Shilajit (or Mumijo) might be one of the strangest and most beneficial substances found on the planet. Traditional Indian texts assert “There is hardly any curable disease which cannot be controlled or cured with the aid of Shilajit”. In the former Soviet Union, all research on Shilajit was classified, and it was given to Olympic athletes and soldiers as a form of natural doping.
Modern scientific analysis, although limited, paints a clear picture of a very powerful substance that helps to reduce inflammation (hsCRP ↓, MDA ↓ and GSH ↑) and to increase sperm count, testosterone levels (free/total testosterone ↑, DHEA-S↑, LH↑, FSH↑) and physical performance (coQ10↑, ATP/ADP ratio↑). Shilajit may help with cognitive disorders (tau protein) and even benefit bone density and skin quality.
While all of this may sound too good to be true, a significant body of evidence supports these claims. Shilajit’s active compounds Dibenzo-α-Pyrones and fulvic acid have powerful antioxidant properties and may function as the central mechanisms linking all of these benefits.
Here, we review all reliable (i.e. randomised, double-blind and placebo controlled) Shilajit clinical trials on humans published in the last 20 years, as well as the most promising animal studies.
Table of Contents
- What is Shilajit?
- Shilajit in Traditional Medicine
- Shilajit Benefits in Human Studies
- Shilajit benefits from animal and cell culture studies
- What are the side effects of Shilajit?
- How much Shilajit is good for me?
- How long does it take for Shilajit to work?
What is Shilajit?
Shilajit is a resin or tar-like substance collected as it oozes out of rocks in the hottest summer months. Hence its synonyms: “sweat of mountains” or “rock juice”. Shilajit rocks are found in many mountainous places of the world, most notably the Himalayas (Nepal, India, Pakistan) and Altai (Russia, Mongolia) regions, but also Chile and even Antarctica. About 60-80% of Shilajit is comprised of so called humic substances (humins, fulvic acids, and humic acids), the end products of decomposition of plant matter. Fulvic acid, in particular, has seen a lot of coverage recently, as one of Shilajit’s active ingredients.
Where does Shilajit come from?
The exact origins of Shilajit are not yet fully understood. We know Shilajit is found only in the mountainous regions of the world and that, given its composition of being a humic substance, it is likely an end product of plant decomposition (or humus). Specific plants with gum-like resin decompose under the influence of different microbes and fungi. Over the centuries, or even millennia, the decomposing plants absorb the mineral content of the surrounding rock. However, the “exact scientific proof on the origin remains incomplete” [Agarwal 2007].
Ayurveda, traditional Indian medicine, differentiates the four categories of Shilajit by the color of the rock it comes from. The differentiation is more qualitative than chemical and, for the most part, not ascertainable when you buy a Shilajit supplement.
Because Shilajit’s development depends on the surrounding rock and other environmental influences (decomposition process, time, etc.), the profile and mineral makeup of Shilajit ranges across batches. Shilajit sourced from neighboring countries can have vastly different mineral profiles [Al-Salman 2020].
What are the active ingredients?
There are three major classes of active ingredients of Shilajit: fulvic acid, dibenzo-α-pyrones (DBP or sometimes DAP) and DBP-chromoprotein (DCP, modified DBP bound to certain proteins), and minerals. While fulvic acid already comprises a huge global market of different supplements and has been well studied for its beneficial effects, the case with DBPs is more complicated.
Do not think of these substances as a single substance. These are classes consisting of innumerable, and mostly unknown, different chemical compounds, all of which share some special property. This is what makes it so difficult to exactly figure out the “active” ingredient. For example, in case of DBPs, we know that they can be toxic, but also beneficial, depending on the specific type of molecule [Aichinger 2021]. This is what makes assignments of “active ingredients” so difficult.
When DBP is given to mice their levels of coQ10 (co-enzyme Q10) increase in mitochondria, the “power plants” of cells [Bhattacharyya 2009a]. This suggests a mechanism by which DBPs directly influence the amount of energy cells have. Because the basic functionality of mitochondria within cells is consistent across all organisms, these findings (on the macro-scale) imply more stamina and a younger, stronger body.
