The Blood of Mountains: an ancient energy-boosting, hormone-regulating superfood
It looks and smells like tar and, in fairness, it tastes a little like tar too. Yet this wondrous, ancient resin-like substance is one of the best things you can take to improve your health.
Shilajit has been used in Ayurvedic medicine and by yogis alike for centuries. And for good reason too. It’s said that this ancient superfood supports every system in the body and Vaidya Charak, a famous Indian physician and academic in the first century A.D., is quoted as saying, “There is hardly any curable disease which cannot be controlled or cured with the aid of shilajit.”
The mountains make it!
Made by the compression and biodegradation of plant matter over centuries, this mountain lifeblood can only be found in a few areas of the world – namely the Altai mountains, Himalayas and Caucuses. This mineral rich superfood delivers nutrients in their most natural and bioavailable form.
It’s said to contain over 85 minerals in ionic form and the added magic comes from the high levels of naturally occurring fulvic acid. Not only does the fulvic acid superboost the nutrients it is consumed with, it also has the ability to transport them directly into the cells – which is exactly where they need to be to support optimal health.
Fulvic acid has many other proven benefits, from improving gut health to keeping skin healthy – and this ancient herb contains a huge amount of it. Shilajit is one of the most common supplements used to increase intake of this beneficial and potent acid.
So, before you dismiss this black goo for it’s strange look and its bitter taste, read on to learn of the many ways in which this ancient superfood can superpower your health.
Top 11 things shilajit can do for your health…
- Promotes and supports gut health
You’ll have likely heard the statement by Hippocrates that ‘All disease begins in the gut’. And it’s true, as a poorly working gut is where many chronic health conditions take shape, which is why gut permeability (when particles are able to escape through the gut lining and enter the bloodstream) is so harmful.
There is some evidence that consuming fulvic acid can help decrease digestive disorders including: SIBO symptoms (small intestine bacterial overgrowth) and inflammatory bowel disorders. (1) For hundreds of years, shilajit, which contains roughly 50 to 60 percent fulvic acid, has been used in traditional Ayurvedic medicine to treat a wide scope of health matters that can be traced back to poor digestive/immune health.
- Increases energy and stamina
Many people complain of feeling tired, despite eating well, getting sufficient sleep and in spite of their age. With over-farmed land and overuse of pesticides, the levels of nutrients found in our food, has drastically decreased. It’s no wonder then that our bodies cannot work optimally. Without sufficient nutrients, our cell’s mitochondria cannot work properly and is not able to produce ATP (energy) as efficiently.
As shilajit helps increase the production of ATP, it increases overall energy and stamina. In fact, it’s commonly used to enhance athletic performance. (2)
Chronic fatigue syndrome, a disorder classified by at least six months of extreme and debilitating fatigue, has been successfully treated with shilajit supplementation, also evidenced by the way it enhances mitochondrial function. (3)
Furthermore, whilst shilajit activates mitochondrial respiration, it also suppresses activity of succinate – oxidase and NADH-oxidase in Mitochondrion. This means that while increasing production of energy through cellular respiration, the substance simultaneously protects from damage that usually accompanies increased production of energy. (4)
- Supports healthy aging
Shilajit can even slow the aging process! This mineral pitch is rich in antioxidants, meaning it is very effective in supporting healthy aging of the cells, and therefore the body.
Furthermore, one study (5) found that shilajit upregulates the production of collagen which in turn supports joint health and skin elasticity.
- Regulates hormones
Another important function of shilajit is its ability to regulate and balance hormones. Many researchers agree that it impacts so much of the body because of the way it helps this system remain in equilibrium. (6) Known as an adaptogen, shilajit has the ability to increase the half-life of cortisol circulating in the bloodstream. What this means is that at times of stress, the adrenal glands are not required to produce as much cortisol to enable the body to function properly. As the adrenal glands and thyroid are so closely linked, when you support one, you support the other.
When tested in pilot studies involving rats, it was also associated with ovulation in adult female rats, indicating that shilajit may be a viable agent to consider by those struggling with infertility. (7)
- Promotes blood sugar balancing
As diabetes rates soar, and many suffer with poor blood sugar balancing, affecting energy levels and restful sleep, it’s worth knowing that shilajit has been shown to help reduce blood glucose levels. Studies have also shown it to reduce lipid profiles, lowering triglycerides. (8, 9)
Shilajit is one of the main ingredients in a supplement known as D-400, Diabecon or GlucoCare. This supplement is designed to combine the most potent Ayurvedic natural medicines into one pill. D-400 reduces blood glucose levels and shows potential to repair damage to the pancreas caused by diabetes. (10)
Furthermore, In the same study scientists induced diabetes in vivo to animals and when treated with a Shilajit-based formulation it was shown to effectively repair and regenerate tissue of a pancreas.
- Balances moods
Shilajit also works as a very effective mood balancer; reducing anxiety and depression. This has been supported in a study (11) where when tested against Xanax (an antidepressant); shilajit showed similar results but without any of the side effects associated with prescription drugs.
Many people report a feeling of calm, and of being more grounded when taking shilajit.
7. Supports brain health
Shilajit is classified as nootropic, which means it enhances the brain’s ability to learn new things. Many people speak of shilajit bringing about mental clarity and sharpness but the ways in which shilajit is both supportive and protective of the brain are numerous.
