Vitamins, Minerals and Dietary Supplements
What is spirulina? Why do we need it?
Spirulina is a type of blue-green algae, of which there are
several species. The most popular are spirulina maxima (which
is cultivated in Mexico) and spirulina platensis (which is
cultivated in California). It grows best in warm climates
and areas with warm, alkaline water.
Spirulina is a rich source of nutrients, especially protein.
Sixty-two percent of its composition consists of nonessential
amino acids; it is also rich in vitamins, beta-carotene, zinc,
manganese, copper, iron, selenium, and essential fatty acids
such as GLA. Because of its high nutrient content, and because
the cellular walls of spirulina are made up of complex proteins
and sugars instead of cellulose, it is easily digested by
the body and is considered a vital food source for vegetarians.
Many weightlifters also use spirulina as a protein source.
Spirulina is currently being studied to determine its effects
on a number of clinical conditions. One recent study indicated
that calcium spirulina, a component of spirulina, could protect
the body against HIV. Animal studies have determined that
another component of spirulina, C-phycocyanin, can reduce
inflammation in the colon. Other clinical trials suggest that
spirulina can inhibit the growth of some forms of cancers
and can reduce the risk of oral cancer in people who chew
How much spirulina should I take?
A standard dosage of spirulina is 4-6 tablets (500mg) per
day. However, patients should always consult with a health
care provider before taking spirulina supplements.
What are some good sources of spirulina?
What forms are available?
Spirulina is an algae. Although it can be found growing in
warm climates, most spirulina consumed in the U.S. is cultivated
in a laboratory. It is readily available in pill or powder
form at most health food stores.
What can happen if I don't
get enough spirulina? What can happen if I take too much?
Are there any side-effects I should be aware of?
To date, there are no known side-effects or interactions
reported with spirulina. However, women who are pregnant or
breast-feeding should consult with a health care provider
before taking spirulina supplements.
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H. Pharmacology and toxicology of spirulina alga. Rev
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- Gonzalez R, Rodriguez S, Romay C, et al.
Anti-inflammatory activity of phycocyanin extract in acetic
acid-induced colitis in rats. Pharmacol Res 1999;39:10551059.
- Mathew B, Sankaranarayanan R, Nair PP,
et al. Evaluation of chemoprevention of oral cancer with
spirulina fusiformis. Nutr Cancer 1995;24:197202.
- 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 1998;62:235241.