The Health And Nutritional Benefits Of Spirulina And Some Side Effects

What Is Spirulina?

Spirulina is a form of blue green algae obtained primarily from 2 species of the cyanobacteria Arthrospira, the;

  • Arthrospira platensis
    and
  • Arthrospira maxima

It is actually a single celled organism that grows as a free floating filamentous spiral shaped structure.

Spirulina is rich in chlorophyll and is probably one of the oldest water plants to still exist even after billions of years. Though spirulina grows naturally in tropical and subtropical alkaline lakes that are abundantly rich in minerals, it is cultivated throughout the world today.

Since ages this naturally nutrition rich plant has been used as a food by the Chads to the Aztecs to the Mayans till about the 16th century. Back then it was harvested from lake Texcoco and sold as cakes called techuitlate while in Chad it has been traditionally harvested and dried into cakes called dihe.

Large scale commercial production of spirulina commenced in the 1970s. The major producers of spirulina in the world today are the United States, India, China, Thailand, Mynamar, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Greece and Chile.

Spirulina has been widely used as a nutritional supplement and is considered as one of the most concentrated and nutritionally complete food sources today.

If consuming spirulina be sure to take an extra 1/2 liter of water everyday to help it get absorbed into the system as it absorbs water.

Spirulina Powder

Source

Nutrients In Spirulina

General Composition
Content
Protein
60 % - 69 %
Carbohydrates
16 % - 20 %
Lipids
5% - 7 %
Minerals
6 % - 9%
Moisture
2.5% - 6.0%
Phytopigments
mg / 100g
Total Carotenoids
400 - 650
Beta Carotene
150 - 250
Xanthophylls
250 - 470
Zeaxanthin*
125 - 200
Chlorophyll
1300 - 1700
Phycocyanin
15000 -19000
 
Units /100g
ORAC (micro mole THE)
24400
Superoxide Dismutase
392000
Fatty Acids
gms / 100g
Myristic acid
0.01 - 0.03
Palmitic acid
2.0 - 2.5
Stearic acid
0.01 - 0.05
Oleic acid
0.10 - 0.20
Linoleic acid
0.75 - 1.2
Gamma -Linolenic acid
1.00 - 1.50
Source : http://www.usnutra.com/

Nutritional Facts And Benefits Of Spirulina

Spirulina contains over 100 nutrients. Also,

  • Dried spirulina is an excellent source of highly digestible protein and contains around 60% of it. To top it, this protein is a complete protein as it contains all the essential aminoacids needed by humans.
  • Rich in gamma linoleic acid and also contains alpha linoleic acid, linoleic acid, EPA, DHA etc.
  • Contains all B vitamins and is very high in vitamin B12, as much as 4 times the amount contained in raw liver.
  • Low in carbohydrates, about 15-20%.
  • Contains metalo-thionine compounds which are proteins combined with metals that are capable of binding radioactive isotopes.
  • As rich in calcium, phosphorus and magnesium as milk.
  • The vitamin E content is as much as in wheatgerm which is one of the excellent sources of this vitamin.
  • Other minerals that spirulina contains are : iron, manganese, selenium, potassium, zinc, chromium and copper.
  • Contains Omegas 3, 6 and 9 and is especially rich in omega3.
  • Contains a variety of pigments like beta carotene, zeaxanthin, lutein, xanthophyll, beta cryptoxanthin etc.
  • Contains chlorophyll, phycocyanin and porphyrin, the enzymatic pigments that carry out essential metabolic processes in the body.

