is gaining more attention from medical scientists as a nutraceutical
and source of potential pharmaceuticals. There are several new peer reviewed
scientific studies about Spirulina's ability to
inhibit viral replication, strengthen both the cellular and humoral
arms of the immune system and cause regression and inhibition of cancers. While
these studies are preliminary and more research is needed, the results so far
Potent Anti-Viral Activity In April 1996, scientists from the Laboratory
of Viral Pathogenesis, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and HarvardMedicalSchool,
and Earthrise Farms, Calipatria, California,
announced on-going research, saying "Water extract of Spirulinaplatensis inhibits
HIV-1 replication in human derived T-cell lines and in human peripheral blood
mononuclear cells. A concentration of 5-10 µg/ml was found to
reduce viral production" 1.
HIV-1 is the AIDS virus. Small amounts of Spirulina
extract reduced viral replication while higher concentrations totally stopped
its reproduction. Importantly, with a therapeutic index of >100, Spirulina extract was non-toxic to the human cells at
concentrations stopping viral replication.
Another group of medical scientists has published new studies regarding
a purified water extract unique to Spirulina named Calcium-Spirulan. It inhibits replication of HIV-1, Herpes
Simplex, Human Cytomegalovirus, Influenza A virus,
Mumps virus and Measles virus in-vitro yet is very safe for human cells. It
protects human and monkey cells from viral infection in cell culture. According
to peer reviewed scientific journal reports this extract, "holds great
promise for treatment of ...HIV-1, HSV-1, and HCM infections, which is
particularly advantageous for AIDS patients who are prone to these
life-threatening infections." 8.
Calcium-Spirulan is a polymerized sugar
molecule unique to Spirulina containing both Sulfur and Calcium. Hamsters treated with this water
soluble extract had better recovery rates when infected with an otherwise
lethal Herpes virus 9.
How does it work? When attacking a cell, a virus first attaches itself
to the cell membrane. However, because of Spirulina
extract, the virus cannot penetrate the cell membrane to infect the cell. The
virus is stuck, unable to replicate. It is eventually eliminated by the body's
natural defenses. Spirulina
extracts may become useful therapeutics that could help AIDS patients lead
longer more normal lives 1, 8, 9.
What Is Spirulina? Spirulina, (rhymes with 'ballerina'), is a
traditional food of some Mexican and African peoples. It is a planktonic blue-green algae found in warm water alkaline
volcanic lakes. Wild Spirulina sustains huge flocks
of flamingos in the alkaline EastAfricanRiftValleyLakes.
It possesses an amazing ability to thrive in conditions much too harsh for
other algae. As might be expected, it has a highly unusual nutritional profile.
Spirulina has a 62% amino
acid content, is the world's richest natural source of Vitamin B-12 and
contains a whole spectrum of natural mixed carotene and xanthophyllphytopigments. Spirulina
has a soft cell wall made of complex sugars and protein, and is different from
most other algae in that it is easily digested.
Millions of people worldwide eat Spirulina
cultivated in scientifically designed algaefarms.
Current world production of Spirulina for human
consumption is more than one thousand metric tons annually. The United States leads world production followed by
Thailand, India and China. More countries are planning
production as they realize it is a valuable strategic resource.
Differences between spirulina,
chlorella and 'wild' blue green algae.
is not Chlorella or the blue-green algae harvested from Klamath Lake
Oregon. Chlorella, a green micro-algae, is a
nutritious food but does not have the same anti-viral, anti-cancer and immune
stimulating properties of Spirulina. The Chlorella
cell wall is made of indigestible cellulose, just like green grass, while the
cell wall of Spirulina is made of complexed
proteins and sugars.
algae has the scientific name Aphanizomenonflos-aquae. It is not the same as Spirulina. There are serious concerns about the safety of
because it can sometimes contain potent nerve toxins. While the scientific
literature is full of information concerning the toxicity of Aphanizomenonflos-aquae
and its dangers to humans and animals, there are few, if any, peer reviewed
scholarly scientific papers regarding therapeutic benefit. In contrast, the
scientific literature is full of information concerning the benefits and safety
of humans and animals eating Chlorella and Spirulina4.
