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Shilajit – also known as mumie, black asphalt, and mineral pitch – is a fascinating natural remedy dating back thousands of years. Found high in the mountains in cracks, crevices and caves, it has a somewhat mystical reputation in some cultures. In Ayurveda and other traditions, it has been used to promote longevity, physical strength, and overall well-being.

Despite being used widely in traditional medicines across central Asia (including Russia, Tibet, India, and Pakistan), it’s not that well known in the West. This may be changing. Along with our rising interest in natural remedies, there are preliminary studies suggesting potential benefits for people suffering from cognitive decline, inflammation, and low energy levels.

What is Shilajit?

Shilajit is chunky, shapeless, greasy and sticky; it’s similar to tar or molasses, but not quite as hard. Its colour ranges from dark brown to black, though there are lighter varieties (not widely available). According to Wilson et al. (2011), the darker type of shilajit has a “distinctive coniferous smell and bitter taste smelling like cow’s urine.” (1)

There’s a reason for its unusual composition; shilajit is not a plant, but a blend of organic and inorganic components. It’s thought to form through the decomposition of plant matter from certain high-altitude plants. During this process, humic substances and trace minerals also leach out from the surrounding rocks, adding to the properties of this amazing substance.

Its composition is not only influenced by the plant species and the geological nature of the surrounding rock, but also by the temperature, humidity, and altitude of its environment.

Shilajit formation is a slow, continuous process. As the dissolved organic and inorganic components accumulate within the rock fractures, pressure builds up. This eventually forces some of the liquid mixture out onto the surface, where it is then harvested.


The combination of both organic and inorganic substances is what is purported to give shilajit its medicinal properties. Fulvic acid, humus, and humic acid are the most abundant components found, followed by an estimated 80 different minerals including iron, calcium, magnesium, and potassium. Other molecules present include resins, fatty acids, latex, coumarins, polyphenols, essential oils, amino acids, and even vitamins such as B1 and B12. (1)

Shilajit contains important natural compounds called dibenzo-alpha-pyrones (DBPs). They are thought to help reduce oxidative stress and may influence various pathways involved in inflammation, energy production, and metabolism.

Traditional Uses

Shilajit’s use in Ayurvedic medicine dates back thousands of years. The earliest references appear in ancient Sanskrit texts like the Charaka Samhita and Susruta Samhita, where it’s known as a rasayana. Rasayanas are herbal and mineral preparations believed to promote longevity, rejuvenation, and overall well-being.

Traditionally shilajit has also been used for digestive problems, anemia, nervous disorders, genitourinary disorders, joint pain and inflammation, bone fractures, diabetes, angina and asthma, to name a few (1,2). In India, it has also been used to enhance the effect of other medicines (1).

What are rasayanas?

Rasayana means “path of essence”. It is a branch of Ayurvedic medicine focused on promoting longevity, preventing disease, and maintaining overall well-being. This includes the use of herbal remedies as well as diet and lifestyle changes. Rasayana therapy is about building immunity, strengthening the tissues of the body, and helping the person maintain good physical and cognitive health.

Herbs and compounds that are regarded as rasayanas are thought to do the following:

  • Improve vitality and energy;
  • Strengthen immunity;
  • Support cognitive function, including memory and focus;
  • Promote tissue repair and microcirculation; and
  • Aid in detoxification.

Antioxidant Activity

When the body produces too many free radicals, it creates oxidative stress. This can lead to chronic inflammation, impaired cell functioning, and increased susceptibility to autoimmune disorders, infections, and a host of lifestyle diseases. Antioxidants play an essential role in reducing oxidative stress and keeping the body healthy.

Fulvic acid, humic acid, and the DBPs found in shilajit have shown potential antioxidant benefits in several studies. This may be one of the reasons for shilajit’s many healing properties. For example, according to Abylaeva et al. (2023) (5), one study found that shilajit extract significantly increased the activity of antioxidant enzymes such as peroxide dismutase in rats.

Another recent animal study (8) looked at whether the antioxidants in shilajit would help with osteoporosis. The authors suggested that shilajit treatments could have potent effects on bone regeneration due to its antioxidative and anti-osteoporotic activities.

Effect on the Immune System

According to Agarwal et al. (2007) (3), studies in mice have indicated that shilajit may act as an immunomodulator. This means that it can increase (act as an immunostimulant) or decrease (act as an immunosuppressant) the overall immune response, depending on the substance’s specific properties and the context of their use.

Besides displaying antioxidant activity (which improves the functioning of the immune system), shilajit may be anti-inflammatory. It may also possess the ability to enhance immune cells, potentially helping to fight off pathogens. Rubab et al. (2013) (7) showed a stimulatory effect on the innate and humoral immune responses in mice, suggesting that shilajit may be useful when the body’s immune response is compromised.

Cognitive and Memory Enhancer

The effects of shilajit on improving cognition and memory are still being explored, but there have been studies suggesting a potential benefit. Whilst exciting, much more research is needed.

