that some atomic shells have only a few electrons (giving them a positive charge), while others have more and are looking to complete their outer shell (negative charge).
Organic life forms are made to interact with ions that their cells can use, which means that the cell already has a way to bind with what it can use and not with what it can't. For example, oxygen binds to the iron-based heme protein in hemoglobin in blood to be transported around the body; without being bound, oxygen would cause tremendous damage to our cells. So without anything to contain "destructive" heavy metal ions, they become a problem - either by trying to pluck electrons from cells to complete their outer shell or by having loose electrons that effect damage to our cells. Fulvic acid can contain all ions, while the organism's natural affinity for selective mineral ions allows for them to be exchanged out of fulvic acid's ion bank for any pollutants floating around in its cells. The same can be applied to human cells, animals, bacteria and that of plants in the soil.
Even though this picture likely covers many scenarios in theory, it still does not explain how fulvic acid works in its entirety. Fulvic acid has a somewhat unpredictable nature and tends to act differently depending on what environment it is in and the substances it is exposed to. Furthermore, our cells are capable of making mistakes - such as adsorbing the wrong mineral ion with the same charge - which is not accounted for in this theory. However, in the majority of cases, it appears that fulvic acid works to balance the environment it is in through finding an electro-chemical balance.
Cation exchange capacity (CEC) is the ability of a soil to store positively charged ions (cations) such as potassium, calcium and magnesium3. Organic matter in the soil is known to have a very high CEC, as many charged particles get released during its breakdown via mineralization. This high electro-chemical attraction is the exact mechanism that allows organic matter in soil to hold nutrients intact like a sponge, allowing plants and soil organisms to thrive. You also get Anion Exchange Capacity (AEC), which also occurs in soil but much less than CEC. In unhealthy soils with lots of erosion and loss of nutrients, there is very high AEC and low CEC.
Fulvic acid has a greater CEC than either humins or humic acids because it works on a much smaller scale and specifically only with ionic particles. Humins, for example, contain a wide variety of large particles that still need to be broken down further before they have a charge suitable enough for attracting and holding cations; however this breakdown helps to fuel the process and contributes to a long-lasting CEC.
Fulvic acid is water soluble at any pH from 1 to 14, according to one science paper on the matter.
Both humic and fulvic acids show a gradual increase in negative charge with increasing pH due to the dissociation of protons. It is now well-established that the carboxylic-type groups are mainly responsible for this behavior over the lower pH range, say below a pH of 7. The phenolic-type groups that are also known to be present are expected to contribute more to the charging behavior at higher pH values.
This means that as the pH increases, fulvic and humic acids will donate protons and therefore become slightly more negatively charged, which is a property of some weak acids that tend to alkalinize substances. However, it is also seen that different sources of fulvic acid react differently to one another and therefore it is difficult to make any direct statement about how it will function at any pH.
It is difficult to say for sure whether fulvic acid alkalizes water. As it is observed to release more protons with increasing pH, and alkaline substances accept/have protons, there is a good chance it will alkalize your water. Due to its tricky nature, factors such as where the fulvic acid was extracted and what else it may be bonded with may affect the way it interacts with water, which is why one can't be 100% sure about this.
pH Scale / Wikimedia Commons
Humic and fulvic acids are not only ionic and water soluble by nature, but they are also potentially capable of carrying a whole host of other substances, allowing them to cross cellular membranes and also be water soluble to a certain degree (even if these substances do not have a strong charge or are usually insoluble in water). The secret behind this phenomenon lies in micro pores (or holes) found prolifically throughout the structure of both humic and fulvic acid. When other substances like fats are stored in these micro pores, they can then also easily pass through membranes and dissolve in water alongside the ionic minerals in both organic acids, remaining contained neatly inside their structure.
This is also what is pushing scientists to look into fulvic acid as a carrier for other medicines and pharmaceutical drugs. Fulvic and humic acid used in this capacity would appear to kill two birds with one stone, as they would allow for particles with a low bioavailability to easily filter into cells (uncharged, water insoluble or otherwise), while also doing away with the need to bind the active ingredients to a potentially harmful substance. By placing micro amounts of the active ingredients inside these micro pores, the bioavailability of the drug could hypothetically increase.
In a few of the above cases, humic and fulvic acid appeared to enhance the efficacy of treatment by discouraging side effects and supporting positive outcomes.
Both humic and fulvic acids have melting points of over 572°F (300°C). However, if exposed to temperatures above 102°F (39°C), any enzymes present inside these molecules will begin to denature and their quality will be destroyed. Prolonged exposure to any heat above that temperature will also begin to destabilize ionic bonds and may also start to oxidize the substance, potentially causing free radicals to be released in the process.
It is clear that many of us are deficient in nutrients and fulvic acid and that we should be consuming more of each to ensure that we have enough fulvic minerals in our body. So now the question remains: where can we get more fulvic acid?
