The Most Complete Guide To Spirulina

guide to spirulina

What is Spirulina?

Spirulina is a blue-green algae classified under the bacteria kingdom. It naturally inhabits in salty bodies of water (i.e. seas, salty lakes), particularly in places with subtropical and tropical climates.

It is vastly found in Asia, America, Central Africa and Mexico. [1] Being rich in chlorophyll, spirulina contributes to the dark-green appearance of many of the waters in those regions.

Spirulina was formerly known as Athrospira and is classified as cyanobacteria. It is abundant in plant pigments and is capable of photosynthesis.  This is why it was initially classified under the plant kingdom and known as the Spirulina Plant.

One of the Most Popular Spirulina...​

Hawaiian spirulina, also known as Spirulina Pacifica, is a strain of the blue-green algae Spirulina Platensis. It is cultured in the shallow, open ponds of Hawaii, which are around 20 cm deep and are located adjacently to the Pacific Ocean. According to the analysis of molecular biologists at the University of Hawaii, Spirulina patensis possesses unique enzymes that are not found in other spirulina strains. [6]

Hawaiian spirulina is also considered one of the best spirulina in the world because it is cultured in Class AA coastal water in the United States. This means that it is thriving in the cleanest coastal waters. Therefore, there’s low risk for these spirulina strain to get contaminated.

#1 Recommended hawaiian spirulina

​Over 400+ 5 Star Reviews!

3 Spirulina Species

There are three spirulina species that are studied intensively for their nutritional and therapeutic values. [1]

  • Spirulina fusiformis (Arthrospira fusiformis)
  • ​Spirulina maxima (Athrospira maxima)
  • Spirulina plantesis (Arthrospira platensis)

These are also the species that are mostly used in commercial production of the spirulina supplement.

​What is Spirulina Good For?

​This question seems to be very common when researching spirulina.  With all the research that has been done on the three spirulina species many benefits of spirulina have been found. 

Spirulina Benefits

Spirulina has many benefits and is good for many things.  We have narrowed the benefits down to three major areas.  

  • Spirulina is an alternative food source
  • Spirulina has a lot of health benefits
  • Growing spirulina is cost-effective and eco-friendly

Spirulina is an alternative food source


Spirulina is used in more than 77 countries around the world either as a food, supplement or for other reasons. In fact, it is considered a remarkable solution for malnutrition because it is packed with essential nutrients, vitamins and minerals.

In a clinical study, malnourished children in Mexico, Togo, Romania, China, Rwanda, Zaire, India, Ukraine and Belarus showed significant improvement and recovery after taking spirulina for a period of time. [7]

Spirulina Nutrition​:

spirulina nutrition facts

​Spirulina has excellent nutritional value. Thus, it is consumed as food in most Asian countries. It has become so popular due to its benefits that it is now produced and sold worldwide.

Spirulina consists of 18 amino acids, the building blocks of protein. Overall, this blue-green algae’s composition is 50-65% protein.

It is also known as source of linoleic and gamma-linolenic.  These are essential fatty acids that the body can not synthesize naturally and therefore means they need to be taken from dietary sources, such as spirulina.

Spirulina also contains vitamins and mineral, particularly vitamin B12 and iron. Other components of this blue-green algae that makes spirulina nutrition beneficial to health are carotenoids, B-carotene, phycocyanin and superoxide dismutase (SOD).

Protein is an essential nutrient, as it comprises the basic unit of life, your cells. It helps your body build and maintain a healthy skin, muscles and bones. Protein has significant role in repairing damaged cells and producing new ones. And here’s the catch, you need to have a regular intake of protein, as this nutrient is not stored in the body the same way as carbohydrates and fats are deposited. [11] [12]

According to certain studies, linolic acid (linoleic) can help reduce the body fat and improve metabolic functions. Some studies claimed that linoleic acid could also reduce the HDL level and improve the lipid profile as a whole. Moreover, linoleic acid together with gamma-linolenic acid has anti-inflammatory effect, which aids in alleviating chronic inflammation and its symptoms. [14]

Iron and vitamin B12 play significant roles in blood formation and metabolism. Deficiency of any of these nutrients will result to anemia. [15] [16]

Phycocyanin gives spirulina its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective property. [13] While superoxide dismutase and carotenoids including beta-carotene are known to be having antioxidant effect. [17] [18]

Spirulina has a lot of health benefits


A scientific research in 2011 conducted by Robert Henrikson revealed the spirulina health benefits. According to the research, spirulina can boost the immune system function, decrease cancer risk, enhance anti-viral activities, promote wound healing, improve nutrient absorption and food digestion protect against infection, alleviate radiation sickness and cleanse the toxic substances in the kidneys and liver. In additon to all this Spirulina also has anti-aging and neuroprotective properties. [7]

​It’s been suggested as well that spirulina can be used for cancer prevention, infection, weight loss, fibromyalgia, high cholesterol levels, hives and liver protection. [7]

Improves Immune System:

Since these blue-green algae can boost the immune system function, this is good for people who are immune compromised just like those individuals who have cancer, have chronic illnesses, and those who have HIV, herpes or influenza infection. [2]