Some studies show that shilajit has a “distinct and marked neuroprotective activity.” (12) highlighting its targeted mechanism for protecting the brain cells in particular. In a 2013 study conducted by the Physiology Research Center at the Kerman University of Medical Sciences on the effects of shilajit on risk factors following a traumatic brain injury, researchers discovered that it has positive effects on the three most indicative factors of death following traumatic brain injury: brain edema, blood-brain barrier permeability and intracranial pressure. (13)
In addition, shilajit has been shown to exhibit anti-epileptic properties and potentially antipsychotic effects. The action thought to be behind this is that iit adjusts GABA levels (a naturally occurring neurotransmitter) back into balance. (14)
Furthermore, this unique superfood has in one preliminary study, shown to be a promising consideration for patients suffering with mild Alzheimer’s disease. The presence of fulvic acid and a treatment protocol including the administration of a vitamin B complex showed promising results. (15)
- Exhibits anti-cancer action
As well as shilajit showing many ways in which it is preventative of cancer, such as improving detoxification pathways, working as an antiinflammatory, delivering abundant and bioavailable nutrients to the cells, some studies are showing that shilajit also exhibits cancer killing activity as well.
A 2016 study (16) on hepatic cancer cells, clearly indicated that cancer cell apoptosis occurred in those treated with a solution of shilajit for 24 hours. Whilst further studies are needed, this is a promising first glimpse at how shilajit can support cancer patients.
In addition to this, one study showed the protective action of shilajit against damage from radiation as a cancer treatment. (17)
- Strengthens and repairs the skeletal and muscular system
Shilajit has been traditionally used for hundreds of years in Asian herbal medicine both inwardly and outwardly against injuries, bone fractures, dislocations, diseases of skin, diseases of the peripheral nervous system and also as a soothing and anti-inflammatory agent.
In a study of obese patients published in the Journal of Medicinal Food, supplementation significantly improved the function and regeneration of skeletal muscles. (19)
In one article it is noted that the resin will regenerate damaged bones approximately 2 times faster than they normally would. This effect was used by Soviet surgeons consistently for many years. (20)
- Immune boosting and balancing
Shilajit is a powerful tonic to keep you healthy in general. It is known as a nonspecific immune system stimulator. It proliferates lymphocytes, activates the macrophages (the cells that literally ‘eat’ bacteria and viruses), and it was shown to accelerate regeneration of the immune system (lymphopoietic erythropoiesis). The resin restored more rapidly the number of lymphocytes and peripheral blood, bone marrow and spleen. (21)
In addition to this, it also has “broad, yet specific” antiviral properties. One Italian lab study found significant antiviral activity against a number of herpes-related viruses and HRSV, a virus that causes respiratory tract infections, most prevalent in children. (22)
- Improves libido and stamina
Shilajit also works as one of nature’s best aphrodisiacs and is a powerful supplement for low sex drive. For hundreds of years it has been a widely recommended solution for impotence.
It positively affects reproductive hormone functions with some even hailing it as ‘Indian Viagra’. In healthy males, supplementation increases blood testosterone and encourages the production of healthy sperm, with many men seeing an improvement in their endurance and libido in general. (23)
How to take shilajit
Shilajit has a very strong flavour, not unlike tar. This is perhaps why it was traditionally dissolved in warm milk to dilute the flavour. You can also add it to herbal teas, plain warm water or if you’re in a rush and feeling brave, just pop a small pea-sized amount directly under your tongue. Taste aside, the advantage of this method is that sublingually is one of the areas of highest absorption, so you’ll feel the beneficial effects sooner.
How to know if your Shilajit is genuine
As shilajit becomes more popular and demand increases, fake and inferior products inevitably flood the market. Capsules and powders are often mixed with other ingredients, so how do you know if what you’ve bought is genuine shilajit?
To receive the health benefits mentioned above, it’s crucial that you’re buying and taking genuine shilajit. These original methods of testing shilajit will give you confidence as to whether you have the real thing:
- Shilajit becomes harder at cold temperatures and softer and more malleable when warm
- Shilajit should dissolve completely in warm water or milk, with no remaining bits
- Shilajit should not dissolve in alcohol
- Shilajit should have a strong smoky, tar-like odour
- Shilajit should have a strong and smoky tar-like taste
- Shilajit will not light on fire or burn like a candle. If heated with a flame, it will bubble and produce an ash. But it will not burn like a candle.
For added reassurance, it’s also worth seeking out a company who independently test their shilajit for authenticity and heavy metals. Ensure you have the results for ppm (parts per million) or parts/KG as this will give you a true indication of the levels.
Complications and side effects
Shilajit has a long history and has been used safely in the Ayurvedic tradition for over 3,000 years. Modern day studies continue to show that it is very safe to use with no known adverse reactions currently reported.
It is worth pointing out though that Chlorine and fulvic/humic acids, when combined, produce a potentially carcinogenic by-product. Due to high levels of naturally occurring fulvic and humic acids in shilajit, chlorinated water should never be used when preparing for internal consumption or use on skin.
Shilajit can contain trace levels of phenylalanine which is an essential amino acid. Therefore, all products containing phenylalanine are contraindicated in people who have the rare genetic disorder PKU (phenylketonuria).