Minerals constitute the third major class of active ingredients in Shilajit. These include magnesium, potassium and calcium, although trace elements constitute a significant portion of Shilajit as well. Minerals are both beneficial and harmful for human health. Minerals can increase iron and blood health, but they also can cause damage when contaminated by heavy metals. When purchasing Shilajit it is crucial to look for a product that has been tested for heavy metals like lead, cadmium or arsenic.
Fulvic acid is known to chelate minerals, meaning it envelops minerals, enabling the body to absorb them. In Ayurveda, the traditional Indian medicine system, Shilajit is therefore known to be yogavaha, an amplifier of other substances.
Although these active ingredients play a crucial role, it’s not necessary to understand all the biological complexities of how they operate in the body in order to impartially evaluate Shilajit’s effectiveness. A straightforward method to evaluate the efficacy of Shilajit and the role these active ingredients have on our health is to observe the effects of Shilajit in controlled trials. After all, you don’t need to fully understand the intricacies of the combustion engine to know how a car works, although there is merit in understanding the basic parts of the car.
The active ingredients of Shilajit are Dibenzo-α-pyrones, fulvic acid and a dozens of different minerals. Manufacturers will sometimes provide quantities of these substances, which is a good sign. Fulvic acid testing is especially useful. However, fulvic acid testing is often unreliable. Look for lab tests that mention a so called “LAMAR” test, since it is the best kind of tests for these tests.
Raw Shilajit or purified Shilajit?
Raw Shilajit can be dangerous for your health and must be purified thoroughly before use. This process can take a whole week to complete and some U.S. distributors of Shilajit even go so far as to patent their purification methods.
Ayurveda mentions the purification procedure in texts that are over a 1,000 years old. The basic steps are:
- Soaking the raw Shilajit “ore” in water or, more traditionally, in different Ayurvedic herbal tonics, called “Kwaths”. (All major Shilajit brands we analysed use water). Filtering the resulting liquid to remove any coarse particles.
- Concentrating the liquid to create a thick paste, by using either heat or sunlight.
Note that in the video above the Shilajit is boiled to thicken it. This is not the best way to do it, because in Ayurveda sunlight is generally suggested to thicken the Shilajit. The reason for this is that humic acids (one of the active compounds) start to break down [Kolokassidou 2007] if it is heated to more than 70°C. Boiling water exposes it to much higher temperatures (around 100°C). Therefore, modern extraction methods use an incubator and do not heat the Shilajit to more than 40°C.
Shilajit in Traditional Medicine
Traditional medicine has known Shilajit for aeons. Claims range from 1,000 and 5,000 years. The true length of time that Shilajit has been in use is impossible to ascertain because folk medicine is transmitted orally. For all we know, hunter-gatherers could have discovered the substance much earlier than this.
One of the oldest recorded texts we have are the surviving Ayurvedic texts. One of the most venerated texts on Ayurveda is the Charaka Samhita, allegedly written some time around the birth of Christ, mentions Shilajit. In the 6th century, the Ashtanga Hridayam (AH, a more modern book on Ayurveda) mentions the different purification methods of Shilajit, still in use today. Purification is a critical step to ensure safety. The last of the three most important texts mentioning Shilajit is the Sushruta Samhita (SS) that dates somewhere to the 12th century.
Shilajit was understood to be so powerful that it was said to cure any ailment, even death and old age. The Sanskrit term for this is rasayana, meaning rejuvenator. The traditional uses of Shilajit in Ayurveda according to [Mirza 2010] are very varied:
|Gut||Disorders of poor digestive activities||AH|
|Enlargement of the abdomen||AH|
|Urinary||Dysuria (painful urination)||AH|
|Gravel or stones in the bladder||SS|
|Tuberculosis of the neck||AH|
|Neurological||Loss of consciousness||AH|
Modern science supports the notion that a very wide range of ailments are tied to the mechanisms of inflammation and imbalances. The active compounds of Shilajit work on exactly these pathways: anti-inflammation and anti-oxidation. Therefore, it is not a surprise that the uses are so varied.
Shilajit has been known for almost as long as human civilization has existed, and throughout various cultures. The Indian system of Ayurveda is one of the few transmitted in writing and mentions Shilajit’s use for more than 2,000 years, with an increasing number of applications over the centuries. It is probable that the substance was known even longer, although this can’t be determined without written record.
