Anything can be faked or imitated these days. Coveted products from popular brands, gadgets, electronics, jewelry — name anything, and there is a fake version of it somewhere. The health supplement market is no different. In fact, this $32 billion industry is full of fakes and imitations. Companies operate unpoliced, and online selling is virtually unregulated. Anything with a label and a claim can enter the market and be considered authentic until proven otherwise.
How To Check Purity of Shilajit
It is no surprise then that false advertising, the use of substitutes or fillers, and poor manufacturing practices are common. This does not mean that everyone is guilty, but the majority probably are. The supplements industry is not subject to the same regulations as Big Pharma so consumers need to be vigilant.
In a 2013 study, more than 50% of the herbal supplements sampled by researchers were found to contain substances not indicated on the label. These could be fillers or contaminants that may be dangerous. Worse, out of the twelve products tested, only two products were thoroughly transparent about their contents.
Fake supplements are everywhere online. eCommerce websites like Amazon and eBay are likely selling counterfeit supplements. It is not their fault though, they simply cannot police everyone.
Shilajit, otherwise known as mumio or mineral pitch, is heavily imitated in the US. The reason is simple: Rarity. Shilajit is rare, difficult to source and expensive to process effectively, that 99% of the products found in the US market are imitations of the genuine thing. There are more than 200 shilajit brands in Amazon alone, the majority of which come not in the original form with bioactives of genuine shilajit. Fakes are easier to make and process in bulk while offering high-profit margins, so it is easy money for counterfeiters. In this article, we will discuss the different types of fakes, learn what pure shilajit should be like, and finally, how you can test the purity of your shilajit so that you will know whether you have the real kind.
Shilajit is a brownish to blackish phytomineral derived from decomposed plant materials pressed together in between rocks found in high altitude places in the Himalayas, Caucasus, Siberian Mountain Ranges, and even the Andes. It has been used to support health for thousands of years, and has even been claimed to be just a panacea, which of course is a myth. Modern science validated its safe use, and a number of scientific and efficacy studies support many of its health advantages.
The popularity of shilajit exploded in the last few decades, creating immense demand but exhausting reserves in places where it is usually sourced: the Himalayan mountains. Demand continues to grow but supply dwindles to the point of extinction. Shilajit takes centuries — millennia, even — to form, so supply is a constant issue. So how do you meet the demand for such a scarce resource? You fake it.
India, Tibet, and Pakistan, once the world’s main exporters of authentic shilajit, became the birthplace of fakes. Traders want a piece of that black gold, and so they create counterfeits of the real thing, sedimentary rock formations for fulvic and humic substances, and use fillers to give their product heft. Some would even add not necessary components like cow urine to imitate the pungent odor that real shilajit has.
Types of Fake Shilajit
There are three types of imitation shilajit found in the US market. But the list has grown to include liquids, capsules, and pills. The three main types are:
- Tincture or Liquid Resin
If you are curious and find yourself asking the questions “What is shilajit resin?“, Shilajit is a biogenic stimulant composed of fermented plants. It is found in high altitude places oozing out of shilajit bearing rocks. It naturally comes in resin form and anything else that is claimed to be authentic shilajit is very likely an imitation or a fake.
Powdered counterfeits are most common as they are cheap to make. The powdered variety will include fillers, like fulvic acid sedimentary rock formations, and other additives, as these are easily masked in powder. The powder is then used to make pills and capsules, making them appealing to many.
Powders are sourced from sedimentary rock formations. This is not authentic, as real shilajit is sourced from shilajit-bearing rocks. Most powders have outrageous claims like “high fulvic content”, higher than 10%, which is rare or impossible in authentic forms and is a first sign that quality is questionable. Poor-quality powder imitations will leave insoluble remnants when dissolved in water.
Tinctures or Liquid Resins
Tinctures and liquid formulations are basically watered down shilajit. Liquid formulations have an oily consistency and “flows” when scooped. Tinctures may contain other herbs as part of a formulation. Authenticity is difficult to analyze. Outside a laboratory test, a seller can claim that there is shilajit in an herbal preparation when in fact there is none.
Fake resin formulations are the most complex. Authentic Shilajit is in a resin form, so it is difficult to know if what you have is a fake. However, there are a few things you can do from the comfort of your home to check the authenticity of your shilajit product. Note that good counterfeits may pass these tests. We will discuss that possibility later.
Types 1 – Fake Shilajit Pills
Powdered imitations are so popular that counterfeiters sell them in tablets or fill capsules with them. These are usually priced very low and appeal to many consumers, but educated buyers know better, as these varieties are some of the worst fakes out there.
Uneducated buyers will not realize that what they are getting maybe just fillers containing little to no shilajit. Examine also if it says “standardized fulvic content.” The fulvic acid and humic substances are probably from soil or fertilizer, so the risk of contaminants like concentrated heavy metals and microbes is high. There should be no standardization of humic substances for authentic forms.
One shilajit enthusiast tested 10 different capsule brands and found that many contain fillers added to actual shilajit, with only 1 brand passing his test. Even the brand that passed his test did not deliver 100%, as it still contained fillers. As for price, pills and tablets are cheaper than a jar of shilajit powder.
Types 2 Fake Shilajit Bioactives
When the label claims “100% all-shilajit,” actually containing little to no shilajit is unethical in itself. Another type of forgery that is common addresses one of the main problems with the genuine kind: rarity. Fulvic acid and humic substances can be extracted from other sources like peats and sapropels. Some cheaper options are sourced using sedimentary rock formations. Authentic resin is harvested from shilajit-bearing rocks. They are cheaper to source and easier to process but they will never have the same efficacy of the authentic kind. Shilajit is found to contain components of a certain cactus-like plant and some clover species, which are absent from peat and sapropel sources.
Pure Shilajit Resin
One thing you need to bear in mind is that pure, unadulterated shilajit is a resin. This healing wonder does not come in any other form in nature but that of resin. It will harden in cool temperatures if you place it inside the refrigerator and soften or melt in your hand when warmed, a characteristic all quality, authentic resins should have.
Be that as it may, some cunning sellers have imitated the resin form, although only a few are known to exist currently in the US market.
How To Test Shilajit Purity
You can test shilajit for authenticity and purity at home with the help of a few utensils. These tests only apply to powder and resin, as tinctures are difficult to test. However, the fact that it is a tincture is a sign of forgery in itself. Nothing can replace laboratory testing when analyzing purity, but as this is not readily available to you, these simple tests may help.
Authentic resin is pliable. It will stretch when warm and can be rolled into a ball easily. It will melt when exposed to warmer temperatures and will harden and become brittle when placed in the refrigerator. If your resin does not have this property, that is a major red flag.
Authentic Shilajit is 98-100% soluble. This means that when you dissolve it, there won’t be any non-soluble components resting at the bottom of the jar. There should be no sandy texture in your mouth when drinking a glass of dissolved shilajit.
Shilajit will not burn. If it does, that is a major sign that impurities or fillers are added, as these components are the ones causing it to burn. Instead, bubbles will form when you introduce flame directly to the resin/powder.
These tests will help you ascertain whether what you have is a forgery. Bear in mind that some counterfeits may pass these tests. Always make sure to buy from a reputable source like Pürblack. Be prudent and do additional research on the company and the product itself. Ask the seller for a certificate of analysis, a certificate of authenticity, and proof of source. Any legitimate seller of genuine shilajit will be able to give you these documents.
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