I am going to die in this dentist’s chair.
My eyes are closed, but I can still see skulls outlined with white against a black background. I have an epiphany: God is death. I’m in the midst of a real-life version of the hallucinogenic ride in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, all in my own mind.
A monitor emits a steady beep, and for a second, I think I’m flatlining. But no: I’ve just completed my first infusion of ketamine, a veterinary anesthetic (often used on cats and horses) sometimes used illegally as a club drug called Special K.
I am here because I cannot stop thinking about suicide. I’ve been in therapy on and off for more than 30 years, since I was 5, and on depression medication for more than a decade. Nothing seemed to work. I couldn’t stop imagining killing myself in increasingly vivid daydreams.
As a journalist who covers health and medicine, I had read about the success of experimental trials that used ketamine to treat depression. My therapists had recommended extreme treatments like electroshock therapy, a procedure that frightened me due to reports of memory loss from those who had undergone it, but had never mentioned this. But I was getting desperate for a serious intervention.
After some research, I concluded that ketamine was not only more affordable but just as effective as sending electrical pulses through my brain. (About 70 to 85 percent of patients with severe depression who try ketamine treatment say it’s effective, compared with 58 to 70 percent of ECT patients.) I told my doctor I wanted to try it.
It wasn’t my goal to be on the vanguard, just to get better, but I am an early adopter of a treatment that could one day help millions of people with chronic depression. After a full treatment cycle, my suicidal thoughts went away. And depression isn’t the only psychiatric illness the drug may combat. Studies are being conducted on ketamine’s efficacy on anxiety, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and even obsessive-compulsive disorder.
That’s how I wound up glued to that dentist-style chair at a clinic in Houston envisioning skulls, as an IV drip steadily infused me with a drug I’d thought was reserved for rave-goers.
An anesthetic that triggers happiness
Most people familiar with ketamine know it as either a veterinary medicine or an illegal street drug. But it’s been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for anesthetic use for humans since 1970. Its rise as a treatment for depression, a legal but off-label usage not yet approved by the FDA, is even more recent. On Tuesday, the FDA approved the use of the drug for depression treatment.
Ketamine’s antidepressant effects were revealed in a Yale study in 2000. Over the next decade, researchers continued to explore its potential as a treatment for major depressive disorder. Asim Shah, a professor and executive vice chair at Baylor College of Medicine who co-led several of these studies, told me that doctors have long been curious about the euphoric effects of ketamine. A lot of people given ketamine as an anesthetic “would start smiling or laughing,” he says. “That’s the reason that many people before have said, ‘Oh, maybe it can be used for depression.’”
As of now, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) like Prozac and multiple-receptor antidepressants such as trazodone are among the most commonly prescribed drugs to treat depression. Yet studies show that only around 37 percent of people who use these drugs experience full remission. The number drops past the first year of use.
Ketamine is an NMDA (N-methyl-D-aspartate) receptor antagonist, which means that it targets glutamate absorption in the nerve cells, unlike traditional antidepressants, which raise serotonin levels by blocking the reabsorption of the neurotransmitter. Glutamate is associated with excitability — among many other brain functions such as memory. Researchers like Shah believe that as the brain metabolizes the ketamine, new neural pathways are created that help restore function obliterated by depression. It’s this effect, not the experience of hallucinations or dissociation, that can help treat depression.
Despite its association with the platform sneakers and vinyl pants of the 1990s club scene, ketamine abuse began in the ’80s. People who take ketamine recreationally do so for its fast-acting high, which is typically a floating or out-of-body experience coupled with euphoria. But it’s not the kind of party drug that will bump up your social skills. After all, it is an anesthetic: Users retreat into their minds and experience hallucinations, sometimes reporting religious experiences or even a feeling some compare to rebirth. Drawbacks of recreational use of the drug include risk of overdose, dependence, and high blood pressure.
Butfor someone experiencing intense depression, that “rebirthing” can be therapeutic.
Depression feels like blunt force trauma
What people who have never battled depression don’t understand is that it has little to do with “feeling sad.” Sadness is a flesh wound, a knife cut that might sting but eventually heals. Chronic depression is blunt force trauma to the head, locking you into a pattern of negative thought and throwing away the key.
