Common name: Shilajit
Other names: Shilajotu, mumie, mumiyo, momia, asphaltum
Latin name: Asphaltum bitumen
Affinities: Immune system, nervous system, digestive system, cardiovascular system, reproductive system
Actions: Adaptogen, rasayana, nootropic, immunomodulator, anxiolytic
Specific indications: Joint pain, sexual debility, mental stress, fatigue
Diseases: Diabetes(2), anemia(3), ulcers(3), kidney stones(3), arthritis(3), asthma(3), heart disease(3), anxiety(2), gallstones(3), epilepsy(3), jaundice(3), infertility(2), CFS(2), low testosterone(1)
Parts used: Whole substance
Characteristics: Shilajit is a substance that resembles tar that in hot weather conditions oozes out of cracks in the rocks of mountains (Winston, 2007). There are 4 types, classed by colour: red, yellow, bluish-grey, and black or brown. It is the black or brown shilajit that is used as a medicine.
History: The ancient Hindu text, the Rig Veda, speaks of a mythical substance called ‘soma’ which has ‘mountains and stones for its body’ and it ‘dwells within the mountainous rock where it grows’ (Winston, 2007). It also speaks of ‘priest-alchemists’ which prepared the soma by washing, grinding, and cooking. Soma was considered to be an elixir of immortality. The Charaka Samhita states, ‘There is no curable disease in the universe that cannot be cured by Shilajitu’. While this sounds like an over statement, it’s uses in Ayurveda are highly diverse, and include; virility, diabetes, anemia, ulcers, kidney stones, arthritis, asthma, heart disease, anxiety, jaundice, gallstones, and epilepsy. Shilajit is said to have been rediscovered by some Himalayan villagers who observed large white monkeys chewing the shilajit that oozed out of layers of rock. The villagers associated the monkey’s strength, longevity, and wisdom to the unusual substance. They started consuming it themselves and reported many health benefits.
Current applications: It may be combined with ashwagandha or used alone for virility (Winston, 2007). Shilajit may have a role in regulating cholesterol and blood sugar. In David Winston’s practice a combination of triphala, gymnema, and shilajit has been found to effective for treating insulin resistant diabetes, high cholesterol, and obesity. It may be also useful in cases of arthritis and joint pain. The potential applications of shilajit, like many adaptogenic tonic herbs, are widespread.
Science: It is the total ethylacetate extracts and fulvic acids of shilajit that are thought to be responsible for its pharmacological activity (Ghosal et al., 1991). It also has anti-oxidant activity which may be related to why it appears effective at treating chronic fatigue syndrome in rats (Surapaneni et al., 2012). There is also cognitive boosting and anxiolytic activity observed with shilajit application in animal models (Jaiswal et al., 1992; Ghosal et al., 1993). It appears to reduce symptoms of diabetes in animal models (Surapaneni et al., 2012). It may be useful in cases of infertility and low testosterone in men, as was found to upregulate testosterone in a double bind placebo controlled clinical study (Pandit et al., 2016), and an open label observational study indicated increases in male sperm and reproductive health.
Safety: Quality is an issue and good quality shilajit must be obtained, it must be processed in the proper way. Unprocessed shilajit may be contaiminated with toxic fungi. Avoid use in people with gout, gouty arthritis, or uric acid calculi, as it contains uric acid in high amounts. Avoid use in pregnant and breast feeding women due to lack of data. Otherwise, shilajit is a safe substance.
Dosage: See directions on packaging.
Research on models
Nootropic and anxiolytic activity: In an experiment involving rats, the researchers found that shilajit possesses significant anxiolytic and nootropic activity (Jaiswal et al., 1992).
Nootropic and anxiolytic activity(II): In one experiment using rats again, the researchers found shilajit possesses anxiolytic and nootropic activity (Ghosal et al., 1993).
Anti-oxidant and anti-fatigue activity: In one study, the authors found in rats with induced chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) treatment with shilajit was capable of reversing the symptoms of the disorder and CFS induced mitochondrial oxidative stress (Surapaneni et al., 2012).
Diabetes: In one study, the authors found shilajit at a higher dose of 100mg/kg was effective in reducing streptozotocin induced diabetes mellitus (Surapaneni et al., 2012).
Research on humans
Infertility: In one study (n=35, open label, observational study) of men who had low sperm counts and infertility prior to treatment found significant increases in sperm number, motility, and testosterone (Biswas et al., 2010). The study lacked a placebo group so it is not very reliable.
Testosterone level: In a study (n=96, double blind placebo controlled) of healthy men found a significant upregulation of total testosterone, free testosterone, and dehydroepiandrosterone with shilajit treatment (Pandit et al., 2016).
Biswas, Tuhin Kanti, et al. “Clinical evaluation of spermatogenic activity of processed Shilajit in oligospermia.” Andrologia 42.1 (2010): 48-56.
Ghosal, S., et al. “Effects of Shilajit and its active constituents on learning and memory in rats.” Phytotherapy research 7.1 (1993): 29-34.
Ghosal, Shibnath, et al. “The need for formulation of Shilajit by its isolated active constituents.” Phytotherapy research 5.5 (1991): 211-216.
Jaiswal, A. K., and S. K. Bhattacharya. “Effects of Shilajit on memory, anxiety and brain monoamines in rats.” Indian J pharmacol 24.1 (1992): 12-7.
Pandit, S., et al. “Clinical evaluation of purified Shilajit on testosterone levels in healthy volunteers.” Andrologia 48.5 (2016): 570-575.
Surapaneni, Dinesh Kumar, et al. “Shilajit attenuates behavioral symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome by modulating the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis and mitochondrial bioenergetics in rats.” Journal of ethnopharmacology 143.1 (2012): 91-99.