A build-up of excessive free radicals and inflammation is harmful to the brain and may increase the risk of cognitive decline. The antioxidants found in shilajit, such as fulvic acid and DBPs, might help to protect the brain. According to Agarwal et al (3), preclinical research has shown that shilajit may help to improve memory as well as reduce anxiety. It’s also been suggested that it might influence the levels or activity of certain neurotransmitters, including acetylcholine, which plays a role in learning and memory (10).

Shilajit’s purported ability to reduce the build-up of harmful tau proteins in the brain has sparked interest in its potential to protect against neurodegenerative conditions like Alzheimer’s disease. The accumulation of tau protein in neurons ultimately leads to their death, along with the decline in memory and cognition found in Alzheimer’s.

Andrade et al. (2023) investigated the effects of Andean shilajit on the buildup of tau proteins within neurons. These laboratory studies showed that Andean shilajit can modulate neuronal function and promote the untangling of tau proteins, suggesting its potential for use in neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s (11).

Other Potential Benefits

There are a number of other reported health benefits. It has been suggested that shilajit is good for ulcers, diabetes, reducing stress, helping with allergies, improving libido, enhancing athletic performance and endurance, and more.

Whilst early studies have shown promising results, many of the trials have been small and at a preclinical stage. More high-quality human trials are needed.

Risks and Concerns

Shilajit’s quality, composition, and potential contaminants can vary significantly. Only ready-for-use preparations for human consumption from purified sources should be used due to the risk of heavy metals (including lead, mercury, and arsenic) and mycotoxins (2). Only purchase products that have been certified for their purity.

Shilajit may also interact with certain medications, potentially altering their effectiveness or causing adverse reactions. The safety of shilajit for pregnant or breastfeeding women, children, and individuals with certain health conditions is not well established.

It’s best to speak to a medical professional before using shilajit, especially if you have underlying health conditions.

The Future of Medicine?

Shilajit has been used across the ages to treat a broad range of diseases as well as to help improve longevity and maintain good health. According to Agarwal et. al (2007) (3), shilajit “is perhaps the best rasayana Ayurveda has prescribed.”

If the concluding remarks of Singh et al. (2021)(6) are anything to go by, we should pay a lot more attention to shilajit. In their opinion, “the future of medicine is in immunomodulation, regenerative medicine and modulation of the microbiome.”  As far as they’re concerned, shilajit exhibits all the essential aspects of a rasayana. It’s an antioxidant, it modulates the immune system, it enhances cognitive health, it improves vitality and energy, and it slows down ageing.

Now that’s worth taking note of!

Main photo credit: India Mart.


1. Wilson, Eugene & Rajamanickam, G.V. & Dubey, G P & Klose, Petra & Musial, Frauke & Saha, Felix & Rampp, Thomas & Michalsen, Andreas & Dobos, Gustav. (2011). Review on shilajit used in traditional Indian medicine. Journal of ethnopharmacology. 136. 1-9. 10.1016/j.jep.2011.04.033.
2. Carrasco-Gallardo C, Guzmán L, Maccioni RB. Shilajit: a natural phytocomplex with potential procognitive activity. Int J Alzheimers Dis. 2012;2012:674142. doi: 10.1155/2012/674142. Epub 2012 Feb 23. PMID: 22482077; PMCID: PMC3296184.
3. Agarwal SP, Khanna R, Karmarkar R, Anwer MK, Khar RK. Shilajit: a review. Phytother Res. 2007 May;21(5):401-5. doi: 10.1002/ptr.2100. PMID: 17295385.
4. Ghasemkhani N, Tabrizi AS, Namazi F, Nazifi S. Treatment effects of Shilajit on aspirin-induced gastric lesions in rats. Physiol Rep. 2021 Apr;9(7):e14822. doi: 10.14814/phy2.14822. PMID: 33818003; PMCID: PMC8020045.
5. Abylaeva, A., & Kaya, Y. (2023). Chemical Characteristics and Biotechnological Potentials of Mumio. Manas Journal of Agriculture Veterinary and Life Sciences, 13(2), 187-195.
6. Singh, Rohit & Kaushik, Shreshtha & Yadav, Pramod & Ruknuddin, Galib & Prajapati, Pradeep. (2021). RESEARCH DEVELOPMENTS IN IMMUNOMODULATORY AND ANTIOXIDANT ACTIVITIES OF SHILAJATU. INDIAN DRUGS. 58. 7-20. 10.53879/id.58.09.11977.
7. Ishrina Rubab, Indusmitha Routray, Amena Mahmood, Samina Bashir, Tijjani Salihu Shinkafi, Farah Khan & Shakir Ali (2013) Mineral pitch stimulates humoral, cellular and innate immune responses in mice, Pharmaceutical Biology, 51:8, 997-1007, DOI: 10.3109/13880209.2013.774027
Desiree Pule

Desiree Pule

Desiree Pule is a graduate in Sports Sciences and has an MBA. She has worked in the medical industry, distribution and manufacturing for many decades. She has taken her years of business experience and her passion for health and launched Alma Herbs, an online store selling only the best natural food and remedies. You can take a look at their bespoke offering:


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