What is Shilajit?
Shilajit is a sticky, black, tar-like substance that is primarily found in the rocks of the Himalaya mountains in China. It develops over centuries by the plant decomposition that occurs at high mountain ranges.
For centuries, Shilajit has been used for medicinal purposes in India and Tibet, where it was exclusively available.
While Shilajit is truly beneficial for our health, there is a ton of misinformation and false claims out there that advocate the use of this substance for the curative treatment of many medical conditions.
This is especially harmful to patients who are dealing with chronic and potentially life-threatening maladies since it will not only be useless in the treatment of their condition, but it will also delay receiving proper medical care.
For this reason, you should be careful when you are the subject of some advertisement that’s trying to sell you a product and always keep your scam-radar activated. In this article, we will discuss twelve of the major benefits of Shilajit that are backed up by scientific evidence.
Brain function Due to the high concentration of antioxidants found in Shilajit, it is quite beneficial for cognitive function. Fulvic acid, which is the primary antioxidant found in Shilajit was shown to prevent the accumulation of Tau proteins, which are essential components of your central nervous system that can cause cellular damage when increased in concentration.
Antiviral properties By boosting the immune system to fight off viral infections, Shilajit can serve as a potent antiviral substance. However, all the evidence available so far was collected in the laboratory and no clinical trials were conducted on humans, hence the need to be cautious before taking Shilajit for its antiviral properties.
Fatigue Shilajit exerts its functions on the cellular level by improving the physiological cellular process and energy expenditure. As a result, Shilajit can reduce symptoms of fatigue in patients and help them feel more energized to perform different tasks during the day.
Obesity In a 2016 study, researchers found that people who take purified Shilajit supplements were more likely to respond to exercise than those who don’t. This is believed to be mediated by the activation of the genes responsible for adapting the skeletal muscles to the new workout routine.
Increased testosterone levels In a 2010 study, 60 infertile men received Shilajit supplements twice a day for a course of 90 days. At the end of the study, researchers analyzed the sperm count and motility in these men and the results came back positive; Shilajit increased sperm count and improved their mobility. This effect is the result of increased testosterone levels.
The potent action of fulvic acid will act as a barrier that protects the cells of different organs and the skin from oxidative stress. This property is backed up by scientific research that found beneficial effects of Shilajit on longevity and reducing the aging process. Scientists concluded that “Shilajit is a potent and very safe dietary supplement, potentially able to prevent several diseases.”
May help with iron deficiency Iron deficiency anemia is the most common type of anemia worldwide. It is caused by the decreased amount of iron in the blood, which is an essential component in the production of new Red Blood Cells (RBCs). This condition has a relatively mild intensity; however, if the deficiency is significant enough, patients may present with severe, and potentially life-threatening symptoms. In a 2010 study, scientists analyzed the effects of Shilajit on iron deficiency anemia in animals. They took 18 rats, divided them into 3 groups of six. The first group was considered a control group. Scientists then induced anemia in the second and third groups. The second group started receiving 500 mg of Shilajit after 11 days from the start of the experiment. By day 21, blood samples were collected from all three groups. As expected, the first group had normal blood parameters. However, when comparing the second group to the third, the results were impressive! The rats from the second group had significantly higher hematocrit, hemoglobin, and RBCs, which suggests that Shilajit may help increase iron levels inside the cells. Researchers added that “In conclusion, this study has shown that the Shilajit having significant Anti-anemic activity in both models. Our data obtained from the present study suggest that the Shilajit can be taken as a dietary supplement in the management of iron deficiency anemia.”
This effect has not yet been officially established on humans since there are no clinical trials that studied this property. However, there is some evidence of Shilajit efficacy in reducing symptoms of addiction in animals. First, what is addiction? Addiction is defined as the psychical and/or psychological dependence for a substance. Usually, this substance provides intense feelings of euphoria and pleasure. When you consume any substances with addictive properties, the pleasure center inside the brain will get stimulated by the release of dopamine. This center is referred to as the nucleus accumbens. Shilajit is able to reverse this process by altering the release of dopamine in these structures. This theory was supported by a 2016 study on mice.
Improves gut health Back to the antioxidative and anti-inflammatory properties of Shilajit. These two features provide the protection of the stomach and intestinal walls against harmful substances. As a result, digestion will be significantly improved, and the balance of the gut microbiome gets enhanced. Another active compound in Shilajit is benzoic acid, which has antibacterial properties than prevent any bacterial overgrowth. Scientists believe that benzoic acid may play a role in the prevention of small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO).
Coronary artery disease is the most common cause of death in the entire world. It leads to more deaths than diabetes, pulmonary diseases, and environmental accidents combined! This disease is caused by the irreversible obstruction of the main cardiac blood vessel –the coronary artery–. Shilajit may help the cardiovascular system by two mechanisms:
• Its antioxidant proproteins • Its ability to regulate blood lipids
The second property is mediated by the other active compounds found in Shilajit, Humic acid. Hypercholesterolemia (High cholesterol levels), which is a common target of Shilajit is one of the most important risk factors of coronary artery disease since the oxidation of LDL (bad cholesterol) is the cornerstone of arterial obstruction.
Living in the fast lane is the only way to describe the amounts of stress and anxiety we have to deal with in our day and age. Shilajit exerts its calming effects on the brain by reducing neurotransmitter transportation and altering the release of dopamine. Unfortunately, this property is not yet supported by clinical trials and all the evidence we have stemmed from laboratory experiments on rats.
In this article, we used the terms oxidation and antioxidants a lot. But what exactly do they mean? Oxidative stress is caused by an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants. Molecules that contain oxygen atoms with an uneven number of electrons (oxidized compounds) are referred to as free radicals. These substances can trigger an endless cycle of oxidation reactions that will cause the cell to be stressed and unstable, hence the nomenclature, oxidative stress. Under normal circumstances, the cell produces free radicals to fight off pathogens and foreign objects, for example, the macrophage (a type of immune cell) will produce many free radicals including hydrogen peroxide and superoxide when it catches a virus or bacterium; it will then confine them inside a structure called a “phagolysosome.” With the pathogen inside the cell, some intracellular signals are sent to produce free radicals, which are then released inside the phagolysosome to destroy the foreign pathogen. On the other hand, when these free radicals are produced, antioxidants will neutralize any additional activity to protect the cell from collateral damage. Whenever this balance is disrupted, we start dealing with oxidative stress. Unfortunately, most chronic and debilitating diseases are associated with higher levels of free radicals. Shilajit is an incredible antioxidant that will neutralize the oxidation inside the cells, reducing the risk of cellular damage.
So, as you can see, Shilajit is an active compound that improves many functions of the body and the research supports its benefits. However, patients shouldn’t seek this substance to treat their medical conditions since it may delay receiving proper therapy.
In our previous article, we have discussed the major health benefits of Shilajit and how it could help with numerous conditions. However, we did not cover the potential side effects of Shilajit.
Finding your way in Ayurveda, yoga or simply on your journey to wellness, you must have stumbled across this blackish-brown powder.