Herb Reference Guide

Spirulina

History

Spirulina has a history of human consumption in Mexico and in Africa. In Mexico circa 1300 AD the Aztecs harvested Arthrospira from Lake Texcoco and used it to make a sort of dry cake called “tecuitlatl”. Very likely the use of Spirulina as food in Chad dates back to the same period, or even earlier, to the Kanem Empire (ninth century AD). It is very interesting that two populations independently discovered the food properties of Spirulina in spite of the differences and the distance. In Chad it is still harvested and processed by hand into cakes known locally as “dihe” for use in a sauce for meat and fish called “la souce”. It is an important part of their local economy, allowing the women of the village who harvest and process the dihe a certain amount of independence.

Function

Spirulina contains about 60 percent protein. Spirulina's lipid content is about 7 percent by weight and is rich in gammo linolenic acid (GLA), and also provides alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), linoleic acid (LA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosohexaenoic acid (DHA) and arachidonic acid(AA). Spirulina contains vitamins B1 (Thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B3 , B6 , B9 (folic acid) as well as vitamins A, C, D, and E. It is also a source of potassium, calcium, magnesium, zinc, and several other minerals and micronutrients. This amazing "superfood" also contains many pigments which may be beneficial as antioxidants, including zeaxanthin, phycocyanins, beta carotene, and other carotenoids. In humans, small studies have been undertaken evaluating spirulina in undernourished children, and several other clinical studies have been conducted on the carotenoids in spirulina.

Uses of Spirulina

Disclaimer

This information in our Herbal Reference Guide is intended only as a general reference for further exploration, and is not a replacement for professional health advice. This content does not provide dosage information, format recommendations, toxicity levels, or possible interactions with prescription drugs. Accordingly, this information should be used only under the direct supervision of a qualified health practitioner such as a naturopathic physician.

Active Constituents

Protein, Vitamins B1, B2, B6, B9, B12, A, C, D, E, K, Potassium, Calcium, Magnesium, Copper, Zinc, Selenium, Manganese, Iron, Essential Fatty Acids including GLA, DHA, EPA, and ALA.

Parts Used

  • Algae

Important precautions

Not for use during pregnancy or lactation.

Additional Resources

Bjørkelo AJ, "State and Society in Three Central Sudanic Kingdoms: Kanem-Bornu, Bagirmi, and Wadai". MA thesis (1976), University of Bergen, Bergen, Norway, 201 pp.

Ciferri O, "Spirulina, the edible microorganism". Microbiol.Rev. 47: 551-578.

Farrar WV, "Tecuitlatl: a glimpse of Aztec food technology". Nature 211: 341-342.

Simpore, J., et al. “Nutrition Rehabilitation of HIV-Infected and HIV-Negative Undernourished Children Utilizing Spirulina.” Annals of Nutrition & Metabolism. 49, 2005: 373-380.