What Is Spirulina? 30 Health Benefits of This Nutritional Algae Powder!

woman drinking spirulina mix

If you have been browsing the health food section of your grocery store lately, you may have noticed a new supplement lining the shelves called spirulina

Actually, spirulina has been around for a long, long time, but only recently has it become popular.

As it turns out, this green stuff is incredibly good for you, and has numerous health benefits. 

I am going to share those benefits with you in this article, but first, let’s talk a little bit more about what spirulina is, and how you can incorporate more of it into your diet.

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What is Spirulina?

spirulina powderin white bowl

Spirulina is pond scum.

Really, that is exactly what it is.  It is a type of algae which is commonly found floating on top of ponds.

It is spiral-shaped and has a deep blue-green hue which is immediately recognizable. 

It is rich in protein and has a nutritional profile which is similar to that of kelp or chlorella.

Typically, spirulina is found in South America and Africa, but it can be harvested all around the world in a range of different climates.

Once it is processed safely into a supplement which you can consume, it provides you with an abundance of vitamins and minerals.

KEY POINT: Spirulina is a healthy blue-green algae which contains vitamins, minerals, and high levels of protein.  It is quite literally pond scum, but it is exceptionally good for you.

Spirulina is a healthy blue-green algae which contains vitamins, minerals, and high levels of protein.  It is quite literally pond scum, but it is exceptionally good for you.

​Fascinating Spirulina Facts You May Not Know

For a lot of people, knowledge of spirulina stops at knowing that it is a healthy ingredient listed on certain supplements and beverages.

But spirulina is actually quite fascinating.

For starters, consider its history.  Spirulina is a super food which may only recently have entered into the limelight, but it has been harvested for consumption for centuries.

Indeed, Aztecs and others in Mesoamerica made spirulina into cakes called “tecuitlatl,” as observed by a soldier of Cortes. 

Curiously enough, the Aztecs seemed to lose interest in spirulina following the 16th century. 

This is likely because surrounding agricultural and urban projects ended up draining the lakes where they harvested it.

It wasn’t until 1940 that spirulina was studied again. 

French phycologist Pierre Dangeard analyzed samples of a cake referred to as “dihe” which was made by members of the Kanembu tribe in Chad, Africa.  

He discovered that it was made out of blue algae, a fact later confirmed in 1964 and 1965 by botanist Jean Leonard. 

Research into spirulina continued for the next few years, and in 1967, the International Association of Applied Microbiology declared that it was a “wonderful food source.”

If you want an example of just how good for you spirulina is, consider that it has been developed into muesli bars for ESA astronauts living on the International Space Station.  You can check it out here.

Another interesting thing about spirulina is its color. 

The dark bluish green is very eye-catching.  Some people also find it a bit nerve-wracking for whatever reason.

Perhaps it is that the thought of eating the stuff they see coating the surface of a pond is not very appetizing. 

Spirulina is perfectly safe, despite the fact that you may find the color “unusual.”

Indeed, the color comes from a pigment-protein complex referred to as “phycocyanin.”

This pigment is not just safe - it is ridiculously good for you.

Some of the properties of phycocyanin which have been reported include (1) antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, hepatoprotective and neuroprotective effects.

So that dark blue-green color should not concern you.  If anything, it should excite you.

Finally, one more fascinating spirulina fact concerns this algae’s classification.

When we talk about spirulina, we may be referring to either of two species.

These species are called Arthrospira platensis and Arthrospira maxima.

Arthrospira platensis is the species which is most commonly used in supplements today.

KEY POINTSpirulina is quite a fascinating substance, not only for its physical properties, but also for its history.

It has been harvested for consumption for centuries, and derives its unusual blue-green hue from a healthy pigment it contains called phycocyanin
.

​Types of Spirulina Supplements

spirulina capsules

Now that you know a little bit about spirulina, you may be wondering what forms of spirulina are available to eat today. 

After all, you are not going to run into traditional algae cakes made by the Aztecs or African tribes.

There are several different forms of spirulina you will encounter today:

Spirulina capsules and tablets  

One of the most common ways to take spirulina is in capsules and tablets which contain convenient doses of the algae powder.  

Spirulina powder

You can also purchase spirulina in a loose powder form.  This allows you to measure out the dose you want, or to add the powder directly into soups, breads, cereals, juices and so on. 

Spirulina drink mix  

This is pretty much the same thing as general-purpose spirulina powder, except that it is sold as a drink mix.  The idea is the same; you just mix it into a juice drink or smoothie and enjoy.