On my quest to find a fix for my depression, I was shuffled from practitioner to practitioner like a poorly behaved foster kid. By the beginning of 2018, my psychiatrist said I had tried (and failed) nearly every class of drug aimed at treating depression. I was fresh out of options and desperate enough to try something more experimental.
When I decided I wanted to try ketamine, I went to the Menninger Clinic in Houston, a respected psychiatric clinic I had written about, to figure out next steps. I was an obvious candidate, as I had been on antidepressants for more than a decade and had shown little improvement; I just needed to be approved for the treatment after a consultation.
I met with Justin Coffey, the medical director of Menninger’s Center for Brain Stimulation Services, to discuss my history and we reached an agreement: I’d try two infusions of the drug, and if it had a positive effect, I’d do four more. At Menninger, this cost $600 for each session, and it’s not covered by insurance. If not, electroshock therapy would be my next step.
I arrived and got a basic work-up in the pre-treatment room. In addition to weighing me and taking my blood pressure, a nurse tested my reading ability, memory, and basic awareness (the date, where I was). Dr. Coffey came in to discuss what to expect over the course of my six treatments. That number is typical for this treatment, but because it’s still experimental, so is the number of doses necessary to work. Coffey was open to the idea of me needing more if six didn’t provide lasting results.
His frightening warning: Since ketamine is a dissociative anesthetic, I might feel like I’m leaving my body and experience a “bad trip,” as opposed to a more euphoric hallucinatory state. But if I were to go into this state, I could tell my nurse, who would stop the infusion or add a counteractive drug, the anesthetic midazolam, to lessen that effect.
The nurse inserted an IV and flushed it with saline to make sure it was flowing correctly; then we moved into the treatment room with its dentist-style chair for my infusion to begin. I would receive half a milligram of the drug for every kilogram of my weight, a very low dose compared to what recreational users inhale or inject. About 10 minutes into the treatment, the tree I was watching through the window separated into two. Soon, it was difficult to keep my eyelids open at all.
And then I was gone, down the rabbit hole of hallucination. My mind skipped through grid-style maps of city parks. I occasionally took a deep breath or wiggled my fingers just to remind myself I still could. I later learned that what I was experiencing is known as a “K-hole,” which is rare at the low dose I took.
Hope for the future at last
Each infusion lasted 45 minutes. After my first one, I had a nurse play the cast album of my favorite musical as the drip began. Instead of running wild, my mind became immersed in the music, albeit in a deeply dreamlike state. Each time, it took about 15 to 20 minutes after the effects of the treatment wore off for me to be able to open my eyes and start walking. Afterward, I was exhausted. The half-hour Uber ride home felt like hours as I longed for the warm embrace of a nap.
Immediately after each treatment, I felt down. But by the time I woke up the next day, I was in less psychic pain and had more purpose. I would start the day on my long-neglected spin bike, feeling motivation that I’d lacked for months. Lunches with friends no longer felt like they existed just to show them I was still alive and making an effort to get out of the house. I was beginning to connect with the world outside my head again. I noticed myself smiling more. According to Shah, feeling the effects of ketamine within 24 hours of treatment is typical. “It is the most rapid-acting treatment for depression,” he said.
After the final infusion, I had the initiative to start writing again. The following week quickly filled up with activities, both work and fun. I was living for the first time in months. It’s been three months since my last treatment, and I’ve even started to feel excited about my future. Shah says I am unlikely to need another dose — I was in the roughly 70 percent who achieve remission after one series of ketamine infusions.
In technical terms, as I’ve said, taking ketamine had caused my brain to release glutamate, the neurotransmitter responsible for “excitatory” responses. But despite all his years of research into the drug’s chemistry, Shah admits, “No one knows the exact mechanism of any medicine.”
If I do need additional doses of ketamine, it probably won’t be an infusion. Thanks in part to Shah’s work, an intranasal version of the drug is expected to receive FDA approval as soon as next year. The side effects of the nasal inhaler, known as esketamine, are practically nonexistent next to the K-hole I experienced; patients would even be able to take the treatment at home. I’m a testament that it can work. And soon, ketamine will be accessible to people (who can afford it, since it likely will be expensive and not necessarily covered by insurance) who have all but given up on fixing their depression.
I had come to believe that my depression was a terminal illness. But the so-called party drug may have saved my life.
