Fulvic acid – a small but powerful natural substance for agricultural and medical applications

Didiek Hadjar GOENADI


Humic substances are defined as the result of the decomposition of any organic matter, and they consist mainly of humin, humic, and fulvic acids.  Compared to humin, humic acids and fulvic acid (FA) are the most explored compounds. However, FAs are less studied than humic acids because of the usually small residual quantities.  Considering that its potential for bioactivity is stronger than that of humic acids, the current review was performed to evaluate the effectiveness of FA application for crops and soils and its potential as an immuno-modulator for humans.  The wide application of FA is challenged by two main factors affecting the quality and the effectiveness, i.e., the type of raw material and extraction method.  Lignite, low-energy coal, is the most common material for FA production besides bog, peat, and compost.  Fulvic acid extraction is done through several methods, i.e., hydrogen peroxide (H2O2), alkaline (NaOH/KOH), and/or water. The latest modified method shows that the combination of H2O2 with microwave power can recover a considerable amount of FA. However, it is still difficult to apply this method for industrial scale. Due to highly specified characteristics, FA showed a great potential to improve crop performances and soil health, making it strategic for supporting sustainable agriculture in the future through biotic and abiotic stress alleviations and sustainable yield achievement, including various plantation crops and biotechnological approach. For medicinal purposes, some studies have shown highly promising results, especially as an immuno-modulator and in combating neurodegenerative disorders as well as for cancer therapy and health food fortification, which might be in line with the new paradigm so-called One Health approach. The future market of FA is also estimated to grow in a very attractive economic value. However, as data are still limited, the wide range of potential use should encourage concerted and wide research and product development efforts to achieve sustainable agriculture and human health.


medical application, natural substances, phyto-stimulant, sustainable agriculture

Full Text:

73-90 PDF


Abdel-Baky YR, HF Abouzena, AA Amin & MR Elsh (2019). Improve quality and productivity of some faba bean cultivars with foliar application of fulvic acid. Bull. Natl. Res. Ctr. 43(1), 1-11. DOI. 10.1186/s42269-018-0040-3.

Ali S, SA Bhawarna, M Rizwan, M Farid, S Kanwal, Q Ali, M Ibrahim, RA Gill & MD Khan (2015). Fulvic acid mediates chromium (Cr) tolerance in wheat (Triticum aesticum L.) through lowering of Cr uptake and improved antioxidant defense system. Environ. Sci. Pollut. Res. 22(14), 10601-10609. DOI: 10.1007/s11356-015-4271-7.

Anjum SA, L Wang, M Farooq, L Xue & S Ali (2011). Fulvic acid application improves the maize performance under well-watered and drought conditions. J. Agron. Crop Sci. 197(6), 409-417.

Aro T & P Fatehi (2017). Production and application of lignosulfonates and sulfonated lignin. Chem. Sus. 10(9),1861-1877. https://doi.org/10.1002/cssc.201700082.

Aydin SK, S Dalgic, M Karaman, OF Kirlangic & H Yildirim (2017). Effects of fulvic acid on different cancer cell lines. In: Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute Proceedings 1(10), 1031.

Bai HX, QF Chang, BM Shi & AS Shan (2013). Effects of fulvic acid on growth performance and meat quality in growing-finishing pigs. Livestock Sci. 158(1-3), 118-123.

Bannach-Szott M & B Debska (2008). Content of phenolic compounds in fulvic and humic acid fractions of forest soils. Polish J. of Environ. Stud. 17(4), 463-472.

Boste ME, IS Gilada, JR Snyman & JPL Labuschagne (2018). Carbohydrate-derived fulvic acid wellness drink: its tolerability, safety and effect on disease markers in pre-ART HIV-1 positive subjects. South Afric. Fam. Pract. 60(3), 91-96.

