It has a smoky, bitter taste, a deeply unpleasant odor and bears a close resemblance to black gobs of tar. Pricey tar, mind you: 10 grams (a month's supply) will set you back $80.
The substance, called shilajit, is an ancient ayurvedic medicine. On websites, you'll read that it has anti-anxiety, "rejuvenating" and aphrodisiac properties and is a panacea for many ills, from
What exactly is this stuff? Shilajit consists of ancient plant matter transformed over millions of years into a black substance that oozes from the rocks of the Himalayas. Johann Helf, founder of Los Angeles-based importer Lotus Blooming Herbs, says he navigated a narrow Himalayan pass in a snowstorm, with a Buddhist monk — praying all the while — riding pillion on his motorcycle, to obtain a source of shilajit from a village in Ladakh,
Helf is quick to distance his water-purified product from processed shilajit capsules manufactured by Dabur India Ltd. that were banned in Canada in 2005 after authorities there found heavy metal contamination. His own supply, he says, has been tested for heavy metals in aU.S.
Scientific analysis shows shilajit contains more than 85 minerals and fulvic acid, an antioxidant heavily touted these days by supplement marketers.
Dr. Mary L. Hardy, medical director at Simms/Mann UCLA Center for Integrative Oncology, says it has been widely used for thousands of years across the
Many of those studies were poorly controlled or involved unreasonable doses, though, and good human studies are thin on the ground. Still, "just because there is limited clinical evidence of benefits in humans doesn't mean it wouldn't be valid, just that no one has done the work yet," Hardy says. "Personally, I would probably try it, although I would ask to see validation of safety testing for heavy metals first."