What Is Spirulina?
Spirulina is a type of blue-green algae found in most lakes
and ponds. It has been consumed for thousands of years by
Mexican (Aztecs, Mayans), African, and Asian peoples.
Spirulina is considered a complete protein because well over
half of it consists of amino acids -- the building blocks of
protein. It is also a rich source of other nutrients including
B complex vitamins, beta-carotene, vitamin E, carotenoids,
manganese, zinc, copper, iron, selenium, and gamma linolenic
acid (an essential fatty acid). In fact, at least one
laboratory study has demonstrated that the iron level in
spirulina is equivalent to that contained in beef. Because of
its apparent ability to stimulate the immune system, spirulina
may have antiviral and anticancer effects. Test tube and
animal studies suggest that spirulina may also help protect
against harmful allergic reactions. More research is needed to
fully understand how spirulina truly benefits
Interestingly, spirulina has been used in Russia to treat
the victims, especially children, of the nuclear disaster at
Chernobyl. In these children, whose bone marrow had been
damaged from radiation exposure, spirulina seemed to boost the
Benefits of Health
Animal and test tube studies
suggest that spirulina increases production of antibodies,
cytokines (infection fighting proteins), and other cells that
improve immunity and help ward off infection and chronic
illnesses such as cancer.
Amino acids make up 62% of
spirulina. Because it is a rich source of protein and other
nutrients, spirulina has been used traditionally as a
nutritional supplement by people who cannot obtain sufficient
calories or protein through diet alone and by those whose
nutritional requirements are higher than normal, such as
Constipation or Bloating.
Intestinal effects, relieves irregular menstruation,
diuretic and intestinal effects, digestion promotion,
Animal studies suggest that spirulina
promotes hematopoiesis (formation and development of red blood
cells). This is thought to be due to the high levels of iron
present in this food supplement.
Animal and test tube studies
suggest that spirulina may protect against allergic reactions
by preventing the release of histamines (substances that
contribute to allergy symptoms such as a runny nose, watery
eyes, hives, and soft-tissue swelling). Whether these
preliminary studies will translate into benefit for people
with allergies is not known.
destroy unwanted organisms in the body, they may also kill
"good" bacteria called probiotics (such as Lactobacillus
acidophilus) which sometimes results in diarrhea. In test
tubes, spirulina has promoted the growth of L.
acidophilus and other probiotics. Whether this positive
laboratory finding will translate into protection from
antibiotic-related diarrhea is not clear at this time.
Test tube studies suggest that
spirulina has activity against herpes, influenza,
cytomeglovirus, and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
Whether this laboratory finding will prove beneficial for
people in treating these infections is not clear.
In one study, 87 people who chewed
tobacco and had a precancerous lesion known as leukoplakia
were randomly assigned to receive Spirulina fusiformis
or placebo. Lesions were significantly more likely to
disappear in the spirulina group than in the placebo group.
More research in this area will be very helpful.
There is some preliminary
evidence that spirulina may help protect against liver damage
and cirrhosis (liver failure) in those with chronic hepatitis.
More research is needed in this area.
Spirulina is also contained in some skin
care products due to its moisturizing and tightening
properties, and components derived from spirulina may have
properties to help reduce inflammation in, for example,
arthritis. More research is needed in this latter area.