Foods or beverages which include spirulina as an ingredient

You can sometimes find foods or beverages in the health food section of your grocery store which list spirulina on the back.  

These are not spirulina supplements, but they do give you another option for adding more spirulina to your diet, albeit not in a highly concentrated form.

KEY POINTThere are a number of different types of spirulina products available today. That means you have plenty of flexible options available for enhancing your diet with the antioxidant-rich goodness of this healthy blue-green algae.

​What is the Correct Spirulina Dosage?

Spirulina can be taken safely in high dosages. 

The most common recommended dosage ranges between 2,000 - 3,000 mg per day according to the University of Maryland Medical Center​.  

Usually this is broken down into 4 - 6 portions.  Each portion consists of 500 mg. 

KEY POINTTake 500 mg of spirulina 4-6 times per day to enjoy the full health benefits.

​How to Take Spirulina

How do you take spirulina?  That depends on the type of spirulina product you have purchased.

If you have purchased spirulina capsules:

  • Check the directions to see how many capsules are recommended.
  • Take the recommended daily dosage with water.

If you have purchased a drink mix or powder:

  • Check the directions to see how many servings a day are recommended.  Usually you take around 1-2 teaspoons total per day.
  • Measure out the amount you need for each serving and add that much to your smoothie, juice drink, etc.
  • Enjoy.

Pre-prepared foods and beverages can of course simply be consumed just as they are.

Just keep in mind that they contain a much lower concentration of spirulina, and as a result are not adequate as regular supplements.  But they are delicious and nutritious.

KEY POINTTake 500 mg of spirulina 4-6 times per day to enjoy the full health benefits.

​Are There Spirulina Side Effects?

spirulina on wooden spoon

There are a couple cautions to be aware of concerning spirulina.

The first is that some people who take too much spirulina have reported upset stomach. 

So you should stick with the prescribed dosage and do not overdo it.

So long as you do this, spirulina should be side-effect free.

The second caution concerns the origin of the spirulina supplements you purchase.

Spirulina has quite a fascinating property in that it is able to absorb heavy metal ions (2) as well as harmful bacteria, microcystins, and other contaminants.

Indeed, the very study above concerns the notion of using spirulina to treat industrial waste water.  Spirulina may be able to eliminate heavy metal compounds from waste water by absorbing them.

While this is quite amazing - and potentially great for safe and eco-friendly water treatment purposes - it is bad news if you end up purchasing spirulina from the wrong source.

Spirulina which comes from polluted waters may soak up the contaminants in its environment.

This is particularly problematic in the waters surrounding China and Japan.

Consuming contaminated spirulina is incredibly dangerous.  This is especially true for children, but it is also true for adults.

Possible symptoms include liver damage, nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, thirst and rapid heartbeat. 

Shock may also occur, and in some cases, poisoning from contaminated spirulina can be fatal.

For this reason, it is vital that you purchase spirulina products from trusted manufacturers. 

Make sure that the spirulina comes from pure, clean waters which are free of toxic pollutants.

Also ensure that all the spirulina has been tested and is guaranteed to be free of contaminants.

So long as you do this, you can look forward to enjoying the benefits of spirulina without any concerns.

Note however that certain people should avoid spirulina:

  • Those who are pregnant or breastfeeding (this may or may not be safe; since right now there is not enough data, you may want to play it safe)
  • Patients with multiple sclerosis (MS), lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, pemphigus vulgaris or other auto-immune diseases.
  • Anyone with Phenylketonuria​, which is a rare inherited metabolic disorder. Also known as "PKU,​" this condition inhibits the body from breaking down an amino acid known as “phenylalanine.”  If phenylalanine is allowed to accumulate, it can lead to brain and central nervous system damage. 

One of the reasons why spirulina may be unsafe if you are pregnant is that it is possible for your child to have PKU in the womb. 

If that is the case, you will not know until your child is born and tested.  So if you consume spirulina, and your unborn child does have PKU, that could endanger your baby’s life.

The reason that spirulina is a problem for those with auto-immune diseases is that it stimulates the immune system. 

If you have a condition where your immune system attacks your own body, that can make your symptoms worse.

While I have provided a number of cautionary notes in this section, it should be noted that for the vast majority of users, spirulina is safe, so long as it comes from a trustworthy source.

KEY POINTSpirulina from trusted sources is safe and side-effect free for the majority of users. Avoid it if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, suffer from an auto-immune disease, or have Phenylketonuria.

