A sticky substance that forms when plants slowly break down, shilajit is found on rocks in the Himalayan Mountains and has been used as a tonic for thousands of years in Ayurveda to support the body’s healthy response to stress.
What Is Shilajit?
Shilajit is a Sanskrit word that translates loosely to “destroyer of weakness.” Originating in the Himalayas, shilajit is a resin arising from organic materials that get caught up in the tectonic shifts of the surrounding earth over time.
It’s a complex process, but essentially, decaying plants in high elevations turn into humus (organic soil), which provides nutrients for new plant life. Over time, through microbial action and pressure from the weight of the environment, the humus turns into shilajit.
Shilajit is available as a liquid or in powder form to dissolve into water.
Benefits of Shilajit
Shilajit contains selenium and other essential minerals, which play roles in metabolism, thyroid function and oxidative stress management. Another component of shilajit, humic acid, stimulates immunity and may play a role in warding off viral diseases. Finally, there’s strong evidence that the fulvic acid in shilajit may fight chronic inflammatory diseases. But the shilajit benefits don’t end there. Below are some other science-backed shilajit benefits.
Supports Brain Function
Shilajit has a long history offering protection against age-related decline in physical and cognitive performance.
Researchers believe that the anti-aging properties associated with shilajit can be attributed to its high fulvic acid content. In a study published in the International Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, researchers suggest that shilajit’s brain benefits may be linked to fulvic acid’s ability to block the accumulation of tau protein in the brain. In a healthy brain, tau protein carries out essential functions, but sometimes the tau behaves erratically and clumps and builds up. Over time, this tangling can lead to Alzheimer’s disease.
Naturally, the “destroyer of weakness” plays a role in reducing fatigue.
In their 2019 study of 63 recreationally active men, researchers at the University of Nebraska report that “eight weeks [of supplementation] had favorable effects on the retention of maximal muscular strength following a fatiguing task.” In simpler terms, the men who supplemented with shilajit retained more strength and were less fatigued after a physically demanding activity or workout.
A 2012 study lends an explanation. According to this research, shilajit’s fatigue-fighting characteristics may be linked to its ability to modify or control the body’s hypothalamic pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis—the hormonal stress response system.
Helps to Reduce Stress
In Ayurveda, shilajit tonic is commonly used as a treatment for stress and insomnia.
In an older study on the effects of shilajit on memory and anxiety, researchers identified a link between shilajit and dopamine—the brain’s reward chemical that affects learning, focus and emotion.
Mental stress, of course, is not the only type of stress. There’s research to suggest that shilajit may combat physical stress, too. A 2010 research article recommends shilajit for mountain climbers and athletes who struggle with the physical stresses associated with working out at higher altitudes, like body aches, gastrointestinal distress and lung and heart stress.
Studies on Shilajit
We don’t know all the benefits of shilajit yet, and more research is needed. According to other scientific findings, shilajit resin benefits might also include anti-inflammation and heart health properties as well as nutritional support.
A research duo from the University of British Columbia reports that while the volume of research on shilajit’s primary component (fulvic acid) and its effect on inflammation is low, the research that exists is encouraging. The current research indicates that fulvic acid may fight inflammation by blocking the release of pro-inflammatory proteins by the body.
In a study of 30 healthy medical students, researchers used blood tests to monitor the effects of shilajit on blood chemistry. Throughout the study, 20 participants took four capsules of shilajit per day, while 10 participants took a placebo. At the end of the study, the researchers found that participants who took shilajit had lower triglycerides (high triglycerides are associated with a higher risk of heart disease and stroke) and saw improvements in cholesterol levels.
Shilajit contains iron and can help prevent iron deficiency. Beyond that, research suggests that the fulvic acid in shilajit boosts the body’s capacity to absorb iron, maximizing the amount of iron that’s usable by the body.
Shilajit in Summary
Shilajit is a fascinating substance with encouraging medical findings. A unique substance containing several essential minerals, shilajit appears to offer substantial support for physical and mental stress.
With strong evidence of anti-aging properties, shilajit is also a promising cognitive-enhancing supplement, with particular benefits for warding off age-related memory decline.