It’s blue-green, absurdly healthy but often overlooked or misunderstood; Spirulina may not be from Pandora, but it grows in our version of that magical moon, Hawaii, along with other exotic locations around the globe.
This blue-green algae is a freshwater plant that is now one of the most researched, and alongside its cousin chlorella, most talked about superfoods today. Grown around the world from Mexico to Africa to even Hawaii, spirulina is renowned for its intense flavor and even more powerful nutrition profile.
While you may have only seen it as an ingredient in your green superfood beverages, energy bars and natural supplements, spirulina benefits are so profound that taken on a daily basis they could help restore and revitalize your health! To date, there are nearly 1,200 peer-reviewed scientific articles evaluating its health benefits.
A biomass of cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) that can be consumed by humans and other animals, there are two species: Arthrospira platensis and Arthrospira maxima. Arthrospira platensis and Arthrospira maxima are cultivated worldwide and used both as a dietary supplement (in tablet, flake and powder form) and even whole food — and even for livestock and fish feed.
What is Spirulina?
Spirulina is a natural “algae” (cyanbacteria) powder that is incredibly high in protein and a good source of antioxidants, B-vitamins and other nutrients. When harvested correctly from non-contaminated ponds and bodies of water, it is one of the most potent nutrient sources available.
It is largely made up of protein and essential amino acids, and is typically recommended to vegetarians due to its high natural iron content.
The high concentration of protein and iron also makes it ideal during pregnancy, after surgery, or anytime the immune system needs a boost.
Benefits of Spirulina
Not everyone can get their hands on the optimal Hawaiian variety, but fortunately spirulina that’s standardly produced includes very significant health benefits for people who regularly consume it. By regularly, I strongly recommend that you taking spirulina daily for the following reasons.
1. Detoxes Heavy Metals (Especially Arsenic)
Affecting people all over the globe, chronic arsenic toxicity is a problem. According to the World Health Organization, the U.S. is one of the countries affected by inorganic arsenic that is naturally present at high levels.
Arsenic toxicity is an even bigger problem in the Far East. In the words of Bangladeshi researchers, “Millions of people in Bangladesh, India, Taiwan and Chile are consuming a high concentration of arsenic through drinking water, and thousands of them have already developed chronic arsenic poisoning.” (2)
In fact, up to 3 percent of the entire nation of Bangladesh showed clinical signs of arsenic poisoning alone. As Bangladeshi researchers pointed out, “there is no specific treatment” for arsenic poisoning, which is why they evaluated alternatives like blue-green algae.
After giving 24 patients affected by chronic arsenic poisoning spirulina extract (250 milligrams) plus zinc (2 milligrams) twice daily, they compared the results with 17 patients who took a placebo and found that the spirulina-zinc combination worked. Ultimately, the participants experienced a 47 percent decrease of arsenic in their body. Spirulina against arsenic? Spirulina wins! Make it part of your heavy metal detox.
2. Eliminates Candida
According to researchers, “Candida species belong to the normal microbiota of an individual’s mucosal oral cavity, gastrointestinal tract and vagina.” (4) What does that mean?! Well, without a healthy microflora balance in our body, we are simply much more susceptible to sickness and disease.
In fact, leaky gut syndrome and improper digestion are directly connected to microfloral imbalance. Not only is invasive candidiasis the leading cause of mycosis-related death in the U.S., candida overgrowth has become the hallmark sign for most autoimmune diseases today.
Because of our shift toward a diet rich in sugar and unnatural ingredients, antimicrobial resistance and ineffective antifungal drugs, we have seen a significant rise in yeast infections since the 1980s.
p><Thankfully, spirulina appear to be able to help. Several animal studies have shown that it’s an effective antimicrobial agent, particularly for candida.
Specifically, spirulina benefits have been shown to promote the growth of healthy bacterial flora in the intestines, which in turn inhibits candida from thriving. Additionally, the immune-strengthening properties of spirulina will help the body eliminate candida cells. (9) Spirulina against candida? Spirulina wins!
3. Improves HIV/AIDS
Up until recently, epidemiologists have been puzzled trying to understand why people in Japan, Korea and Chad have relatively low HIV/AIDS rates. One possible explanation, revealed in a 2012 study published in the Journal of Applied Phycology, may be the amount of algae people in these areas regularly consume!
When researchers took 11 HIV patients who have never taken antiretrovirals, they split the participants into three groups: one that was assigned to eat 5 grams of brown seaweed every day, one that was to eat 5 grams of spirulina, and one that ate a combination of both. After the three-month trial period was complete, two key findings were discovered:
Absolutely no adverse effects were experienced from both seaweed varieties and the combination.