Neurotransmitter Boosting Foods:
How to Balance Your Brain Naturally and Improve Your Mood Through Simple Diet and Lifestyle Changes
The Mind, The Body & Neurotransmitters
Unless we feel strong, energetic and healthy, we can’t really derive any pleasures from the joys of life and the world. Even a simple cup of coffee has no aroma and little joy if your nose is blocked, for example. Having said that, body and mind are interlinked though. If body is the vehicle then mind is the driver.
How you feel mentally affects your body and the balance of your neurotransmitters in the brain and your physical health influences your emotional and mental health. You can eat all the right foods and exercise well, which are ways to increase neurotransmitter levels, but if your mind is not supporting your body with positive thoughts and attitudes, such measures show no improvement in your physical health. It is one of the primary reasons, I observed, that why a majority of people are unable to lose weight even though they stick to a strict diet and exercise routine— because what’s in your mind matters as much as what’s in your stomach. If you are seeking to balance neurotransmitters in the brain naturally, you need to consider not only the foods you eat and the lifestyle you live, but the thoughts you think as well!
Ayurveda believes that the same food can have different impact on different individuals based on their constitution (prakriti). The assessment is based on three humors of wind (vata), bile (pitta) and phlegm (kapha). Further, it states that beyond just being heavy or light on digestion, or being acidic (ushna or amala) or alkaline (sheeta or snigdha), foods can be full of goodness (sattvic), passion (rajasic) and ignorance (tamasic). It means that certain foods can have balancing effects on neurotransmitters in your brain that make you feel calm and composed, while some others can infuse passion in you and make you agitated and some can flare you up in other ways.
Ayurveda believes that food is your first and foremost medicine for all things—and that includes increasing and balancing neurotransmitters in the brain. Ayurveda puts the role of right diet at par, if not above, the consumption of medicine. The two are intricately linked, especially when it comes to mood and brain health.
Foods For Balancing Brain Neurochemicals
There are many sattvic (which loosely translates to inherently healthy and good) foods that are mostly alkaline and are extremely good for depression and other similar disorders because they balance and increase neurotransmitters in the brain naturally. Before I share those foods, I would like to remind you that neurotransmitters are chemical agents made from amino acids. Proteins are the source of amino acids and to manufacture neurotransmitters they require vitamins and minerals.
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Protein, B Vitamins, Vitamin C and minerals (calcium, magnesium, selenium, etc.) are needed to produce serotonin and increase neurotransmitters in the brain in general. Green leafy vegetables (especially spinach), brown rice, tofu, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds are full of ingredients required for the production of serotonin, which is an important neurotransmitter for positive mood. Walnuts, flaxseeds, hemp and chia seeds contain Omega-3 fatty acids that are excellent for raising serotonin levels and balancing neurotransmitters naturally. While eggs and fish are also good for serotonin production, yogic scriptures classify all meat and poultry as tamasic food. Tamasic foods are acidic and promote aggression in the body and so should be limited in the frequency they are eaten.
Almonds, lentils, brown rice, beans, melons, cantaloupes are sattvic and alkaline foods that are excellent for increasing and balancing neurotransmitter production in the brain, especially GABA. GABA is the most powerfully calming and relaxing neurotransmitter the brain produces. Oranges are also good in GABA production and regulation.
Ripe bananas are an excellent source of dopamine and work to powerfully increase neurotransmitter levels in the brain naturally. Free radicals deplete dopamine levels. So, if you eat food rich in antioxidants, they protect your dopamine stores. Dopamine is important for feelings of pleasure and happiness as well as generally supporting healthy mood and energy levels. Most citrus fruits and berries are packed with antioxidants. Besides, the vitamins these fruits contain combine with the amino acids to produce and balance neurotransmitters naturally. Sesame seeds also help in dopamine production. Coffee, alcohol and sugary drinks have a negative impact on dopamine levels. If you are not lactose intolerant then milk and other dairy products also help in balancing neurotransmitter production. Wheat germs are rich in nutrients that raise acetylcholine levels in the brain, which is another important neurotransmitter that affects mood, memory, anxiety and more.
Eggs are also good for acetylcholine. Yogurt aids in production and balance of neurotransmitters but according to Ayurveda it has a negative impact on the cellular excretory system. Ayurveda states that each cell in the body has an inlet and an outlet and that yogurt blocks the outlet of the cells creating a breeding ground for numerous ailments. Yogurt is also acidic in nature. But if you feel good after eating yogurt, you should feel free to eat it to help increase neurotransmitters in your brain. In any case, it’s not good to eat it after sunset (or before going to bed) as it vitiates the three humors of wind, bile and phlegm.