The Four Types of Ayurvedic Shilajit
In Ayurveda, four types of Shilajit are identified: Gold, Silver, Copper and Iron [Velmurugan 2010]. They differ by the color of the rock they are found in. Chemically this changes the amount of mineral compounds found in the substance.
Most sources mention that it is close to impossible to find the Gold or “Svarna” type of Shilajit, let alone supply it with any consistency to the market. Some clever marketers already abuse this for their purposes. Almost every Shilajit has “gold standard” or, in some cases, is even laced with actual gold to make the product more appealing and costly.
There are two key reasons that the “gold standard” marketing tactic may be disregarded. Firstly, the known active compounds of Shilajit are its organic compounds (fulvic acid and dibenzo-α-pyrones or DBPs), the effect of specific minerals is not well understood. Secondly, all studies to date use “iron” Shilajit via capsules produced by a company called Natreon. These studies show that the “iron” Shilajit is effective. Moreover, one study specifically mentions that the iron variety is considered to be the best for therapeutic purposes [Velmurugan 2010], presumably due to its iron content that has positive effects on blood oxygen levels and helps to fight fatigue and anemia.
While Ayurveda understands that there are four types of Shilajit, modern science rarely makes this distinction. As long as the Shilajit is properly purified and third party lab tested for heavy metal contamination, any brand or type may be used.
Shilajit Benefits in Human Studies
Shilajit has many benefits, but only a few reliable studies have been conducted on humans to ascertain its effects. For a study to be reliable it needs to be as free from bias as possible. That is why in randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled studies the participants are randomly divided into groups. Each group receives a different dose of the medicine, while one receives a placebo. The study is then conducted without the researchers or the subjects knowing who is in which group. hence double-blind.
We review five human studies conducted under these conditions. This is, so to speak, the gold standard of scientific knowledge. While studies usually need to be repeated a few times to rule out any other factors, the results of these studies already strongly indicate of the compelling benefits of Shilajit for men and women.
Shilajit increases testosterone
Shilajit increased testosterone, DHEA-S (precursor to testosterone), levels when given orally for 90 days at 250mg per day. One study was conducted on males aged 45-55, all of whom reported having lowered sex drive, lack of energy, had weaker erections or a general loss of strength. The 75 participants showed significant improvements of free testosterone and total testosterone, while maintaining the hormones LH (luteinizing hormone) and FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone).
The following graphs show the results of the study for two groups. The first one received a placebo while the other received 250mg of Shilajit daily for 90 days (error bars are omitted for clarity).
The stark difference before treatment between the Shilajit-treated and placebo-treated groups is because testosterone levels among individuals vary, so the averages among groups may not be consistent. With a large enough number of participants, the before-treatment measures would be more consistent between each group. The most important aspect here is to note the difference in measures before and after the treatment. The increase in all free testosterone, DHEA-S, and total testosterone was determined to be statistically significant. Statistical significance is a mathematical measures to ensure that the increases were not just the product of chance.
Shilajit given to 45-55 year old men for 3 months at a dose of 250mg / day increased their total testosterone (appx. +20%), free testosterone (appx. +20%) and DHEA-S (appx. +30%, precursor to testosterone) in a statistically significant manner [Pandit 2015].
Shilajit increases fertility
In a study from 2010, 60 infertile men where given 200mg of Shilajit a day for 90 days. They significantly and substantially increased sperm count, motility and testosterone levels [Biswas 2010]. Additionally, the study also measured different properties of blood, hormones and oxidative stress, with very positive and significant outcomes for most.
In about 60% of couples the male or both partners are the reason for infertility [Biswas 2010]. Thus, the benefits of improving health and increasing sperm count and motility is clear. Testosterone stimulates the production of sperm, so it is no surprise to see that the total testosterone of men in this study increases substantially as well. The other values in this graph are:
- Haemoglobin: Iron containing molecule responsible for the oxygen transport in the blood. It is known that Shilajit can cause a healthy increase of iron in the blood [Velmurugan 2010]. Therefore, an increase here indicates an alleviation of fatigue and enhanced endurance.
- MDA or Malondialdehyde: A marker for inflammation in the body. The lower this value is, the better. MDA content was determined in the sperm, and its decrease further indicates better sperm health.
- White Blood Cell Count: WBC usually needs to lie in a specific range to be considered healthy. In this study, the slight increase was well within the range and indicates a healthy immune system.
