Shilajit, a thick tar like substance from the Himalayas, has grown a reputation as being a booster for male health. Which is true, on the one hand, but lopsided on the other. True because a growing number of studies show that it indeed increases testosterone, sperm count, motility and health but also lopsided because the effects of Shilajit on women’s fertility have seen very few studies. The traditional recommendation for female fertility is Shatavari. Let’s look at the science behind Shilajit.
What is Shilajit?
Shilajit is a thick tar like substance that consists mainly of products of decomposition from specific plant matter, over long periods of time. While some sources go as far back as dating it hundreds of millions of years into the past, others consider it to be a product of only hundreds of years. The truth is, science does not know for sure where Shilajit comes from [Agarwal 2007].
In the hottest summer months of the year, raw Shilajit oozes out of stones in the Himalayan and Altai mountains in India, Russia, Mongolia and surrounding countries. Some say the best Shilajit comes from the highest mountains. While it is true that the composition of different types of Shilajit varies from source to source [Al-Salman 2020], very little is known about how the composition influences the effects of Shilajit resin.
Discovery of Shilajit
Shialjit has been in use in traditional Indian folk medicine, Ayurveda, for at least 2 millennia – that is at least the age of the Charaka Samhita, an ancient Indian text that mentions Shilajit. But cultures in the Altai mountains have their own names for Shilajit: Mumiyo, which suggests that there might have been a tradition around it not related to the Indian. We can not know for sure, since no records exist. You can find more details in our in-depth article on Shilajit.
Does Shilajit increase testosterone?
From the result of 2 clinical studies it is likely that Shilajit can increase testosterone levels by as much as 20%.
Shilajit can boost sperm count, motility and shape. This has been shown in multiple clinical studies in the last 20 years. The most commonly cited study [Pandit 2015] took 45-55 year old men and prescribed Shilajit for 3 months at a dose of 250mg / day. The result was that their total testosterone increased (appx. +20%), as well as their free testosterone (appx. +20%) and DHEA-S (appx. +30%, precursor to testosterone). This is not only statistically significant (a measure of how reliable a result is, as opposed to random fluctuations) but also substantial.
It is known that testosterone can drop by 1 – 3% every year after the age of 40 (and to a lesser degree, when you are younger; it peaks in your teenage years). If we calculate an increase of 20% in testosterone into years using this rate of decrease we get:
assuming a 1% decrease: ~18.3 years
assuming a 3% decrease: ~6.2 years
This means that a mere 90 days of Shilajit supplementation can boost your testosterone levels to a 6-18 years younger version of yourself. This is, indeed, quite phenomenal. Keep in mind however that testosterone levels do not necessarily drop for all men in the same way and can even remain more or less unchanged after 40 [Kelsey 2014].
Does Shilajit help with hair loss?
As no studies exist, one can only theorise the answer. It is important to understand that premature balding has a myriad of causes some of which are genetic, reversible or irreversible, stress induced or the effect of an infection [Phillips 2017]. Shilajit may help you to reduce inflammation [Pingali 2022], it may give you more energy for your cells [Keller 2019]. Both, in turn, benefit the overall function of the body, help with all its ailments and boost its immune system.
If you are suffering from reversible hair loss it is a good idea to get “healthy” in general. That means to add exercise, nutrition and supplements to your daily routine which will have positive effects even though it may not help with hair loss directly.
Shilajit can increase energy levels
A recent study on younger men [Keller 2019] has shown that Shilajit can increase their resistance to fatigue. That, for example, means you get less tired after a workout. The mechanism behind it is not precisely known, but it may well be that it’s a result of increased testosterone.
It is known, however, that Shilajit can help with the energy metabolism on the cellular level by increasing the ATP/ADP ratio [Bhattacharyya 2009b]. ATP is a molecule in the cells that stores energy. When it gets used up it becomes ADP. A higher ATP/ADP ratio therefore means your body has more fuel and thus more energy to burn.
