Shilajit is a tar-like substance made from decomposed plants.
Shilajit is found flowing from rocks in the Himalayan mountains. Locals discovered this mysterious substance and subsequently found that it can provide many health benefits.
Shilajit has been known and used for centuries by traditional Ayurvedic practitioners.
New research shows that it may have applications for a variety of health benefits, including brain function, testosterone support, and others.
In this article, we will look at the benefits of shilajit, its safety, and its history.
Table of Contents
- What is Shilajit?
- How Is Shilajit Made?
- What’s in Shilajit?
- Benefits of Shilajit:
- Shilajit Safety:
- History & Traditional Use:
- Shilajit vs. Other Herbs:
What is Shilajit?
Shilajit is a thick, blackish-brown sticky substance that is made via the gradual decomposition of plants over the course of thousands of years.
It typically oozes out high mountain rocks when it’s warm. It’s especially found in the Himalayans mountains between India and Nepal, although it has been also found in Russia, Tibet, Afghanistan, and northern China.
It goes by a few different names, including salajit, shilajatu, mimie, mummiyo, or simply mineral pitch.
The word “shilajit” is a Sanskrit word that means “Conqueror of mountains and destroyer of weakness” and ‘Winner of rock’. This gives a hint at its purported health benefits.
In traditional Ayurvedic medicine, shilajit was said to be a Rasayana herb, that is, a rejuvenating substance that helps to slow aging.
Modern research shows that it may have a variety of applications as an adaptogenic herb, including helping to fight fatigue, aging, and other health complaints.
How Is Shilajit Made?
Shilajit is composed of humus and organic plant materials that have been compressed by layers of rocks. Over the course of thousands of years, this created the dark tar-like substance we know as shilajit.
Due to its unique composition as a phytocomplex rich in fulvic acid, researchers hypothesize that shilajit is produced by the decomposition of plant material from species such as Euphorbia royleana (Sullu Spurge) and Trifolium repens (white clover).
Further studies have identified that several other plant organisms may generate shilajit, such as the molds Barbula, Fissidens, Minium, and Thuidium and other species like Asterella, Dumortiera, Marchantia, Pellia, Plagiochasma, and Stephenrencella-Anthoceros.
The decomposition process that creates shilajit seems to occur over the course of centuries, and on this basis, shilajit is considered a millenary product of nature.
What’s in Shilajit?
Shilajit resin contains an array of phytochemical compounds and nutrients.
It contains dibenzo-alphapyrones and related metabolites, small peptides, humic acid, some lipids, uronic acids, phenolic glucosides, amino acids, and fulvic acid.
Fulvic acid in particular is an important nutrient. It acts as a carrier molecule in the human system and helps in the transportation of nutrients into the deep tissues within the body. It also helps to remove deep-seated toxins from the body.
It also contains more than 84 minerals including copper, silver, zinc, iron, and lead in their ionic forms. Thus, it provides most of the essential minerals that the body needs on a daily basis.
A recent study on the composition of Andean Shilajit in Chile noted that it has an extremely high antioxidant value (ORAC score) that is substantially higher than noni and blueberries. This is due to its high fulvic acid content, which has strong antioxidant activity.
Benefits of Shilajit:
Shilajit has many purported health benefits. We’ve listed the top research-backed advantages below, based on our analysis.
1. May Support Testosterone Levels
Testosterone is a male sex hormone, it works to regulate sex drive (libido), bone mass, fat distribution, muscle mass and strength, and the production of red blood cells and sperm. In general, higher testosterone levels are desirable for males.
Lower testosterone levels lead to a variety of health complaints, including:
•loss of libido
•diminished cognitive function
•depression and lethargy
•and loss of muscle mass & strength
A handful of clinical trials have looked at the benefits of shilajit for men, in particular for testosterone support.
A study showed that men aged 45 to 55 who took purified shilajit (250mg) over a period of ninety days had significantly increased levels of total testosterone, free testosterone, and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEAS) compared to men receiving a placebo. The researchers also noted that gonadotropic hormone levels (LH and FSH) were well maintained.
Another clinical trial showed that shilajit may help to improve sperm count. Men with low sperm counts were given shilajit over the course of three months. Of the men who completed the study, 80 percent had improved sperm count, sperm motility, testosterone levels, and FHS levels.
Another study that involved 63 men compared the increase in muscular strength between men who took either 250mg or 500mg of shilajit daily. The study found that the group taking the higher amount (500mg daily) had better outcomes.
Summary:Shilajit may improve testosterone levels, but further clinical research is needed to verify this finding.
2. May Help With Alzheimer’s Disease
Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive disease that destroys memory and impacts crucial mental functions. Alzheimer’s disease is thought to be caused by the abnormal build-up of tau proteins in and around brain cells.
Due to the molecular composition of shilajit, researchers believe shilajit may prevent or slow the progression of Alzheimer’s.
Fulvic acid is an antioxidant present in shilajit. This powerful antioxidant is thought to contribute to cognitive health by preventing the build-up of tau proteins in the brain. This was fleshed out by an in vitro (test tube) study that showed that fulvic acid worked to break down tau proteins.
This is thought to be the mechanism of action for shilajit’s supportive function for individuals with Alzheimer’s disease.
Summary:Shilajit may be helpful in preventing Alzheimer’s disease. However, more research and clinical trials are needed to substantiate these claims.