​30 Health Benefits of Spirulina​

Now that you know more about spirulina, its history, interesting facts about its nutritional properties, and how to take it, let’s check out its spirulina's amazing health benefits!

1. Combat poisoning from heavy metals and other toxins.

Previously I shared a study with you which was looking into using spirulina to purify contaminated water.

I mentioned that the absorptive properties of spirulina can be dangerous for human health, because spirulina from polluted waters can be heavily contaminated.

As it turns out, in another context, the absorptive properties of spirulina can actually have health benefits - namely in situations where it is the body which is already contaminated.

Chronic arsenic poisoning is a problem which is prevalent worldwide, affecting millions of people in Asia, Mexico, South America, and even the United States (read the World Health Organization fact sheet here).

In one study (3), scientists treated patients suffering from chronic arsenic poisoning with 250 mg of spirulina extract with 2 mg of zinc twice per day for a 16 week period. 

They discovered that this treatment was effective in treating the arsenic poisoning.

Even if you are not suffering from chronic arsenic poisoning, you may very well have arsenic and other toxins present in your body from your drinking water.

Taking spirulina supplements regularly may help you to detoxify your body from these harmful pollutants.

This is quite a unique benefit, and one of the most amazing things about spirulina!

KEY POINT: Because spirulina is able to absorb contaminants, taking it may be helpful in detoxifying the body of harmful pollutants such as arsenic.

2. Spirulina contains a ton of protein.

Just 1 tablespoon of spirulina contains 4 grams of protein, which is 8% of your daily recommended value.

By weight, protein comprises 50 - 70% of spirulina.  Every essential amino acid is present.

Because spirulina is quite expensive compared to other protein sources, it is not a good substitute for animal sources. 

That being said, it can supplement your protein intake from other sources quite effectively.  It is great for this whether you have a meat-based or vegetarian diet.

KEY POINT: Spirulina is very high in protein. While it cannot stand in as your main protein source for reasons of cost, it makes for a protein-rich supplement.

3. Spirulina also contains numerous other vitamins and minerals in high amounts.

Along with the previously mentioned 4 grams of protein, 1 tablespoon of spirulina also contains the following:

spirulina tablets on spoon and spirulina powder on spoon
  • Thiamin: 11% DV
  • Riboflavin: 15% DV
  • Niacin: 4% DV
  • Folate: 6.6 mcg DV
  • Pantothenic acid: 2% DV
  • Iron: 11% DV
  • Magnesium: 3% DV
  • Potassium: 3% DV
  • Sodium: 3% DV
  • Copper: 21% DV
  • Manganese: 7% DV
  • Vitamin C: 1% DV
  • 57.6 mg omega-3 fatty acids

Each of these nutrients has numerous benefits for your overall health. 

So when you eat spirulina, you are not only getting lots of protein, but you also can enjoy the advantages conferred by this abundance of vitamins and minerals.

KEY POINTSpirulina contains a healthy cornucopia of vitamins and minerals.

​4. Fight your allergies.

Suffer from a runny nose, scratchy throat, headache, watery eyes, and other allergy symptoms?  If so, you are one of millions who do.

During allergy season, you may sometimes feel helpless to reduce your symptoms until the allergen goes away.

But actually, taking spirulina supplements may help to reduce your symptoms.  In this (4) animal study, it was found that spirulina could prevent and treat allergic rhinitis. 

This is because spirulina appears to act as a natural antihistamine.

Some humans studies (5) have also been conducted.

These results have also been hopeful.  The researchers in the linked study above noted that spirulina was more effective than a placebo, but added that further studies are warranted in order to be certain about the mechanism at work.

Treating your allergies with a natural supplement like spirulina has another benefit too, and that is in getting you away from OTC antihistamines.

Many common antihistamines such as Benadryl are classified as “anticholinergic” drugs.

These drugs have been linked to an increased risk of developing dementia. 

Considering that dementia is swiftly on the rise, and as of right now there is no sure way to prevent it or treat it, doing whatever you can to lessen your risk is very important.

This is why it is a good idea to consider replacing your OTC antihistamines with safe alternative such as spirulina.

KEY POINT: Spirulina appears to act as an antihistamine, and may be effective as a natural allergy treatment.  It makes a good alternative to unsafe OTC drugs which have been linked to dementia.

​5. Spirulina is an anti-inflammatory agent.

spirulina powder

As mentioned previously, the color of spirulina comes from the presence of a pigment called phycocyanin.

