What’s black, sticky like tar, and has been valued for millennia as a natural remedy for numerous ailments and health issues? Most people don’t guess the answer is shilajit, but after today, it could be on your radar.
Shilajit, which is known by more than a dozen other names (e.g., mineral pitch, mineral wax, mumlai, dorobi, brag zhun, black asphaltum, baad-a-ghee, among others) is the end product of the natural breakdown of minerals and plant matter. This process has been occurring in the mountains of India and Tibet for tens of thousands of years, which is where it was sourced traditionally, but now it also can be found in several other mountainous places in the world.
More than 3,000 years ago, shilajit was mentioned in Sanskrit texts, and it made its way into common practice in Ayurvedic medicine. In recent years, researchers have uncovered what may be the reasons for the health benefits credited with this black, tarry substance: a unique combination of about 85 minerals, with high concentrations of fulvic and humic acids.
Both fulvic and humic acids are organic acids found in prehistoric deposits and are the result of the natural breakdown of plant and animal materials. They can help quickly improve nutrient levels in the body and improve gut health and immune function.
9 potential benefits of shilajit
Pure shilajit resin oozes out of the rocks and is used as traditional medicine in many parts of Russia, Mongolia, Iran, Kasachstan, and Kirgistan, but its popularity is spreading elsewhere. Here are 9 potential health benefits of shilajit and some information on how to use it.
1. Improves brain function. Shilajit has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries as a rejuvenator and an antiaging compound. In a 2012 article appearing in the International Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, the authors noted that the main medical use of shilajit “appears to come from its actions in benefit of cognition and potentially as a dietary supplement to prevent Alzheimer’s disease.”
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2. Prevents anemia. Shilajit is very high in iron, which may make it a good candidate supplement for individuals who are experiencing or who are at risk for iron deficiency anemia. Do not take shilajit to prevent or treat anemia, however, without first talking with your doctor.
3. Fights viruses. Although the amount of research regarding the ability of shilajit to fight viruses is scant, what’s available is promising. An Italian team found that the natural remedy was effective against both herpes simplex 1 and 2, as well as human cytomegalovirus and human respiratory syncytial virus, but not human rotavirus.
4. Heals peptic ulcers. Results of an animal study indicate that shilajit reduces inflammation and can increase the mucus barrier in cases of peptic ulcer.
5. Boosts energy. In a 2012 study, animal models of chronic fatigue syndrome demonstrated better energy when they took shilajit. The authors proposed the reason for the improvement may be related to an ability of the remedy to improve cell functions.
6. Helps bone health. Some research indicates that shilajit has a positive impact on osteoblasts, which are cells involved in bone regeneration, and also inhibits osteoclasts, which are involved in bone breakdown. So far the evidence has been seen in both human and mouse bone cells and suggests shilajit “may be of clinical benefit in the treatment for osteoporosis in humans” and thus support bone health.
7. Inhibits cancer. At least one study has shown that shilajit was instrumental in destroying cancer cells (liver cancer) as well as stopping the cells from multiplying. Although there are anecdotal reports that the remedy can help fight other cancers, so far the studies are lacking.
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8. Enhances heart health. An animal study suggests shilajit offers some protection against damage to the heart when compared with animals not given the supplement. In a study of healthy volunteers, participants who took 2 grams of shilajit daily for 45 days showed a significant decline in triglycerides and cholesterol levels as well as an improvement in good cholesterol (HDL).
9. Raises testosterone. Given all the hype about raising testosterone levels using hormone replacement therapy, men who want a natural approach may want to look into shilajit. In a study of healthy men ages 45 to 55, the participants took shilajit for 90 days. At the end of the study, the men showed a significant increase in their levels of total testosterone.
Shilajit is available as a powder, supplements, and as a resin that can be dissolved in water or other liquid. A typical dose is 300 to 500 milligrams daily, but be sure to talk to a knowledgeable practitioner before you take this supplement. If you use the resin, a pea-sized portion can be mixed in liquid and taken up to three times a day.
Shilajit does not have a pleasant taste, so you may want to mix it in a smoothie or juice rather than plain water. One potential side effects of shilajit use is that it can lower blood pressure, so if you are taking antihypertensive medication, you should probably avoid this supplement. Be sure to purchase high-quality shilajit to avoid exposure to heavy metals.
Cagno V et al. In vitro evaluation of the antiviral properties of shilajit and investigation of its mechanisms of action. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 2015 May 25; 166:129-34
Carrasco-Gallardo C et al. Shilajit: a natural phytocomplex with potential precognitive activity. International Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease 2012; 2012:674142
Goel RK et al.Antiulcerogenic and anti-inflammatory studies with shilajit. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 1990 Apr; 29(1): 95-103
Joukar S et al. Cardioprotective effect of mumie (shilajit) in experimentally induced myocardial injury. Cardiovascular Toxicology 2014 Sep; 14(3): 214-21
Jung C-R et al. Osteoblastic differentiation of mesenchymal stem cells by mumie extract. Drug Development Research 2002 Nov; 57(3): 122-33
Pandit S et al. Clinical evaluation of purified shilajit on testosterone levels in healthy volunteers. Andrologia 2016 Jun; 48(5): 570-75
Pant K et al. Mineral pitch induces apoptosis and inhibits proliferation via modulating reactive oxygen species in hepatic cancer cells. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 216 May 27; 16:148
Sharma P et al. Shilajit: evaluation of its effects on blood chemistry of normal human subjects. Ancient Science of Life 2003 Oct; 23(2): 114-19
Surapaneni DK et al. Shilajit attenuates behavioral symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome by modulating the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis and mitochondrial bioenergetics in rats. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 2012 Aug 30; 143(1): 91-99