Spirulina fusiformis, Spirulina maxima, Spirulina platensis
Spirulina is a single-celled algae. It grows in the ocean. It includes many species. Common
types include Spirulina maxima and Spirulina platensis. Spirulina is grown as feedstock
in Africa and Mexico.
Known nutrients include:
Medically valid uses
There are no proven uses for spirulina in humans. It’s a source of protein, iron,
carotenoids, and some vitamins. The protein in spirulina is like other plant proteins.
Like other plant proteins, it’s not complete. This means it doesn’t contain all 9
essential amino acids. Because of this, it shouldn’t be used as a main source of protein.
Spirulina has been used as a feed extender for livestock. It can provide some of the
total protein intake (up to 25%). But it must be supplemented with amino acids that
aren’t in spirulina. These often include lysine, methionine, and histidine. Spirulina
protein isn’t digested as well as other livestock foods.
Spirulina can also be used as a source of protein and some vitamins for humans. But
it’s important to get it from a tested source. Spirulina can be tainted with microbes
and radioactive metal ions. It can also be tainted with heavy metals. These can include
mercury, cadmium, lead, and arsenic.
There may be benefits that have not yet been proven through research.
Most studies of spirulina have been done on animals, most often mice. Claims are only
from animal studies. Spirulina may protect the liver from damage from some types of
toxins. It may also reduce allergic reactions. It may do this by calming mast cells.
Active mast cells are a source of histamine. This is the agent that causes allergic
symptoms. This may strengthen your immune system.
A study with humans suggests spirulina may treat oral cancer.
Follow the instructions on the package for the correct dose. Women who are pregnant
or breast-feeding should talk to their healthcare providers before taking any supplements.
Side effects, toxicity, and interactions
Spirulina is a controversial source of vitamin A. It’s been shown to interfere with
the body's storage and use of both vitamin A and E. Spirulina is not a good source
of vitamin B-12.
If you take warfarin, talk to your healthcare provider before taking spirulina. It
may affect how well the blood thinner works.