High in Protein​:

With spirulina composition being so high in protien it makes for a great protein supplement. And since it is a plant source its vegetarian friendly. However, meat and animal products are still the best sources of complete protein for non-vegetarian people. [2]

Lose Weight:​

Spirulina is an excellent dietary aid for people who are struggling to lose weight because of its high protein content. Protein can make you feel satiated so easily, which inhibits you from overeating. However, do not confuse satiety with appetite suppression because spirulina does not suppress your appetite. [10]

Rich in Vitamin B12 & Iron​:

If you have anemia due to lack of vitamin B12 or because of iron deficiency, then try spirulina supplement as this blue-green algae is rich in vitamin B12 and iron. It also serves as food for the good bacteria in your gut. Hence, it is recommended for people who have digestive problems. [10]

Detox​:

If you have a highly toxic lifestyle, you need to detoxify your body regularly. Taking spirulina could be one of the best options as it has antioxidant properties and it is efficient in cleansing the toxins in your liver and kidneys. [10]

Reduce Blood Cholesterol Levels:​

Spirulina also supports cardiovascular (heart and blood vessel) function and it reduces your blood cholesterol level. [9]

Growing spirulina is cost-effective and eco-friendly


Lastly, cultivating spirulina is cost-effective because it only requires low maintenance in terms of energy and water cost. Likewise, there’s no need for deforestation just to grow spirulina, it only needs non-fertile land and brackish water to flourish. [7]

Growing spirulina is not new. In fact, over 22 countries cultivate these blue-green algae as food source and dietary supplement.

It is massively found in bodies of water that are naturally alkaline and salty such as in Lake Texcoco (Mexico), Lake Chad (Central Africa) and Great Rift Valley (east Africa).

Other spirulina farms that commercially cultivate these blue-green algae are found in Hainan (China), Yaeyama (Japan), Earthrise (Californiaa), Cyanotech (Haawii), Boonsom (Thailand), Twyn Taung Crater Lake, Myanmar and Darwin farm (Australia). [26]

Growing spirulina has a lot of advantages. One of which is that you don’t need a fertile land to cultivate spirulina. These blue-green algae can grow in non-fertile and brackish water.

Less water is also required for spirulina farming compared to other crops. In fact, the water used in spirulina production is often reused in the ponds after harvest. Likewise, there’s no need for pesticides, herbicides and other extra agriculture expenses to maintain a spirulina farm.

Another major advantage of growing spirulina is that these blue-green algae are more efficient in producing oxygen than trees. [7]

Over several years scientists have been designing guides and equipment that allow you to grow spirulina at your own home. [27] 

Spirulina Facts - The Most Common Questions

What spirulina facts do you want to know? For sure you have a lot of questions in your mind, but sometimes the information available on web overwhelms you. Well, let’s discuss the 4 most common ones.

Does Spirulina Work?

Yes, it does! In fact, the World Health Organization recognizes spirulina as an interesting food because of its health benefits and nutritional value. [7]Keep in mind that spirulina is a food and a dietary supplement, not a medicine to a disease. Studies revealed that spirulina is efficient in boosting the immune system, detoxifying the body, managing weight problems and malnutrition, preventing cancer, decreasing blood cholesterol levels and serving as supplement for various nutrient, vitamins and mineral deficiencies. [28] [29]

Is Spirulina Safe?​

Yes, it is! There were no adverse effects noted even when you take a high dose of this dietary supplement, as long as it is not contaminated with other substances. To ensure safety, purchase only those spirulina brands with good reputation in the health market. [2] Often times, we get the quality of what we paid for. So, don’t be blinded by cheap prices of some spirulina products. Always consider its quality and the customers’ feedback towards such product and its supplier.

Consult your doctor first before consuming spirulina, particularly if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. This dietary supplement is also contraindicated to those individuals with phenylketonuria (PKU), who have difficulty metabolizing amino acids. [2]

Are there Spirulina Side Effects?​

There are no documented severe side effects of spirulina, except for the allergic reactions that some consumers experienced.

Overall, spirulina has no side effects based on several tests conducted for centuries. However, allergic reactions were cited by other sources as the possible spirulina side effects, particularly those spirulina products with additional synthetic ingredients like Biokomplexen. [4]

​Also, keep in mind that spirulina is rich in amino acids, so it is not recommended for people with PKU or phenylketonuria. [2]

​To avoid allergic reactions, check on the product label of spirulina for additional ingredients and other synthetic chemicals incorporated by the chemical companies. Moreover, consult your doctor first before taking spirulina supplements, particularly if you are taking warfarin (Coumadin), a blood thinner drug. Spirulina has drug interactions with warfarin, which interferes with the effectiveness of this medication. [5]

How Should I Take Spirulina?​

Spirulina tablet, powder and capsule are taken by mouth. Products may vary from dosage instructions but adults can take 3-6 tablets daily [2] or 1 teaspoon of powder mixed in a glass of water. You can also make spirulina smoothie. Make sure to increase your water intake while in spirulina supplement.

Spirulina Dosage?