60 infertile that men were given 200mg of Shilajit daily over the course of 3 months. Their sperm count (approx. +37%), sperm motility (approx. +12%), and sperm shape/health (approx. +18%) increased significantly. In addition testosterone rose and markers of inflammation fell. [Biswas 2010]
Shilajit for muscle strength and recovery
Shilajit may make your muscles more resistant to fatigue, as well as protect connective tissues (tendons and ligaments). A study in 2019 at the University of Nebraska took 60 healthy men in their early 20s and assigned three different supplements for 8 weeks: either 500mg of Shilajit , 250mg or none (i.e. placebo) [Keller 2019].
To measure muscle strengths, scientists often use the “Maximal Voluntary Isometric Contaction” or MVIC test and the “Concentric Peak Torque” (CPT). Simply put, the participants push a leg press as hard as they can and the maximum strength is recorded.
The test is done before and after participants are subjected to a small workout. This is by design, because post-exercise the participants are tired, so their maximum strength as evaluated by the test will decline. This study revealed that supplementing with Shilajit can make this decrease in strength less pronounced. In layman’s terms, you gain endurance.
To measure muscle recovery the scientist did a blood test on the subjects and measured serum hydroxyproline (HYP). HYP is a major component of your muscle protein (collagen) and is used as an indicator of damage in connective tissues that naturally occurs after high intensity exercise. Lower HYP levels are better. The decrease in HYP in the illustration above indicates healthier and more resilient ligaments and tendons for the groups which took Shilajit supplements.
These results clearly indicate that Shilajit supplementation allows you to retain more strength after exercise and take less damage to muscles and connective tissues. However, the authors of this study are uncertain what biological mechanisms are responsible for these benefits. They suspect that the increase in testosterone (that has already been observed a few years earlier) may be responsible.
Supplementation of Shilajit at 500mg per day in young men significantly increased their strength retention after exercise and decreased a marker for tissue damage [Keller 2019].
Shilajit for bone density and osteopenia
One of the newest clinical studies on Shilajit was conducted on 60 postmenopausal women (45-65 years old) with osteopenia (a loss of bone mineral density). Shilajit supplementation, 500mg daily, increased bone mineral density over 48 weeks [Pingali 2022]. The following graphs show how the bone density in the neck and the lower spine changed after 24 and 48 weeks, in comparison to the first day of study. For both, taking more Shilajit decreased the density more, and the effects became more pronounced over time.
What is interesting here is that the dosage of Shilajit was highly important. While 250mg per day was enough to produce effects, the 500mg dosage had much greater improvements.
The researchers speculate that the most likely explanation for these improvements is Shilajit’s ability to fight inflammation and reduce oxidative stress. Osteopenia can be a precursor to the more common osteoporosis and is, in part, mediated by oxidative stress and inflammation.
A study on 60 post-menopausal women aged 45-65 suffering from bone mineral density loss (osteopenia), has shown that at a dose of 500mg a day over 48 weeks bone density increased in neck (+4.75%) and lower spine (+3.8%). In the same time the control group (who received no shilajit) suffered further losses in bone density by -2.6% in the neck and -4.2% in the spine respectively [Pingali 2022].
Shilajit as an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant
From human, animal and chemical studies it is known that Shilajit and its two main active components fulvic acid and dibenzo-α-pyrones (DBP) have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties [Carrasco-Gallardo 2012, Stohs 2013].
In order to assess inflammation or oxidative stress in humans, scientist measure different markers in the blood. However, most studies are conducted on animals, not humans. A very promising and recent study on 60 postmenopausal women who took either 250mg or 500mg Shilajit (or placebo) demonstrated the strong in vivo anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties of Shilajit. All the following measures improved: inflammation markers Malondialdehyde (MDA, less is good), Glutathione (GSH, more is good), Nitric Oxide (NO, less is good), and high sensitivity C Reactive Protein (hsCRP, less is good). Keep in mind, hsCRP is a very common measure to evaluate health and you may likely find it on your own bloodwork.
Note how the different markers increase or decrease in a dose dependent manner. That is, a higher dose of 500mg/day is generally more beneficial than a lower dose. However, this does not mean that more is always better. As a rule of thumb, do not take more than the doses that were deemed safe in studies. To our knowledge, a dose of 2000mg/day is the highest dose ever given in a study [Sharma 2003].
