Spirulina supplement information, dosage, product availability, side effects and health benefit, review of research by Ray Sahelian, M.D.
September 24, 2016

Two New Age foods which contain high concentrations of whole food nutrients are the single-celled microalgae chlorella and spirulina. They are promoted as functional foods, defined as products derived from natural sources, whose consumption is likely to provide health benefits. These foods are used as a supplement or ingredient or as a complete food to enhance the performance of the human body, or improve a specific bodily function. Spirulina contains unusually high levels of gamma-linolenic acid, an essential polyunsaturated fatty acid.

Spirulina Plankton usually has:
Vitamin A (Beta Carotene)
Vitamin B-1 (Thiamin)
Vitamin B-2 (Riboflavin)
Niacin B vitamin
Folate (as folic acid)
Vitamin B-12
Linolenic Acid
Gamma Linolenic Acid
Superoxide Dismutase
Omega-3 Fatty Acids include alpha linolenic acid
Boron mineral.

Due to high content of highly valuable proteins, amino acids, vitamins, beta-carotene and other pigments, mineral substances, fatty acids and polysaccharides, spirulina has been found suitable for use as a bioactive additive. It stimulates the immune system by enhancing the production of antibodies and cytokines and thus improving resistance of humans, mammals, chickens and fish to infections. Under the influence of spirulina, macrophages, T and B cells are activated. Spirulina sulfolipids have proved to be effective against HIV. Preparations obtained from SP biomass have also been found active against herpes virus, cytomegalovirus, influenza virus, etc. Spirulina preparations are regarded as functional products contributing to the preservation of the resident intestinal microflora, especially lactic acid bacilli and bifidobacteria, and to a decrease in the level of Candida albicans. The biological activity with respect to microorganisms holds good promise for using these microalgae as components of culture media.

Mini Rev Med Chem. June 2013. Nutritional and medical applications of spirulina microalgae. Spirulina spp. and its processing products are employed in agriculture, food industry, pharmaceutics, perfumery and medicine. Spirulina has several pharmacological activities such as antimicrobial (including antiviral and antibacterial), anticancer, metalloprotective (prevention of heavy-metal poisoning against Cd, Pb, Fe, Hg), as well as immunostimulant and antioxidant effects due to its rich content of protein, polysaccharide, lipid, essential amino and fatty acids, dietary minerals and vitamins. This article serves as an overview, introducing the basic biochemical composition of this algae and moves to its medical applications.

Allergic rhinitis
Effects of a Spirulina-based dietary supplement on cytokine production from allergic rhinitis patients.
J Med Food. 2005. Division of Rheumatology/Allergy and Clinical Immunology, University of California at Davis, School of Medicine, Davis, California, USA.
We evaluated the impact of a Spirulina based dietary supplement (Earthrise Nutritionals, Inc., Irvine, CA) on patients with allergic rhinitis by assessing the production of cytokines [interleukin (IL)-4, interferon (IFN)-gamma, and IL-2] critical in regulating immunoglobulin E-mediated allergy. These results indicate that Spirulina can modulate the Th profile in patients with allergic rhinitis by suppressing the differentiation of Th2 cells mediated, in part, by inhibiting the production of IL-4. To our knowledge, this is the first human feeding study that demonstrates the protective effects of Spirulina towards allergic rhinitis.

Cholesterol level
Hypocholesterolemic effect of spirulina in patients with hyperlipidemic nephrotic syndrome.
J Med Food. 2002 . Department of Foods and Nutrition, M S University of Baroda, Vadodara, Gujarat, India.
In nephrotic syndrome, large amounts of plasma proteins are lost in urine, causing a decrease in the plasma oncotic pressure. This leads to enhanced hepatic synthesis of albumin and other proteins, including lipoproteins, causing a secondary hyperlipidemia. In this study 23 patients (age 2 to 13 years) with nephrotic syndrome received either medication (group I) or medication plus 1 gram a day Spirulina. It can be concluded that spirulina capsules, rich in antioxidants, GLA, amino acids, and fatty acids, helped reduce the increased levels of lipids in patients with hyperlipidemic nephrotic syndrome.