Nutrients In Spirulina

Amino Acids
gms / 100 g
Alanine
4.0 - 5.0
Arginine
3.0 - 5.0
Aspartic acid
1.5 - 3.0
Cystine
0.5 - 0.75
Glutamic acid
6.0 - 9.0
Glycine
2.0 - 4.0
Histidine
0.5 - 1.5
Isoleucine
3.0 - 4.0
Leucine
3.0 - 5.0
Lysine
3.0 - 6.0
Methionine
1.0 - 6.0
Phenyl Alanine
2.5 - 3.5
Proline
2.0 - 3.0
Serine
3.0 - 4.5
Threonine
1.5 - 3.0
Tryptophane
1.0 - 2.0
Tyrosine
1.0 - 3.0
Valine
1.0 - 3.5
Vitamins
mg / 100g
Vitamin B1 (Thiamine)
0.1.5 - 0.30
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)
4.0 - 7.0
Vitamin B3 (Niacin)
10.0 - 25.0
Vitamin B6(Pyridoxine)
0.5 - 1.5
Vitamin B12 (Analogue)
0.10 - 0.30
Folic acid
0.05 - 0.30
Inositol
70 - 90
Vitamin K
0.90 - 1.05
Minerals
mg/100g
Calcium
60 - 110
Phosphorus
700 - 1000
Magnesium
200 - 300
Iron
25 - 40
Sodium
700 - 1000
Potassium
1000 - 1500
Zinc
1.0 - 3.0
Copper
0.2 - 0.4
Manganese
1.0 - 3.0
Chromium
0.1 - 0.3
Selenium
0.003 - 0.010
Source : http://www.usnutra.com/

Health Benefits Of Spirulina

Among the various health benefits spirulina offers are the following :

  • Reduces risk of stroke

Studies on spirulina at the institute of Pharmaceutical Technology in India done on rats at a dose of 180 mg/kg demonstrated a protective effect on the brain as well as the nervous system when these animals were exposed to a high number of free radicals.

Spirulina is especially beneficial in those with sickle cell anemia or congenital heart defects as they are at greater risk for stroke due to lack of oxygen caused by lack of blood flow to the brain.

  • Reduces cancer risk

A study done in China showed that selenium infused spirulina halted the growth of MCF-7 breast cancer cells.

Also, eliminating processed foods, grains and sugar reduced risk of cancer.

  • Inactivates HIV virus

Spirulina contains almost 3 times the protein in red meat and is thus a good protein source for both meat eaters and vegetarians.

2 tablespoons of spirulina will work just fine as a protein substitute. This dose would provide 300 mg GLA which is sufficient to inactivate the HIV virus as well.

A new type of protein called cyanovirin-N obtained in blue green algae like spirulina inactivates HIV. This protein also has anti influenza activity.

  • Reduces Cholesterol levels

A study done on aged males and females between the ages of 60-87 who were given 8 grams of spirulina per day for 16 weeks showed lowered cholesterol levels.

  • Improves gut bacterial health

Spirulina helps to increase the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut. This is especially helpful to keep Candida from overgrowing.

Chronic Candida can cause and even worsen the symptoms of those suffering from fibromyalgia, Crohn's disease, lupus and chronic fatigue syndrome.

Spirulina consumption will greatly benefit in such cases.

  • Controls allergy symptoms

In a study those treated with spirulina showed reduction in symptoms from allergic rhinitis especially nasal discharge, sneezing, itching and congestion.

Spirulina helps those with allergy to allergens like pollen, dust, molds, dander etc.

  • Regulates blood pressure

In a study carried out by the Department of Biochemistry in Mexico, a dose of 4.5 gms of spirulina per day regulated blood pressure in men and women of ages 18 to 65 years, This experiment was carried out for 6 weeks.

  • Boosts immune system

A study by the Department of Aquaculture in Taiwan showed that exposure of spirulina sea water to white shrimps helped to increase the recovery rate of these fish to high levels of PH as compared to those not exposed to spirulina water.

  • Protects against Arsenic poisoning

In a study, researchers from Bangladesh found that when spirulina was given to patients who had arsenic poisoning, of those receiving spirulina 82% showed great improvement.

  • Protects the eyes

Spirulina provides 3750 - 6000 mcg zeaxanthin per 3 grams. These xanthophylls protect eyes against damage from UV rays and macular degeneration.

  • Benefits in Type 2 diabetes

Spirulina benefits diabetics by:

~ Reducing serum triglycerides and increasing HDL thereby improving lipid profile.

~ Improves vasodilation in those overweight.

~ Controls blood glucose levels.