Shilajit has powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity which was observed in 60 post-menopausal women aged 45-65 after supplementation of 250-500mg of Shilajit daily for 48 weeks. They experienced a substantial and significant improvement in their inflammation markers Malondialdehyde(MDA), Glutathione(GSH), Nitric Oxide(NO) and high sensitivity C Reactive Protein (hsCRP). [Pingali 2022]
Shilajit lowers cholesterol
In one of the oldest clinical studies on Shilajit [Sharma 2003] 30 medical students aged 16 – 30 years received 2000mg a day of Shilajit for 45 days and showed significant decrease in serum triglycerides and cholesterol (the “bad kind” of cholesterol) with a simultaneous increase in HDL cholesterol (the “good kind” of cholesterol). Beyond this, the antioxidant status of the participants increased and no adverse side effects were recorded.
A cohort of 30 students aged 16-30 received a high dose of 2000mg Shilajit daily for 45 days. The students had significant and substantial improvements in their cholesterol levels: the “good kind”, or HDL, cholesterol (↑ 6%), the “bad kind”, or LDL, cholesterol (↓30%), total cholesterol (↓16%) and triglycerides (↓26%).
Shilajit for healthier skin
Shilajit has been shown to increase blood flow in the skin, also known as skin perfusion. The decrease of blood flow is what accompanies other factors of skin age, such as dryness, thinning and loss of elasticity. In general, this not only allows for a better appearance (rosy cheeks!), but also enhances wound healing [Pan 2018]. This fact has been long-understood in traditional Ayurvedic medicine, because Shilajit is a prescribed as a remedy for ulcers of all kinds.
In a 14 week study of healthy women (aged 30-65) the effects of 250 – 500 mg of Shilajit daily were demonstrated to increase blood flow and also activate certain genes related to collagen and the extra cellular matrix, both factors for less wrinkles [Das 2019]. While the authors did not report an increase in elasticity or moisture of the skin, they note that this study is the first evidence that Shilajit may be beneficial for the overall health of the skin.
Shilajit at a typical clinical dose of 250-500mg daily improved blood flow to the skin and activated genes responsible for collagen metabolism and the stability of the extra cellular matrix. The results suggest that Shilajit might be beneficial for skin health. [Das 2019]
Is Shilajit an anti-aging substance?
While there are no anti-aging studies in humans for shilajit, nor for most other substances, we do understand the one key factor most strongly correlated with aging: inflammation (details in this article). There are many ways how we can measure inflammation in the body, mostly through “high sensitivity C reactive protein” (hsCRP, low is good), that you can commonly find on your blood work. More niche measurements include the level of Malondialdehyde (MDA, low is good), a measure of oxidative stress in the cells, reduced Glutathione (GSH, high is good) an anti-oxidant that neutralizes free radicals and thus lowers oxidative stress, and Nitric Oxide (NO, high is good), another scavenger of free radicals.
Since Shilajit demonstrably positively improves these markers, one can attribute anti-aging properties to it. However, keep in mind that correlation does not mean causation! Even if aging leads to inflammation and inflammation leads to oxidative damage, reducing oxidative damage does not necessarily slow down aging. It may just remove the oxidative damage symptom, without changing the cause. We just don’t yet know.
We don’t yet understand what biochemical mechanisms Shilajit uses to induce its effects, nor what exactly causes aging. The only thing we can safely say is that Shilajit will probably make you healthier, by reducing inflammatory symptoms and perhaps even the causes of inflammation itself.
Shilajit benefits from animal and cell culture studies
While human studies, of course, have the last word about any clinical research, animal studies can indicate what other benefits or side effects a substance might have. Toxicity studies can only be performed on animals (as controversial as they are).
Why is it important how the study is conducted: human, animal or cell culture
Rats, mice and rabbits have a very similar biology to us. They have the same organs and, more importantly, related biochemistry inside their cells. If we find out that Shilajit has anti-oxidant effects in rats, we might reason that it is may likely have similar effects in humans. However, this is not guaranteed, and we need human studies to verify these claims.
