A reader requested that I investigate shilajit a few months back, and since then I’ve had the opportunity to take some and do a little reading on the subject and even purchase a shilajit product myself. This post is mostly an exploration of hype and hearsay versus fact.
What is shilajit?
Shilajit is a kind of “mineral” tar that oozes out of the cracks in high mountains. The heat and weather cause this stuff to find its way out into the open. Curious animals and people ended up eating this stuff. It’s supposed to be ancient remains of plants, and it is supposed to contain a lot of trace minerals and desirable components like humic and fulvic acid. Sounds like they’re just eating old dirt, and that’s essentially what it is, at least the organic components of that dirt.
In Ayurvedic medicine, shilajit is treated almost like a panacea, and it’s sought for this reason.
Proper shilajit reportedly comes from mountains throughout Tibet, the Caucasus, Altai and Northern Pakistan. The only information I could find on “pure shilajit” comes from a bunch of proprietary manufacturers explaining how other products are impure, and how their premium product is the true refined form of mountain shilajit straight from the Himalayas.
With little third party information to go off of that isn’t trying to sell me something, I remain skeptical of the “superior quality” of these premium refined black shilajit products. If what they’re saying is true, the “impure” products could easily be pure, or impure as any of the premium ones who are trying to outsell one another.
Foregoing all of the BS, I decided to look into the principal components of shilajit to see whether they are good or not and work from there.
Fulvic and Humic acid 2
As mentioned previously, shilajit contains fulvic and humic acids in high quantities.
Fulvic acid is not a singular substance but rather a series of terpenoid-like compounds. Fulvic acids actually belong to the class of humic acids, but are smaller in size. 3 That’s the only real scientific distinction made between the two aside from the fact that fulvic acid precipitates in an acidic solution below a pH of 2. Both are the end product of the decomposition of plant matter. Sounds yucky, but it’s all of the components left over that create fertile soil.
Naturally, humic acid would find its way onto our plate from the farm, but since we’ve largely moved away from normal composted topsoil to petroleum-based fertilizer, we do not see much of these natural compounds in our diet. Not much is known (to the mainstream at least) about the effects on humans who ingest humic and fulvic acid, but there is also a dearth of knowledge on what happens to people who don’t ingest it. We really only know that humic and fulvic acid help plants grow really well.
One of the properties of humic acid include its chelating abilities. Chelation is the biological magic that allows organic molecules to bind inorganic metals, which is an important thing to do if you’re a living organism. When the body is better able to chelate and take in its minerals, the bioavailability is supposed to increase. Likewise, a chelator should be able to help the body remove certain substances more effectively as well.
As for the scientific evidence of the benefits of humic and fulvic acid? It’s mostly untouched by science in the United States. Of the few studies of it that exist, most of them have been criticized on the grounds that only the manufacturers or sellers of these substances are making up the studies.
In terms of anecdoty, there isn’t a lot out there. People have barely heard of this stuff outside of agriculture. But hey, if it’s supposed to be good for your plants, it’s probably good for you too.
Verdict on shilajit, fulvic and humic acid
Setting aside all of the hype, there isn’t much evidence for or against any of this stuff. It’s mostly an unexplored frontier at this point with the only people trying it out right now are the alternative health crowd.
Personally, as long as you use a quality product, you should have nothing to worry about. I’ve been taking the shilajit powder for two weeks and haven’t noticed anything negative other than it tastes kind of like dirt.
iHerb offers a few humic/fulvic acid products if you’re in the market to try one yourself:
- Vital Earth Minerals – Fulvic/Humic Mineral Blend
- Vital Earth Minerals – Fulvic Mineral Complex
- Sun Warrior – Immune Shield, Natural Fulvic Complex
- Jarrow Formulas – Shilajit Fulvic Acid Complex
If any more “mainstream” information comes out about the benefits or lack thereof on this substance or I make any unique observations I’ll be sure to write about it.
For now however, the verdict is: inconclusive and funny-tasting experiment.
References [ + ]
|1.||↑||Humic Acid – Wikipedia|
|2.||↑||Humic Acid – Wikipedia|
|3.||↑||Properties of humic substances|