Mice were forced to swim daily for 7 days and received either the placebo or 30 mg shilajit/kg orally per day for the last 4 days. Swimming caused an 82% decrease in muscle ATP levels, while Shilajit treatment almost doubled the ATP in muscle of mice forced to swim.from [Stohs 2013]
How does Shilajit increase fertility?
Another study on infertile men found that Shilajit can significantly increase sperm count, motility and health. It is important to understand that infertile here means a low enough sperm count to be practically infertile. This can be a completely normal state, especially as men get older, but in this study the men were only 30-45 years old.
The increases were also very substantial, as can be seen in the following graphic:
In summary, these results suggest that Shilajit can be an effective treatment for infertility in men. Furthermore, in a study on female rats [Park 2006] Shilajit helped to improve the ovulation frequency. This is an indicator that both sexes can benefit from Shilajit’s effects on fertility.
It is theorised that Shilajit resin exerts its function through the brain and increases the secretion of two hormones: LH (luteinizing hormone) and FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone) in the pituitary gland [Pandit 2015].
In a male body the FSH hormone will stimulate the production of sperm, which in turn increases testosterone. In women FSH works on the ovaries and stimulates the production of eggs. While this is a theory by the authors of the study, it might help explain how the effects of Shilajit manifest in the body.
How long does it take for Shilajit to work?
The most cited study on testosterone [Pandit 2015] measured the effects in 30 day intervals and found significant effects only after 90 days, with the exception of FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) that significantly increased after 30 days.
A significant increase in the statistical sense means that something changed but not due to mere chance. For this, we measure the probability of something being the result of chance and if this probability is below 5% we speak of a statistically significant increase.
However, as you can see in the graphs below, the increase is a progression over the course of 3 months. So, when taking Shilajit, be persistent and don’t expect results in the next week, despite the various claims made by advertisers.
Short questions on Shilajit answered
Is it like Viagra?
No, Shilajit is not like Viagra. While Shilajit has been shown to increase testosterone levels over months which, in turn, can increase libido (sex drive) it will not have immediate effects. To maintain your libido keep your body healthy through exercise, proper diet and sufficient nutrients.
What does it taste like?
Shilajit has a tar like taste and the aftertaste is similar to that of an Islay whiskey. While it is very strong and bitter in its raw form, you can take it as a pill if you are sensitive to taste or dissolve the resin in water or milk to make the taste mild. Personally, I got quite fond of it and like the savoury bitterness it has.
Does it expire?
While absolutely no studies exist on this, it can be assumed that it is not easily perishable. Shilajit is a tar like substance that has been embedded in rock for centuries, millennia or even much longer (some sources speak of millions of years). During this time it can be assumed that it was exposed to bacteria that could degrade the substance. Bacteria that can degrade Humic acid (the main component of Shilajit) do exist [Steffen 2002] in the forest but given the time frames they had, it might be assumed that most of the degradation already happened. Only very specialised bacteria or chemical reactions would make further degradation possible.
If you want to preserve Shilajit for a long time, putting it into the deep freezer will stop chemical reactions and bacteria from doing it any harm.
Does it help with erectile dysfunction?
Most sites on the Internet will agree that because of the testosterone boosting effects Shilajit can help with some forms of erectile dysfunction (the ones related to low testosterone). One study on infertile men [Park 2006] found that Shilajit will increase sperm count, motility and health. However, there is not a single scientific study on ED men that can yet prove this claim.
How do I take it ?
The dosage in most studies lies around 250-500 mg taken once or twice daily orally. An exception is a study on medical students [Sharma 2003] who were prescribed 2000mg daily. If you take Shilajit as a resin the dosage is about a pea sized scoop. If you take it in a pill form the dosage will be indicated on the package.
In rat studies, the toxicity of Shilajit was researched and deemed safe. That means in order to harm yourself you would have to take very high doses (as high as 2g per kilogram of body weight, or roughly 1g per pound). Be reasonable and follow your doctor’s advice if in doubt.
Shilajit is a safe and beneficial substance, especially for men, with proven benefits for the amount of testosterone, energy levels and many other functions.