Capstaff NM, F Morrison, J Cheema, P Brett, L Hill, JC Muñoz-García, YZ Khimyak, C Domoney & AJ Miller (2020). Fulvic acid increases forage legume growth inducing preferential up-regulation of nodulation and signalling-related genes. J. Experiment. Bot. 71(18), 5689–5704. https://doi.org/10.1093/jxb/eraa283.

Carrasco-Gallardo C, L Guzman & RB Maccioni (2012). Shilajit: A natural phytocomplex with potential precognitive activity. Internat. J. Alzheimers Dis. doi: 10.1155/2012/674142.

CDC (2018). One Health Basics. https://www.cdc.gov/onehealth/basics/index.html.

Cheng G, Z Niu, C Zhang, X Zhang & X Li (2019). Extraction of humic acid from lignites by KOH-hydrothermal method. Appl. Sci. 9(7), 1356. https://doi.org/10.3399/app9071356.

Dominguez-Meijide A, E Vasili, A König, M Cima-Omori, AI de Opakua, A Leonov, S Ryazanov, M Zweckstetter, C Griesinger & TF Outeiro (2020). Effects of pharmacological modulators of α-synuclein and tau aggregation and internalization. Sci. Rep. 10, 12827. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-69744-y.

El-Boray MS, M Mostafa, AA El-wahab & A Elattar (2012). Effect of fulvic acid, some micro-elements and micro-organisms on yield and its components, content fruits of macro- and micro- elements content of Zaghloul date palm. Journal of Plant Production 3(8), 2277-2285. DOI: 10.21608/jpp.2012.84971.

Feng Q, C Sun, J Cao & H Liu (2017). Method for extracting fulvic acid from diatomite. CNIPA. Patent # CN104974356A. (https://patents.google.com)

Fernandes AC, E Medlen & S Leivers (2013). Fulvic acid and antibiotic combination. United States. Patent # US 20110207687A1. (https://patents.google.com)

Gao Y, J He, Z He, Z Li, B Zhao, Y Mu, J Lee & Z Chu (2017). Effects of fulvic acid on growth performance and intestinal health of juvenile loach Paramisgurnus dabryanus (Sauvage). Fish Selfish Immunol. 62, 47-56.

Gebreyes WA, J Dupouy-Camet, M Newport, CJ B de Oliveira, L Schlesinger, YM Saif, S Kariuki, L Saif, WJA Saville, T Wittum, A Hoet, S Quessy, R Kazwala, B Tekola, T Shryock, MS Bisesi, P Patchanee, S Boonmar & LJ King (2014). The global one health paradigm: challenges and opportunities for tackling infectious diseases at the human, animal, and environment interface in low-resource settings. PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases 8(11), e3257. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pntd.0003257

Goel RK, RS Banerjee & SB Acharya (1990). Antiulcerogenic and anti-inflammatory studies with Shilajit. Ethnoparmacol. 29, 95-103.

Goenadi DH (2001). The potential use of humic acids. J. Tanah Link. 2(2), 23-31.

Goenadi DH (2006). Developing Technology for Biodecomposition of Fresh Solid Wates of Plantation Crops under Tropical Conditions. IPB Press. Bogor. 229pp.

Goenadi DH (2017). Penilaian Mutu Tanah Secara Cepat – Sebagai Dasar Solusi Ameliorasinya. PT RPN Press, Bogor, Indonesia. 160pp, In Indonesian.

Gong G, Y Zhang, Y Zhao, G Xie, H Zheng, Y Li & K Shi (2017). Method for extracting fulvic acid from lignite. CNIPA. Patent # CN104629062A. (https://patents.google.com)

Gong G, L Xu, Y Zhang, W Liu, M Wang, Y Zhao, X Yuan & Y Li (2020a). Extraction of fulvic acid from lignite and characterization of its functional groups. ACS Omega 5(43), 27953-27961.

