The difference between natural humic acids and their salts

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What are humic acids?

Humic acids are complex polymer molecules that arose from the millions of years long biological and chemical decomposition of organic matter (mainly plants) with water and air access and the synthetic activity of microorganisms. They naturally occur in the soil, mud, peat, water (both ocean and fresh) and in greatest concentration in oxyhumolite, also known as leonardite.

There are various leonardite mines worldwide, but since humic acids are the strongest natural chelating substances with the ability to bind heavy metals in their structure, these deposits are often contaminated with above limit contents of toxic heavy metals. Such deposits of leonardite are not suitable for solely mechanical extraction of humic acids and chemical treatment is needed to separate these heavy metals.

The complex structure and high biological activity of humic acids have demonstrably extensive beneficial effects on living organisms, and therefore their application is diverse. They can be applied as soil conditioners, animal feed supplements or dietary supplements for human use. Their ability to bind heavy metals and toxins in chelate bonds makes them optimal for bioremediation of the environment.

With products containing humic acids, it is important to monitor whether they are organic (i.e. obtained by a complex mining process from pure sources through mechanical extraction) or inorganic (i.e. chemically treated, by extracting humic acids in the form of humic salts).


Natural humic acids

As their name suggests, they are natural - without any chemical treatment. They are mechanically extracted from leonardite and exhibit a natural property of being insoluble in water. They have high bioavailability to the soil and living organisms due to their organic nature. They remain in the soil for a longer period of time during which their benefits are supplied continuously.  


Salts of humic acids

Humic salts are obtained by chemical extraction of humic acids through the use of strong alkaline substances such as sodium hydroxide, potassium hydroxide or ammonia water. The outcome of such process is humate salt, also called as sodium humate, potassium humate and ammonium humate. They are thus an inorganic (chemical) substance with short-term effects and lower biological efficiency.


Many manufacturers choose to use humic salts, as the cost of their production is significantly lower and their microbiological stability is higher (since it is not a natural, but a chemically obtained substance). Although changing natural humic acids to humic salts will increase their purity and solubility in water, it will also reduce or almost eliminate all of their natural positive effects.

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