What is Shilajit?
Shilajit (pronounced shee-la-jeet) is a dark colored, tar-like resin. In Sanskrit, “shilajit” translates to “destroyer of weakness,” and for good reason. This substance is praised as a cure-all in many Ayurvedic texts because of its supposed ability to cure any ailment. It’s also said to enhance quality of life and boost the immune system.
Shilajit is primarily found in the mountains of the Himalayan region bordering India, China, Tibet, and parts of Central Asia. It’s formed from centuries of pressurized decomposition of ancient plant and microbial matter under tectonic plates. References to shilajit are found in the Charaka Samhita (a Sanskrit Ayurvedic text), and is said to have been used by Aristotle and Alexander the Great.
The shilajit is collected by professionals who scale the mountainous landscape to find the prized substance oozing from its cracks. Ancient texts attribute this to the sun’s intense heat, which turns the substance from a hardened formation to a more gummy sap. Because of this, shilajit is also known as mumiyo (meaning ‘mountain tears’) in Tamil, and kao-tui (meaning ‘blood of the mountains’) in Burmese.
It’s nearly impossible to detail the exact composition of shilajit because this depends heavily on where it’s harvested from. However, most shilajit is known to have 85 different essential mineral and trace elements, and is packed with fulvic acid. These are the main ingredients from which almost all of its benefits can be attributed. It’s an extremely nutrient dense and potent substance.
Benefits of Shilajit
Because shilajit is chock-full of organic matter, it’s one of the most useful supplements in Ayurvedic medicine. Studies have shown that shilajit can help improve brain health, has adaptogenic and wound healing properties, and much more.
For centuries shilajit has proven to be an effective adaptogen, and modern science is finally starting to shed some light on why. Adaptogens are natural substances that support the stabilization of the nervous system and help the body achieve homeostasis. Adaptogens are great for reducing anxiety and stress, stabilizing mood and focus, and strengthening the immune system.
An article from GreenMedInfo attributes shilajit’s adaptogenic properties to its ability to increase the production of a protein called Interleukin (IL-1). IL-1 is responsible for the body’s production of T-cells, which control the immune system’s response to pathogens. This discovery is said to have been made by scientists in Russia, where shilajit has been used throughout history.
The benefits of shilajit for brain and cognitive health seems to have received more scientific attention than other areas. Fulvic acid is one of the most prominent compounds found in shilajit, and may be an effective agent for treating cognitive disorders, especially those associated with aging.
The Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease published a study done in 2011 that explored the benefits of fulvic acid on tau protein aggregation. Tau is a protein that helps stabilize what can be called the ‘internal skeleton’ of nerve cells, and allows the nutrients to flow through the cell. These proteins can become “tangled” and, along with other symptoms, are signatures of Alzheimer’s Disease. The results of the study showed that fulvic acid was able to prevent 85% of the tau tangles, reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s overall.
Many probably know shilajit for its hormone balancing reputation. Because of its adaptogenic properties, it’s able to restore sex hormones to normal levels for both men and women.
A study published in the First International Journal of Andrology found that shilajit was able to increase testosterone and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) in healthy volunteers. DHEA is a hormone made by the adrenal glands, and it serves as a precursor to the formation of both male and female sex hormones. Both testosterone and DHEA play important roles in optimizing fertility and sexual health in men and women.
In men, testosterone is responsible for regulating sex drive, the production of red blood cells, and is essential for gaining and maintaining muscle mass and strength. Low testosterone can cause issues like erectile dysfunction, low sperm count, hair loss, fatigue, depression, and other symptoms. It’s important to maintain regulated amounts of testosterone to prevent unwanted symptoms and health problems.
For women, taking shilajit can actually help do the opposite. Because of shilajit’s adaptogenic properties, it helps to restore balance to hormones and maintain homeostasis. This means that it can actually lower testosterone levels that are too high, and raise estrogen and progesterone levels that are too low. This can increase fertility and decrease painful menstrual symptoms.
Another great benefit of shilajit is its anti-inflammatory properties. Inflammation is associated with a whole host of painful health problems, including rheumatoid arthritis, heart disease, irritable bowel syndrome, ulcerative colitis, asthma, and many more. Decreasing inflammation can help manage pain and help the body heal.
Inflammation is a natural process that the body uses to heal damaged tissue, but it can become an issue when the body can’t heal and the inflammation becomes chronic. Inflammation is supposed to be a temporary fix, but it can become a long-term problem.
Shilajit contains fulvic acid, which has been shown to have great anti-inflammatory properties. This is because of its ability to reduce the release of immune cells that cause inflammation. It can help reduce pain and inflammation while promoting healing.
Wound Healing Properties
Shilajit has made a name for itself because of its versatility, and this is a testament to that. Throughout history, shilajit has been used as treatment for external wounds, and has been discovered to have analgesic (pain relieving), antiseptic (antimicrobial), and epithelialization (tissue reforming) properties.
A study done in 2016 discovered that sodium humate, one of the active ingredients in shilajit, accelerated the wound healing process. It increased the production of an amino acid called hydroxyproline, which is an essential building block of collagen. Collagen is the main component in tissue, so this makes shilajit a great treatment for accelerating the wound healing process.
Potential Side Effects
Sadly, not all shilajit is created equal. It’s important to ensure that the brand you buy is 100% pure, from an authentic source, and properly processed. Because of its rising popularity over the years, there are many subpar, and potentially dangerous, forms of shilajit on the market.
If the brand of shilajit is not 100% pure, there’s a possibility it could contain additives. This could trigger reactions in individuals who may have allergies to certain herbs or vitamins. It’s also possible that certain brands of shilajit could contain toxic amounts of heavy metals and cause heavy metal poisoning.
To avoid buying poor quality shilajit, it’s important to find a supplier that provides certificates of authenticity and lab results upon request. These will let you know exactly what you’re consuming. Look for brands that have been in business for several years and have good customer ratings, and never be scared to contact the manufacturer with questions.
How to Use Shilajit
Shilajit is a versatile product, so it can be used in a couple different ways. It’s typically taken by mouth as a supplement, but it can also be applied topically to the skin.
Depending on the specific brand, the typical dosage of shilajit can range from 300mg to 500mg per day. That’s about 2 pea-sized amounts taken separately, and usually mixed with warm water. Some recommend mixing it with honey and lemon, or even mixing it in tea or coffee. This can help mask the bitter, earthy taste.
To apply it to the skin, shilajit can be made into a nourishing serum, face mask, or spot treatment. It can be mixed with carrier oils to have a moisturizing effect, or with honey to apply to the face and rinse off later.
To Sum It All Up
Shilajit is a nutrient dense resin that’s said to be the ancient cure-all for any disease or ailment. It can help improve cognitive ability, hormone balance, reduce inflammation, and accelerate wound healing. You can use it to restore your energy and boost your immune system, too.
Be sure to do your research and ensure that the shilajit you choose to buy is pure, properly processed, and tested for additives. Don’t be afraid to contact the manufacturer or distributor to ask questions about its authenticity.