Gong G, X Yuan, Y Zhang, Y Li, W Liu, M Wang, Y Zhao & L Xu (2020b). Characterization of coal-based fulvic acid and the construction of a fulvic acid molecular model. RSC Adv. 10 (9), 5468-5477.

Gong G, Y Zhao, Y Zhang, B Deng, W Liu, M Wang, X Yuan & L Xu (2020c). Establishment of a molecular structure model for classified products of coal-based fulvic acid. J. Fuel 267, 117210. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.fuel.2020.117210.

Javed S, K Kohli & M Ali (2013). Microwave-assisted extraction of fulvic acid from a solid dosage form: a statistical approach. J. Pharm. Innov. 8, 175–186. 10.1007/s12247-013-9157-y.

Jeong, HJ, J Cha, JH Choi, K Jang, J Lim, W Kim, D Seo & J Jeon (2018). One-pot transformation of technical lignins into humic-like plant stimulants through fenton-based advanced oxidation: accelerating natural fungus-driven humification. ACS Omega 3(7), 7441–7453.

Jordaan IT (2019). Synthesis, characterisation and properties of fulvic acid, derived from a carbohydrate. Ph.D. Diss. NWU Lib. https://orcid.org/0000-0003-4221-582X.

Justi M, E Morais & C Silva (2019). Fulvic acid in foliar spray is more effective than humic acid via soil in improving coffee seedlings growth. Arch. Agron. Soil Sci., 1-15. DOI: 10.1080/03650340.2019.1584396.

Kamel SM, MMI Afifi, FS El-shoraky & MM El-Sawy (2014). Fulvic acid: a tool for controlling powdery and downy mildews in cucumber plants. Internat. J. Plant Pathol. 3(2),101-108. DOI: 10.33687/phytopath.003.02.0866.

Karr MC (2010). Methods for extracting fulvic acid molecules. European Patent Office. Patent # EP1797190A1. (https://patents.google.com)

Khang VT (2011). Fulvic foliar fertilizer impact on growth of rice and radish at first stage. Omonrice 18, 144-148.

Khanna R, M Witt, MK Anwer, SP Agarwal & BP Koch (2008). Spectroscopic characterization of fulvic acids extracted from the rock exudate Shilajit. Org. Geochem. 39, 1719–1724. 10.1016/j.orggeochem.2008.08.009.

Kishor P, S Bimala & T Nagendra (2012). Shilajit: Humic matter panacea for cancer. Int. J. Toxicol. Pharmacol. Res. 4, 17–25.

Khumic (2020). The largest humate products in China. https://www.khumic.com. Downloaded November 10, 2020.

Li J & D Li (2017). Novel method for extracting fulvic acid from industrially-produced waste edible fungi residues by fermentation. CNIPA. Patent # CN105331669A. (https://patents.google.com)

Li M, Y Su, Y Chen, R Wan, X Zheng & K Liu (2016). The effects of fulvic acid on microbial denitrification: promotion of NADH generation, electron transfer, and consumption. Appl. Microbiol. Biotechnol. 100(12), 5607-5618. DOI 10.1007/s00253-016-7383-1.

Li Y, W Tan, LK Koopal, MX Wang, F Liu & W Norde (2013). Influence of soil humic and fulvic acid on the activity and stability of lysozyme and urease. Environ. Sci. Technol. 47(10), 5050–5056.

Li Y, J Wang, N Liu, L Ke, X Zhao & G Qi (2020). Microbial synthesis of poly-γ-glutamic acid (γ-PGA) with fulvic acid powder, the waste from yeast molasses fermentation. Biotechnol Biofuels 13, 180. https://doi.org/10.1186/s13068-020-01818-5.

Litvin VA, BF Minaev & GV Baryshnikov (2015). Sythesis and properties of synthetic fulvic acid derived from hematoxylin. J. Mol. Struct. 1086, 25-33.