This pigment has demonstrated anti-inflammatory effects (6).

Inflammation in the body is associated with heart disease (7) and Alzheimer’s disease (8), among others.  

It is linked to the aging process (9), and when it flares out of control on a chronic basis, it can lead to an increased chance of mortality from a wide range of health conditions.

Because spirulina can help to reduce inflammation in your body, this means it has a protective effect against inflammation-related disease processes. 

This helps enhance your overall health now and in the future.

KEY POINTSpirulina protects your health by fighting inflammation throughout your body. This in turn helps to stave off inflammation-associated diseases.

6. Spirulina can fight oxidative stress in your body.

Phycocyanin is not just a pigment; it is also an antioxidant (10, 11).

Oxidative stress also plays a role in a range of health conditions.  Like inflammation, it is also involved with the aging process (12).

When you take spirulina supplements, you are providing your body with powerful antioxidants which can help to ward off oxidative stress and its effects.

This can reduce the amount of damage in your body, preventing disease and potentially increasing your lifespan. 

KEY POINTBecause spirulina contains antioxidants, it can help to fight oxidative stress, assisting you with staying healthy now and over the years to come.

7. Spirulina can protect your brain health.

senior man touch chin

Previously I mentioned that one benefit of spirulina is in helping you get away from over-the-counter antihistamines which may increase your chances of developing dementia.

Spirulina can also protect your brain health in other ways (13), reducing your chances of developing conditions such as Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s.

This study (14) has demonstrated that like blueberries and spinach, spirulina can reduce ischemic brain damage.

Again, dementia is on the rise.  The World Health Organization reports that dementia cases are expected to triple by the year 2050.

So anything you can do to protect yourself is vital, and there is no time to start like the present.

KEY POINTMore studies are needed, but early research suggests that spirulina may be able to help prevent neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s.

8. Possibly treat ADHD symptoms.

Another beneficial neurological effect of spirulina may concern the treatment of ADHD symptoms.

This study (15) checked the efficacy of a patented, compound herbal preparation in treating ADHD symptoms versus the effects of a placebo. 

One of the ingredients included in the formula was spirulina.

The results were encouraging, with the researchers concluding, “The well-tolerated CHP demonstrated improved attention, cognition, and impulse control in the intervention group, indicating promise for ADHD treatment in children.”

KEY POINT: Initial research indicates that spirulina may be helpful in treating symptoms of poor concentration and impulse control in children with ADHD.

9. Regulate your blood pressure.

In order to protect your cardiovascular health, you need to control markers of heart disease, one of which is blood pressure.

This study (16) looked at the effects of spirulina on blood pressure. 

It was found that simply taking 4.5 grams of spirulina each day without any other changes in diet was enough to drop blood pressure over a six-week time period.

KEY POINTAccording to early research, spirulina appears to be helpful in lowering blood pressure.

10. Balance cholesterol levels.

Along with blood pressure, it is important to keep your cholesterol levels in line for a healthy heart.

Studies (17, 18) have shown that spirulina can be effective in reducing cholesterol levels.

The second linked study above is particularly noteworthy, because the researchers found that spirulina reduced "total serum cholesterol​" significantly, but that ​"HDL-cholesterol showed no significant changes.​"

This is important, because HDL cholesterol is the type which is sometimes colloquially referred to as the ​"good​" cholesterol.

You want higher levels of HDL cholesterol and lower levels of LDL cholesterol.

Spirulina appears to reduce LDL cholesterol while preserving HDL cholesterol, making it a particularly effective supplement for maintaining balanced levels.

KEY POINTSpirulina may be helpful in reducing overall cholesterol levels while protecting HDL cholesterol. More research is needed however (see below).

11. Reduce triglycerides.

This (19) is an interesting study which was conducted to measure the effects of spirulina on cholesterol levels.

The researchers reported, ​"In our study, no changes were observed in plasma concentrations of total cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol, and HDL-cholesterol after spirulina intervention, however, a significant lowering effect on plasma triglyceride concentration was shown.​"

So this is an indication that spirulina may help to reduce triglycerides, which is important in improving and maintaining cardiovascular health.

Why did this study find no improvements in cholesterol levels? 

The researchers theorized that it might be because there was a difference in baseline lipid concentrations in comparison to other studies.

In studies where spirulina was shown to be effective in reducing cholesterol, it appears that the subjects had higher blood cholesterol levels at the start of the study.

