Spirulina Benefits

Latin for spiral, spirulina is a type of one-celled, microscopic blue-green algae brimming with proteins, vitamins, minerals, carotenoids, and antioxidants.  Vitamins B complex and E, beta-carotene, manganese, zinc, copper, iron, selenium, and gamma linolenic acid (an essential fatty acid) can all be found in this tiny warm-water plankton.

Despite their huge difference in appearance, spirulina smells and tastes like seaweed – not bad considering the wealth of benefits it confers.

Like wheatgrass, spirulina has one thing in abundance that works wonders in the body’s lymphatic system – chlorophyll.  Chlorophyll is essentially “plant” blood, and it works wonders in human blood, too.  In cases where blood production in the marrow is compromised, as in the case of cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, general fatigue and lack of appetite follows, which further aggravate conditions of cancer patients who just let chemotherapy run its natural course.  Despite lack of controlled studies, anecdotal references cite spirulina as beneficial in mitigating side effects of chemotherapy, without negatively affecting the outcome of the treatment.

In the body, spirulina binds with heavy metals and other toxic substances, acting as armies of micro-sweepers to haul out the garbage.  The same property, however, renders spirulina vulnerable when exposed to metals in environments where they are grown.  Similarly, spirulina absorbs heavy metals and other toxins from the water, which puts the user at risk when such contaminated algae are consumed.  It is therefore critical to buy only spirulina that have passed screening and are found safe to consume.

In addition, and in no small measure, spirulina confers an array of benefits, such as:

  • Delaying aging.  At any given point, one-third of human cells die and need to be replaced.  Spirulina is rich with antioxidants that combat free radicals responsible for aging.  Since spirulina is about 60% protein, regular intake helps cell regrowth.
  • Relieving diarrhea.  Synthetic  antibiotics often kill the bad organisms along with the good ones.  When there is too much of the former, diarrhea results.  Beneficial flora like lactobacillus and bifidobacteria promote healthy digestion and proper bowel function.   In controlled studies (not involving humans), spirulina has encouraged the growth of probiotics, or the good bacteria.  Further research however, has yet to be done to validate this claim.
  • Boosting the immune system.  Spirulina enhances the production of antibodies; where there are antibodies, there is no infection.  In fact, spirulina works against herpes and influenza.  The algae’s effect on HIV is still under study.
  • Minimizing the incidence of allergies.  In vitro controlled studies on animals suggest that spirulina prevent the release of histamines, substances that trigger allergic reactions like runny nose, watery eyes, hives and soft-tissue swelling.  The algae’s antihistamine effects on people are yet to be validated.
  • Minimizing the occurrence of cardiovascular disease.  Spirulina reduces the oxidation of bad cholesterol, primarily due to its anti-oxidant property.  Oxidation is bad news, because when plaque, made of lipids and bad cholesterol, accumulates in the arteries, blood flow could be blocked, resulting to heart attack or stroke.
  • Improving stamina and endurance.  Its high content in essential fatty acids and proteins make it effective in building lean muscle mass among athletes and keeping their weights in check.  It can also curb hunger that usually happens during strenuous workouts.
  • Promoting weight loss.  Not only does spirulina curb hunger, it also sustains the body with the nutrients it needs without piling on calories.  This is the reason why spirulina is an important component in the vegetarian diet.

Spirulina can be taken in pill or in powder form, or as dried flakes.  Commercially, spirulina is grown in a laboratory.  In its natural habitat, spirulina abounds in volcanic, alkaline and warm-water ponds and lakes.  There are many spirulina species, and Spirulina maxima (originating from Mexico) and Spirulina platensis (grown in California) are the most popular.