  • Improves cardiovascular health

Because it improves lipid profile, controls hypertension and increases the elasticity pf the blood vessels, spirulina intake improves cardiovascular health.

In studies, at a dose of 2 - 4.5 grams a day, spirulina improved lipid profile and lowered blood pressure.

  • Benefits the liver

Spirulina intake,

~prevents build up of triglycerides in the liver

~Reduces inflammation

~Protects heavy metal damage to liver

~Prevents oxidation of lipids

  • High in antioxidants

Because spirulina is rich in antioxidants it has a higher capacity to neutralize free radicals and reduce inflammations, reduce risk of strokes, provide great neuroprotective effect, reduce oxidative stress, protect the liver, kidney, brain heart, eyes and other vital organs.

  • Controls age related pathologies

Spirulina intake benefits in neurogenerative disorders like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, loss of cartilage in osteoarthritis, insulin resistance due to obesity, etc.

  • Antimicrobial Properties

Spirulina has antibacterial, antiviral and anti fungal properties.It kills bacteria, HIV virus, measles, mumpa, influenza and herpes virus. It also kills Candida and Aspergillus.

  • Improves Hemoglobin levels

In a study on senior citizens over a period of 12 weeks, the red blood cell count and hemoglobin levels were raised significantly.

Spirulina Availability And Dose

There are various types of spirulina and they can become contaminated with heavy metals and toxins. The integrity of the source becomes all the more important in view of this.

Spirulina is available in the form of tablets, capsules, powder and flakes.

The usual dose is 3 to 5 grams per day spread over 2 to 3 times a day if you so wish. Though higher doses have been found to be safe, this basic dose is great for a start.

Do increase consumption of pure fresh water when consuming spirulina, at least half a liter more, so that it can be better absorbed.

As spirulina also detoxifies the body it is best to start with a lower dose and let the body acclimatize to it before increasing its intake.

Spirulina is available in tablets of 500 mg each and the recommended dose is 1 tab 4 to 6 times a day.


Some Possible Side Effects With Spirulina

Though spirulina is safe and has been used for centuries it detoxifies the body and this causes the toxins to be removed from the body causing mild or severe reaction depending upon one's state of health.

Some of the side effects noted are :

  • Slight fever which may be caused by the increase in metabolism.
  • Dark green colored stools due to the removal of waste products as well as the high chlorophyll content in spirulina.
  • Excessive release of gas which is an indication that the digestive system is not working well.
  • Itchy skin/breakouts due to the internal cleansing that is going on and will go away soon.
  • Excess sleep - due to the detoxification the body gets exhausted and needs rest.

To get over this,

Start at the lowest dose, drink more water, do not take undue stress, eat a nutrient rich diet and rest well.


Some Contraindications With Spirulina

Do not consume spirulina if you :

  • Have seaweed/seafood/iodine allergy.
  • Suffer from hyperthyroidism or phenylketonuria.
  • Are pregnant or nursing.
  • Those having fever - let the fever subside before taking spirulina.

Do not give to children and consult your doctor/healthcare practitioner before starting spirulina.

Disclaimer

The information provided in this hub is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Please consult your physician, or healthcare provider before taking any home remedies, supplements or starting a new health regime.

References

  • http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC166092/
  • http://www.candidafood.com/spirulina-in-the-candida-diet/
  • http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2008/01/02/blue-green-algae.aspx
  • http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20837149
  • http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/07/17/spirulina-one-of-natures-nearperfect-foods.aspx
  • http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18343939
  • http://www.naturalways.com/spirulina-references.htm
  • http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18039384
  • http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/07/01/spirulina-the-amazing-super-food-youve-never-heard-of.aspx
  • http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18714150
  • http://www.organicfacts.net/health-benefits/other/health-benefits-of-spirulina.html
  • http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20700612
  • http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19926246
  • http://spirulina.org.uk/spirulina.htm
  • http://www.biomedcentral.com/content/pdf/1476-511X-6-33.pdf
  • http://online.liebertpub.com/doi/abs/10.1089/10966200152744463
  • http://www.usnutra.com/images3/organic_spirulina_health_management.pdf
  • http://www.nature.com/cmi/journal/v8/n3/full/cmi201076a.html