CD4 cells (T-helper white blood cells that fight infection and are used to stage HIV) and HIV-1 viral load (another HIV biomarker) remained stable.
The results were so promising that one participant volunteered to continue the study for an additional 10 months, and this participant actually benefited from “clinically significant improvement in CD4 and decreased HIV viral load.” Therefore, spirulina deserves a place in natural HIV treatment.
4. Helps Prevent Cancer
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, “A number of animal and test tube studies suggest that spirulina increases production of antibodies, infection-fighting proteins, and other cells that improve immunity and help ward off infection and chronic illnesses such as cancer.”
This doesn’t come as a surprise as more than 70 peer-reviewed articles have been published in the scientific literature evaluating spirulina’s ability to affect cancer cells.
p>In an article published this past April, Czech Republic scientists pointed out that, in addition to its ability to control blood cholesterol levels, “Spirulina is also rich in tetrapyrrolic compounds closely related to bilirubin molecule, a potent antioxidant and anti-proliferative agent.”
When tested on human pancreatic cells, these researchers discovered that, “Compared to untreated cells, experimental therapeutics significantly decreased proliferation of human pancreatic cancer cell lines in vitro in a dose-dependent manner.” Essentially, this proves that consuming spirulina appears to be a potential natural cancer treatment.
5. Lowers Blood Pressure
Phycocyanin is a pigment found in the spirulina that scientists have discovered possesses antihypertensive effects (it lowers blood pressure). Japanese researchers claim that this is because consuming the blue-green algae reverses endothelial dysfunction in metabolic syndrome.
I find this extremely promising for Americans because metabolic syndrome has rapidly become one of the main causes of preventable disease today, as it raises one’s risk of developing heart disease, diabetes and stroke.
6. Reduces Cholesterol
Along those same lines, spirulina benefits have also been shown to prevent atherosclerosis and reduce elevated blood cholesterol levels.
A recent animal study published in The Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology took rabbits, fed them a high cholesterol diet (HCD) containing 0.5 percent cholesterol for four weeks, and then fed them a HCD with 1 percent or 5 percent spirulina for an additional eight weeks.
After the eight-week trial was complete, LDL levels decreased by 26 percent in the group eating 1 percent of spirulina and 41 percent in the group eating 5 percent spirulina, which heavily suggests that the more we eat, the more benefits we will receive! Serum triglycerides and total cholesterol were also significantly reduced.
7. Lowers Chance of Stroke
In the study above, researchers also discovered that the spirulina supplementation lowered intimal aorta surface by 33 percent to 48 percent, which suggests that it can prevent atherosclerosis and subsequent stroke.
It’s important to remember that this clinical trial was conducted on animals that were still eating a HCD, and it highlights that regular spirulina consumption can literally reverse the damage done by eating a poor diet. You can only imagine the heart health benefits that would be experienced in those individuals who have a balanced diet!
8. Boosts Energy
When you look at the chemical composition of spirulina, it’s no wonder that people who regularly consume it have an abundance of energy. Dr. Mehmet Oz recommends combining 1 teaspoon of spirulina powder with 12 ounces of lime juice and freezing the mixture in ice cube trays for a healthy boost.
According to Dr. Oz, spirulina and lime enhance energy performance because they unlock sugar from our cells and, when frozen, the cold from the ice boosts metabolic energy while giving our bodies a “wake-up call.”
9. Speeds Up Weight Loss
Diets high in nutrient-dense protein-rich foods like spirulina promote weight loss and low-fat stores through a variety of mechanisms. Because it takes more energy to metabolize, for example, eating protein helps maintain lean tissue and contributes to fat burning.
It can also curb hunger and overweight people seem to benefit the most. To maximize this benefit, try eating your high-protein spirulina in the morning or during midday instead of at night.
10. Alleviates Sinus Issues
Known as allergic rhinitis, spirulina benefits the body by reducing the inflammation that causes people to experience sinus problems, according to numerous studies. Compared to placebo trials, spirulina is effective at reducing itching, nasal discharge, nasal congestion and sneezing.
Bonus Benefit: Offers Neuroprotection for Brain Disorders & Memory Boosting.
In a 2012 study, a spirulina-enhanced diet given to rats provided neuroprotection in an α-synuclein model of Parkinson’s disease. This did not occur with the control diet. In a 2015 study, the effects of spirulina on memory dysfunction, oxidative stress damage and antioxidant enzyme activity were examined with mice. It was found that Spirulina platensis may “prevent the loss of memory possibly by lessening Aβ protein accumulation, reducing oxidative damage and mainly augmenting the catalase activity.”
While both studies are preliminary and involving animals, they hold promise for humans afflicted with Parkinson’s disease, other neurodegenerative diseases and those with memory problems.