To sum up things up in regards to increasing and balancing neurotransmitters in the brain naturally, your dietary focus should be on consuming mostly alkaline foods. Antidepressants often have devastating side-effects whereas your food, especially those that are alkaline, is mostly free of such damning side-effects. The type of food you eat has an immediate impact on your mental and physical state almost instantly, with powerful effects on your brain’s neurotransmitter levels.
For treating depression naturally, certain foods stand out. One of them is mango. It boosts serotonin in your body and helps balance your brain’s neurotransmitter levels naturally. While you should generally avoid tea and coffee because they are highly acidic, in depression, coffee can be actually helpful if taken in moderate quantity, of course. It lifts your mood due its powerful effects increasing neurotransmitters like dopamine and acetylcholine in the brain. If you get used to eating mango, even that can lift your mood just as well.
Folic acid found in spinach (boiled spinach) is very good for balancing neurotransmitters in the brain too. A glass of orange juice has a positive impact. Besides the standard nutritional benefits, alkaline foods boost your neurotransmitters. Here’s a food chart for your quick reference:
Serotonin: Mangoes, walnuts, flaxseeds, hemp and chia seeds, green leafy vegetables, tofu, sunflower seeds, brown rice, sesame seeds.
Dopamine: Sesame seeds, citrus fruits and berries, bananas.
GABA: Almonds, lentils, brown rice, beans, cantaloupes, oranges.
Acetylcholine: Poultry, wheat germs.
Tea and coffee are stimulants and deplete neurotransmitters in the longer term, but if taken in moderation, they can lift your mood.
Yogurt also aids in production of neurotransmitters in the brain naturally but should be limited in consumption as mentioned above as well, unless you find it to be very beneficial—then feel free to eat it more often. Try to eat organic and alkaline foods as much as possible as these types of foods more powerfully increase neurotransmitters.
Let me remind you that neurotransmitters are made from amino acids that are naturally found in the protein we consume through our diet. Protein alone can’t manufacture neurotransmitters in the brain though. In addition, you need the vitamins and minerals that are found in large amounts in most alkaline and wholesome foods. If you eat wholesome foods and you eat organic as much as possible, you can’t go wrong… and your body and brain will reward you with robust neurotransmitter production.
Lifestyle Changes You Can Make to Increase Neurotransmitter Levels in the Brain
Ideally, no more than twenty percent of your diet should be acidic. Most of your diet should consist of vegetarian food items because they are living foods that help to naturally increase and balance neurotransmitters. You might wonder what’s a living food? Any food that can sprout has living energy in it. Eating living foods brings you one step closer to nature and the closer you are to nature the faster you will heal. Here are some golden pointers for you to combat depression and maintain high levels of neurotransmitters in the brain at all times:
1. Try to eat vegetarian, organic and whole foods whenever you can.
2. Avoid processed, canned, acidic and starchy foods.
3. Eating strictly at the same time every day has a remarkable effect on the body. Above all, it keeps the metabolic processes in check including acid production in the body. It has a direct and instant effect on your health and increases neurotransmitter levels naturally.
4. Avoid large gaps between your meals because, among other perils, this ultimately results in raised insulin level. Eating wholesome foods at the same time every day and avoiding large gaps between your meals can also help you overcome binge-eating and bulimia and maintain high levels of neurotransmitters in the brain throughout the day.
5. Go to bed at about the same time every day. Even if you have insomnia or you can’t go to sleep for any other reason, don’t be stressed about it. Just take shower, freshen up, and lie down in your bed. Don’t worry about being unable to fall asleep. Just take deep breaths. It is best to sleep to your right as this will start the left nostril which is the lunar channel. Resting and sleeping have powerful effects on brain neurotransmitter levels as well.
6. Breathing through the left nostril has a cooling and a calming effect on the body and mind and breathing can absolutely affect and increase neurotransmitter levels.
