It seems there’s a fair amount of back and forth controversy about Shilajit. Do a quick web search, and you’ll be able to round up more than a dozen articles touting the preternatural health benefits of the compound, while simultaneously supplying a dozen more decrying its mortal dangers. So, which is it?
Is this a natural substance with supernatural healing powers, or a quack doctors dream, propped up by unproven claims?
Let’s find out.
What is Shilajit?
Shilajit is a substance found primarily in the Himalayas. It’s thick, sticky, and has a composition and coloring very similar to tar.
It is also a primary component of Ayurveda traditional medicine, an amalgamation of (purportedly) more than 80 minerals that provide outstanding health benefits. It is believed that Shilajit forms via the decomposition of plants in the mountainous region, then exudes from the rocks.
Though highly acclaimed in the Ayurveda system from which it hails, the substance has little standing in the west, and there is only limited evidence supporting claims that it has any positive effects on the human body.
Compounding this issue is the fact that Shilajit is difficult to obtain, and the purity of the so-called “Shilajit” found online is dubious at best.
In many cases, what is peddled as GENUINE HIMALAYAN SHILAJIT (emphasis mine) is just a filler compound spiked with something else to try and provide some effect for users.
This is particularly true for Shilajit powders, capsules, and tablets. Shilajit resins are apparently less likely to be counterfeit.
Though banned for sale in some countries, you can currently obtain Shilajit in the United States through online retailers. It’s not approved by the FDA, though.
A word of caution, though: even in cases where the online sellers claim to source the Shilajit themselves, how would you know the difference?
In cases where the Shilajit is the real deal, supporters claim that it has the potential to “restore energetic balance” and control several diseases, including Alzheimer’s and other forms of cognitive degeneration.
Unfortunately, not much data backs these claims up, so anecdotal evidence is all we have to go on for now.
Other Names for Shilajit
Shilajit is known by several nicknames, including mineral pitch, black asphaltum, Ashphaltum Punjabianum, Shargai, Dorobi, Barahshin, Barahshun, Mumlai, Brag Zhun, Chao-Tong, Wu Ling Zhi, Baad-A-Ghee, Arkhar-Tash, and Mumiyo.
My skepticism meter was going through the roof on this one. I had heard a bit about Shilajit and didn’t believe a word of it going in.
Some sticky brown rock-stuff that’s supposed to do everything from boost your energy to make your hair grow back?
Highly suspicious, but I decided to try it out anyway. Having previously read the warning about getting the powders and capsules, so I tracked down some resin and got to work.
I had read some material that recommended a 200 milligram dose to start. With the resin, though, that was hard to measure out. I decided to go with the packaging instructions and just dissolve a small bead-sized amount in my tea.
I waited for about an hour and experience no effects. “Here we go,” I thought. This is one of those supplements I’m going to have to take a for a few weeks to experience anything, huh? So, that’s what I did, nearly exhausting the month supply I had bought with three similarly sized doses daily.
In the end, still nothing. If there are some special cognitive or energy boosts to be gained from Shilajit, I didn’t feel them.
At least I didn’t experience the weird unpleasantness some people have reported (more on that later). If you ask me, this stuff is just overpriced hype.
Still, there are plenty of people who swear up and down that it works wonders, so perhaps continued scientific research will reveal more.
It could be that I wasn’t using a large enough dose, or that mixing it with my tea did something to nullify it. Only time will tell.
The feelings about Shilajit across the net seem to be split. Some folks say it does everything they ever dreamed, others say they felt mild effects with continued use, and skeptics like me who didn’t feel anything when taking Shilajit.
You’ve got guys like this, who clearly received some benefit:
“I just took my first dose of it this morning…Got a small tub off Amazon from what seems to be a reputable source. Says the product is from Tibet. I just got done doing an interval training session to close out a 20 hour fast. I felt good if not better than normal during the workout.”
And then you’ve got commenters like this, who aren’t convinced:
“I took some high-quality shilajit for awhile and felt nothing different. I won’t be buying again. Considering how all the scientific studies about it come from India and Russia, the two main production countries, I’m pretty sure it’s all bullshit and would fall apart under scientific rigor.”
Again, I feel that the lack of sufficient knowledge about this stuff, combined with the fact that there are so many suppliers selling it with few approvals or regulations makes all this difficult to quantify.
Who’s to say the Shilajit I got was the same as the stuff Random Internet Guy #13 received?
Benefits and effects
There’s a long list of supposed benefits, but we’ll stick to the ones that have at least been studied a wee bit by researchers.
One of the big claims is that Shilajit is a big time nootropic brain enhancer. Supposedly, the compounds within Shilajit are said to have an anxiolytic property (they cut down on stress and anxiety) and are also said to boost neurotransmitter levels in the brain, increasing mood.
There’s one tentative study from the Indian Journal Of Pharmacology that suggested that “Shilajit had significant nootropic and anxiolytic activity.”
These claims haven’t been supported by additional research, though, and even the study in question conceded that Shilajit’s effects on monoamine and monoamine metabolite levels were insignificant.