If this theory is true, then spirulina probably is effective in reducing cholesterol in patients who need intervention.  But again, more research is needed.

KEY POINTJust as spirulina appears to be helpful in reducing cholesterol and blood pressure, it seems that it is able to lower triglycerides as well.

12. Stop LDL cholesterol from getting oxidized.

spirulina drink in cup and spoon

Now let’s take a look at a benefit which combines two of the advantages of spirulina: antioxidant activity and cholesterol balancing.

There is a dangerous process in the body called ​"lipid peroxidation.​"  

This is where fatty structures are damaged through oxidative stress (20, 21).

When LDL lipoproteins are oxidized in the blood, this increases the chances of heart disease (22).

Quite a few studies (23, 24, 25) have shown that spirulina’s antioxidant powers are helpful in fighting the process of lipid peroxidation while also boosting antioxidant enzyme levels in blood. 

This may help prevent LDL cholesterol from undergoing dangerous oxidation, in turn protecting heart health.

KEY POINTOne of the reasons why high levels of LDL cholesterol are dangerous is that that it can become oxidized. Research suggests that spirulina can help prevent this process from occurring. This is yet another way in which spirulina helps to support heart health.

13. Potentially fight cancer, particularly the oral variety.

Cancer, like dementia, is a deadly health condition which is now rampant, and for which there is no surefire treatment or cure.

There are studies which show that spirulina may be helpful in treating certain types of cancer however, particularly cancers of the mouth.

In this (26) study, it was found that supplementing with spirulina could help tobacco chewers to reduce their lesions.

What is really amazing is that 45% of the patients who were treated with the spirulina saw a complete regression of their lesions.

What is also noteworthy is that a year after the patients stopped taking the supplement, 9 patients out of those 45% developed new recurring lesions. 

This is further evidence that it was the spirulina which was leading to the improvement.

Here (27, 28) are a couple of animal studies which are worth a look.  Both show that spirulina may help to prevent cancer and tumors.

This study (29) showed that spirulina supplementation may be helpful in countering pancreatic cancer.

KEY POINTEarly research into spirulina and cancer shows that this supplement may be effective in treating cancer, particularly cancer of the mouth. More research is warranted to find out the extent of the possible benefits.

14. Enhance your workouts.

man and woman jogging

If you experience a lot of muscle fatigue during or after your workouts, it could be because you are suffering from the effects of exercise-induced oxidative stress.

Foods which are rich in antioxidants can help to counteract this effect, reducing muscle fatigue and boosting endurance.

Some studies have been conducted to see whether this might be the case with spirulina, and the results so far have been optimistic.

Two studies (31, 32) so far have demonstrated that spirulina supplementation can help to increase endurance, allowing exercisers to work out longer before fatigue took over.

Another study (33) was conducted which is also relevant.  This one found that taking spirulina for an 8 week period resulted in an increase in both isometric muscle endurance and isometric muscle strength.

So taking spirulina may help you to work out longer and harder than you could without, and it may also enhance the strength of your muscles.

Remember that ​spirulina is also rich in protein, so this is another advantage for bodybuilders who are trying to bulk out. 

KEY POINTResearchers have found that spirulina supplementation can have benefits for muscle endurance and strength.

15. You may be able to counteract anemia using spirulina.

If you are anemic, there is another way in which spirulina may benefit you.

Research (30) shows that spirulina supplementation may augment hemoglobin in blood cells while also boosting the immune system.

This is just an initial study, however, and more research is needed to say definitively whether this is one of spirulina’s benefits.

KEY POINTIt is possible that spirulina can boost red blood cell hemoglobin content, counteracting anemia.  More research is needed to say whether this is indeed the case.

16. Regulate your blood sugar levels and prevent or treat diabetes.

diabetic testing blood sugar

You already know that spirulina has benefits for blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglycerides, but did you know it can also help you to maintain stable blood sugar levels?

A number of animal studies (34, 35, 36) have shown spirulina to be effective in managing blood sugar levels, even surpassing drugs like Metformin.

There have been a few human studies as well, and they have also been promising. 

Consider this (37) small study for example, which looked at 25 patients with type 2 diabetes. 

It was found that those who took 2 grams of spirulina daily over a two month period displayed improvements in their blood glucose levels and lipid profiles.

Also impressive was a 1% drop in HbA1c.  While this may not sound dramatic (if you do not know a lot about diabetes), it is.  This is considered to be the key marker as pertains to long-term regulation of glucose levels.

If you want to know just how significant 1% is, I advise looking at this (38) study. 

