Shilajit is a rock exudate, meaning a tar-like substance resulting from the breakdown of minerals and plant matter over a long period of time. Although it sounds rather bizarre, studies are finding that shilajit is an incredible source of healthful fulvic and humic acids, among other benefits.
For thousands of years, shilajit has been a cornerstone in the traditional, cultural medicines of Russia, Persia, India, and the Orient, so this seems to be another case of science confirming ancient wisdom. Shilajit tonics are now available in most health food stores and even online, so I wanted to look into the claims and see what it was all about.
Here’s what I found…
What Is Shilajit?
Shilajit comes from high up in the steep rocks of the Himalayan, Bhutan, and Kashmir mountains. Some shilajit also comes from Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tibet, China, and Russia. So, it’s no surprise that shilajit use is so common in those cultures.
The elite mountaineers of the Himalayas, called sherpas, consume shilajit for its rejuvenation, anti-fatigue, and anti-aging effects. Perhaps their use of shilajit explains their hardiness (even at great altitudes and in frigid temperatures).
The exact make-up of shilajit varies, depending on the plant life and minerals in specific locations. However, shilajit has some basic similarities: humic acid, fulvic acid, and selenium. It has many plant-based compounds, including benzoic acid, tannic acid, fibers, and other carbohydrates.
What’s in Shilajit?
Shilajit is 50-60% fulvic and humic acids. Research shows these compounds are ancient sources of organic minerals and trace elements. Because their make-up is ancient, man cannot duplicate it (no Jurassic Park situation here).
Humic acid is shown to fight inflammation, work against infection, and regulate disease. It also functions as a gut-guard, stopping toxins before they enter cells. This ultimately boosts the performance of the immune system.
Together, fulvic and humic acid are the wonder-twins of the mineral world. Fulvic acid increases cell membrane permeability, which allows for easier absorption of nutrients. Because fulvic acid binds easily to water, it helps detox the body.
Fulvic and humic acid aren’t shilajit’s only claim to fame, however. Studies show shilajit’s significant mineral content and other components may have benefits as well. Up to 90% of shilajit’s mineral content includes potassium, calcium, and magnesium, as well as other trace minerals.
Shilajit’s mineral content is significant enough that it also determines its color. Shilajit may be white, red, blue, or blackish-brown depending on its mineral content.
Is Shilajit Beneficial?
While most of the health benefits of shilajit are based on Ayurvedic texts, some animal and cell-based studies validate some of these claims. There are a few small clinical studies that demonstrate the safety and efficacy of shilajit. Therefore, take these health claims with a grain of salt (or shilajit!).
8 Science-Backed Health Benefits of Shilajit
Beyond the health benefits of fulvic and humic acids in shilajit, studies have shown some health benefits, including:
1. Helps With Fatigue and Stress
Shilajit works as an adaptogen. This is essentially plant-matter that helps the body adapt and show a better response to stress. It also protects the powerhouse of the cell (mitochondria), which converts everything we eat into chemical energy. (Without mitochondria, we can’t live!)
Because shilajit works as an adaptogen and mitochondria protectant, it may help with chronic fatigue and physical exhaustion. In one study with physically exhausted rats, shilajit seemed to reduce physical exhaustion and anxiety. Scientist theorize that this is because shilajit reduces cortisol levels and protects the mitochondria from the oxidative damage that physical exertion causes.
2. Helps With Iron Absorption
Iron deficiency anemia is a common problem in women of reproductive age because of poor absorption in the gut.
Dark brown shilajit contains high iron content, as well as substances that may help increase iron absorption. Dibenzopyrones and tannoids can maintain iron in a state that the gut can easily absorb. A mixture of shilajit and Indian gooseberry can significantly increase iron levels in red blood cells without side effects.
3. Enhances Cognitive Function and Memory
Shilajit increases levels of neurotransmitters that are important for brain function and memory, including dopamine, acetylcholine, serotonin, and noradrenaline in the brain.
The increase in acetylcholine suggests that shilajit might help with Alzheimer’s. In addition, it helps dissolve protein plaques in the brain that can cause neurodegenerative diseases.
4. Potent Antioxidant
Medical News Today cites shilajit’s levels of fulvic acid as a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory:“As such, it may help reduce free radicals and cellular damage in the body, which are two key factors in aging. Daily supplementation of shilajit may contribute to overall vitality and a slower aging process in some people.”
Shilajit injections in rats help reduce swelling caused by the injection of foreign substances in the paw. In addition, shilajit helps increase stomach mucus, which prevents stomach ulcers.
6. Healthy Heart
Two control groups of rats were subjected to heart injury. One group of rats was not given shilajit before the test. One group of rats had 200mg of shilajit for 7 days before their test. The rats who ingested shilajit had significantly less heart damage than the other rats.
More research is needed, but this suggests that regularly incorporating it in your diet may protect your heart in the event of cardiac episodes. As always, speak to a health professional before using any supplement regularly.
7. Normalizes Blood Sugar and Diabetes
In humans, shilajit helps reduce the dosage of diabetic drugs. It also helps normalize blood sugar and protect insulin-producing cells from damage, according to two other studies on diabetic rats.
8. Reduces Histamine and Allergic Symptoms
A cellular study shows that a whole shilajit extract can stop mast cells from releasing histamines. Mast cells are a type of white blood cell that is overactive in allergic diseases. It found that whole shilajit extract was more powerful than fulvic acid, humic acid, or other extracts of shilajit.
9. Supports the Immune System
Shilajit can also promote the growth of lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell that fights infection.
Shilajit Side Effects and Cautions
A small study on the safety of shilajit appears to be safe in healthy human subjects. Their dosage of (up to) 2,000 mg of processed shilajit for 45 days did not produce any major changes in physical health and blood chemistry.
Other long-term studies with dosages of 100-250 milligrams for up to 90 days also show that shilajit is a safe supplement.
However, there are other possible concerns with its use:
Heavy Metal Content
Shilajit contains both helpful and harmful minerals. In fact, shilajit is banned in Canada because of its heavy metal content. If you suspect that toxic metals are causing your health issues, you may want to avoid taking shilajit or speak to a health care professional.
Potential Allergic Reactions or Sensitivity
It is possible that you may be allergic or sensitive to some components of shilajit. This may be because it contains a high amount of natural benzoate, which may cause sensitivity in some people. Also, sodium benzoate is reportedly a trigger of ADHD in children. So, avoid shilajit if ADHD is a health concern.
Quality and Purity
When it comes to a valuable substance sourced from the mountains, counterfeit products can be a real concern. If you are to take shilajit, you want to get the best! It should contain a high level of fulvic acid and be tested for toxic metals and contaminants. I use this brand and add a little into water and drink it.
Is Shilajit Worth Drinking?
Definitely decide this in together with your doctor like I did, but I can tell you based on the science it’s worth looking into!
It does taste earthy (as you would imagine) and a little bitter, but I’ve gotten used to the taste and just a little shilajit goes a long way.
I’m slowly working it into my weekly health routines, so stay tuned to find out if I suddenly have the the stamina of a sherpa… maybe it’ll help me with my mountain of laundry!
Have you tried shilajit? What was your experience? I’d love to hear from you!
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