According to the Ayurvedic Plant Materia Medica, which details over 2000 plants, shilajit was the only substance predicted to address all doshic (vata, pitta or kapha) imbalances.
Known for boosting the energy of Himalayan mountain climbers and a favorite snack for the Sherpas, scientifically, shilajit has arrived!
In a thin layer of the earth called the rhizosphere, where living roots interact with microbes and the rocky core of the earth itself, a biomass is formed. Every spring and summer, this biomass thought to be millions of years old literally exudes out of the rocky crevices. This natural black tar-like exudate is called shilajit. (3)
Considered somewhat of a panacea in ancient times, shilajit has recently grabbed the attention of scientists. Shilajit has been labeled an adaptogen, which is a substance that helps the body adapt to both internal and external stressors. (1,2,3)
This helps explain why shilajit is renowned for boosting energy, combating fatigue, fighting stress and helping people feel revitalized.
How Does Shilajit Work?
Shilajit works by enhancing the natural production of the body’s primary energy source – adenosine triphosphate, commonly known as ATP. (4) ATP is manufactured in the mitochondria where food is converted into energy.
ATP delivers about 95% of the cellular energy that fuels the lion’s share of the body’s energy needs. It is involved in almost every one of the body’s physiological functions.
Unfortunately, as a result of stress, chemical toxicity and oxidative damage, mitochondrial production of ATP declines with age.
Studies have linked longevity to the amount of ATP produced as you age. Studies have shown that shilajit can boost ATP production, keeping the mitochondria healthy throughout the aging process. (4,5)
The secret ingredients that make shilajit such a powerful agent for ATP production are the naturally-occurring fulvic and humic acids. These are natural compounds found in soil that convert the minerals from the earth into bio-available nutrients for the plant, and then us!
Specifically, fulvic acids stimulate the transfer of energy in the mitochondria, making the energy production of ATP in the mitochondria more efficient. (3,6)
Humic acids, on the other hand, speed up the transfer of electrons along the electron transport chain, in turn boosting energy production. (7)
Both of these natural acids feed the mitochondria with the fuel it needs to continually deliver ATP and ward off the oxidative stressors linked to aging.
Shilajit and the Brain
One of the most important neurotransmitters for healthy brain function, memory and cognitive longevity is called acetylcholine. This neurotransmitter is commonly deficient in patients with age-related cognitive decline.
Studies show that shilajit boosts levels of acetylcholine in the brain by reducing levels of the enzymes that break it down. (8)
In aging brains, a build-up of proteins within brain cells and the CSF fluid is typically found.
Lab studies have found that the fulvic acids can inhibit the build-up of those proteins within brain cells, supporting the body’s natural ability to untangle their aggregates. (9)
This may be the mechanism behind findings that suggest shilajit will support a healthy blood-brain barrier, and help the brain drain and detox through the brain lymphatics. (16)
Shilajit has also shown to boost parasympathetic activity and decrease the fight-or-flight sympathetic stress which, in excess, is a major degenerative force in the body.
In one study, healthy rodents who were given shilajit saw a significant boost in parasympathetic activity that resulted in lower blood pressure, heart and breath rates. Increased parasympathetic activity is also intimately linked to more efficient digestion! (10,11)
Shilajit and CoQ10
CoQ10 is a naturally-occurring antioxidant in the body that is essential for mitochondrial function and the electron transport needed to make energy in the form of ATP. It is also a well-known supplement for supporting heart health.
Studies have shown that when the body is depleted of CoQ10, there is increased oxidative damage of the mitochondria. (12)
As a potent antioxidant for the body, CoQ10 can quickly become depleted, as it donates many of its electrons for scavenging free radicals.
Shilajit has been shown in study after study to boost the levels of the body’s natural CoQ10 supply. It was found to preserve, revitalize and stabilize CoQ10 levels in its active form, ubiquinol.
This effect offers researchers yet another mechanism to help understand how shilajit works to boost the protection of the mitochondria and its healthy production of ATP. (13)
In one study, mice were set up to swim into a state of exhaustion and, as expected, ATP levels were significantly depleted at the end of the exercise. The mice were then separated into 4 groups:
- No supplementation.
- Shilajit alone.
- CoQ10 alone.
- Shilajit and CoQ10 together.
One more, the mice were set up to swim to levels of exhaustion. ATP levels were measured in the blood, brain and muscles.
The no-supplementation group saw a significant drop in ATP in all tissues.
All 3 of the supplemented groups saw a significant boost of ATP in the brain, muscles and blood.
The shilajit group, in particular, prevented any drop in ATP levels after the mice exercised to levels of exhaustion, which should normally reduce ATP levels! (14,15)
Shilajit in Ayurveda
While shilajit has been well-documented as a stress-fighting adaptogen and a substance used to boost the vital energy or mitochondrial energy (ATP) of the body, it has also been used as a natural detoxification agent.
According to Ayurveda, shilajit has 2 unique properties:
- It is considered a yoga vahi, meaning that it boosts the function(s) of any other herbs, nutrients or foods you ingest it with.
- It is considered a powerful anupan, which is an ayurvedic activator or catalyst for other herbs it is ingested with.
These 2 properties are now supported by the modern science detailed above!