One study shows two grams a day improves improves lipid profile and glycated proteins in NIDDM.

Exercise performance, energy, anti-fatigue
Preventive effects of Spirulina platensis on skeletal muscle damage under exercise-induced oxidative stress.
Eur J Appl Physiol. 2006. Sport Science Research Center, National Taiwan College of Physical Education, Taichung, Taiwan.
The effects of spirulina supplementation on preventing skeletal muscle damage on untrained human beings were examined. Sixteen students volunteered to take Spirulina platensis in addition to their normal diet for 3-weeks. The results showed that plasma concentrations of malondialdehyde (MDA) were significantly decreased after supplementation with spirulina. The activity of blood superoxide dismutase (SOD) was significantly raised after supplementation with spirulina or soy protein. Both of the blood glutathione peroxidaes (GPx) and lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) levels were significantly different between spirulina and soy protein supplementation. In addition, the lactate concentration was higher and the time to exhaustion was significantly extended in the spirulina trail. These results suggest that ingestion of Spirulina platensis showed preventive effect of the skeletal muscle damage and that probably led to postponement of the time of exhaustion during the all-out exercise.

Int J Food Sci Nutr. 2016, A randomized, double blind, placebo controlled study of spirulina supplementation on indices of mental and physical fatigue in men. Spirulina may increase people's ability to resist mental and physical fatigue. This study tested that hypothesis in a randomized, double blinded, placebo controlled study in men. After 1 week, a 3 g/day dose of spirulina produced a small, but statistically significant increase in exercise output (Kcals consumed in 30 min exercise on a cross trainer machine). A mathematical based mental fatigue test showed improved performance 4 h after the first time of supplementation as well as 8 weeks later. Similarly, a subjective survey for a sense of physical and mental fatigue showed improvement within 4 h of the first supplementation as well as 8 weeks later. These results show that spirulina intake can affect fatigue in men.

Immune system
Apparently spirulina has the ability to stimulate the immune system which could be beneficial in some individuals, and potentially harmful in those who already have an overactive immune system or an autoimmune condition. Therefore, spirulina is not advised to be taken regularly for those who have lupus, autoimmune thyroiditis,
pemphigus vulgaris, and other such conditions.

Liver protection
Food Chem. December 2013 . Protective effect of Spirulina platensis enriched in phenolic compounds against hepatotoxicity induced by CCl4.

Spirulina is available as a tablet and you can also find spirulina powder. Sometimes you can find a combination chlorella spirulina product. It is available as Hawaiian spirulina and other species that include pacifica in addition to the standard platensis. Recently organic spirulina has been sold.

Side effects, safety, risk, allergy
Activation of autoimmunity following use of immunostimulatory herbal supplements.
Section of Dermatology, University of Chicago, IL. Arch Dermatol. 2004.
Evidence for the scientific basis of purported therapeutic effects and adverse effects of herbal supplements continues to grow. Many herbal supplements are touted for their immunostimulatory properties, and both in vitro and in vivo experiments have supported this claim. Although this explains their beneficial effects in preventing or curtailing disease, to our knowledge, no immunostimulatory herbal supplements have been reported to exacerbate disorders of immune system overactivity. We describe 3 patients whose autoimmune disease onset and/or flares correlated with ingestion of herbal supplements with proven immunostimulatory effects. Echinacea and the alga Spirulina platensis are implicated in 2 patients' flares of pemphigus vulgaris, and a supplement containing the algae Spirulina platensis and Aphanizomenon flos-aquae was ingested by a third patient days before both onset and a severe flare of dermatomyositis. The third patient showed heterozygosity for a tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha) promoter polymorphism (-308A), leading to increased production of TNF-alpha, which may have predisposed her to developing dermatomyositis. Immunostimulatory herbal supplements such as spirulina may exacerbate preexisting autoimmune disease or precipitate autoimmune disease in persons genetically predisposed to such disorders. Increased production of TNF-alpha may play a role, although more research is needed to clarify the mechanisms of such phenomena.

