Spirulina is a non-toxic cyanobacteria that improves fatigue, supercharges the immune system and is a potent antioxidant. Cyanobacteria is a family of single-celled microbes that are often referred to as blue-green algae.
Referred to as “Tecuitlatl,” spirulina was a primary source of protein for the Aztecs for several hundred years, and Lake Texcoco remains an abundant fountainhead of this Superfood still today (1).
Gram for gram, spirulina may be the single most nutritious food on the planet. One tablespoon contains protein, B vitamins, iron, magnesium copper, manganese and other trace elements.
1Spirulina can lower bad LDL cholesterol. One 2014 study found that people with high cholesterol determined that 1 gram of spirulina per day lowered triglycerides by 16.3% and “bad” LDL by 10.1% (2).
It was concluded that “Spirulina supplementation at a dose of 1 g daily has powerful hypolipidaemic effects, especially on the triglyceride concentration in dyslipidaemic Cretan outpatients.”
A 2001 study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food showed that 2g of spirulina per day improved heart disease markers including lipid profiles (3).
Another 2008 study involving 78 individuals showed that higher doses of spirulina (between 4-8g) had favorable effects on lipid profiles, immune variables, and antioxidant capacity in healthy, elderly male and female subjects and is suitable as a functional food (4).
2Spirulina fights off lipid peroxidation. Lipid peroxidation is a key component of many diseases (5).
In a study in 37 people with type 2 diabetes, 8 grams of spirulina per day significantly reduced markers of oxidative damage. It also increased levels of antioxidant enzymes in the blood (6).
3Spirulina has anti-cancer benefits. A 1995 study involving 87 people investigated the effects of spirulina treatment for oral cancer. Over the course of a year, the patients who supplemented with 1g of spirulina per day saw a 45% reduction in cancer-related lesions.
What even more shocking is that when they stopped the supplementation, 50% of them redeveloped the lesions (9).
Research shows that spirulina has the potential to increase anti-tumor natural killer cells via oral administration (10).
In 2009, a study explored spirulina’s anti-cancer effects. In this animal study, it was found to be a plausible treatment strategy for cancer. However, more human and clinical studies are needed to solidify and support this evidence (11).
In a precancerous condition called oral submucous fibrosis, 1 gram of spirulina a day showed greater improvements than other drugs, such as pentoxifylline (12).
4Spirulina can fight off fatigue. A 2016 study published in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition showed that spirulina supplementation decreased the perception of physical and mental fatigue within 4 hours of supplementation (13).
5Spirulina can protect the brain. A 2011 study out of Tokyo concluded that “spirulina prevents the loss of memory possibly by lessening Aβ protein accumulation, reducing oxidative damage and mainly augmenting the catalase activity ” (14).
Senior individuals with a history of anemia participated in a 12-week trial. After 12 weeks, tests showed improved in the average mass of their red blood cells. Researchers considered this encouraging and also noted an increase in their white blood cell count. In fact, spirulina may not only help in anemia cases, but also help improve overall immune function (15).
6Spirulina helps to protect the liver. A 2016 review showed that spirulina supplementation decreased oxidative stress and helped to normalize enzyme levels (16).
People with fatty liver who took 4.5g daily for six months had reduced fatty liver build-up as induced by the diet. Spirulina appears to be quite potent at doing so independent of lifestyle changes (17).
In fact, spirulina, when combined with zinc, is thought to help treat arsenic poisoning. It was found to remove arsenic from the liver and other parts of the body – aiding in decreased negative effects (28).
7Spirulina may reduce blood pressure. A 2007 study showed that supplementing with 4.5g of spirulina per day reduced blood pressure (18).
Another study showed that spirulina contains Phycocyanin, a pigment that lowers blood pressure. In fact, Japanese researchers believe the blue-green algae reverses endothelial dysfunction in metabolic syndrome (19).
8Spirulina can improve allergy symptoms. A study involving 127 people showed that 2g per day of spirulina was effective in treating stuffy noses, sneezing, itchy and watery eyes, and other allergic rhinitis symptoms (20).
The supplement was also shown to suppress the secretion of inflammatory cytokines that contributed to allergies (15).
In fact, the supplement is a popular alternative medicine option to treat this particular allergy. Studies have noted a high degree of improvement in those that take spirulina for Allergic Rhinitis (16).
9Spirulina can help with anemia. Anemia is often characterized by a reduction in hemoglobin or red blood cells in your blood. In a study of 40 older people with a history of anemia, spirulina supplements increased the hemoglobin content of red blood cells and improved immune function (17).
10Spirulina can help with diabetes and blood sugar control. In 2001, researchers conducted a study where they gave the experiment group, who had diabetes mellitus, 2 grams of spirulina every day. The results suggested that spirulina could help control blood sugar levels, as well as improve their lipid profiles (18).
A 2012 study looked at the oral administration of spirulina in mice. The results indicated its use in preventing diabetes as it improved key markers that frequently lead to the disease (19).
In fact, some studies suggest that spirulina has the potential to perform better than some traditional diabetic medication. However, it is important to always check with your doctor and follow your specific healthcare professionals advice (20, 21, 22).
11Spirulina can detox heavy metals from the body. According to the World Health Organization, chronic arsenic toxicity is a problem. In humans, spirulina extract combined with zinc helped treat symptoms of arsenic poisoning and reduce the amount of arsenic found in the body.
After giving 24 patients affected by chronic arsenic poisoning spirulina extract (250 milligrams) plus zinc (2 milligrams) twice daily, they compared the results with 17 patients who took a placebo and found that the spirulina-zinc combination worked. Ultimately, the participants experienced a 47 percent decrease of arsenic in their body (23).