The dosage for each form of spirulina varies from different suppliers. Likewise, your age, current health status and other underlying conditions need to be considered by your health care practitioner before giving you the appropriate dose. In general, 1g to 8.4g per day are the therapeutic dose range used by researchers. [3]

What Forms Are Spirulina Sold In?

Powder, capsule, and pill or tablets are the available Spirulina forms in the health food stores. These commercial forms of Spirulina often use the species Spirulina maxima and Spirulina platensis. 

Spirulina Pills, Casules & Tablets

Spirulina tablets or pills are available in 500 mg dose per tablet. In general, the recommended dosage for adults is 3-6 tablets daily. However, there is no standard dose yet set for children and those who are younger than 18 years old. [2] Some suppliers indicated that 1-3 tablets per day is the standard dose for children [20], but it would be safe to consult your doctor first.

Spirulina tablets allow consumers to have a controlled dose as each tablet has a standard quantity of the blue-green algae. [19] To start your dose, take 1 tablet once a day on your first two days. Then, increase it to 2 tablets each day for the next two days. Make it 3 tablets daily for the following couple of days until you can tolerate the standard dosage, which is 3-6 tablets daily.

You can take the tablets all at once in the morning. Or divide your dose up over breakfast, lunch and dinner.

It is highly recommended as well to increase your daily water intake when taking spirulina tablets to support the detoxifying property of this dietary supplement. [20]

Spirulina Powder

spirulina powder

Spirulina powder is another available form that is gaining popularity in the health market. The powder form of spirulina is not considered an ordinary dietary supplement, but it is consumed as food in places where these blue-green algae are abundantly cultivated.

Powdered spirulina is often more concentrated than tablets. This form is also easily absorbed. Most spirulina powder are mixed with pure water, while other brands can be blended with juice or into yoghurt. [22] Just mix ½ to 1-teaspoon spirulina powder to a glass of water, fruit or vegetable juice for daily consumption.

In a study conducted, wherein spirulina powder content was analyzed, the findings revealed that its dominant nutritional component are protein and carbohydrates [21]

This makes spirulina an excellent protein supplement, particularly for vegetarians who don’t eat meat and animal products.

Spirulina Facemask

Spirulina face mask

Aside from consuming spirulina powder as food supplement, you can use such powder to make spirulina facemask. Since spirulina is rich in protein, it best helps in skin regeneration and repair. It also has an antibacterial property, which can help eradicate bacteria that cause acne. Spirulina can aid in detoxifying your skin as well.

Just mix ¼ teaspoon of the powder with a few drops of filtered water until its consistency becomes pasty.

To apply the mask, cleanse your face with mild soap before applying the mask. Apply the mask on your face and leave it on for 20 minutes. To remove the mask, soak a soft facial cloth in warm water, and then gently wipe the mask off using the damp cloth. And don’t forget to apply a skin toner and moisturizer for best results. You may apply spirulina facemask 2 to 3 times a week. [23]

Spirulina smoothie

Some people might not like how pure spirulina tastes like. So, not all would be fond of taking spirulina tablet or powder mixed in pure water. To satisfy your taste buds, you may try spirulina smoothie!

To make a smoothie, all you need is a blender! You can choose the fruits or ingredients that you want to add in your smoothie. Some people prefer adding some honey or milk while others enjoy mixing spirulina powder with juice or yogurt.

References:

  1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2907180/
  2. http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/supplement/spirulina
  3. http://www.med.nyu.edu/content?ChunkIID=21606
  4. http://net-on.org/1616/Spirulina-Health-Benefits-Side-Effects-Uses-Dosage-Warnings
  5. http://healthcare.utah.edu/healthlibrary/related/doc.php?type=19&id=Spirulina
  6. http://www.cyanotech.com/spirulina.html
  7. http://iimsam.org/en/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/HEALTH-BENEFITS-OF-SPIRULINA-2011-ARTICLE.pdf
  8. http://spirulina.org.uk/spirulina_dietsupplement.htm
  9. http://www.chinese-herbs.org/spirulina/
  10. http://net-on.org/1616/Spirulina-Health-Benefits-Side-Effects-Uses-Dosage-Warnings
  11. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/dietaryproteins.html
  12. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002467.htm
  13. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12769719
  14. http://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/linoleic_acid#section=Therapeutic-Uses
  15. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002403.htm
  16. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/iron.html
  17. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12134711
  18. http://www.lef.org/Magazine/2006/6/report_sod/Page-01
  19. http://spirulina.org.uk/spirulinatablets.htm
  20. http://www.marcusrohrerspirulina.com/products/use/dosage-tablets/
  21. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23841411
  22. http://spirulinapowder-review.com/
  23. http://www.delightedmomma.com/2013/08/diy-spirulina-face-mask-ultimate.html
  24. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/923.html
  25. http://www.all-smoothie-recipes.com/spirulina-smoothie.html
  26. http://iimsam.org/en/iimsam-spirulina-resource-centre-6/
  27. http://www.algaelab.org/
  28. http://iimsam.org/en/iimsam-spirulina-resource-centre-3/
  29. http://iimsam.org/en/iimsam-spirulina-resource-centre-4/