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Blue-green algae

Spirulina species include a few of the hundreds of species collectively known as blue-green algae. Because there are a variety of different types of algae, they are classified according to their color: green, blue-green, yellow-green, red, and brown. Similar to plants, algae remove carbon dioxide from the air and release oxygen. Algae are able to synthesize and create proteins and sugars as do animals. Algae multiply very rapidly. The two most common species of algae used for human consumption are spirulina maxima and spirulina platensis.

Most of the health benefits claimed for blue-green algae supplementation are supported by anecdotes rather than scientific evidence. Studies have indicated several properties of large amounts of spirulina or spirulina extracts including antioxidant, antiviral, anticancer, anti-allergy, immune-enhancing, liver-protecting, blood vessel-relaxing, and blood lipid-lowering, but there is no concrete scientific evidence that can substantiate these indications.

Some studies indicate that taking blue-green algae may have a positive effect on both weight loss and high blood pressure.


Blue-green algae can be taken as a powder, flakes, capsules, or tablets. A manufacturer's recommended intake is 2,000 - 3,000 mg per day divided throughout the day. However, typical amounts shown to have helpful properties in animal studies would be equivalent to 34 grams per day or more for a 150-pound human.


Around the world, spirulina is used as food source for animals and humans. While considered a food staple in some parts of the world, spirulina is also well known for its medicinal applications. It also contains antioxidants such as beta carotene and zeaxanthin; these antioxidants are thought to decrease the activity of free radicals that damage body cells, by a chemical process called oxidation, and suppress immune function.

Medicinal Indications of Spirulina

In animal and human studies, spirulina has shown to enhance immune function. It appeared to increase production of anti-inflammatory chemicals known as interferons and interleukins. Consequently, some researchers believe that spirulina may decrease or prevent some allergic responses and block the release of histamine from mast cells during an allergic reaction. By blocking histamine release, spirulina may prevent or lessen histamine's effects, which include blood vessel expansion, muscle contraction, and stomach acid production.

Spirulina may produce anti-cancer effects due to its antioxidant and immune-enhancing properties. Another way that spirulina may help to fight cancer is by promoting the release of tumour necrosis factor alpha, a chemical in the body that attacks tumour cells.

Spirulina also appears to block the entrance of viral cells into host cells. Several viruses, including HIV (the virus that causes AIDS), were apparently killed or damaged by spirulina or chemicals derived from it in recent clinical trials. Additional animal studies have somewhat substantiated these antiviral effects, but much more study is needed to prove spirulina's ability to treat and prevent viral diseases.

Dosage and Administration

Spirulina is available in tablets and powder. One tablespoon of spirulina powder is about 7,000 mg (7 grams). Follow the directions on the manufacturer's package that you buy. Doses used in some human studies varied from about 1,000 mg (one gram) per day to more than 5,000 mg (5 grams) per day.

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