Foods highest in fulvic acid will be those found growing in healthy soils, as well as sea vegetables or foods grown in large bodies of natural water. These include:
Leafy green vegetables and any other vegetables grown very low to the ground or that touch the soil may also contain very small amounts of fulvic acid.
Essentially organic foods will have the highest concentration of fulvic acid as pesticides and chemicals kill off the beneficial soil bacteria that produce it. Incorporating more of the above raw foods into your diet will also help keep the fulvic acid intact, as heating it may destroy some of its properties. Non-GMO produce and whole foods (i.e. eating the whole plant vs one part of it) typically both contain a larger quantity and balanced variety of nutrients, which complements fulvic acid's actions and boosts our overall well-being.
Fulvic acid is available in a concentrated form in some health shops and online. Out of all the options available this is the easiest go-to option, but it can also be the most unbalanced. After all, we are designed to take fulvic acid in very small quantities when we eat plant-based foods grown in thriving soils and not so much in large artificial concentrations.
Furthermore, the concentration of fulvic acid in any medium is just as much a mystery as its chemical structure! Any two laboratories will give a different percentage for the amount of fulvic acid contained within a sample, even if the same methods were used, meaning that you can't ever be sure of how concentrated your fulvic acid supplement is. There is no such thing as a 100% pure concentrate, and any figure you see regarding a set amount of fulvic acid is more of an educated guess that will differ depending on who you ask.
The source of fulvic acid is another consideration to keep in mind. Some fulvic acid (known as oxifulvic acid) is derived from coal, while other fulvic acid is derived from lakes that have possibly toxic levels of pollution.
We recommend using a natural supplement like humate or shilajit alongside a healthy diet rich in organic produce to get your fulvic acid fix. However, if you are dead set on a fulvic acid "concentrate", then there are ways to source a good quality supplement. For more information, check out our fulvic acid supplement article.
Shilajit is found in the serene surroundings of mountains, and it is the only natural source of fulvic acid ready for human consumption. By geographical origin, shilajit is mostly found in Siberia and the Himalayas. To know what is the difference between these two types of shilajit, read our article Altai shilajit vs Himalayan shilajit. Shilajit is known to have the highest content of fulvic acid over any other source found in nature.
Therefore, one of the best ways to obtain fulvic minerals supplementally is to use shilajit, as the proportions are naturally balanced and work appropriately with our biology.
What is Shilajit? Shilajit is the culmination of hundreds to millions of years of organic matter decomposition and geological "digestion", resulting in a highly stable, nutritious substance that is loaded with humic and fulvic acids, trace minerals and many other beneficial components like amino acids and healthy fats. Fulvic acid's high affinity for trace minerals is what allows for nutritious substances like shilajit to come together, creating a powerful cocktail of trace minerals that easily bypasses cellular membranes.
On average, shilajit contains 5-8% fulvic acid. If it has been exposed to excessive heat or oxygen during purification, it may contain less, so be sure to purchase one that has been properly processed. If a product is said to contain more, then likely additional fulvic acid has been added. However, it is best to consume shilajit as is, as somehow nature’s creation is perfectly balanced and our bodies respond best to this.
Aside from including fulvic acid in your diet through the above sources, one can also receive it through the skin while immersing in nature. Since fulvic acid is naturally found in soil and large bodies of water, the following activities will boost your exposure to this wonderful nutrient:
Clay may also contain fulvic acid in minute quantities, depending on where it was collected. If it comes into contact with fulvic acid, clay has the potential to trap the fulvic acid inside of its rigid structure. So the next time you try out a bentonite clay mud mask or bath, you may be getting a little bit of fulvic acid through your skin too!
Of course, the above activities will not be as potent as ingesting fulvic acid from food sources, yet at the same time, one does not need much of it to make a difference. A little bit of nature truly goes a long way toward our vitality and well-being!
There are many ways how you can take fulvic acid.
The best way to take a fulvic acid concentrate is simply by diluting it in distilled or reverse osmosis water and drinking it as well as consuming a healthy diet rich in the organic foods listed above under the dietary sources section.
In terms of taste, fulvic acid on its own tends to have a sharp flavor, and so some like to mix it with their favorite beverage instead. Never mix it with alcohol, pharmaceutical drugs or any substances that you might react to because it will enhance your absorption of those substances and therefore the side effects. Tap water and halogens like fluorine and chlorine will also react with it to form toxic by-products, so never drink it with tap water.
For those of you who are open to experimenting, here are some great recipes to use for incorporating more fulvic acid into your diet!
Preparation time: 15 mins
Adapted from Diabetic Living Magazine at EatingWell.com
Preparation time: 2 hours
Adapted from SweetestMenu.com
Fulvic acid does not necessarily need to be refrigerated. It needs to be stored in a dark, cool place below 104F (40C) in an airtight container away from heat and light. If you live in an area that has a room temperature higher than that on average, then you ought to store it in the fridge.