Liu Y, J Mao, X Wei, M Yi, X Zhang, K Zheng, X Chen, G Wang & B Chen (2019). Effects of biotechnologically produced fulvic acid on nutritional status and health indicators of sprague-dawley rats. Pakistan J. Zool. 51(3). 961. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.17582/journal.pjz/2019.51.3.961.970.

Lyons GH & Y Genc (2016). Commercial humates in agriculture: real substance or smoke and mirrors? Agon. 6(4),1-8. DOI: 10.3390/agronomy6040050.

Mao Y (2019). Modulation of the growth performance, meat composition, oxidative status, and immunity of broilers by dietary fulvic acids. Poultry Sci. 98(10), 4509-4513.

Market Watch (2021). Fulvic Acids as Biostimulant Market Analysis, Growth, Size, Share, Trends, Forecast, Supply Demand and Sales to 2026. https://marketwatch.com. Downloaded January 30, 2021.

Mema V (2005). Identification of extraction methods for the production of humic acids from black liquor. MS thesis. Dept. Proc. Eng., the Univ. Stellenbosch. 106p. http://scholar.sun.ac.za.

Motojima H, P Yamada, J Han, M Ozaki, H Shigemori & H Isoda (2009). Properties of fulvic acid extracted from excess sludge and it inhibiting effect on beta-hexoaminidase release. Biosci. Biotechnol. Biochem. 73(10), 2210-2216.

Moradi P, B Pasari & F Fayyas (2017). The effect of fulvic acid application on seed and oil yield of safflower cultivars. J. Centr. European Agric. 18(3), 584-597. DOI:10.5513/JCEA01/18.3.1933. Corpus ID: 39540112.

Moradi S, P Babak & R Talebi (2019). Study of the effects of mycorrhiza, fulvic acid, seaweed extract and urea on physiological traits and leaf yield of tobacco (Burley 21). European J. Environ. Sci. 9(1), 33-40.

Priya BNV, K Mahavishnan, DS Gurumurthy, H Bindumadhaya, P Ambika & NK Sharma (2014). Fulvic acid (FA) for enhanced nutrient uptake and growth insights from biochemical and genomic studies. J. Crop Improv. 28(6),740-757.

Raposo JC, U Villanueva, M Olivares & JM Madariaga (2016). Determination of humic substances in sediments by focused ultrasound extraction and ultraviolet visible spectroscopy. Microchem. J. 128, 26–33. 10.1016/j.microc.2016.04.004.

Romarís-Hortas HV, PA Moreda & P Bermejo-Barrera (2007). Application of microwave energy to speed up the alkaline extraction of humic and fulvic acids from marine sediments. Anal. Chim. Acta 602, 202–210. 10.1016/j.aca.2007.09.022.

Rosliza S, OH Ahmed, NMA Majid & M Jalloh (2009). Reduction of ammonia volatilization through mixing urea with humic and fulvic acids isolated from palm oil mill effluent sludge. Am. J. Environ. Sci. 5(3), 382-386.

Sabi R, P Vrey & C van-Rensburg (2012). Carbohydrate-derived fulvic acid (CHD-FA) inhibits Carrageenan-induced inflammation and enhances wound healing: efficacy and toxicity study in rats. Drug Dev. Res. 73(1), 18-23. 73. 10.1002/ddr.20445.

Santi LP, DH Goenadi, H Widiastuti, N Mardiana & Isroi (2000). Extraction and characterization of humic acid from plantation solid organic waste composts. Menara Perkebunan, 68(2), 29-36.

Sasikala S & K Deeptha (2018). Titrimetric estimation of fulvic acid substances in Oriens Shilajit as a part of herbal nutraceutical standardization. Internat. J. Multidisc. Res. Dev. 5(5), 198-199.

Schepetkin IA, G Xie, MA Jutila & MT Quinn (2009). Complement-fixing activity of fulvic acid from Shilajit and other natural resources. Phytother Res. 23(3), 373-384.

