Shilajit is a staple at breakfast time with the people of Nepal and Northern India. Sherpas attribute its influence to their almost superhuman strength and ability to scale the high mountains, children take it with milk and it is also commonly dissolved in hot water to make a high energy morning beverage.
Countless studies have been conducted on this miracle substance. One of the ways it boosts energy in the body is through increasing the function of mitochondria – the power source or battery of the cells of the body. Mitochondria convert various nutrients and oxygen into adenosine triphosphate (ATP), in biochemistry ATP is known as the “molecular currency” of intracellular energy transfer. The more of this currency you have to spend correlates with the amount of energy you have to expend. By increasing ATP, Shilajit functions as a natural energy booster, increases stamina and is routinely taken by athletes because it is also able to enhance athletic performance.
Studies have also found that combining Shilajit with Coenzyme Q₁₀ (CoQ10) boosts the efficiency of CoQ10 (a cellular antioxidant found in the body). CoQ10 fuels cellular energy by boosting mitochondrial function, with production of this important compound declining as we age. Since 1957 scientists have struggled to find ways to make it function more efficiently within the body, and have recently discovered that combining Shilajit with CoQ10 enhances mitochondrial health. It has been shown to result in elevated levels of the body’s primary source of energy, ATP.
Digestive / Gut Health
The abundance of fulvic humic acids in Shilajit provides nutrients that support the ability of beneficial gut bacteria to form a healthy “microbiome” within the body. A microbiome is the collective name for the bacteria “ecosystem” that resides in the digestive system.
The benzoic acid found in Shilajit is powerfully antibacterial and regular consumption has been shown to reduce SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth,) which is present in around 85 percent of IBS patients. Benzoic acid has also been shown to inhibit the growth of Helicobacter pylori (H pylori), a nasty bacterium that is highly linked to peptic ulcers.
A potent detoxifier for the brain, Shilajit has been shown to assist the assimilation of nutrients, minerals and oxygen into the brain that support its ability to remove dangerous toxins. Specifically, proteins such as beta-amyloid plaque and tau which can build up over time and lead to neuronal dysfunction and early cell death. Prolonged build-up of these proteins can eventually lead to the degenerative brain conditions Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
Shilajit has also been found to inhibit the enzyme that breaks down the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. Acetylcholine is critical for memory, concentration and overall brain function – stress and aging can decrease levels of this important compound. Shilajit works to promote healthy levels of acetylcholine, further protecting the brain from degeneration.
Finally, in the case of Parkinson’s disease, Shilajit has been found to increase levels of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that is reduced by this condition. Furthermore, the underlying power of Shilajit to restore the electrical activity of body cells can help to slow down the progression of this degenerative disease.
Increased dopamine levels can also reduce anxiety and help to deal with the negative effects of stress.
Shilajit is well known in Ayurveda for strengthening the heart and bringing down hypertension (high blood pressure). In one study, Shilajit was shown to mimic the para-sympathetic nervous system – the opposite of “fight or flight” (sympathetic nervous system), producing a state of calm and relaxation thus lowering heart rate and blood pressure.
Shilajit is also cardio-protective, acting to increase levels of the body’s master antioxidant glutathione and providing the body with many other heart healthy nutrients.
Male Reproductive Health
The adaptogenic qualities of Shilajit help to balance the hormones and maintain equilibrium in both men and women. However, recent research has shown that it is especially effective at boosting testosterone and fertility in men. In a clinical trial of healthy men, 250mg of purified Shilajit was taken twice a day. After 3 months it was found that free testosterone and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEAS) had significantly increased.
Shilajit is absorbed into the testes where it can reduce oxidative damage and may even increase sperm production.
Folklore and history
Oral tradition tells us that Shilajit was discovered when certain packs of native chimps were observed snacking on the black, tar-like sticky substance. It was noted that the most intelligent and long lived were the ones who consumed this substance, leading to the indigenous people ingesting it too. They quickly discovered its many benefits - a rapid restoration of their health and enhanced cognitive and physical abilities - and the rest, as they say, is history.
Shilajit is revered in the ancient medicinal system of Ayruveda as the best carrier of energy and nutrition into the cells of the body. It is known in India as the “Destroyer of Weakness” and “Divya Rasayan,” meaning “Celestial Super Vitaliser”.
Shilajit is a tar-like, sticky substance that oozes from layers of rock in the Himalayan, Tibetan and Altai mountains. It has formed over millions of years by the slow decomposition of over 6,500 ancient plant species and fossils, a sort of geological alchemy that has created the nutrient rich biomass now known as Shilajit. When the Indian subcontinent formed, the fossils of ammonites ended up in the Himalayan Mountains and became humified (converted into humus, the organic matter in soil). This led to the formation of dibenzo-alpha-pyrones (DBPs, metabolites derived from plants and animals), humic acids, and fulvic acids, along with many minerals, which are present in Shilajit today.
The prehistoric origins of this fascinating substance imply that it contains molecules that are essential to the existence of all life!
Shilajit can be added to hot water or eaten in small amounts in its original, tar-like form. Alternatively it can be taken in capsule form.
Shilajit is composed mainly of humic substances, including fulvic acid, that account for around 60% to 80% of the total nutraceutical compound plus some oligoelements including selenium. It has been reported to contain at least 85 minerals in ionic form, as well as triterpenes.
Do not take Shilajit if you have sickle cell anemia, hemochromatosis (too much iron in the blood), or thalassemia. Stop taking Shilajit if you develop rash, increased heart rate, or dizziness.
Please consult your healthcare practitioner if you are taking any prescription medications before taking Shilajit.