The first time I came across Shilajit and saw it in its full glory was when my Kashmiri friend had moved to Mumbai and introduced it to me! His mum had packed a big rock of shiny Shilajit for her son's overall well being and health - they had an ancient way of preparing it and consuming it. This was back in 2013 when I first found out about this naturally occurring herbomineral drug found in the pristine Himalayan mountains.
I came back home and asked my mom, may I take Shilajit for my well-being? She laughed and said it's to enhance men's fertility and testosterone. I left it at that because that is not what I was looking for and wondered if that is why my Kashmiri friend carried it with him; to conquer the women of Mumbai? As Shilajit translates to “conqueror of mountains”
Never thought about Shilajit again until December 2020; when my maternal grandfather who is also an excellent doctor (the first batch of physicians from Banaras Hindu University) for the last 60 years mentioned it. I was intrigued yet again and asked him if the uses are only for men's health. To my surprise he said; that’s what people feel because it improves sperm count and sexual stamina. Hence termed as an ayurvedic sex drug. But there are various other uses of Shilajit in Ayurveda. He said if one actually wants to know what a beautiful gift Shilajit is, they must read books such as Charak Samhita and Susruta Samhita (which my grandfather has). I clearly do not have the patience for translation, as these books are very old, and written in Sanskrit. Being a true blue millennial, Sanskrit is the last thing I want to indulge in, and feel incompetent for not knowing our sacred language.
So I dug deeper in my own way to find correct information, and I was appalled at the benefits and uses our very own Mr.Shilajit brings to the table!
What is Shilajit and where is this Elixir of life found?
Shilajit is a pale brown to a blackish brown shiny rock consisting of clean gum/resin and organic plant materials compressed under layers of rock over centuries. It contains the following minerals, metals, and metabolites in their natural forms:
Copper, Silver, Zinc, Iron
Humic Acid, fulvic acid, amino acids
There are 84 nutrients found in Shilajit, out of which Fulvic acid is considered as the main ingredient.
It is found in the lower Himalayan altitudes between May to July at 1000 - 5000 meters in states of Uttrakhand, Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, and Arunachal Pradesh. It is also found in some parts of Bhutan, Nepal, China, Tibet, and Afghanistan.
Uses & BenefitsOne of the most interesting uses of Shilajit I found was, for treating high altitude sickness for the common man or soldiers ascending from lower altitude to higher altitudes in the Himalayan region of India. A range of problems arises from low atmospheric pressure such as acute mountain sickness, insomnia, tiredness, pulmonary edema, lack of appetite, lethargy, and body pain. Shilajit is consumed to overcome such issues in these areas. Maybe, mother nature made it available in the region because she knew her earthlings would need this herb to overcome her harsh environment.
On further research, I found tremendous scientific information on the uses and benefits of Shilajit, some in proper controlled studies and some in passing down of ancient traditional knowledge (for which no actual research is required because the biggest proof is generations of north Indian families, sherpas consuming it and living a good, happy and healthy life with minimal medical intervention)
The following are a list of diseases that Shilajit helps manage, cure or even prevent in some cases:
- Alzheimer's Disease: It helps slow down the onset of the disease, and prevents too as per studies in some cases.
- Gastrointestinal Issues: It helps in the proper absorption & digestion of food maintaining a balanced state of the GI tract.
- Weakness & Muscular Degradation: Helps in energy production by traveling in deep tissues of our body, used in healing fractures and reducing recovery time for injured muscles
- Stress: It is blessed with tremendous benefits to overcome, physical and mental stress
- Infertility: Helps both men and women increase their vitality and sexual vigor. There are proven studies of an increase in sperm count of men who consumed shilajit on a daily basis post-diagnosis of low sperm count and motility.
In addition to the ones mentioned above, it helps support the human body in the following ways:
- Maintains cardiac health, and is anti-inflammatory (which prevent a lot of diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, cancers)
- Helps maintain a healthy urinary tract and prevent UTIs
- Manage Diabetes, even reverse at times (if followed with a proper lifestyle)
- Anemia and improving blood quality
How can one consume it?
Shilajit needs to be purified and cannot be consumed directly as it may have impurities such as dirt, soil, and fungus along. Because it is one of the most important minerals in Ayurveda, proper care and steps need to be taken to purify this gift of life. Sodhana aka purification is carried out using ghee or Triphala decoction to rid of impurities and increase the efficacy as well.
The easiest way to consume this is via a certified Ayurvedic practitioner who will know in what quantities, for how long, and method of consumption will suit you depending on your body’s doshas. One can read more on it here https://www.theauric.com/blogs/news/ayurveda-dosha-analysis
There are various brands out there selling Shilajit to be mixed with lukewarm water or milk and consumed daily before meals or after meals as suggested by your ayurvedic physician. It is a very potent mineral and mostly safe to consume unless done in large quantities based on self-diagnosis and lack of proper guidance.
Initially your ayurvedic physician may suggest you consume it on a daily basis and then reduce the frequency. One must be aware as to why they are consuming Shilajit and watch the magic unfold! Do not consume without purifying and in large quantities, it may lead to unpleasant side effects like all things found in nature such as allergic reaction, dizziness or increased heart rate. Consume it if you need to maintain a bodily balance, not for your greed.
Authored by: Padmaja Rai
About the Author: Padmaja is a healthcare consultant and avid fitness enthusiast. She holds a masters' in bio-innovation and rare diseases from University of Pennsylvania. She is a firm believer in ancient Indian holistic healing.