June 2024

What is Shilajit?

Get ready for questions about shilajit – a sticky substance found in the cracks of the Himalayas and other high mountain ranges of Asia. It’s an increasingly popular ingredient in supplements – here’s what you should know.

Shilajit is considered a humic substance made of a mixture of decomposed plant, animal, mineral, and microbial material. While its exact makeup varies depending on where it’s found and the temperature, crude shilajit is mainly humic and fulvic acid. Fulvic acid is believed to have antioxidant effects, which may play a role in shilajit’s suggested clinical benefits as well as its traditional use as an adaptogen in Ayurvedic medicine.

So why are consumers taking shilajit? Most shilajit supplements are promoted for boosting energy and relieving stress, similar to other adaptogens like ashwagandha. It’s also used for male infertility, sexual dysfunction, muscle strength, and a variety of other conditions. While there’s a lot of buzz about its use online, tell patients there isn’t any good clinical evidence backing these purported benefits.

As for safety, crude and unprocessed shilajit is often contaminated with heavy metals, microbial debris, and other compounds – there isn’t enough reliable information to know if crude shilajit is safe or what the side effects might be. But processed shilajit products have been used safely in doses up to 500 mg daily for up to 48 weeks. Processed shilajit is often standardized to fulvic acid content, with some clinical studies using a specific product standardized to at least 50% fulvic acid.

If patients ask about this ingredient, explain that there’s still a lot we don’t know. Plus, confirming that a product isn’t contaminated with heavy metals or harmful microbial debris may be difficult. For now, given the limited clinical evidence of benefit, tell patients it’s probably best to skip these products until we have more data.

Check out our new shilajit monograph to learn more.

The information in this brief report is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions. Copyright © 2024 NatMed. Commercial distribution or reproduction prohibited. NatMed is the leading provider of high-quality, evidence-based, clinically-relevant information on natural medicine, dietary supplements, herbs, vitamins, minerals, functional foods, diets, complementary practices, CAM modalities, exercises and medical conditions. Monograph sections include interactions with herbs, drugs, foods and labs, contraindications, depletions, dosing, toxicology, adverse effects, pregnancy and lactation data, synonyms, safety and effectiveness.