Cell culture studies have their own drawbacks. These usually involve mutated human or animal cells that are grown in a dish and are then exposed to the substance under scrutiny to evaluate its effects. Cell studies are limited because they disregard how the substance got to the cell. For example, consider studies using brain cells. There, a the cell is directly exposed to the substance. In reality, a substance is first taken orally, and then needs to be absorbed through the gut into the blood and then transported through the blood brain barrier into the brain. Many substances can’t do this, so cell culture studies are only part of the story. Nonetheless, these studies are useful initial investigations and are generally often the cheapest experiments to make.
Shilajit may increase energy and endurance and fight fatigue
Energy in our cells is produced by mitochondria, small cellular components that are shared among all living organisms (except bacteria). Sitting directly on the membrane of mitochondria is coQ10, a key substances which facilitates energy transport and generation. Practically speaking, the more coQ10 activity, the more energy you have. It’s for this reason that dozens of coQ10 supplements are available on the the market.
Dibenzo-α-pyrones (DTP) is an active ingredient of Shilajit and, if given to mice, increases precisely the activity and amount of coQ10 [Bhattacharyya 2009b]. In a follow-up study the authors gave pure Shilajit in combination with coQ10 and observed a 2.44x increase in muscle energy levels in mice. Muscle energy levels refers to the amount of ATP, the “energy currency” found in the muscle.
DTPs have a key advantage over coQ10. The latter, because they are large molecules, are not readily absorbed into the cells. DTPs, on the other hand, are many times smaller. Their size may help explain the beneficial effect of oral Shilajit supplementation.
In rats, Shilajit has been shown to increase the activity of coQ10 and the level of energy (ATP) in muscle cells [Bhattacharyya 2009a]. Taking Shilajit in conjunction with coQ10 may enhance its effects or improve bioavailability.
Shilajit may help with Alzheimers
Fulvic acid one of Shilajit’s main ingredients has been found to prevent the aggregation of so called tau proteins in the brain. Tau proteins are one of the building blocks of the harmful Amyloid-β plaques that form with the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. For this reason, Shilajit may be beneficial in the prevention or even treatment of Alzheimer’s. [Cornejo 2011]
Shilajit may help keep your DNA healthy
DNA, the storage of our genes, can be damaged and, just like an old record, accumulates errors over time. One common type of damage occurs when reactive molecules, called reactive oxygen species (ROC), interact with the DNA and change it. An antioxidant is the solution because it removes ROS and thus protects the RNA. The antioxidant activity of Shilajit has been established in various studies, so it’s not surprising that it also helps protect DNA through the same mechanism.
One study examined this on zebra fish, who were given Shilajit for 60 days and afterwards shocked with a big dose of radiation [Musthafa 2017]. The scientists measured the amount of damage the DNA accumulated and the activity of various antioxidant substances, as well as changes in behavior. Unexpected, the researchers found that the medium dose offered the best protection against DNA damage/radiation, even more so than the highest dose. More research is necessary to understand why this is the case and what the exact mechanisms are.
A medium dose of Shilajit has been shown to decrease DNA damage and reduced the effects of radiation on zebra fish. The antioxidant activity is the suspected mechanism. [Musthafa 2017]
Shilajit may help diabetics
Scientist were able to potentiate insulin and attenuate diabetes in rats by using Shilajit in a moderate dose. Two studies from the 1990s [Kanikkannan 1995, Bhattacharaya 1995] worked with a toxin “streptozotocin” that disabled the insulin-producing cells. However, these rats had induced diabetes, not naturally-occurring diabetes. So, its unclear if the mechanisms by which Shilajit worked would apply equally well to natural cases of diabetes.
The literature that links diabetes to oxidative damage of organs and tissues is vast. It can therefore be assumed that, yet again, Shilajit’s powerful antioxidant activities are responsible for its positive impact in diabetic rats, where it increased the potency of insulin.
Shilajit may help with anemia
Anemia for humans can manifest as weakness or fatigue and can be caused by something as common as a period or iron deficiency. In one study, anemic rats (those with a deficiency of red blood cells) were able to increase their hemoglobin and red blood cell count from taking Shilajit [Velmurugan 2010]. Since Shilajit contains iron, this may explain its ability to treat this condition.
On the other hand, too much iron can also have adverse health effects, because it aggregates in different organs (especially heart and liver) and slowly becomes toxic. This is the case for some people suffering from hemochromatosis, sickle cell disease, thalassemia, and heart disease, who commonly die from excess iron.