7. No matter what, don’t replace your sleeping time with screen time. So, if you can’t go to bed, don’t get up and either start watching TV or go online and surf the net. Trust me on this one (or validate it for yourself). You can put some light music or best is just listen to your breath. If you get disturbing thoughts, pay no attention as a matter of principle and resolution and simply listen to your own breath. Staring at synthetic blue lights from screens can reduce neurotransmitter levels, melatonin levels and make it harder to sleep.
8. Make sure that you eat around four hours prior to going to bed. This is absolutely critical for a sound, rejuvenating and nourishing sleep and balanced neurotransmitter levels in the brain. If you find it hard to go to bed empty stomach, you can have a wholesome light snack (like a fruit or a piece or two of whole-wheat bread with a slice of cucumber or so — without cheese) an hour before you go to bed.
9. The most important principle of diet is: don’t be obsessed. Listen to your body and eat in moderation.
10. Light to moderate exercise and movement are integral to increasing neurotransmitter levels in the brain naturally. Walking, yoga and low-impact sports are ideal.
If you worked out physically during the day, and you ate the right diet, no matter what your state of mind, you will have a sound sleep and have done most everything in your power to balance your brains neurotrnasmitters naturally.
5 natural ingredients that work together to aid your body’s natural production of GABA and serotonin.* 5-HTP, L-Theanine, Ashwagandha, Passion Flower, and Lemon Balm have been clinically proven to boost GABA and serotonin levels in the human body. Redi-calm
Your mood is strongly influenced by two key neurotransmitters, GABA and serotonin. When levels are low, anxious thoughts fill your mind and you don’t you feel like yourself.
But promoting healthy levels of GABA and serotonin helps restore your mind to a state of calm. More importantly, this feeling is maintained even when you are faced with a stressful situation.
Prescription medication is often considered the only treatment for anxiety. However, a new group of doctors are advocating for a more natural approach.
t first glance it would seem that the Mucuna Pruriens plant was doing everything in it’s power to keep from being eaten. After all, it’s covered in thousands of tiny hairs known to cause intense pain and itching in those unlucky
enough to be stung. But for anyone tenacious enough to pry a pod of the Velvet Bean plant open, there lies great reward inside.
Tucked away in the caterpillaresque pods of the climbing Mucuna vine lie one of nature’s most unusual and interesting medicinal beans. Like coffee, Mucuna Pruriens is psychoactive, but in a far more medicinal and absolutely non-addictive way. Fortunately the aggressive pods are only something you’ll need to worry about if you insist on heading to the equatorial jungle regions, where the plant grows wildly, and harvesting it yourself. Mucuna has gained substantial popularity in recent years, and it is now widely available in health food stores and many places online in a perfectly safe, although still quite potent form.
But what exactly is Mother Nature hiding inside those pods that makes it worth all the trouble? Well, for starters, Mucuna Pruriens is one of the only naturally occurring (and certainly most concentrated) sources of L-Dopa—as in dopamine. In fact, Mucuna is so rich in the dopamine precursor L-Dopa that it is used as an alternative treatment for Parkinson’s disease, which is believed to be caused (in part) by a lack of the essential neurotransmitter. With 7% to 10% by weight, Mucuna Pruriens is a powerful natural source of dopamine, and serotonin, and tryptamine… and just about every other mood-influencing neurochemical known to man. Seriously. This is the closest thing that exists to a natural, safe non-addictive antidepressant or mood enhancer (depending on how you prefer to look at it… glass half full, half empty, no?).
“Mucuna Pruriens is one of the only naturally occurring (and certainly most concentrated) sources of L-Dopa—as in dopamine.”
With all those mood-enhancing, pre-hormonal natural neuropeptides floating around in the Velvet Bean pods, it also doubles as a powerful aphrodisiac. The high concentrations of L-Dopa cause the brain to release dopamine, in turn stimulating the pituitary gland to produce human growth hormone, which promotes muscle growth, increased strength, and has been proven to raise levels of testosterone. Mucuna also simultaneously lowers levels of prolactin, which can reduce menstrual discomfort and associated weight gain in women and increase sperm motility, and hence fertility, in men.
spiky velvet bean pods of the mucuna pruriens plant hiding their prized, hormonal and psychoactive beans within. mucuna vines are actually quite common in many parts of the world and their beans have been long used as a food and medicine. photo: shutterstock
Mucuna Pruriens is classified as a jing enhancing herb in the Daoist herbal tradition, which means that it is nourishing at the most fundamental levels to the body. Jing loosely translates to “vital essence” or “life force” and in the case of Mucuna, can clearly be understood in terms of its restorative effects on the brain, nervous, and hormonal systems. Jing is believed to be depleted as we age, so plants like Mucuna that act to replenish it are prized in many herbal traditions.
