Spirulina is a type of blue-green algae of which there are several species.
It grows best in a warm climate and in warm alkaline water. Spirulina was
historically used by the Mexican (Aztec, Mayan), African, and Asian peoples, who
consumed it as a staple for thousands of years.
Spirulina is a rich source of nutrients, especially protein. It is rich in
phycocyanin, a blue polypeptide that gives spirulina its blue-green color.
Phycocyanin has the ability to stimulate the production and activity of both
white and red blood cells and to increase the production of antibodies and
cytokines, which help fight foreign invasions. Because of these properties,
spirulina has been used extensively 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 promoted the
evacuation of radionucleotides and stimulated T-cell production, which boosted
the immune system of these patients.
Spirulina is a microalgae that flourishes in warm climates and warm alkaline
water. It is available dried and freeze-dried.
Spirulina is a complete protein—62% of it is made up
of essential and nonessential amino acids. It is also thought to provide the
entire B complex of vitamins, though its vitamin B12 content has been
called into question. It is also rich in phycocyanin, chlorophyll, beta-carotene
and other carotenoids, vitamin E, minerals (e.g., zinc, manganese, copper,
iron), trace minerals (e.g., selenium), and essential fatty acids (e.g.,
gamma-linolenic acid). Because the cell walls of spirulina are made of complex
proteins and sugars (unlike other species of blue-green algae whose walls are
made up of cellulose), it is very easily digested. The exact nutrient profile
depends on the species.
Most spirulina consumed in the United States is cultivated scientifically.
There are many different spirulina species, only some of which are identified on
commercial preparations. Spirulina maxima (cultivated in Mexico) and
Spirulina platensis (cultivated in California) are the most
Currently, spirulina has the following uses:
- Anemia. Spirulina promotes hematopoiesis (formation and development of
- Skin disorders. Because spirulina is rich in gamma-linolenic acid, it
helps to maintain healthy skin and treat several skin disorders (such as eczema
- Vitamin A deficiency. Studies in India determined that Spirulina
fusiformis is an effective source of dietary vitamin A.
- Colitis. One study showed that a component of spirulina,
C-phycocyanin, reduced inflammation caused by acetic acid-induced colitis in
rats. It also showed some reduction in colonic damage.
Clinical applications of spirulina include malabsorption syndrome with gas
and bloating, general immune support, and as an easily absorbed protein
supplement for people with a lack of appetite. It is also used in the treatment
of Candida and hypogylcemia. It is often used by weight lifters as a protein
|Dosage Ranges and Duration of
Patients should consult their health care providers for the correct dosage of
spirulina. However, a standard dose of spirulina is four to six 500 mg tablets
No adverse effects were found after high-dose experiments in animals.
No fetotoxicity nor teratogenicity was found when high doses of spirulina
were administered to pregnant animals.
No clinically significant interactions between spirulina and conventional
medications are known to have been reported in the literature to
Annapurna VV, Deosthale YG, Bamji MS. Spirulina as a source of vitamin A.
Plant Foods Hum Nutr. 1991;41:125-134.
Chamorro G, Salazar M, Favila L, Bourges H. Pharmacology and toxicology of
Spirulina algae. Rev Invest Clin. 1996;48:389-399. abstract.
Chamorro G, Salazar M. Teratogenic study of spirulina in mice. Arch
Latinoam Nutr. 1990;40:86-94.
Gonzalez R, Rodriguez S, Romay C, et al. Anti-inflammatory activity of
phycocyanin extract in acetic acid-induced colitis in rats. Pharmacol
Hayashi K, Hayashi T, Kojima I. A natural sulfated polysaccharide, calcium
spirulan, isolated from Spirulina platensis: in vitro and ex vivo evaluation of
anti-herpes simplex virus and anti-human immunodeficiency virus activities.
AIDS Res Hum Retroviruses. 1996;12:1463-1471.
Mathew B, Sankaranarayanan R, Nair PP, et al. Evaluation of chemoprevention
of oral cancer with Spirulina fusiformis. Nutr Cancer.
Qureshi MA, Garlich JD, Kidd MT. Dietary Spirulina platensis enhances humoral
and cell-mediated immune functions in chickens. Immunopharmacol
Romay C, Armesto J, Remirez D, Gonzalez R, Ledon N, Garcia I. Antioxidant and
anti-inflammatory properties of C-phycocyanin from blue-green algae. Inflamm
Salazar M, Martinez E, Madrigal E, Ruiz LE, Chamorro GA. Subchronic toxicity
study in mice fed Spirulina maxima. J Ethnopharmacol.
Shealy NC. The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Healing Remedies. Boston,
Mass: Element Books; 1998:277.
Spirulina: good source of beta-carotene, but no miracle food. Environ
Walker LP, Brown EH. The Alternative Pharmacy. Paramus, NJ: Prentice
Hall Press; 1998:51-53.
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