It was one of the more unpleasant beginnings to a conversation; I don’t know how else to describe it. One of LA’s CrossFit heros was visiting our box and he unpacked a small jar of what was essentially a noxious black tar goop: Shilajit. Now I was familiar with Shilajit in a more refined “capsule” form, I had never seen it in its raw state. I was well-aware of its potent mineral content and its reported ability to restore strength, energy, vitality, libido and pay your mortgage. Now anyone who knows me knows that I am willing to try just about anything health related if there is some legitimacy to the science behind it. So back to the black tarry goo; when I popped a small amount in my mouth I instantly recoiled in horror as if I had just consumed a toxic glob of molten asphalt. Oh, funny enough, another name for Shilajit is asphaltum. LOL. So let’s take a closer look at Shilajit and explore its native habitat, its history and whether or not it’s a supplement that merits a spot on our shelves.
For thousands of years decaying plant material has been oozing from the tallest mountains in the Himalayas. About 40 million years ago when the continents were sliding and colliding, something amazing happened and forests and plants were literally trapped and crushed beneath these tectonic shifts. It is the decaying black tarry biomass from mama earth herself that has been oozing from the Himalayas for thousands of years. Yep, that’s Shilajit. The story goes that a group of incredibly virile monkeys were observed by the early inhabitants of said mountains and they wondered why these monkeys were so active and libido-laden. Yeah, you guessed it; the monkeys loved to lick the shilajit straight from the source. Think salt-lick for high flying monkeys. So while these monkeys were getting super-charged from this mountainous oily hash, the yogis, monks and nomads figured if it’s good for them, why not give it a shot? The rest is history. Out of 2,000 herbs, Shilajit holds top billing in the Materia medica as a panacea in Ayurvedic medicine, India’s oldest system of health and wellness. It is reported to be the cure-all for just about anything and everything, but it’s main application is for libido, strength and anti-aging.
Dr. John Douillard is an Ayurvedic doctor whose work I have followed for some time; he has a western spin on the Indian system. His take on shilajit is that indeed it does have benefits but it needs to be balanced with a few other “herbs” in order to work well as a tonic for our bodies. To maximize the benefits, his formula of Shilajit contains Ashwaganda and Amalaki, two other powerful herbs used in Ayurveda. Interesting concept. Check out his page here for his formula. The reason I’m citing his page is because he provides a nice breakdown of the health benefits, but also because he provides a list of articles from pubmed etc, that provides a little grounding on the research that has been done on Shilajit which is quite extensive.
My suggestion is this: if you’re interested in giving Shilajit a try, it’s probably better to avoid the noxious black tar “raw” form unless you have a super high threshold for awful oral experiences. Final word: I’m not recommending this herb but I think that Shilajit does deserve a place on the supplement shelf. You may want to give it a try. See if it doesn’t provide a little boost in your energy; report back if you give it a shot. And as always, check with your health care provider before adding anything in to your regimen.