Shilajit is marketed as a general vitality rejuvenator and adaptogen — a natural substance believed to help the body resist stressors of all kinds, whether physical, chemical or biological.
It has long been touted for its miraculous healing properties in Ayurvedic medicine. Clinical research is underway to determine what health benefits can be attributed to supplementation.
Shilajit is a pale-brown to blackish-brown gummy substance that exudes from layers of rocks in many mountain ranges of the world, especially the Himalayas and Hindukush ranges of the Indian subcontinent. It has been found to consist of a complex mixture of plant and microbial metabolites and organic humic substances (1).
The main bioactive component has been identified as fulvic acid.
Shilajit has hypolipidemic and antioxidant activity. The effect of shilajit on blood chemistry was recently studied in healthy human volunteers. The results, published in Ancient Science of Life, found that the administration of 2g of shilajit for 45 days significantly reduced serum triglycerides and serum cholesterol, while simultaneously improving HDL cholesterol.
HDL stands for high-density lipoprotein and is considered beneficial because it helps remove other forms of harmful cholesterol from the bloodstream (2).
In addition, supplementation improved the antioxidant status of the volunteers. Antioxidants act as scavengers of harmful free radicals (unstable molecules) that can damage parts of cells such as protein, cell membranes and DNA.
Shilajit may have anti-allergy properties. Preliminary evidence based on an in vitro study suggests its potential to treat allergic disorders. According to data published in Phytotherapy Research, the combined effects of its main components (including fulvic acid) provide statistically significant protection to antigen‐induced degranulation of sensitized mast cells and prevents mast cell disruption (3).
Shilajit may help reduce symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome. Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a long-term disorder characterized by extreme fatigue that cannot be attributed to an underlying medical condition. It is estimated that approximately 836,000 to 2.5 million Americans suffer from CFS, but many of them have not been diagnosed (4).
There is no cure or set treatment for CFS. However, some symptoms can be treated or managed.
Researchers have found a link between CFS and mitochondrial dysfunction. Mitochondria are the dominant source of energy for all cells; mitochondria in CFS cells can’t produce energy properly, resulting in physiological symptoms.
Due to shilajit’s use as a rejuvenator in Indian ancient traditional medicine, researchers are studying its effects on those suffering from CFS. In a rat study, scientists found that supplementation reversed the CFS-induced increase in immobility period and decrease in climbing behavior as well as attenuated anxiety during the elevated plus maze test.
It is believed that supplementation mitigated the effects of CFS in this model possibly through the modulation of HPA axis and preservation of mitochondrial function and integrity (5).
Shilajit may play a future role in Alzheimer’s treatment. According to the Alzheimer’s Society, several degenerative processes are known to occur in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease. These degenerative processes include amyloid-beta protein clumping into plaques, which accumulate all over the brain, and tau protein forming into neurofibrillary tangles, which start in the areas of the brain important for memory (6).
Preliminary evidence suggests that fulvic acid found in shilajit helps prevent tau self-aggregation into pathological filaments (7).
The authors note, however, that a great deal more research is needed to examine shilajit’s effectiveness as an Alzheimer’s disease treatment.
In another study, fulvic acid not only inhibited aggregation of tau protein, it also helped disassemble and diminish the length of tau fibrils (8).
Shilajit helps treat altitude sickness. High-altitude sickness happens when the body does not have enough time to adapt to the lower air pressure and lower oxygen level in the air when climbing or walking to a higher altitude. Symptoms include headache, nausea, vomiting, lightheadedness, fatigue and dizziness.
People can live comfortably at moderately high altitudes, but the body must make some adjustments, and this takes time.
Scientists believe that shilajit is helpful in fighting against common high-altitude problems like deficiency in the amount of oxygen reaching the tissues, high-altitude pulmonary edema and other symptoms when taken as a supplement by people ascending to high altitudes (9).
Shilajit helps prevent ulcers. Fulvic acids and 4′‐methoxy‐6‐carbomethoxybiphenyl (MCB, 1) — two major organic compounds isolated from shilajit — have been shown to have anti‐ulcerogenic activity in albino rats.
Authors of the published study found that the MCB‐induced changes in the mucosa provided resistance against the effect of ulcerogens and also against shedding of mucosal cells. A preliminary acute toxicity study indicated that both fulvic acids and MCB had low toxicity (10).
Shilajit may help treat male infertility. In a recent study published in Andrologia, researchers set out to evaluate the effects of shilajit supplementation in men with low sperm count.
Participants took a 100mg capsule of processed shilajit twice a day for 90 days. Twenty-eight participants who completed the study showed significant improvement in total sperm count and motility.
In addition, serum testosterone and follicle stimulating hormone levels significantly increased. Low follicle stimulating hormone can result in low or no sperm production (11).
Based on studies carried out so far, shilajit is generally considered safe.
One human study using 200mg daily in men for 90 days failed to note any clinically significant toxicological symptoms when measuring standard toxicological biomarkers, but noted a small decrease in serum creatinine and increases in both hemoglobin and white blood count.
Due to a lack of research, however, little is known about the safety of long-term or regular use of shilajit.
Further, in-depth human studies and trials are needed before recommending an optimal dose.
Shilajit is touted as a general vitality rejuvenator and is known in Ayurvedic medicine for its miraculous healing properties.
It is a gummy substance extracted from the layers of rocks in mountain ranges. It contains significant amounts of fulvic acid, which is what researchers believe give it many of its therapeutic properties. Some of these potential therapeutic benefits include treating allergic disorders, chronic fatigue syndrome, ulcers and high-altitude sickness and lowering elevated triglycerides. It may even play a future role in Alzheimer’s treatment.
While short-term supplementation appears to be safe when used in studies, further research is needed to learn about the safety and efficacy with long-term use. Additional studies will also shed light on the optimal dosage.