Spirulina is found in numerous forms to include tablets, powders, flakes and as dietary pill supplements. Most notably those who take spirulina take it as a supplement, while a smaller population consumes it in whole food form. Small and circular in shape and often harvested in a dark green color, they are not the most appetizing foods, but they have enormous nutritional value and its history dates back thousands of years and is traced to the Aztec and Mesoamerican tribes in the 16th century.
The most common alternative names spirulina is referred by are Arthrospira plantensis, Blue-green algae and Spirulina fusiformis.
Spirulina is referred to as a complete protein due to it having each one of the amino acids that are essential to the human body. It also has smaller amounts of methionine, cysteine and lysine, although there are better sources of the latter in other foods since the trace amounts are low in spirulina. It also contains minute traces of vitamin B 12, though nutritionists caution that due to the low amount it should not be counted on as a source of this vitamin.
There are however other minerals and vitamins in spirulina that do offer benefits such as gamma-linolenic acid, eicosapentaenoic acid, sodium, zinc and vitamins D, A, E, K and C, all of which are essential for health.
To date there are no known safety concerns related to ingesting spirulina by both humans or animals, though it does contain very high amounts of vitamin K and therefore those who have had or plan to have anticoagulant treatments should consult their physician prior to eating spirulina.
In some cultures spirulina is used to treat various diseases such as hay fever and allergic rhinitis as well as being used to combat the effects of arsenic poisoning, although the research is still infantile and to date there isn’t enough published material to determine if spirulina is effect as a holistic treatment.
It does however contain many acids that are beneficial as well as large amounts of antioxidants and those have been proven to be effective for a host of health concerns such as immune support, cardiovascular health and the repair of cells which have been compromised or damaged.
As a protein source, spirulina makes for a great supplement since its consistency consists of over 60% proteins and even more so when used in conjunction with other protein grains, nuts or cereals.
Some research has shown that spirulina may be effective in helping liver functioning in patients with cirrhosis of the liver or who have contract hepatitis. Other research and studies have preliminary findings related to spirulina being able to defend the body and its mechanics against the flu, herpes and AIDS, although these studies are still in their early stages.
Children have taken spirulina, however it is best to consult a physician if your child is under the age of 18 as extensive studies have not been performed on safety risks for minors who take it.
Spirulina has been found to negatively interact with numerous medications such as Humira, Remicade, CellCept, Imuran and various other medications which suppress the immune system. Consult your doctor prior to taking spirulina if you take prescription medications.
Those diagnosed with phenylketonuria (PKU) should refrain from taking or ingesting spirulina as their systems are unable to metabolize one of the main acids, phenylalanines, which are in spirulina.
Pregnant women should also not ingest spirulina without consulting their doctor.
Those afflicted with autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, or lupus should not take spirulina as it can cause a spike in the immune system which can be troublesome for those who have these disorders.
Health Benefits in Supplemental Form
Spirulina supplements contain Beta carotene which has been found to assist the body in defending itself again toxins and some illnesses such as influenza and the common cold. It also has Zeaxanthin which is optimal for vision health, as well as providing a decent source of iron, particularly for women.
Spirulina supplements also contain Gamma-linolenic acid which is the same acid found in lactating women which provides essential nutrients and vitamins for their newborn babies.
When purchasing a spirulina supplement it is important to read the labels carefully as they are not manufactured the same and not all producers follow the same guidelines during production. Those who want to take a spirula supplement should only purchase holistic and natural forms of the vitamin and research all the ingredients in the bottle’s content. Although many supplements list all active ingredients as ‘natural’ some can be harmful or toxic as well as interfere with over the counter and prescription medications and current health conditions.