Visit a local culture of spirulina in Madurai

Spirulina Raw Food Treats

Simple Spirulina Face and Body Mask

© 2013 Rajan Singh Jolly

More by this Author


38 comments

FlourishAnyway profile image

FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

Thank you for this hub. I am definitely interested in learning more about it, given all the benefits. I had never heard of this previously. Well written and researched. Voted up and more! Sharing.


wetnosedogs profile image

wetnosedogs 3 years ago from Alabama

How interesting. Didn't know Spirulina was so very old. That is great.


ologsinquito profile image

ologsinquito 3 years ago from USA

Great article on spirulina.


DreamerMeg profile image

DreamerMeg 3 years ago from Northern Ireland

As always a very well written and useful hub. Voted up. I had heard of spirulina but didn't know what it was used for, now I do. Thanks.


hawaiianodysseus profile image

hawaiianodysseus 3 years ago from Southeast Washington state

Your excellent presentation, my friend, makes me want to order a couple of bottles right away. This supplement sounds like an excellent complement to or substitution for the medicine(s) I take. However, I will be sure to discuss with my doctor first. Thank you, as always, for doing such extensive research and delivering such high quality writing.

I've missed seeing your hubs in my feed, Rajan, and suspected that there might have been a technical glitch on HP. So happy to receive notification of your hub in my inbox today!

Aloha, my friend!

~Joe


JCielo profile image

JCielo 3 years ago from England

Rajan, this is a stunning Hub! I had heard of this superfood but really hadn't looked into it in any depth until I read your article. And I'm so glad I did. Voted up, awesome, useful and shared.


Harsha Vardhana R profile image

Harsha Vardhana R 3 years ago from Bangalore

Voting up, Rajan!

Great info!! Very nice to know that is easily available in India too!

These days, I look for magnesium in nutrients specifically. This product is a good source for that too!


DDE profile image

DDE 3 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

The Health And Nutritional Benefis Of Spirulina And Some Side Effects a useful and interesting approach to an informative hub but Benefis is missing a ''t'' however you have accomplished and worthy read.


Dolores Monet profile image

Dolores Monet 3 years ago from East Coast, United States

Interesting! I have been thinking of using this beautiful powder as a dye for homemade soap. It produces such pretty colors.


Elias Zanetti profile image

Elias Zanetti 3 years ago from Athens, Greece

Very useful overview of the health benefits of spirulina as well as some side effects. Another fact is the really bad smell!


Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

Gypsy Rose Lee 3 years ago from Riga, Latvia

Voted up and interesting. Thank you for sharing this very informative hub. Didn't know about Spirulina. It has really powerful benefits. Passing this on.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 3 years ago from The Caribbean

Have uses Spirulina to boost the immune system. Still, I had no idea of all the rich nutrients. Fatty acids are certainly a surprise. Thank you again for such invaluable information.


Eiddwen profile image

Eiddwen 3 years ago from Wales

Another wonderful hub rajan and here's to so many more to come. Enjoy your day .

Eddy.


fpherj48 profile image

fpherj48 3 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

Rajan....This is a superb hub! I have heard of spirulina and read a bit about it, but your hub is so informative and complete. I recently purchased a 9.3 oz bottle of a powder called "Greentastic," which contains a blend of spirulina, hydrilla, Nova Scotia Dulce & Yaeyama chlorella (2600 mg) plus other ingredients from fruits & vegetables. I bought it based on what I had read about the benfits.

Now, after your hub, I am very eager to start taking this daily. I buy all of my supplement & various health & beauty products online from "VitaCost." It is a reputable company and has great customer service, free shipping, a good return policy and they ship immediately.

Thanks for another fantastic HEALTHY hub, rajan!!...UP+++ pinned & shared


Paul Kuehn profile image

Paul Kuehn 3 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand

Rajan,

This hub is awesome. Thanks for sharing information about a health food I had never heard about and its super health benefits! Voted up and sharing with followers. Also Pinning and sharing on Facebook.


vandynegl profile image

vandynegl 3 years ago from Ohio Valley

Very interesting information! I have used this in some of my green juices before, but mostly use wheatgrass powder. On the side effects, you mentioned gas. I am under the impression that this eventually goes away, once your body is properly detoxed.