Several studies show Spirulina or its extracts can
prevent or inhibit cancers in humans and animals. Some common forms of cancer
are thought to be a result of damaged cell DNA running amok, causing uncontrolled
cell growth. Cellular biologists have defined a system of special enzymes
called Endonuclease which repair damaged DNA to keep
cells alive and healthy. When these enzymes are deactivated by radiation or
toxins, errors in DNA go unrepaired and, cancer may
develop. In vitro studies suggest the unique polysaccharides of Spirulina enhance cell nucleus enzyme activity and DNA
repair synthesis. This may be why several scientific studies, observing human
tobacco users and experimental cancers in animals, report high levels of
suppression of several important types of cancer. The subjects were fed either
whole Spirulina or treated with its water extracts 3,12,13.
Strengthens Immune System Spirulina
is a powerful tonic for the immune system. In scientific studies of mice,
hamsters, chickens, turkeys, cats and fish, Spirulina
consistently improves immune system function. Medical scientists find Spirulina not only stimulates the immune system, it
actually enhances the body's ability to generate new blood cells.
Important parts of the immune system, the Bone Marrow Stem Cells,
Macrophages, T-cells and Natural Killer cells, exhibit enhanced activity. The
Spleen and Thymus glands show enhanced function. Scientists also observe
Spirulina causing macrophages to increase in number, become
"activated" and more effective at killing germs.
Feeding studies show that even small amounts of Spirulina
build up both the humoral and cellular arms of the
immune system 16.Spirulina accelerates production of the humoral
system, (antibodies and cytokines), allowing it to better protect against
invading germs. The cellular immune system includes T-cells, Macrophages,
B-cells and the anti-cancer Natural Killer cells. These cells circulate in the
blood and are especially rich in body organs like the liver, spleen, thymus,
lymph nodes, adenoids, tonsils and bone marrow. Spirulina
up-regulates these key cells and organs, improving their ability to function in
spite of stresses from environmental toxins and infectious agents 2,10,12,14,15,16.
SpirulinaPhycocyanin Builds Blood Spirulina has a dark blue-green color,
because it is rich in a brilliant blue polypeptide called Phycocyanin.
Studies show that Phycocyanin affects the stem cells
found in bone marrow. Stem cells are "Grandmother" to both the white
blood cells that make up the cellular immune system and red blood cells that
oxygenate the body.
Chinese scientists document Phycocyanin
stimulating hematopoiesis, (the creation of blood),
emulating the affect of the hormone erythropoetin,
(EPO). EPO is produced by healthy kidneys and regulates bone marrow stem cell
production of red blood cells. Chinese scientists claim Phycocyanin
also regulates production of white blood cells, even when bone marrow stem
cells are damaged by toxic chemicals or radiation 17.
Based on this effect, Spirulina is approved in
as a "medicine food" for treating radiation sickness. The Children of
Chernobyl suffer radiation poisoning from eating food grown on radioactive
soil. Their bone marrow is damaged, rendering them immunodeficient.
Radiation damaged bone marrow cannot produce normal red or white blood cells.
The children are anemic and suffer from terrible
allergic reactions. Children fed just five grams of Spirulina
in tablets each day make dramatic recoveries within six weeks. Children not
given Spirulina remain ill 6.
Other Potential Health Benefits Spirulina is one of the most concentrated natural
sources of nutrition known. It contains all the essential amino acids, rich in
chlorophyll, beta-carotene and its co-factors, and other natural phytochemicals. Spirulina is the
only green food rich in GLA essential fatty acid. GLA stimulates growth in some
animals and makes skin and hair shiny and soft yet more durable. GLA also acts
as an anti-inflammatory, sometimes alleviating symptoms of arthritic
acts as a functional food, feeding beneficial intestinal flora, especially
Lactobacillus and Bifidus. Maintaining a healthy
population of these bacteria in the intestine reduces potential problems from
opportunistic pathogens like E. coli and Candida albicans.
Studies show when Spirulina is added to the diet,
beneficial intestinal flora increase.
Based on this preliminary research, scientists hope the use of Spirulina and its extracts may reduce or prevent cancers
and viral diseases. Bacterial or parasitic infections may be prevented or
respond better to treatment and wound healing may improve. Symptoms of anemia, poisoning and immunodeficiency may be alleviated.
Scientists in the USA, Japan, China,
Russia, India and other
countries are studying this remarkable food to unlock its potential. More
research is needed to determine its usefulness against AIDS and other killer
diseases. However, it is already clear this safe and natural food provides
concentrated nutritional support for optimum health and wellness.