To ensure Shilajit doesn’t increase iron to dangerous levels, a follow-up study was conducted by the same scientists on rats. Even at extremely high doses (5000mg/kg of body weight) Shilajit remained safe and did not lead to significants concentrations of iron in the main organs. [Velmurugan 2012]
The result suggests that black Shilajit, in the Ayurvedic formulation, is safe for long term use as a dietary supplement for a number of disorders, like iron deficiency anemia.Conclusion by Velmurugan 2012
Although these findings suggest that Shilajit won’t induce iron toxicity, it is still inadvisable for people suffering from ailments relating to high iron (ferritin) to take Shilajit.
Shilajit has been shown to increase the levels of iron and hemoglobin in the blood of rats with red blood cell deficiency (a deficiency often cause by a lack of iron, genetically or through loss of blood). High doses of Shilajit also did not induce toxicity in rats. [Velmurugan 2012] Because Shilajit interacts with the iron system in the blood, it is suggested to use caution if one suffers from any related conditions.
Shilajit may help induce ovulation
While Shilajit is well known to increase testosterone and fertility in males, few have asked about the benefits for the reproductive systems of females. We suspect that Shilajit works not by directly increasing testosterone, but rather by affecting the hormones LH (luteinising hormone) and FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone). These hormones are present in both sexes but have different effects. They increase testosterone production in men, and the production of eggs in the ovaries for women.
One study investigated this question by supplementing female rats with Shilajit for 6 weeks [Park 2006]. Whereas the typical menstrual cycle for a woman is 30 days, or 4 weeks, the cycle for rats is much faster. Rats go through a menstruation cycle every 4-5 days, about 5 time faster than humans.
[…] there were seven rats in estrus stage (stage when the female is “fertile”) over the 5 days in the 100 mg dose group, which is two to three times higher that of the control group. Therefore, it was presumed that Shilajit promoted the proliferation and differentiation of oocytes, and appeared to shorten the diestrus stage and increase the ovulation frequency.From Park 2006
In a study on female rats, Shilajit increased the number of fertile rats 2-3x fold after 6 weeks of supplementation. [Park 2006]
What are the side effects of Shilajit?
While purified Shilajit is usually fairly safe, raw Shilajit can be very problematic, as it may be contaminated with toxins, heavy metals or polymeric quinones, all of which may increase oxidative damage [Bolton 2000]. The rule of thumb is simple: never buy raw Shilajit.
Oftentimes, products labeled as “raw” are associated with more health benefits. In the case of Shilajit you want quite the opposite. Purified & processed Shilajit is strongly preferred over raw. In traditional Ayurvedic literature, purification of Shilajit is mentioned as far back as the 7th century.
Shilajit may contain traces of phenylalanine, which in some people causes allergic reaction. This allergy is caused by a genetic condition called phenylketonuria. However, this condition is rare and phenylalanine is relatively common in many foods.
People suffering from hemochromatosis, sickle cell disease, thalassemia, or heart disease commonly die from too much iron (or ferritin) in their organs. Shilajit is known to increase iron in the blood which may aggravate these conditions [Velmurugan 2012]. While no toxic increases of iron in vital organs of studied rats was ever found, even under extremely high doses of Shilajit, you should consult your doctor if you suffer from any of these diseases and wish to take Shilajit for its various other benefits.
Given that Shilajit has a long and prominent history in Ayurveda as a potent remedy, we have no reason to believe that there are severe side effects. Studies on Shilajit generally agree on this. [Stohs 2013, Carrasco-Gallardo 2012]
Purified Shilajit is a safe substance. The biggest danger comes from improperly purified products that might be contaminated with heavy metals or other toxins. Always look for third-party lab reports evaluating heavy metals and toxins. Be careful with Shilajit if you suffer from any iron-related diseases like sickle cell disease, thalassemia or hemochromatosis. An overabundance of iron can be toxic to the human body. Avoid Shilajit if you have a phenylalanine allergy.
Long-term consequences of Shilajit use
Unfortunately, no data exists for continuous Shilajit use. The longest study ever conducted prescribed Shilajit for 48 weeks. There, the anti-inflammatory benefits were evident after 24 weeks and increased further after 48. What happens beyond that, we don’t yet know.