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In the ancient Indian system of Ayurvedic medicine, Mucuna Pruriens is widely respected as a powerful anti-inflammatory and purifying herb, and it is frequently used for treatment of arthritis and general pain relief, as well as blood purification, and even in the rare case of snakebite, parasites, or other types of poisoning in addition to all of the previously mentioned uses.
Psycho-Spiritual Effects of Mucuna Pruriens
But perhaps the most interesting property of the Velvet Bean is its content of exotic compounds such as dimethyltryptamine (DMT), 5-MeO-DMT, nicotine, and bufotenine in trace amounts, which just happen to be the active ingredients in such sacred medicinal plants as ayahuasca, tobacco, and peyote, among others. While Mucuna Pruriens is most definitely not a psychedelic plant on its own (it can easily be purchased at your local health food store), it clearly does share many interesting properties with them, albeit in extremely minute quantities. For this reason, it is safe to classify Mucuna as a particularly spiritual and consciousness-enhancing plant. DMT, for example, is secreted by the pineal gland, which is the master regulator of consciousness in the body and is believed to control our perception of time as well as our circadian rhythms (sleep/wake cycles). In fact, many who take Mucuna Pruriens report more vivid dreams and deeper sleep with regular use but often times after just a single dose.
“Regular consumption of Mucuna Pruriens will have a gentle balancing effect on the brain and hormonal systems.”
Regular consumption of Mucuna will have a gentle balancing effect on the brain and hormonal systems associated with such powerful compounds. For this reason it is often used in cases of depression and anxiety, which may be in part related to the depletion of these essential neurotransmitters.
Mucuna Pruriens History
Indigenous cultures worldwide consume Velvet Beans as an integral part of daily life. In Central America it is used to this day as a coffee substitute and in certain areas of Guatemala as a staple food in tribal diets. The beans are also immensely popular throughout India and Southeast Asia. In fact, nearly every tropical culture on the planet uses Mucuna Pruriens in some way, either medicinally, ornamentally or as food in daily life; however, when used as food, the Velvet Beans undergo a special process to remove much of their psychoactive compounds, as large doses can cause unwanted effects. Even without these compounds, the Velvet Beans of the Mucuna Pruriens plant are rich in amino acids, making them a useful vegetarian source of protein.
Mucuna Pruriens Usage Guidelines
Most often in the West, Mucuna is sold as a dietary supplement with its medicinal compounds intact either in pill or powder form. Like anything with a powerful psychoactive effect, Mucuna is best used sporadically or situationally as needed for restorative purposes. The 2:1 rule of two weeks on one week off is a reasonable dosing schedule, although long-term usage is still considered generally safe. Like everything in life, it is about balance.
Quality Mucuna Pruriens is orange-brown in color and has a slightly bittersweet, smoky caramel flavor, which makes it a delicious addition to many recipes or simply taken straight up in a glass of lukewarm water. For maximum medicinal effects, it is best to take Mucuna away from food.
As with any herb, quality, potency, and purity are of utmost importance. Always choose organic, biodynamic or wild-harvested Mucuna Pruriens whenever possible. Mucuna often is standardized to various concentrations for more precise and controlled dosing due to its high levels of powerful medicinal compounds. However, full spectrum extracts are always a good choice as well and most closely mimic the natural balance of the plant.
As with any new herb, it’s best to start slow with Mucuna and work up to higher doses until you understand how your body reacts.
Note: Pregnant women and persons on pharmaceutical anti-depressants or hormonal modulators of any kind should consult with their physician or naturopath before using Mucuna Pruriens.
Recommended Mucuna Pruriens Products
ORGANIC MUCUNA EXTRACT (KAPIKACCHU) POWDER
Banyan Botanicals Mucuna Pruriens extract powder (of which the traditional Sanskrit name is Kapikacchu) is an organically grown, ultra-pure and highly concentrated powder providing high levels of L-Dopa and other synergistic plant nutrients and medicinal compounds.