Sherry L, E Millhouse, DF Lappin, C Murray, S Culshaw, CJ Nile & G Ramage (2013). Investigating the biological properties of carbohydrate derived fulvic acid (CHD-FA) as a potential novel therapy for the management of oral biofilm infections. BMC Oral Health, 13(47). https://doi.org/10.1186/1472-6831-13-47.

Silva LS, PTS Silva, PTS Silva & IHL Cavalcante (2020). Impact of fulvic acid and free amino acids on paclobutrazol absorption by ‘Keitt’ mango. Rev. Ambient. Agua 15(4). http://dx.doi.org/10.4136/ambi-agua.2519 .

Sootahar MK, X Zeng, S Su, Y Wang, L Bai, Y Zhang, T Li & X Zhang (2019). The effect of fulvic acids derived from different materials on changing properties of albic black soils in the Northeast plain of China. Molecules 24(8), 1535. doi:10.3390/molecules24081535 .

Sootahar MK, X Zeng, Y Wang, S Su, P Soothar, L Bai, MK Soothar, Y Zhang, A Mustafa & N Ye (2020). The short-term effects of mineral- and plant-derived fulvic acids on some selected soil properties: improvement in the growth, yield, and mineral nutritional status of wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) under soils of contrasting textures. J. Plants 9(2), 205. https://doi.org/10.3390/plants9020205.

Suh HY, KS Yoo & SG Suh (2014). Effect of foliar application of fulvic acid on plant growth and fruit quality of tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum L.). Horticul. Environm. Biotechnol. 55(6), 455-461.

Sun J, C Qiu, Y Ding, Y Wang, L Sun, K Fan, Z Gai, G Dong, J Wang, X Li, L Song & Z Ding (2020). Fulvic acid ameliorates drought stress-induced damage in tea plants by regulating the ascorbate metabolism and flavonoids biosynthesis. BMC Genomics 21(1), 411. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12864-020-06815-4.

Sun Y, J Yang, R Yao, X Chen & X Wang (2020). Biochar and fulvic acid amendments mitigate negative effects of coastal saline soil and improve crop yields in a three-year field trial. Sci Rep 10(1), 1-12. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-65730-6.

Supriyati S (2019). The effect of fulvic acid acid fraction supplementation on broiler chicken performance. In: Proc. 8th Internat. Sem. Trop. Anim. Prod (ISTAP). Yogyakarta, 23-25 September 2019 p, 2, 643-647.

Swat M, I Rybicka & A Gliszczyǹska-Swigło (2019). Characterization of fulvic acid beverages by mineral profile and antioxidant capacity. Foods 8(12), 605. https://doi.org/10.3390/foods8120605.

Swiech WM, I Hamerton, H Zeng, DJ Watson, E Mason, E Spencer & SE Taylor (2017). Water-based fractionation of a commercial humic acid. Solid-state and colloidal characterization of the solubility fractions. J. Colloid Interfaces Sci. 508, 28–38.

Tan KH (2005). Soil sampling, Preparation, and Analysis. 2nd Ed. CRC Press, Taylor & Francis. Boca Rato, FL. USA. 623pp.

Transparency Market Research (2020). Fulvic Acids Market – Global Industry Analysis 2015-2019 and Opportunity Assessment 2020-2030. https://transparencymarketresearch.com. Downloaded November 10, 2020.

USPTO (2014). Method for Producing Fulvic Acid. https://patents.google.com.

Vadlamudi PBN, K Mahavishnan, DS Gurumurthy, H Bindumadhava, AP Upadhyay & NK Sharma (2014). Fulvic acid (FA) for enhanced nutrient uptake and growth: insights from biochemical and genomic studies. J. Crop Improv. 28(6), 740-757. https://doi.org/10.1080/15427528.2014.923084.

