Researching Shilajit has always been difficult, mostly because it is not a static substance. That is to say, the composition of the tar-like goop from the Himalayas can change from sample to sample, region to region, preparation to preparation. Its most basic definition doesn’t do it justice, and its dozens of variations are nearly impossible to study side-by-side because of how different they can be.
Simply put, Shilajit is a compound mix of organic and mineral substances, produced by centuries of decay, pressure, and mixture with minerals. It has been used in traditional Ayurvedic medicine (of India, predominantly) for hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of years.
Recent scholarship has researched the benefits of Shilajit for Alzheimer’s Disease, longevity, and testosterone. This article will focus on the latter, and try to determine if there is any clinical evidence for it increasing this hormone.
✲ What studies exist seem to support human testosterone increases following Shilajit use.
✲ Studies are compromised, however, by a lack of outside research.
✲ Finding reliable, trustworthy sources free of toxins can prove near impossible; until regulatory statutes are enacted, rigorous study of Shilajit may not take place.
I’ve reported on the literature for certain substances being susceptible to an “echo chamber,” where only one or two studies are conducted, and then dozens of literature reviews or studies with different testing outcomes cite those one or two studies. Ten years on, a casual glance at a research library results page looks to have dozens of results for chemical X producing Y effect. But in reality, no, it’s still just the original one or two studies being quoted (or misquoted) dozens of times.
That has, unfortunately, been the case with Shilajit. I could only find three actual, primary studies of Shilajit testing for testosterone outcomes. The first study was conducted a decade ago, and did not have any blinding or placebo controls. They did report seeing what they called a significant increase in testosterone, but without their data represented, or the above guardrails, it’s hard to trust their numbers.
Possibly reassuring the scientific community, or muddying the waters, the same team of scientists conducted another study a few years later, this time with all the randomizing, blinding, and placebo controlling we all look for. Again, they found statistically significant testosterone increases.
Why These Two Studies Have Problems
Combing through the literature, I found an article that was trying to support the first two studies I mentioned, when the authors inadvertently threw the previous authors under the bus; they noted that the original researchers were studying a patented, name-brand formula of Shilajit.
After poking around a bit, I noticed that this team of researchers were in fact partially funded by the company they were testing. This presents a huge conflict of interest. It’s hard to credit a study when they’re studying any proprietary formula, because the chances of bias are too great.
Combined with the fact that the researchers in both primary studies are the same people with their name reversed may indicate that they have tried to create a larger academic footprint than their data merit.
A Third Study
The only other primary research I could find was conducted just a few years ago, and also found testosterone increases, but this time in mice. Only their abstract is publicly available, however, so it is difficult to ascertain the study’s credibility or statistical significance.
What Exactly in Shilajit Boosts Testosterone?
Because Shilajit can vary so much between providers and sources, it is difficult to know what inside of it is possibly helping with testosterone production (if, indeed, it is). What we know of the most common minerals and compounds found in Shilajit may provide some answers.
This rare mineral has a lot of biological functionality, and recent research indicates it has a higher-than significant correlation to testosterone production. Researching that mineral, in fact, produced so many results I have written an entire article about.
One of the researchers from above wrote a paper on the chemical composition of Shilajit, an excerpt of which you can read here. In it, the researcher claimed that Shilajit contains a compound called dibenzo-α-pyrone, which he further claimed can have testosterone boosting effects. Two notes, though: one, there is no clinical data that dibenzo-α-pyrone increases testosterone; two, dibenzo-α-pyrone are found abundantly in common foods like pomegranate, nuts, strawberries, and blackberries.
Shilajit remains an enigma to Western medicine, and there are a number of reasons for that. Some of it could very well be that there is a cultural bias; it could also be that Western medicine is predicated on testing the lowest number of variables in the most controlled manner. Shilajit is simply not quantifiably a low-variable substance.
Testing Shilajit is like conducting a definitive clinical trial of pasta sauce–there are simply too many varieties, compositions, and preparations to narrow down in one study. Until there is a Shilajit study whose exact chemical and mineral composition is known, and the study is conducted by someone other than the short list of people who test propriety Shilajit, the science will continue to be suspect.
In addition, there are present safety concerns regarding Shilajit, precisely because of the variances I’ve mentioned. Canada, for instance, has issued warnings against its use, though it remains legal.
Use of Shilajit remains a personal choice, as it is not currently banned, and there is current research being conducted as to its uses and benefits. Studies on its testosterone benefits, however, are not the most rigorous or reliable, though they do show some positive results.