ORGANIC MUCUNA CAPLETS
Himalaya Herbal Healthcare
Himalaya Herbs offers convenient, pure, additive-free organic Mucuna pruriens caplets as an extract of both the bean and stem, standardized to 6% L-Dopa.
ORGANIC MUCUNA CAPSULES
Paradise Herbs offers a potent, full spectrum, organic 10:1 Mucuna Pruriens concentrate without binders or fillers in a special vegan capsule made from pine cellulose.
ORGANIC MUCUNA LIQUID EXTRACT
Banyan Botanicals offers an organic Mucuna pruriens extract in non-gmo, gluten free grain alcohol. Alcohol is an ancient herb carrier fluid that is deeply penetrating and tends to increase the absorption of the herb in the body.
Treasures may be found everywhere for those who have eyes to see—a perfect example of this being Shilajit, one of the most prized medicines throughout Asia for the last few thousand years. In its “wild habitat” you could be forgiven for simply thinking that it was a tar-like substance.
Over 6,500 different species of ancient plants spent many millennia in a sort of geological alchemy that created a thick, black, resin-like substance trapped deep within the Himalyan, Caucasus, and other famous mountain ranges in the region. The relentless monsoons and ever-increasing pressure eventually caused this “tar” to begin seeping from cracks in rocks in the sides of the mountains.
“Intense scientific analysis and study have revealed that Shilajit is one of the most nutrient-dense substances on the planet.”
Laboratory analysis of Shilajit reveals a complete spectrum of every essential mineral on the planet in ionic form—the most easily absorbable and assimilated by the human body. Scientists also found amino acids, fulvic and humic acids, ellagic acid, fatty acids and plant sterols, which tend to have a harmonizing effect on the hormonal/endocrine system, among many others.
purified ladakhi shilajit resin from a tenth-generational family of herbal alchemists, considered by many to be some of the world’s best shilajit. it can be cut with a knife and is similar in texture to a hard candy, although more pliable. photo: lerina winter
Although shamans and medicine men of the time could not possibly have understood its complex and unusual composition, they could easily discern the beneficial effects Shilajit was having on the people they treated, which was a massive restoration of health and wellbeing.
The Benefits of Shilajit
Reduces Stress and Improves Sleep and Endurance
Shilajit acts on many different systems in the body, earning it a place among the prized natural medicines known as adaptogens, meaning it helps to restore balance to one’s system, whether that is through reducing excess (stress and cortisol, for example) or nourishing deficiencies (promoting sound sleep and giving endurance, strength and stamina) within the body’s various systems .
Balances Hormones, Boosts Libido and Supports Longevity
One of the primary ways it does this is through its action on the endocrine system . As the master controllers of the body’s thousands of delicately tuned processes, hormones—or the lack thereof—have a very large influence on your health. They control mood, libido, sleep-wake cycles, hair growth, cognition, energy, consciousness and much more. Therefore it should come as no surprise that Shilajit has long been valued for its ability to restore sexual function, promote cognitive abilities, reduce anxiety and stress, improve mood and generally extend one’s lifespan. Quite impressive, to be sure.
Reduces Pain and Inflammation, Promotes Healing and Detoxifies Heavy Metals
However, Shilajit’s beneficial medicinal properties are not solely limited to the endocrine system. It has also been shown to reduce pain and inflammation, making it one of the most sought after remedies for those suffering from arthritis.
oozing from the cracks in between rocks high up in the Himalayan Mountains. And the locals did for many thousands of years; however, in ancient times one had to look for clues from nature to better understand their natural habitat—particularly what was safe and what was poison.
The Fascinating History of Shilajit
Upon seeing packs of native chimps snacking on the Shilajit tar and further observing that those who did seemed to be the strongest, most intelligent and long-lived of the bunch, the indigenous people began ingesting the night-black mineral pitch themselves. When they too began experiencing the benefits:—a rapid restoration of their health and enhanced cognitive and physical abilities—they knew they had stumbled on a great discovery.
Oral tradition has it that this is how Shilajit was originally discovered. Maybe so, maybe not, but either way decades of intense scientific analysis  and study have revealed that Shilajit is one of the most nutrient-dense substances on the planet. And what’s more, is that the nutrients it contains, such as naturally occurring humic and fulvic acids—two of nature’s most potent detoxifiers of heavy metals and other pollutants that disrupt the natural function of the body, and are quite rare to boot.