Fulvic acid does not have a known expiry date when stored under the right conditions, away from heat, light and oxygen. Exposure to halogens (like chlorine in tap water) and plastic may also degrade the quality of the fulvic acid, allowing for it to "spoil". Manufacturers often give their fulvic supplements an expiry date of 2-5 years on average, although most of them will tell you that it's more for safety and the water part than the fulvic part.
Aside from taking it internally for a nutritional boost or basking in it externally, fulvic acid has several other practical applications.
The bacteria at the roots of plants need moisture to flourish but also so that they can create fulvic acid and multiple other enzymes. These organic acids and enzymes work continuously to break down minerals into ions so that both the bacteria and plants can absorb them. In turn, the plants also "sweat" out nutrients to keep feeding the bacteria. In dead soils, fulvic acid supplemented in VERY SMALL amounts helps to shift the soil pH favorably so that these bacteria can thrive as well as promoting the quick breakdown of organic matter and nutrients. This in turn helps plants to thrive.
Be careful though. Too much fulvic or humic acid can cause root deformation and is not healthy for the plants, capable of causing either root burn, soil sterilization or a bacterial overgrowth.
Moist, well-nourished soil will benefit from occasional fulvic acid supplementation since it promotes the growth of soil bacteria, which produce more humic acid and fulvic acid. So space out the feedings with fulvic acid and use it sparingly.
Soil bacteria make fulvic acid all the time, as do the colonies present in a healthy thriving compost heap!
Making compost is one of the easiest ways to incorporate fulvic acid back into the garden.
For those of you who can't make compost but still wish to supplement your plants with some fulvic acid, there is another way to make it at home.
Essentially, placing plant-based organic matter in a non-transparent, airtight container and leaving it for 6-8 months in a cool, dark place will generate a bunch of organic acids, including humic and fulvic acids. This is pretty much small-scale composting that can be done inside the home.
We recommend being very patient and waiting out the full time to avoid any unpleasant smells along the way. If your container does not seal properly, wrap it in a black bag and store it outside away from sunlight and heat or in an area where it will not be bothered or bother anybody (such as your basement or attic).
Using leafy green vegetables that have a high moisture content works best as these are loaded with water, nutrients and fiber that allow the bacteria to do their thing. Other kinds of organic matter also work but may take longer.
You'll know it's ready by the following indications:
Once ready, dilute the liquid into water until the water becomes clear again and proceed to feed your plants.
Humic acid is widely known for having antimicrobial effects in larger concentrations, working as a great disinfectant of wounds and any surfaces. In recent years, studies reveal that fulvic acid seems to have similar properties in this regard, potentially able to destroy several strains of bad bacteria, including: E. coli, Candida, Streptococcus, Pseudomonas, Klebsiella, Proteus, and Staphylococcus. Research has also shown that fulvic acid has a wide range of actions that prevents biofilms from forming, something of particular importance to both home and oral hygiene.
In light of it's probiotic properties, using it as a disinfectant for you hands and around the home could be a healthier alternative to bleach and other life-destroying chemicals, as fulvic acid will promote the growth of healthy probiotic organisms. On that note, it could also be seen as a very expensive alternative and therefore may not be very practical unless one is very sensitive. However, if you are not getting any luck with your classic brand of mouthwash, you may want to start thinking of using a fulvic acid supplement!
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Due to fulvic acid's ionic nature and ability to contain toxins in soil and water, it could be used as a master chelator in your food. If you can't get organic food and are sensitive to chemical sprays, washing your vegetables in a solution with a little bit of fulvic acid may help to contain some of the chemicals. Fish is another food that is reported to be high in heavy metals like mercury, so soaking your fish in diluted fulvic acid could be a creative solution to meeting your omega-3 requirements without potentially risking mercury exposure.
As with any other metal-binding substance like zeolite or clays, it may also take out some good mineral ions like zinc from your food. This can be rectified by using a mineral-rich fulvic acid supplement like shilajit (either by soaking the food with that and/or by taking that separately), ensuring that those nutrients are constantly replenished. It's a good idea to have a mineral supplement regardless, as the majority of soils (and foods) are depleted of trace nutrients to begin with.
Since our soils do not contain enough fulvic acid anymore, it is important to consider a natural fulvic acid supplement.
There is no set daily amount for fulvic acid for two reasons: we should be getting it in more than adequate quantities from organic plant-based foods, and we only need it in miniscule amounts to maintain balance.
The amount you should take also depends on the state of health one is in, and it is best to consult with a healthcare professional if considering taking pure fulvic acid.
