Shilajit is a tar-like substance that exudes from rocks, primarily in the Himalayas. It is an important remedy in ancient Indian healing systems, such as Ayurveda.
Its purported benefits include regulating the immune system, reducing inflammation, increasing testosterone levels, and more.
This article will explore the current research to see how much truth there is behind these claims. It also investigates side effects and offers advice on how to take shilajit.
What Is Shilajit?
Shilajit, also known as mineral pitch, forms when organic matter condenses within rocks due to intense heat and pressure. It is primarily composed of plant material that microorganisms have broken down over many years.
High temperatures cause shilajit to become runny and ooze from the rocks in the summer. It is a brown, sticky paste rich in minerals and other bioactive compounds.
Its key constituents include fulvic acid, humic acid, and chemicals called dibenzo-alpha pyrones. They give it a broad range of therapeutic applications, and it is one of the most fundamental substances in Ayurvedic medicine.
Ayurveda considers shilajit a Rasayana (rejuvenator) with a variety of benefits. Its traditional uses include treating disorders of the:
- Digestive system
- Urinary system
- Respiratory system
- Nervous system
- Immune system
Shilajit’s primary source is the Himalayas, although mountain ranges in Russia, Norway, and Chile also produce it. However, shilajit from these regions will have a slightly different chemical composition from Himalayan shilajit.
Furthermore, there are four different types of shilajit, each of which has a distinct mineral profile:
- Savrana: has a high gold content and looks red
- Tamra: has a high copper content and looks blue
- Rajat: has a high silver content and looks white
- Lauha: has a high iron content and looks brownish-black
Lauha shilajit is the most common and is also said to be the most bioactive type.
The word shilajit comes from Sanskrit and translates as “conqueror of mountains and destroyer of weakness.” However, Ayurveda views shilajit as a panacea, effective for various ailments. According to a 2010 review, the benefits of shilajit include:
- Anxiolytic (anxiety-reducing)
- Nootropic (promoting memory and learning)
- Protective against gastrointestinal ulcers
Unfortunately, there is currently little evidence to support most of these claims. However, there are a few areas where shilajit is showing some promise.
Shilajit for Heart Health
Heart disease is a common problem that often occurs due to chronic inflammation and high cholesterol. Shilajit appears to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, potentially benefiting the heart.
A 2014 study investigated shilajit’s cardioprotective effects in rats. The researchers pre-treated rats with 250mg/kg or 500mg/kg of shilajit for one week before chemically damaging the heart muscle. They found that shilajit reduced the severity of cardiac injury in the pre-treated animals.
Shilajit appears to have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and cholesterol-lowering properties, potentially benefiting the heart.
Another potential benefit of shilajit for heart health is its ability to reduce cholesterol. A 2012 study tested the substance’s effects on lipid profiles in rats. The study compared shilajit to the popular anti-cholesterol drug simvastatin.
The results showed that shilajit and simvastatin had comparable effects in reducing total cholesterol and triglyceride levels. However, simvastatin was more effective at reducing harmful low-density lipoprotein cholesterol and raising beneficial high-density lipoprotein cholesterol.
Further research is necessary to find out how these results translate to humans.
Shilajit for Aging
One of shilajit’s most traditional uses is as an anti-aging treatment. The antioxidant effects of fulvic acid likely play a large part in this as oxidative stress tends to accelerate the aging process.
Research published in the International Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease in 2012 noted that fulvic acid, a key component of shilajit, acts as an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compound. Therefore, shilajit could help decrease free radicals in the body and reduce cellular damage, both of which play a significant role in the aging process.
Shilajit for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a condition that causes extreme fatigue or tiredness. Individuals with the condition find it difficult even to complete routine daily tasks. However, there is a possibility that shilajit could decrease CFS symptoms and restore the patient’s energy.
A 2012 study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology involved giving rats shilajit for 21 days. Then the researchers forced the rodents to complete a 15-minute daily swim for 21 days in a row. According to the study, “shilajit mitigates the effects of CFS in this model possibly through the modulation of HPA axis and preservation of mitochondrial function and integrity.”
Shilajit for Alzheimer’s Disease
Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive brain disorder that can impair thinking, memory, and behavior. There is a suggestion that shilajit could slow down or even prevent the progress of the disease. The substance’s high fulvic acid content may prevent the accumulation of tau proteins. While tau proteins are an essential part of the nervous system, a buildup could damage brain cells.
The 2012 International Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease study looked into shilajit’s potential to block tau self-aggregation. The study authors concluded that shilajit could offer cognitive benefits and help prevent Alzheimer’s disease. However, they also pointed out that further investigations at the basic biological level were necessary, along with well-developed clinical trials.
Shilajit for High Altitude Sickness
One of shilajit’s best-known traditional uses is combating the challenges associated with high-altitude environments. Individuals with high altitude sickness, also known as acute mountain sickness (AMS), may experience side effects such as:
- Body pain
Cold temperatures and low atmospheric pressure can cause this particular illness.
In an article published in The International Journal of Ayurveda Research in 2010, the authors suggested that shilajit “improves the ability to handle high altitudinal stresses and stimulates the immune system.” Furthermore, they add that they believe that taking shilajit as a supplement would help fight high-altitude related problems such as “hypoxia, acute mountain sickness, high altitude pulmonary edema, high altitude cerebral edema, dehydration, and UV radiation.”