Genna East profile image

Genna East 3 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

I am always on the lookout for natural products and suppplements that improve our health. This is interesting. I will defintely take a closer look at this nutrient. Thank you for sharing.


Vellur profile image

Vellur 3 years ago from Dubai

An interesting and useful hub about Spirulina. Thank you for sharing and voted up.


Thelma Alberts profile image

Thelma Alberts 3 years ago from Germany

I have not tried Spirulina, yet.Very healthy, informative and useful hub. Thanks for sharing Rajan. Voted up and shared. Have a great weekend!


Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

Glimmer Twin Fan 3 years ago

Interesting rajan. I've never heard of spirulina before.


moonlake profile image

moonlake 3 years ago from America

I have never heard of this very interesting hub. Side effects I would worry about, but that goes with anything you take. Everything has a side effect. Voted up and shared.


AudreyHowitt profile image

AudreyHowitt 3 years ago from California

Hi Rajan, this is the first that I have heard about this product having the ability to inactivate HIV--actually, I am not really sure what you mean by inactivate--anyway, the idea is fascinating; could you let me know where you found this information? Thank you!


Deborah-Diane profile image

Deborah-Diane 3 years ago from Orange County, California

Thank you for this helpful information. Almost every day I drink a small glass of a green juice that contains spirulina and I notice that it does make me feel better.


sweetie1 profile image

sweetie1 3 years ago from India

Rajan looks it is very healthy esp for the liver patients. Voting it up and sharing.


VictoriaSheffield profile image

VictoriaSheffield 3 years ago from Georgia

Did not know that spirulina had so many benefits to health!


vespawoolf profile image

vespawoolf 3 years ago from Peru, South America

After reading about all the benefits of spirulina, I realize that I need to add this to our diet. I like that it helps reduce the risk of cancer and stroke...plus anti-aging benefits. Thank you for another informative and useful Hub!


Thelma Alberts profile image

Thelma Alberts 3 years ago from Germany

Thanks for sharing those informations. I have not used Spirulina, yet. As usual you have shared with us your knowledge about health. Thank you Rajan. Have a great day! Voted up and shared.


torrilynn profile image

torrilynn 2 years ago

thanks for sharing your knowledge of the benefits of the algae. never knew it was so beneficial and healthy for you. voted up and pinned.


Eric Calderwood profile image

Eric Calderwood 2 years ago from USA

Sounds like something I need to try. Once you get used to Spirulina can it be used as a protein supplement as well? Great hub, thank you.


AudreyHowitt profile image

AudreyHowitt 2 years ago from California

Came back for another look--what a great article!


rajan jolly profile image

rajan jolly 2 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA. Author

Thanks Torrilynn.


rajan jolly profile image

rajan jolly 2 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA. Author

Thanks Audrey!


Monis Mas profile image

Monis Mas 2 years ago

I tried it, but I couldn't stand the flavor.


Global-Chica profile image

Global-Chica 2 years ago from New York, NY

I've had fresh pressed juices with spirulina a few times but never knew the benefits and my are there many! Thanks so much for writing about this and getting the word out. Being a vegetarian along with my boyfriend, I think spirulina will do us lots of good. I'm definitely getting some spirulina to add to smoothies.


rajan jolly profile image

rajan jolly 2 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA. Author

@Monis Mas - it is strong and a different one. Takes sometime to get used to it.

@Global-Chica - thanks for appreciating the info and for stopping by.


Susan Recipes profile image

Susan Recipes 2 years ago from India

Thanks for sharing these useful and informative hub rajan. Voted up and useful.


rajan jolly profile image

rajan jolly 2 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA. Author

Thanks for stopping by and the votes Susan.


shara63 profile image

shara63 2 years ago from Delhi

Thankyou rajan jolly, for sharing this invaluable information about the herb out here....i never new before that the plant is so rich with great nutritional values and holds abundant medical benefits...really wonderful!!

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