3. May Prevent Altitude Sickness
Acute altitude sickness is a result of physical stress from difficulty adjusting to lower oxygen pressure at high altitudes. Typical symptoms feel like a hangover, this includes dizziness, headache, muscle aches, and nausea.
Scientists in India have conducted experiments to show that shilajit can help to remedy these complaints. It’s thought that shilajit’s altitude sickness fighting properties are due to its high content of minerals, as well as its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Shilajit is also helpful for high-altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE), a condition that develops due to oxygen deficiency as well as low atmospheric pressure. When HAPE occurs, fluids are accumulated in the lungs of the body. Symptoms include shortness of breath, chest pain, fever, lethargy, and cough.
Since Shilajit is a diuretic, it has the ability to remove the excess fluid from the lungs as well as the body. This makes it especially useful for individuals with HAPE.
Summary:Shilajit may be beneficial in preventing altitude sickness and high-altitude pulmonary edema. Additional research is required to confirm these findings.
4. May Help With Seasonal Allergies
Shilajit is thought to be a helpful herb for allergies and hay fever.
Researchers note that shilajit has anti-allergic activity. It appears that it has the ability to stabilize mast cells.
Mast cells are allergy cells found in your body that are responsible for allergic reactions. When mast cells come into contact with an allergen, they release histamine, cytokines, and a host of other signaling molecules. These molecules kickstart an inflammatory response in the body that causes a host of symptoms (itchy eyes, runny nose, etc…).
When mast cells are stabilized, it prevents your body from starting this inflammatory cascade.
Summary:Shilajit may help reduce symptoms of allergies and hay fever, although further research is needed for verification.
5. May Help With Urinary Bladder Cancer
A recent study published in Nature (a very prestigious scientific journal) showed that shilajit may have potential as a chemotherapeutic for urinary bladder cancer treatment.
The study looked at the impact of shilajit on urinary bladder cancer cells. The results showed that Mumio (or Shilajit) was significantly more cytotoxic to urinary bladder cancer cells than to normal cells.
Summary:Shilajit may be beneficial in treating urinary bladder cancer, and while these initial results are promising, more clinical research is required.
6. May Increase Energy Levels
Shilajit shows evidence of being beneficial in promoting energy.
In one review, shilajit demonstrated the ability to produce energy and increase muscle strength at high altitudes, which may be the result of fulvic acid’s presence in shilajit.
In one study, it was noted that a daily 500mg supplementation of shilajit for 2 months promoted muscle strength in recreationally-active men.
Summary:Shilajit may help to increase energy and muscle strength, but additional human research is needed to confirm both of these findings.
Buying shilajit from a reputable source is important. Authentic shilajit is made by mixing the raw pitch with water. It is then filtered, and the water is evaporated by the sun. This process is repeated six more times.
Unprocessed shilajit can be contaminated with potentially toxic fungi. Shilajit contains substantial amounts of uric acid and should not be taken by people with gout, gouty arthritis, or uric acid calculi (small uric acid kidney stones).
High-quality, purified shilajit is generally well tolerated and safe to take.
In a placebo-controlled study, 20 healthy subjects were given 2000 mg of processed shilajit daily for 45 days in capsule form. No significant changes in heart rate, blood pressure, or body weight were observed.
Pregnancy & Lactation:
There are no known studies that show the safety and efficacy of shilajit for pregnant or nursing women.
Capsules: Take one or two 500 mg capsules twice per day. In capsules, shilajit usually is mixed with other substances such as milk, honey, triphala, amla fruit, or gymnema, depending on its intended use.
Paste: Take a pea-sized ball and swallow like a pill (once or twice per day).
Adaptogen, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-ulcerogenic, hypoglycemic, immune amphoteric; inhibits allergic response.
Shilajit is composed of humus, a variety of minerals (80+), dibenzo alpha-pyrones, and organic acids such as fulvic, humic, benzoic, and hippuric acids.
History & Traditional Use:
Shilajit is an important part of the Ayurvedic system of medicine. It’s known as a Rasayana herb, which is a herb that works to rejuvenate the body, increase longevity, and help to slow the aging process.
Additionally, in traditional Indian medicine, it was also used to enhance virility (used with ashwagandha) and to treat diabetes, anemia, ulcers, kidney stones, asthma, arthritis, anxiety, heart disease, jaundice, epilepsy, and gallstones.
According to the Charaka Samhita (a traditional Ayurvedic text), “There is no curable disease in the universe that cannot be cured by shilajitu.”
Traditionally, shilajit is consumed by people from Nepal and the North of India, and children usually take it with milk in their breakfast.
Sherpas throughout the Himalayas claim to eat shilajit; they are an unusual group of robust males with exceptionally high levels of long life.
Ancient texts describe four types of shilajit by color: red, yellow, bluish-gray, and black to brown. It is this latter type that is used in medicine.
Shilajit vs. Other Herbs:
Shilajit is often compared with many other different types of herbs. We have put together helpful articles going over the most common comparisons.
In conclusion, shilajit appears to be a safe and well-tolerated substance. There is some clinical research that it may have positive effects on testosterone levels in men, cognitive health, or aging – but more studies are needed for conclusive evidence.
It’s worth considering as an herb to try if you need help with any of these areas, although you should make sure to buy from a reputable supplier.
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