Van Rensburg CEJ (2015). The anti-inflammatory properties of humic substances: a mini review. J. Phytotherapy Res. 29(6), 791-795. https://doi.org/10.1002/ptr.5319

Van Rensburg CEJ (2016). Medicinal applications of fulvic acid. 3rd World Congress on Pharmacology. Birmingham, 08-10 Agustus 2016 p.

Verma S, A Singh & A Mishra (2012). The effect of fulvic acid on pre- and postaggregation state of AAβ(17-42): molecular dynamics simulation studies. Biochim. Biophys. Acta. 1834(1), 24-33. DOI: 10.1016/j.bbapap.2012.08.016 PMID: 22940640.

Vucskits AV, I Hullar, A Bersenyl & E Andrasofszky (2010). Effect of fulvic and humic acids on performance, immune response and thyroid function in rats. J. Anim. Physiol. Anim. Nutr. 94(6), 721-8. DOI: 10.1111/j.1439-0396.2010.01023.x.

Wali A, IB Salah, Z Mostapha, CB Abderrahim, K Youssef & M, Ksibi (2019). A novel humic acid extraction procedure from Tunisian lignite. Euro-Mediteran. J. for Environ. Int. 4(1), 1-9. DOI: 10.1007/s41207-019-0115-z.

WHO (2017). One Health. https://www.who.int/news-room/q-a-detail/one-health.

Winkler J & S Ghosh (2018). Therapeutic potential of fulvic acid in chronic inflammatory diseases and diabetes. J. Diabetes Res., 1-10. Doi: 10.1155/2018/539/5391014.

Yang S, Z Zhang, L Cong, X Wang & S Shi (2013). Effect of fulvic acid on the phosphorus availability in acid soil. J. Soil Sci. Plant Nutr. 13(3), 526-533.

Yang S, L Cong, X Wang, Z Zhang & Z Zhang (2014). Fulvic acid displaces manure to improve soil in vegetable greenhouse. Acta Agric. Scandinavica, Sect. B-Soil & Plant Sci. 64(5), 454-461.

Yao ZS, X Wei, J Lu, F Liu, Y Huang, J Xu, F Chen, Y Huang, Y Li, Y Lu & Z Zong (2010). Oxidation of shenfu coal with RuO4 and NaOCl. Energy Fuels 24(3), 1801–1808. 10.1021/ef9012505.

Yu X, J Yang, E Wang, B Li & H Yuan (2015). Effects of growth stage and fulvic acid on the diversity and dynamics of endophytic bacterial community in Stevia rebaudiana Bertoni leaves. Front. Microbiol. 6, 867. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2015.00867.

Zhang XY, WJ Zhen & MG Sun (2017). Green preparation process of fulvic acid from Qitai weathered coal based on hydrothermal method. Mod. Chem. Ind. 37, 116–119.

Zhang X, Y Zhao, H Meng, L Li, H Cui, Z Wei, T Yang & Q Dang (2020). Revealing the inner dynamics of fulvic acid from different compost-amended soils through microbial and chemical analyses. J. Agric. Food Chem. 68(12), 3722-3728.

Zhang Y, G Gong, H Zheng, X Yuan & L Xu (2020). Synergistic extraction and characterization of fulvic acid by microwave and hydrogen peroxide–glacial acetic acid to oxidize low-rank lignite. ACS Omega 5(12), 6389–6394.

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.22302/iribb.jur.mp.v89i1.424

Article Metrics

Abstract view : 88 times
73-90 PDF - 41 times


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright (c) 2021 E-Journal Menara Perkebunan

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.


Menara Perkebunan as a communication media for research in Plantation sector opens opportunities for researchers and academics to write:
- original research results, technology development, or review of biotechnology and bioindustry and its application in agriculture, health and environment as well as other aspects of biotechnology.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.


Jl. Taman Kencana No. 1, Bogor 16128. Telp. 0251-8324048/8327449. Fax. 0251-8328516
E-mail : menaraperkebunanppbbi@gmail.com http://mp.iribb.org