These effects could dwindle quickly or slowly, or the body responds with addiction/habituation. We simply do not know.
Is Shilajit addictive?
We don’t know. Each study on Shilajit evaluates participants before and after supplementation, but none of them investigate what happens after supplementation ends and some time passes. If you want to be a on the safe side, limit your use of Shilajit to 12 weeks (a typical study duration). Consider resuming again after a pause in supplementation.
Is Shilajit safe during pregnancy and breastfeeding?
There are absolutely no studies on pregnant women. However, one study on pregnant rats found no negative effects on embryos [Stohs 2013]. This does not mean that Shilajit is safe for pregnant women. While rats and humans are biologically very similar, we cannot definitively conclude human safety from observations on rats. Secondly, it is important to understand that not many studies on the safety of Shilajit exist at all. It is recommended to talk to your doctor. Out of an abundance of caution, avoid taking Shilajit while breastfeeding or pregnant.
We don’t yet have the evidence to know if Shilajit is safe for pregnancy or breastfeeding. There is only one evaluation of safety for this group, on pregnant female rats. Consult a physician if you want to take Shilajit while pregnant or breastfeeding.
If Shilajit increases testosterone, is it safe for women?
Only one study was conducted specifically on post-menopausal women and it unfortunately did not measure any testosterone markers. However, in rats with ovulation problems, Shilajit induced ovulation [Park 2006]. The researchers concluded that Shilajit may decrease the diestrus period (that is the time the female cannot get pregnant during a cycle).
One theory is that Shilajit effects the testosterone through the brain by increasing the secretion of LH (luteinizing hormone) and FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone) in the pituitary gland [Pandit 2015]. In males, FSH will stimulate the production of sperm and testosterone, while in females FSH is responsible for stimulating the ovaries to produce eggs.
So, Shilajit may not directly boost testosterone, but rather influence a process “upstream” of it, that is shared by men and women, making it a supplement suitable for both sexes. Shilajit may thus increase fertility regardless of sex.
Furthermore shilajit has been shown to alleviate symptoms of anemia (lack of red blood cells) which may occur as a consequence of period bleeding, and may serve as an additional benefit for women.
Yes, Shilajit is safe for women and even beneficial. It does not increase testosterone directly, but rather up-regulates other hormones that provide benefits for both sexes.
How much Shilajit is good for me?
According to the research, about 500mg for an adult is an effective and safe dose.
Most studies are carried out on 250-500mg daily of purified Shilajit powder in capsules. One older study from India gave 2000mg per day and found no adverse effects to blood pressure, pulse rate, body weight or blood work [Sharma 2003].
From studies in rats and rabbits we know that 200-1000mg per kilogram of body weight are safe. Doses over 2000mg per kg of body weight are lethal for about 50% of tested animals [Pandit 2015].
While “per kg of body weight” numbers differ from species to species they do not differ by orders of magnitude. For the typical person, these numbers would translate to eating whole jars of Shilajit at once. Given its questionable taste, you probably won’t want to do this anyways.
Generally, daily doses of 250-500mg are successfully used in studies. In one study, a high dose of 2000mg is given. None of the doses are anywhere near the toxicity limit established in animals and studies usually see dose-dependent improvements to health (higher dose is better). However, some animal studies [Kanikkannan 1995] [Musthafa 2017] display better effects at a moderate dose.
How long does it take for Shilajit to work?
In most studies, significant effects are measured after 90 days. Therefore we can say that it takes at most 90 days to gain the benefits we know of, while other benefits may “kick in” even faster. The longest study conducted was over the course of 48 weeks and showed significant benefits for bone density of post-menopausal women after 24 weeks, at doses of 500mg per day.
In product reviews and all over the internet you will find people reporting that they immediately feel the effect of Shilajit. While this may or may not be true, we have no clear evidence that biochemically Shilajit has immediate effects. These immediate influences may be due to the placebo effect in these cases, but even the placebo effect is in and of itself a powerful method to change the body’s biochemistry. Comment below to share your experience.
Studies show effects usually after a few months of use. It is not known when the benefits first start showing up. In progressive diseases like bone density loss, the effects of Shilajit positively accumulate over the course of many months. Nothing about benefits or side effects of long term use ( >6 months) of Shilajit is described in the literature.