Each 1% drop in HbA1c was associated with a 21% reduction in deaths connected to diabetes.  

Even though it is a small study, it illustrates the importance of this marker, and the potential significance of the spirulina findings.

So if you are diabetic or pre-diabetic, or you simply want to keep your blood sugar levels stable, consider taking a spirulina supplement.

KEY POINTInitial animal and human research studies show that spirulina may be effective in maintaining stable blood sugar levels.  Indeed, spirulina may even be able to reduce the HbA1c marker, potentially reducing the likelihood of mortality related to diabetes.

17. Possibly combat liver damage.

liver in man

Spirulina may also be able to provide a protective effect for liver health, reducing the chances that patients suffering from chronic liver disease will go on to develop cirrhosis or failure.

This study (39) showed that spirulina acts as an antioxidant and is able to assist in scavenging free radicals. 

The researchers also found that spirulina chelated metals, and that it was able to prevent liver damage induced by CCl4.

So if you are concerned about your liver health, there are some early signs that that spirulina may be able to help protect it. 

KEY POINTEarly research shows that spirulina may help to fight ward off liver damage.

18. Increase satiety and lose weight.

As discussed earlier in this article, spirulina contains a significant amount of protein.

Quite a few studies have been conducted on the effects of protein, and many have found that protein can increase metabolism while also promoting satiety (40, 41, 42, 43).

When you feel full, you are less likely to be tempted to eat more than you should.

A faster metabolism is also a great aid to promoting weight loss, since it means that your body is burning through calories more quickly.

So that is two ways in which spirulina can help you to reach your weight loss goals faster.

KEY POINTSpirulina is rich in protein, which can increase satiety while speeding up your metabolism.  Both of these effects help you to lose or maintain  weight.

19. Spirulina can produce GLA.

This is not a direct benefit of taking spirulina, but it is of interest. 

This (44) study looked at the ability of spirulina to produce a compound called gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) under various circumstances.

According to the researchers who conducted the study, GLA is useful in treating a broad range of conditions - everything from rheumatoid arthritis to eczema to PMS.

KEY POINTSpirulina may be a useful source for cultivating GLA, a compound which can be used to treat a variety of different health conditions.

20. Treat candida infections.

woman jump with joy

If you have ever had a candida infection, you know that they can be incredibly stubborn and hard to eradicate.

While many candida infections are merely annoying, some constitute a serious health concern (45). 

An imbalance in the body’s mircroflora can precede the onset of leaky gut syndrome and candidiasis. 

Animal studies have shown that spirulina has a protective effect against candida (46, 47, 48).

Furthermore, you already know that spirulina is able to stimulate the immune system.  This can help your body to fight back against candida (and other infections). 

KEY POINTCandida infections are common, and for many people, they are only a hassle. But in some cases, they can become quite serious, and can even lead to deadly developments. This is a persistent global health concern, one which spirulina may be helpful in combating.

21. Spirulina may help patients with HIV/AIDS to manage the condition.

HIV/AIDS rates are comparatively lower in Japan, Korea, and Chad than they are elsewhere in the world.

This has led researchers to wonder whether the reason has to do with the higher amounts of algae eaten in these countries.

A study was conducted (49) to investigate a possible connection.  It was a small pilot study, but still an interesting one. 

The subjects were split into groups and were assigned to eat either 5 grams a day of brown seaweed, 5 grams per day of spirulina, or a combination of the two.  The trial ran a three-month period.

The results were promising.  The researchers concluded by stating, ​"Our pilot data suggest that Undaria, Spirulina, and a combination of both were nontoxic and over time may improve clinical endpoints of HIV/AIDS.​"

More research in this area is certainly warranted.

KEY POINTThere is some initial research which suggests that spirulina may be helpful in combating HIV/AIDS.

22. Protect your skin from free radical damage.

skin under the sun

The connection between free radicals and skin damage is well documented by this point (50).

There are many sources of free radicals in our day-to-day lives to which our skin is exposed. 

These include UV rays, pollutants in our environments, chemicals we come into contact with, and even byproducts of our metabolism.

As you know, spirulina contains potent antioxidants.  These can help to counteract free radical damage in skin.

Research (51) also has documented that spirulina can protect against skin tumors resulting from UVB radiation. 

The researchers concluded this protective effect is the result of both the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity of spirulina.

Also consider that free radicals are in large part responsible for the effects of aging.

By counteracting them, you can reduce the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines, and keep skin soft, glowing and youthful.