One study was done on the overall effects of Shilajit on the blood chemistry of human volunteers. They found that:
“Administration of two grams of Shilajit for 45 days did not produce any significant change in physical parameters (i.e. blood pressure, pulse rate and body weight).”
However, this same study did determine that Shilajit “improved the antioxidant status of volunteers.”
So, if you want some minor antioxidant benefit from Shilajit, there may be some basis for that. Keep in mind, though, that antioxidants are far from the magic cure-all some proponents claim.
Seems to be a big thing with so-called natural remedies. “Take some Shilajit, become a sex god,” is the usual claim.
There’s no evidence that Shilajit will enhance your “sexual prowess,” but there is some data to suggest that Shilajit supplementation will boost the testosterone levels of infertile men.
Over the course of 90 days, infertile men who were given a daily 200 milligram dose of Shilajit experienced a 23.5% increase in their testosterone levels. It is unknown whether the same effect would be enjoyed by fertile men.
How It Works
The mechanism of action is not wholly understood, as Shilajit is not well researched. The current understanding of the compound, however, shows that it contains high amounts of fulvic acid, which have their own wide range of unverified health benefits.
Not least among them are antioxidant abilities, anti-inflammatory properties, and perhaps some anti-aging benefits as well.
Some researchers also hypothesize that the fulvic acid content could be what provides Shilajit with its neuroprotective abilities.
They’ve noted the traditional use of Shilajit in treating many disorders, which include Alzheimer’s, and believe that further study will show some link between the two.
This is a tough one to pin down. The study about testosterone gave men a 200 milligram dose daily, and they received a significant benefit.
Some packages containing Shilajit will recommend a thrice daily dose of an indeterminate amount measured only by size.
Furthermore, anecdotal tales from users who claim to have experienced nootropic effects from Shilajit note that they took well beyond the smaller dose. In some cases, they used a gram or more per use.
This is made more difficult to determine by the many different varieties of non-standard Shilajit floating around the market.
You’ve got the resins, the powdered stuff, and the capsules all vying for position. Then there are the different countries of origin: Russian Shilajit and Indian Shilajit.
Without more knowledge about how Shilajit should be taken, along with some consistency about how it’s produced, figuring out how much to take is a difficult prospect.
Shilajit is supposed to be mostly safe for human consumption in a purified form. Unfortunately, not all Shilajit is purified:
“Studies indicate the shilajit consumption without preliminary purification may lead to risks of intoxication given the presence of mycotoxin, heavy metal ions, polymeric quinones (oxidant agents), and free radicals, among others.”
This is part of the reason that Shilajit is banned in places like Canada. Moreover, even in its purified state, there are some individuals who have reported having negative reactions when taking Shilajit that include nausea, a loss energy, and temporary confusion.
Not much is known about Shilajit, so stacking with it isn’t something that’s been explored in great detail.
If you want to enhance your benefits, though, you can always go with a few tried-and-true options, like the old standby, caffeine.
Mixing the resin form of Shilajit with a cup of coffee or tea is one of the main delivery methods, so it’s not difficult to get this combination going.
If you’d prefer something more potent than a regular cup of joe, you could try mixing the Shilajit with something like Phenibut to add a mood lifting effect.
Phenibut usually comes in 250 milligram capsules, which, when combined with Shilajit may produce the desired effect.
If you want to go with an all-natural stress reduction theme, you could try using Shilajit with Ashwagandha.
The herbal supplement is said to relieve anxiety and calm the nerves while balancing hormone and energy levels. It’s available in powder form and could easily be combined with a Shilajit beverage.
You might not be convinced by Shilajit’s supposed benefits, which I would completely understand. Make sure you check out these alternatives that might provide similar effects:
If you’re looking for a brain boost, this “essential” Russian supplement might be what you want.
Semax was created in the lab to stimulate the central nervous system and boasts a range of nootropic, neuroprotective, and neurogenic properties.
It is used to help treat stroke and head trauma victims, and when used at a lower dose as a supplement it might help with cognitive function and alertness.
2. Maca Powder
If all natural sexual enhancement is your goal, Maca Powder could be an acceptable substitute for you.
This substance comes from a vegetable in the South American Andes Mountains and has been used as a traditional libido booster for many centuries.
There is some scientific data supporting this supposed benefit, so you might try adding this to your supplement grab bag instead.
If you just want general nootropic enhancement, Noopept should be a contender. Anecdotal evidence shows that Noopept has similar effects on the body as Piracetam, but at a much more potent level.
It provides a psychostimulatory sensation, a cognitive boost, and a neuroprotective effect that shields from mental decline.
Shilajit is too untested to just recommend outright. There definitely could be some potential with this one.
The research into the testosterone boosting effects, in particular, seemed promising, as did the potential for helping with Alzheimer’s.
At present, though, it seems like there are too many variables to make this a reliable daily supplement, the fact that you can’t be sure you’re getting the real deal being chief among them.
I’m hoping that with further study the true health benefits can be unlocked and we’ll know exactly when and how Shilajit can have the best effect.