• A particular kind of plant resin, shilajit, found primarily in high altitudes of the Himalayas, has been garnering attention for boasting a number of health and well-being benefits, earning its unofficial title as ‘nature’s viagra’ amongst wellness gurus who have lauded the substance online. 

    But what are the real health benefits associated with shilajit, how is it used, and most interestingly, how does a plant resin, protected by rocky escarpments and high altitudes come into the hands of hundreds of ‘wellness influencers’ on the internet?

    What is shilajit?

    Shilajit is formed over centuries from the slow decomposition of plants and microbial action on plant material. It’s primarily found in the Himalayas and other mountainous regions. Traditionally, it has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for its supposed rejuvenating properties.

    How is shilajit harvested?

    The collection of shilajit is a meticulous and labour-intensive process.

    It is found seeping out of rocks in high mountain ranges of the Himalayas during the warmer months.

    Local collectors climb the steep, rugged terrain to harvest the raw substance by hand – which is an extremely risky process, as they often risk their lives to collect this ‘miracle product’.

    A mini-documentary by Insider News shares the story of the tenacious Shilajit-harvesting hands:

    This raw shilajit is then processed to remove impurities and contaminants. The purification process often involves dissolving the raw material in water, filtering out debris, and then drying it to obtain the final product in a sticky resin, powder, or capsule form.

    Shilajit, the ‘miracle product’ for health and well-being

    As per Healthline, shilajit is reputed to offer a range of health benefits, from boosting cognitive function to improving heart health, and acting as nature’s aphrodisiac – one of the most popular attributes of this sticky resin.

    Shilajit may help prevent or slow Alzheimer’s

    Shilajit is believed to help prevent or slow Alzheimer’s disease. The primary component of shilajit, fulvic acid, is a powerful antioxidant that may prevent the buildup of tau protein, which can trigger brain cell damage and contribute to Alzheimer’s disease.

    Although more research is needed, initial studies suggest that shilajit shows promise in slowing the progression of this debilitating condition.

    Shilajit as ‘nature’s aphrodisiac’

    Another potential benefit of shilajit is its ability to raise testosterone levels. In a clinical study, men who took 250 mg of purified shilajit twice daily for 90 days showed significantly higher testosterone levels. This can help address issues like low sex drive, fatigue, and muscle loss.

    Shilajit as a beneficial supplement for fertility

    For men facing infertility issues, shilajit may be a beneficial supplement. A study involving 60 infertile men found that taking shilajit twice a day for 90 days significantly increased sperm count and motility, which are crucial factors in male fertility.

    Shilajit may reduce symptoms of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

    Shilajit may also reduce symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) by boosting mitochondrial function. A 2012 study involving lab rats suggested that shilajit helped reduce CFS symptoms by preventing mitochondrial dysfunction. This could potentially improve energy levels and reduce fatigue.

    Shilajit may slow ageing

    Rich in antioxidants, shilajit may protect against cellular damage and free radicals, potentially contributing to longevity and better overall health. This makes it a valuable supplement for slowing the aging process and maintaining general well-being.

    Shilajit for treatment of altitude sickness

    Altitude sickness, which can cause symptoms like hypoxia, pulmonary edema, and lethargy, might also be alleviated by shilajit. With over 84 minerals and fulvic acid, shilajit can improve immunity, memory, and energy levels, helping counteract the effects of high altitude, reports Healthline.

    Shilajit for iron deficiency

    Shilajit has shown potential in treating iron deficiency anemia. A study with rats indicated that those given shilajit had higher levels of hemoglobin, hematocrit, and red blood cells, suggesting that shilajit can increase iron levels in the blood.

    Shilajit may improve bone density in females

    A 2022 study suggests that shilajit supplements may help postmenopausal women improve bone mineral density, reducing the risk of osteoporosis and fractures.

    What are the risks of supplementing with shilajit?

    While shilajit offers numerous health benefits, it’s important to use it safely.

    Raw shilajit may contain heavy metals, free radicals, and other contaminants, so always choose purified shilajit from reputable sources.

    Some individuals may be allergic to shilajit, so it’s crucial to discontinue use if you experience rash, increased heart rate, or dizziness. Additionally, people with certain health conditions, such as sickle cell anemia, hemochromatosis, or thalassemia, should avoid using shilajit.

    While modern research supports many of its traditional uses, it’s crucial to choose high-quality products and consult with a healthcare provider before starting any new supplement.

    ALSO SEE: A registered dietitian’s tips on foods for vaginal health

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    Written by Savanna Douglas for Woman&Home.

    Feature image: Instagram / @everestshilajit