So this is another cosmetic benefit which spirulina may help to provide. 

KEY POINTWhen our skin is exposed to free radicals, it can be damaged, and we can even develop cancerous tumors. Spirulina has been shown in studies to exert a protective effect against this kind of damage. It can also help keep your skin looking youthful.

23. Possibly treat hepatitis C.

One of the most serious liver diseases is hepatitis C.  This inflammatory disorder can even lead to complete liver failure if it is not treated swiftly.

Research has been conducted (52) to see whether spirulina, which possesses anti-inflammatory properties, might be useful in treating chronic hepatitis C.

Sixty six patients participated in the study.  One randomized group took spirulina while the other took Silymarin (milk thistle). 

The researchers followed up with both groups after three and six months. 

It was found that spirulina was indeed effective as a treatment, and actually outperformed Silymarin in several respects. 

The researchers closed by saying that the encouraging results necessitate a larger trial over a longer time period. 

KEY POINTThere is research which suggests that spirulina may be helpful in treating hepatitis C.

24. Reduce your chances of getting a stroke.

Cheerful medical personnel showing hand gesture

Eating spirulina can prevent atherosclerosis, which is a form of cardiovascular disease where you experience a buildup of plaque in your arteries.

As this plaque buildup can lead to stroke, taking spirulina supplements can potentially reduce your risk for stroke (53).

The study above was an animal trial, not a human one, but the results were quite impressive. 

This is promising research into the area of cardiovascular disease and spirulina, and more is warranted.

KEY POINTInitial research shows that spirulina may be able to prevent atherosclerosis, a cardiovascular disease which can lead to stroke. In doing so, spirulina may also reduce chances of stroke.

25. Protect bone health.

Because spirulina is a good source of calcium, it is good for your bone health.

​One animal study (54) is particularly fascinating.  Scientists gave spirulina to insulin-resistant rats along with the anti-diabetic drug called Rosiglitazone.

It was discovered that combining Rosiglitazone therapy with spirulina reduced the risk of the insulin-resistant rats developing osteoporosis.

Furthermore, it was found that spirulina enhanced the antilipidemic activity of Rosiglitazone. 

This means that it helped the Rosiglitazone to lower lipids like cholesterol.

The researchers found that spirulina improved Rosiglitazone’s antihyperglycemic activity as well.  This helped to reduce blood glucose levels.

This is quite exciting, because spirulina demonstrated three benefits in one study, all of them great for diabetic patients. 

KEY POINTIn animal research studies, scientists have found that spirulina can help to prevent osteoporosis. At the same time, it can also help control blood glucose and cholesterol levels.

26. Fight radiation sickness.

Ground spirulina in green bowl

If you are looking for the perfect supplement to take during the apocalypse, you might want to consider spirulina.

Radiation sickness can induce a range of severe symptoms including nausea, vomiting, bleeding, mouth ulcers, hair loss, fatigue, fever, diarrhea, and more. 

Exposure to radiation also can increase your chances of cancer when you are older.

Research (55) has been done to find out whether spirulina might be able to help protect against radiation sickness.

Micronucleus testing was conducted using extract from spirulina in mouse bone marrow cells.

It was found that spirulina extract ​"caused a significant reduction of the micronucleus frequencies induced by gamma-radiation.​"

Another (56) study exposed mice to gamma radiation. 

The mice in the control group were irradiated without receiving spirulina, while those in the experimental group were given 800 mg/kg body weight for seven days prior to exposure to the same radiation.

The mice which were treated with the spirulina had significantly less malondialdehyde (MDA) formed in their livers.

This indicated that the spirulina provided protection against the cellular and membrane damage induced by the radiation.

While these studies were not conducted on humans, they do have exciting results.

More research on spirulina in the field of radioprotective medicine is needed to ascertain the full benefits.

KEY POINTResearchers conducting animal studies have found that spirulina helps to protect against radioactive effects.

27. Increase the growth of healthy intestinal bacteria.

woman make heart hand sign on stomach

Spirulina has been found to be useful in promoting the growth of bacteria such as Lactococcus lactis (59).

Bacteria like Lactococcus lactis can be very beneficial, providing a protective effect against diseases. 

Indeed, Lactococcus lactis has even been shown in research to assist in treating cancer (60).

Taking spirulina supplements may help to promote the growth of your own healthy intestinal flora.

It may also be possible that manufacturers of probiotics can make use of spirulina as part of their production processes. 