Taking pure fulvic acid may be harmful, as not all extraction processes or sources of fulvic acid are healthy, and taking it directly also makes it very easy to overdose. It has also not been approved by the FDA at this point, so caution is advised.
Research has quoted effective fulvic acid doses as low as 20 ml a day (approx. 1.5 tablespoons) for individuals exposed daily to high levels of heavy metals. The average person would not need to take as much to benefit.
It is best to opt for far less, especially seeing as you would not need nearly as much if you were getting fulvic acid from the foods you eat. The safest route to take is opting for a fulvic supplement that already contains the right balance of it from nature.
One only needs to take 100-150 mg per day of shilajit, which takes care of all our fulvic acid requirements while simultaneously adding a wealth of essential nutrients back into our diet!
In balanced amounts, both humic and fulvic acid are known to be highly safe and effective; both in modern scientific literature as well as historical records that are centuries old.
Fulvic acid is entirely safe to take as a nutritional supplement, provided you do so in small doses and adhere to the guidelines stated in the section above. We need fulvic acid to absorb nutrients and achieve optimal health. As it is now lacking from the majority of our food supply, it is more important to make sure we get an adequate amount in our diet.
Fulvic acid may not be used to treat, prevent or cure chronic disease, as it is not classified as a medical drug.
Just as with anything, however, it ought to be taken in moderation. If you take too much of it, there can be a few unpleasant side effects, but these are temporary and generally not harmful to the body.
Fulvic acid side effects may include symptoms of allergy, such as nausea, dizziness, increased heart rate, itchiness, etc. These symptoms are temporary, occurring as a result of the detox induced by fulvic acid and are only generally noticeable when it's taken in large amounts. If taken in small, balanced amounts such as found in shilajit, these problems should not occur.
Chronic use of fulvic acid without taking breaks can also cause a vitamin B3 deficiency.
A fulvic acid supplement should not be taken together with pharmaceuticals, alcohol or other potent medicinal substances. If combined with natural herbs, be sure that the herb is not contraindicated in your case, or fulvic acid may exacerbate the side effects indirectly by increasing its absorption into your cells.
It's best to give yourself a 2 hour gap between taking fulvic acid and these substances as fulvic acid will enhance their absorption directly into the cells, which can cause unwanted side effects.
Pregnant women should err on the side of caution and avoid using fulvic acid supplements.
You should also avoid using ordinary tap water when taking fulvic acid as it will dangerously react with halogens such as chlorine. Rather, opt for reverse osmosis water which will not react with fulvic acid.
It makes sense that animals would benefit from fulvic acid since in a natural diet, most animals would consume dirt along with their food, which we’ve already discussed is beneficial. Studies have performed tests on animals fulvic acid and have found many of the same beneficial effects humans experience. Fulvic acid supports health in general simply because your pet is able to better digest, absorb and use the nutrients from the food it eats. Because of this effect, and because of its ability to boost energy production and its antioxidant properties, fulvic acid may enhance your pet’s overall health and longevity.
Topical fulvic acid has also been shown in dogs, cats and mice to have anti-inflammatory effects on the skin, and has helped to reduce redness, swelling, itching and pussy lesions related to eczema or contact dermatitis.
It is wise to discuss with your veterinarian first before supplementing your pet with concentrated fulvic acid, especially if your pet is on medications, since the fulvic acid can affect its potency. However, as a general rule, do not give birds and fish fulvic acid, as they are very sensitive. To get an appropriate dose of fulvic acid for your pet, calculate it by body weight. Divide the dose you would take of fulvic acid by your weight, and then multiply the number by your pet’s weight.
Fulvic acid is an abundant substance in the Earth’s soil and decomposing organic matter that sustains all biological life. Plants can benefit greatly from fulvic acid, and it can promote overall health and longevity in your pet as well. Fulvic acid may also be useful as a natural disinfectant and as a food purifier to help reduce the presence of chemical sprays and heavy metals.
Fulvic acid promotes balance within all organisms and facilitates nutrient digestion, absorption and usage in our bodies. Other beneficial effects in humans include supporting gut health, skin health and detoxification, boosting energy and metabolism, modulating immunity, reducing inflammation, accelerating healing, enhancing brain function, boosting testosterone in men, and potentially helping with hair regrowth and healthy blood sugar metabolism.
Only small amounts of fulvic acid are needed for good health. A concentrate is very potent, and can affect the potency of medications, so be sure to get proper medical advice if you take medications and want to begin supplementing with fulvic acid. The best way to ensure balance and safety is to take a supplement containing balanced amounts of fulvic acid created by nature, such as shilajit.
We are only just beginning to scratch the surface on fulvic acid’s benefits to humans and therefore, human clinical studies are lacking. However, the ancient traditional uses of substances rich in fulvic acid such as shilajit, peat and other similar compounds give us an indication of its importance for our overall health, longevity and vitality.