Every morning with my tea, I drop in a grain-sized portion of sticky, black tar that emits a rather pungent smell. It melts, darkening the green tea a shade browner and giving it a slightly bitter aftertaste. This strange substance, shilajit, has now totally replaced my caffeine habit—and has single-handedly given me far more energy and focus than I’ve ever had before.
Let me back up. I never used to be a coffee drinker, but about a year ago, I started to indulge in almond lattes on breaks to the local barista with my coworkers. When I first started drinking coffee, I felt wired in the worst way: a bit sweaty, jittery and at night, unable to fall asleep easily. But soon, the regular injection of caffeine into my system made the more jarring effects subside and my body dependent. I became a habitual coffee drinker, and started feeling adverse effects in the afternoons if I didn’t have my 2 p.m. latte. It was an expensive addiction and I wanted to quit.
Enter this gooey black substance into my life. Recommended by my naturopathic doctor, Dr. Christine Surrago, as a coffee placement, shilajit is a resin formed by the decomposition of nutrient-dense plants that’s reputed to boost energy levels.
Shilajit is a traditional breakfast staple for the people of Nepal and North of India. Kids take it with milk in the mornings and sherpas claim it as their secret for strong men with long longevity. It's also been used for centuries in Ayurvedic medicine, as a rejuvenator and anti-aging compound. It's considered powerful because of its 85 minerals and fulvic acid, which is proported to have some health benefits.
The testimonials online were almost too good to be true, but I trusted my doctor and found some published research on shilajit, which backed the claims, citing it as “a potent and very safe dietary supplement, restoring the energetic balance and potentially able to prevent several diseases.”
I ordered 10 grams online (from Lotus Blooming Herbs), and a few days later I received a package with a tin can. Inside, there was a smaller plastic tube that resembled pre-school paint. Using a teaspoon, I carefully scooped out about a rice-grain size of the shilajit and dissolved it into my tea, tepid about the taste. It made my green tea a shade or two darker, and had a vaguely bitter and herbal taste, but it wasn’t too strong.
After drinking the cup, I immediately felt more energetic and more focused than ever before. Without thinking, I simply stopped drinking coffee.
I wake up pretty early most days (5:45 a.m.), and sometimes I’m susceptible to the snooze button. But in the month since I’ve started incorporating shilajit into my morning routine, I haven’t missed a beat. I burn some sage, stretch and then make my morning cup of tea infused with the superfood.
The other day, a coworker offered to bring me a latte, and I accepted because there’s just something so alluring about a warm cup of hot liquid with steamed milk. I drank it only to feel extremely pumped up, but in an artificial, desperate feeling manner. I could clearly feel the difference between energy coming from a natural source and energy coming from a drug-like caffeine.
Shilajit makes me feel seamlessly energetic, like I’m enriching my body with nutrient fuel, whereas coffee makes me feel like an endless refill I need just to keep me going.
I’d recommend talking to your own naturopathic doctor about how it can generally improve your health and energy. Or, if you’re simply looking to kick your own caffeine habit, try it out yourself.