KEY POINTSpirulina has proven to be useful in stimulating the growth of healthy bacteria which are used to prevent and treat disease.

28. Increase immune system response, protecting against a range of infectious diseases.

There are multiple studies (57, 58) which show that spirulina can increase immune activity.

This means that taking spirulina supplements may help to enhance disease resistance.

Indeed, this effect of taking spirulina is so potent that doctors urge caution to patients of auto-immune diseases who are thinking about using the supplement.

KEY POINTSpirulina helps to boost the immune system, which can protect against many diseases.

29. Treat arthritis pain and inflammation.

Arthritis is a disease where the joints are affected by chronic inflammation.  This causes ongoing pain and swelling.

Hundreds of millions of people suffer from this disease which has no cure.

But it is possible to treat arthritis. 

Spirulina has powerful anti-inflammatory properties, as you already know.

This has made it effective in inhibiting arthritis symptoms in studies (61, 62).

KEY POINTIf you suffer from the debilitating effects of arthritis, you may find that spirulina supplements help to alleviate some of your inflammation, pain and swelling.

30. Speed up wound healing.

man in bed looking at his wound on leg

One more potential benefit of spirulina concerns the area of wound healing.

Researchers have studied spirulina and wound healing (63), and have found that the aqueous extract from the algae is useful in treating chronic wound as well as its complications.

This may prove a useful therapy for diabetes mellitus patients.

It also indicates that spirulina may be helpful in treating wounds all around.

KEY POINTDiabetes mellitus patients who suffer from chronic wounds may find that the aqueous extract of spirulina helps to facilitate fast healing.

Spirulina FAQ

Q: Are some types of spirulina more beneficial than others?

​Yes.  In fact, a particular variety known as Hawaiian Spirulina Pacifica currently contains the densest nutrition per serving on the market.  

Of course, that may change in the future, so it is always good to do your research before you go shopping.

Q: What is the difference between spirulina ​vs. chlorella?

​​These types of microalgae are much alike, and are often discussed in the same sentence together.  

Indeed, decades ago when research into spirulina was just beginning, scientists mixed up spirulina and chlorella. 

But there are a few key differences between the two.  For one, they are different on a structural level. 

Chlorella is spherical and consists of only one cell.  It is green in color. 

Spirulina on the other hand is spiral-shaped and may consist of many cells.  It is blue-green, and may be a hundred times larger than chlorella.

chlorella vs spirulina colour

For another thing, chlorella grows in freshwater and may be challenging to harvest since other species are often present.

Spirulina tends to show up in freshwater as well, but in water which has a higher pH. 

This high pH makes it harder for other organisms to thrive.  The result is that it is easier to harvest than chlorella.

You may have noticed that chlorella tends to cost more than spirulina. 

This has nothing to do with its effectiveness; it has everything to do with the manufacturing process for each and the differences between them.

Chlorella is surrounded by a wall of indigestible cellulose.

This wall has to be broken down in advance through mechanical procedures in order for the human body to be able to digest it.  This is an expensive and involved process.

Spirulina on the other hand is already digestible just as it is.  So this process is not needed, and the manufacturing cost is significantly reduced.

There are nutritional differences between spirulina and chlorella as well. 

While chlorella is also very healthy, spirulina contains higher amounts of amino acids, vitamins, iron and protein.

Q: Should I take spirulina or some other type of algae?

​That depends on the exact health benefits you are looking for and which algae you are thinking about taking. 

In general, though, I would recommend spirulina most highly both for its nutritional profile and the prolific research which has been conducted on its health benefits. 

It is also less expensive than chlorella, as just discussed.

Q: How can I be sure that spirulina is safe?

​Always make sure that you are purchasing your spirulina supplements from a reputable manufacturer following strict quality control protocols.  

So long as you do this, you can avoid contaminated spirulina.  Non-contaminated spirulina is perfectly safe for the majority of users. 

KEY POINTWhile spirulina may seem similar to other algae supplements like chlorella, it is less expensive and contains more nutrition.

Conclusion: Spirulina Is a Healthy, Nutritious Supplement With Numerous Health Benefits

Now you are familiar with the numerous benefits of spirulina for wound healing, arthritis, cardiovascular health, diabetes, and even cancer.  

Research into this healthy blue-green algae is ongoing, and much of it is still in the starting stages.  But the results are promising.  

Who would have thought that pond scum could have so many surprising benefits?  

So think about adding spirulina supplements to your regular diet.  Doing so will protect your health now and in the future.

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