Shilajit for Iron Deficiency Anemia
A study published in the Journal of Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Sciences in 2010 looked into shilajit’s ability to help with iron deficiency anemia. It involved 18 rats divided into three evenly sized groups. Researchers induced anemia in two of the groups and gave one of them 500mg of shilajit after 11 days.
Ten days later, researchers took blood samples from all of the groups. They found that the rats in the shilajit group had higher red blood cell, hematocrit, and hemoglobin levels than the other anemia-induced group.
Shilajit Benefits for Men
Some people believe shilajit could be an alternative to raw testosterone as it may improve male reproductive health.
A 2015 study supports this idea. It investigated the effects of shilajit on 75 healthy males aged 45–55. They took 250mg of the supplement twice daily for 90 days. At the end of the study, they displayed significant increases in total testosterone, free testosterone, and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEAS).
Moreover, an earlier study from 2010 found that 100mg of shilajit twice daily improved testosterone levels and sperm count and quality. However, it is essential to note that the subjects in these studies were struggling with fertility issues. It is unclear how shilajit impacts sperm count in healthy individuals.
Some research has studied shilajit’s impact on sperm count and fertility. The results were positive, but more research is required.
A 2019 study investigated shilajit benefits for males with muscle fatigue following exercise. It included 63 recreationally active men, who took 250mg or 500mg of shilajit, or a placebo for eight weeks. At the end of the trial, they performed high-intensity exercises to induce fatigue.
The results showed that those who took the shilajit retained greater maximum muscle strength and displayed increased fatigue resistance. The researchers hypothesized that this effect could be due to enhanced function in mitochondria, the energy-producing component of cells.
Shilajit Benefits for Women
To date, most shilajit research has involved male volunteers. There is less evidence surrounding shilajit benefits for female consumers.
However, a 2019 study investigated shilajit supplementation for skin health in 45 women aged 30–65. The participants took 125mg or 250mg daily for 14 weeks. The results indicated that the higher, but not lower, dose improved skin microcirculation, which tends to decrease with age.
Although these preliminary findings suggest shilajit could play a role in slowing down skin aging, more research is required. Moreover, the study didn’t report any adverse reactions. Overall, the limited available evidence suggests that both men and women can benefit from shilajit.
Choosing a Shilajit Supplement
There are several different shilajit supplement options, including:
- Shilajit resin
- Shilajit extract
- Shilajit powder
However, consumers should be aware that unprocessed shilajit products may contain contaminants, such as mycotoxins (from fungi) and heavy metals. There have also been some incidences of lead poisoning following shilajit use.
Therefore, it is crucial to choose a reputable brand that provides laboratory reports for its products. This documentation will confirm each item’s purity and its concentration of fulvic acid and other beneficial compounds.
Shilajit Side Effects
There is sparse information on the side effects of shilajit, and it is generally regarded as safe.
However, some groups of people should possibly avoid using it. For instance, since it contains relatively large amounts of iron, it could adversely affect people with certain blood disorders.
Examples include sickle cell anemia, thalassemia, and hemochromatosis. People with heart disease should also exercise caution.
Shilajit may also affect allergies. Anyone experiencing negative effects after consuming it should discontinue use immediately and contact their healthcare provider if necessary.
How to Take Shilajit
The range of products available means consumers have a few options to choose from when consuming shilajit. If a person decides to use a liquid supplement, they could consider dissolving a tiny, rice grain-sized portion in liquid and taking it 1-3 times a day. If they select shilajit powder, they may consider mixing it with milk and consuming the concoction once or twice daily.
The lack of clinical research into shilajit makes it challenging to provide accurate dosing information. However, The International Journal of Ayurveda Research review of studies suggested a dose of 300-500mg per day to maintain optimal health. The substance is metabolized slowly and doesn’t reach its maximum level in the blood for 12-14 hours.
Final Thoughts on Shilajit
Shilajit is a prized medicine in Ayurveda, and modern research suggests it has various benefits. Most of them stem from its fulvic acid content, as this compound has potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.
Possible shilajit benefits include increasing testosterone levels, protecting the heart, and slowing down skin aging. However, as research is in its infancy, there is still much to learn about this fascinating substance.
As with all supplements, it is advisable to seek medical advice before taking shilajit for the first time.
How Long Does It Take Shilajit to Work?
The time it takes to feel the effect of shilajit can vary according to different factors. However, most people suggest they begin experiencing noticeable benefits in 1-2 weeks.
What Does Shilajit Taste Like?
It is fair to say that shilajit is an acquired taste! Most users agree that it has a smoky, salty, bitter taste with an earthy tang. Others suggest it has a burnt rubber taste. In general, it is best to mix and consume it as fast as possible. It is worth noting that properly processed shilajit smells relatively okay, whereas low-quality products may give off an appalling stench.
How Much Shilajit Per Day?
There is no clinically recommended dosage for shilajit, although research suggests that users should consume 300-500mg of the substance each day for best results.
Where to Buy Shilajit?
For every reputable shilajit seller, there are several with dubious reputations. When buying the supplement, find out where it is sourced. While many people prefer shilajit from the Himalayas, some believe shilajit resin from the Altai mountains in Siberia is also high-quality.
Sellers must prove that their shilajit is authentic with low levels of heavy metals. Please ensure that the product you buy has an updated third-party lab report. It is also a good idea to check out customer reviews online to determine whether a brand is legit.
How Does Shilajit Make One Feel?
In Ayurveda, shilajit is used as a means of helping manage and improve the symptoms of many conditions. Its effect is likely to vary from one person to another.
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