Known euphemistically as the “destroyer of weakness,” much can be learned about the incredible properties and benefits of Shilajit by understanding the process of how it is created. Over the course of millions of years, the lush primeval vegetation that once blanketed Asia was decomposed by the forces of nature, eventually becoming highly compacted under the weight of the mountains, which later formed as continental plates collided.
It also has a healing effect on the digestive tract, with the notable ability to repair ulcerated intestines and keep harmful bacteria in check.
And, of course, it is also a great remineralizer and detoxifier, removing heavy metals and replacing them with those the body needs for health and wellbeing. It has also been used to treat allergies, malnutrition, anemia, and broken bones. It’s kind of like water: life is just better when you consume it regularly.
How to Take Shilajit: Selecting a Quality Product
Shilajit can be found seeping wildly in many mountain ranges across Asia, although each culture tends to have its own name for the substance. In Western and Central Asia it is typically referred to as Moomiyo, but in the areas in and around the Himalayas, it is referred to as Shilajit. While this may seem semantical, it is an important distinction due to the fact that, depending on the source, Shilajit/Moomiyo will have different compositions. Generally speaking, the best quality Shilajit is believed to originate from the Himalaya area.
shilajit is harvested in remote regions of the himalayan mountains.
However, because Shilajit is somewhat rare and difficult to collect, as well as the fact that the world’s supply originates in developing countries, the quality varies widely in the products currently available through various health food stores and websites worldwide.
The most sought after and rare form is the night-black mineral resin, with only a handful of companies selling it worldwide. It is a sticky, wet-looking “tar” that is an intensely concentrated and purified form of Shilajit. It can be pricey, although a little goes a long way, making even a small amount last for months, even at higher dosages.
That being said, there are many excellent, more affordable Shilajit products that come in a powdered form—though they will generally be slightly less concentrated and potent than the pure resin. The primary benefits of the powder are the ease of use, price, and the ability to measure precise amounts, if needed, as the resin itself is quite sticky.
When using a powder discernment is needed, as not all brands are equal. (In the section that follows we recommend some high quality, potent and high integrity Shilajit powders that are not adulterated). The vast majority of products available worldwide are actually diluted Shilajit powders. Pure Shilajit resin is composed of approximately 2% to 10% naturally occurring humic and fulvic acids with the remaining portion composed of minerals and other medicinal substances. However, adulterated products are typically 10% to 30% actual Shilajit powder and about 70% to 90% extracted humic and fulvic acids, which can be produced cheaply in a lab and added afterwards. While not dangerous, the adulterated Shilajit powders do not posses the same powerful medicinal properties.
Authentic, quality Shilajit always has a distinct, strong piercing tar-like odor that is unmistakable. If the product you have does not have a noticeably intense smell or seems ‘faint’, then it is likely old or diluted Shilajit.
Shilajit is not grown like most herbs and foods, so there are no organic or conventional distinctions. If authentic and unadulterated, Shilajit is wildcrafted, which is truly what lends it such incredible healing properties.
Recommended Shilajit Products
Pure Himalayan Shilajit Resin
Lotus Blooming Herbs
Lotus Blooming Herbs offers an ultra-high quality, health activating shilajit resin that is hand-harvested according to traditional Tibetan methods at high altitudes in the Himalayan mountains. It is a highly potent, ultra pure shilajit resin that has been meticulously third party tested to be free of all contaminants. Highly recommended.
Siberian Shilajit Resin
PÜRblack offers a meticulously crafted Shilajit concentrate harvested from a pristine, uninhabited area of Siberia. PÜRblack has developed a special low-temperature processing and purification method that ensures all naturally occurring compounds are kept intact and bioactive.
Raw Himalayan Shilajit Powder
Sunfood Superfoods offers a water-extracted Shilajit powder that is hand harvested under tightly controlled conditions at a minimum 6,000 ft. altitude in the Himalayan Mountains. Particularly high in fulvic acids, this is an excellent Shilajit for those interested in detoxification and cleansing.
Himalayan Shilajit Tablets
Banyan Botanicals offers their Shilajit in highly convenient tablets without loss of quality or potency. Harvested in the remote Western Himalayas, Banyan Shilajit undergoes further purification and extraction to produce a balanced, highly concentrated product.