13Spirulina can eliminate candida. Spirulina benefits have been shown to promote the growth of healthy bacterial flora in the intestines, which in turn inhibits candida from thriving. Additionally, the immune-strengthening properties of spirulina will help the body eliminate candida cells (26).
14Spirulina can reduce the chance of stroke. Researchers have discovered that the spirulina supplementation lowered intimal aorta surface by 33 percent to 48 percent, which suggests that it can prevent atherosclerosis and subsequent stroke (30).
15Spirulina can help build muscle. A 2008 study published in the European Journal of Nutrition showed that spirulina rats had more hypertrophy effects due to increased protein synthesis compared to casein protein fed rats (31).
A 2006 study indicated that spirulina may reduce skeletal muscle damage. Researchers inferred that this postponed exhaustion, ultimately increasing their endurance (32).
A 2010 study examined similar properties in spirulina. Participants were given a placebo or 6 grams of spirulina on a daily basis. With spirulina supplementation, individuals experienced increased time to fatigue. In turn, scientists concluded that the supplement increased muscle performance, fat oxidation, and glutathione concentration (33).
16Spirulina itself has powerful antioxidant effects. Many animal and in vitro studies have shown its antioxidant properties. It reduces oxidative stress which leads to various life-threatening diseases. However, varying dosages have been explored, and more human studies would help determine exact effects and benefits (34).
Spirulina may reduce inflammation. The supplement’s effects show a high degree of promise when it comes to decreasing inflammation that leads to many diseases, such as cancer, allergies, diabetes, and infections (35).
In one study, researchers found spirulina to increase the powerful antioxidant, glutathione. Consequently, it had a significant impact in reducing inflammation caused by oxidative stress throughout the body – specifically in animal studies (36).
In human clinical studies, it was found to reduce the level of blood cytokines. Cytokines are part of the immune system and the inflammatory response. Thus, researchers inferred that inflammation levels also decreased (19).
1Some spirulina may be contaminated with heavy metals. It’s possible that spirulina grown in the wild can absorb toxins from water, such as microcystins (known to cause severe liver damage), pollutants, and heavy metals. Most spirulina sold in the United States is grown in laboratories.
2Spirulina may cause an allergic reaction. One case study has documented an allergic reaction to spirulina believed to be owed to its C-Phycocyanin component. The allergic reaction began within six hours of consuming 2.5 grams of spirulina, in a 14-year-old adolescent (37).
In general, 1-8 g per day of spirulina has been shown to have some effect. Further research is needed to determine whether spirulina should be taken once a day, or in smaller doses, multiple times per day.
The specific doses depend on the condition it’s being used for. For cholesterol, doses in the range of 1-8 g per day may be impactful. For muscle performance, doses of 2-7.5 g per day have been used. For blood glucose control, very mild effects have been seen with 2 g per day. Blood pressure may be affected at doses of 3.5-4.5 g per day. Effects for fatty liver have been seen at doses of 4.5 g per day.
What are the side effects of spirulina? Although few adverse effects are associated with the use of spirulina, consuming spirulina may cause headaches, allergic reactions, muscle pain, sweating, and insomnia in some cases. People with allergies to seafood, seaweed, and other sea vegetables should avoid spirulina.
How does Spirulina help you lose weight? Balancing your blood sugar levels is essential for healthy weight loss. Spirulina is a rich source of Omega-3 fatty acids, and GLA. GLA helps regulate your blood sugar and control insulin levels, which can, in turn, minimize carbohydrate binging and help you lose weight.
How much Spirulina should I take daily? A standard daily dose of spirulina is 1–3 grams, but doses of up to 10 grams per day have been used effectively.
Is spirulina good for eyesight? Spirulina contains both vitamin A and C. As an antioxidant, vitamin E has similar effects as vitamin C. There is evidence that the combined use of vitamins C and E can delay the onset and progression of degenerative eye diseases such as cataracts and macular degeneration.
Is spirulina good for hair growth? Spirulina possesses remarkable nutritional value that results in incredible health benefits and is loaded with proteins, vitamins, minerals, fatty and amino acids which benefit skin and hair.
Does Spirulina smell bad? While good spirulina certainly does feature its own particular smell, it should not be an unpleasant one. A very strong odor indicates a high rate of oxidation, and thus a damaged product.
Does Spirulina reduce appetite? When you take poor-quality foods, your brain will trigger your appetite in an effort to find what it needs. Taking Spirulina will increase the concentration of nutrients in your body and may reduce hunger and cravings in the process.
Should I take spirulina before or after meals? You can take spirulina whenever you like; with, before, or between meals; before or after working out; or whenever your energy is low.
What’s the difference between spirulina and chlorella? Spirulina contains more essential amino acids, iron, protein, B vitamins, and vitamins C, D and E. With that said, chlorella still holds an abundance of health benefits.
Spirulina boosts various proven health benefits. It’s high protein content, and high nutritional content also gives way to why many healthcare professionals are regarding it as one of the better supplements for therapeutic use (38).
Spirulina benefits your heart and cardiovascular system. It has powerful antioxidant, anticancer, and anti-inflammatory properties. It can aid in reducing symptoms associated with allergies. It may help improve endurance in exercise, which in turn, can help improve muscle strength.
It may also improve non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, as well as improve symptoms of arsenic poisoning. It impacts the immune system improving the structure of red blood cells and increasing white blood cell function. Lastly, it may help prevent neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s Disease.
For many years, spirulina has been widely available in food and supplement forms in health food stores. Now, scientists and health professionals are not only regarding spirulina as a high nutrient containing entity, but also as a way to treat various diseases and conditions. Frequently, the dosage consumed is between 1-8 grams per day.
However, talk to your doctor before you consume spirulina supplements. They know you and your health history best.