Food Chem Toxicol. 2014. Anaphylaxis to Spirulina confirmed by skin prick test with ingredients of Spirulina tablets. Arthrospira platensis, blue-green microalgae, has high content in proteins, γ-linoleic acid and vitamins and therefore gained popularity as food supplement. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations Spirulina is also an interesting alternative and sustainable protein source with the growing world population. We present a case of a 17-year-old male, who developed anaphylaxis the first time he ingested a Spirulina tablet. Skin prick test with diluted Spirulina tablet was positive. Further skin prick testing with separated ingredients (Spirulina platensis algae, silicon dioxide, inulin and magnesium stearate) was only positive for Spirulina platensis algae and negative in controls, confirming the allergy was caused by Spirulina and not by one of the additives.

Research studies
Protective effect of Spirulina fusiformis on chemical-induced genotoxicity in mice.
Fitoterapia. 2004.
Spirulina fusiformis given by oral route to mice significantly inhibit the genotoxicity induced by cisplatin and urethane. In addition, a significant reduction in the extent of lipid peroxidation with concomitant increase in the liver enzymatic (GPx, GST, SOD, CAT) and non-enzymatic (reduced glutathione) antioxidants were observed with spirulina.

Evaluation of the efficacy of a plant adaptogen in the pathognic therapy of primary tuberculosis in children
Lik Sprava. 2003.
The use of spirulina and its efficiency have been studied in a comparative aspect as a systemic biocorrector, in a combined treatment of tuberculosis in 26 children. It has been ascertained that application of spirulina as a pathogenetic means of remediation permits shortening the intoxication syndrome regression time, reducing the frequency of adverse reactions in administering antituberculous preparations.

Effects of spirulina on serum lipids, erythrocyte membrane fluidity and vascular endothelial cells in tail-suspended rats
Space Med Med Eng 2003.
To study the changes of erythrocyte membrane fluidity, serum lipid and vascular endothelial cell caused by simulated weightlessness in rats and the beneficial effect of spirulina. Method: Thirty male SD rats were divided into 3 groups: free control group (group A) and two simulated weightlessness groups (groups B, C). Rats in group A and B were fed with normal forage, and the rats in group C were fed with normal forage supplemented with 5% (W/W) spirulina. Result: Levels of serum CHO, HDL, TG, HDL-C/CHO and erythrocyte membrane fluidity decreased significantly, and number of vascular endothelial cells in plasma increased markedly in group B as compared with those in group A; The ratio of LDL-C/HDL-C, and atherosclerosis index (AI) decreased, number of vascular endothelial cells significantly lowered; level of CHO, HDL-C and value of the IDmax of plasma as well as erythrocyte membrane fluidity remarkedly increased in group C with spirulina compared with those in group B. Spirulina can improve the physiological conditions of erythrocyte membrane fluidity, serum lipid and vascular endothelial cell caused by simulated weightlessness in rats. algae spirulina loss spirulina weight.

Protective effect of Spirulina on lead induced deleterious changes in the lipid peroxidation and endogenous antioxidants in rats.
Phytother Res. 2003.
The present study aims to investigate the protective effect of Spirulina on lead-induced changes in the levels of lipid peroxidation and endogenous antioxidants in liver, lung, heart, kidney and brain of rats. Levels of elemental lead were also measured in the organs of rats in all experimental groups. In the liver, lung, heart and kidney of lead-exposed animals, there was a significant increase in the lipid peroxidation and a decrease in the levels of endogenous antioxidants. Although, Spirulina did not affect the deposition of lead in organs apart from the brain, simultaneous administration of Spirulina to lead exposed animals significantly inhibited lipid peroxidation and restored the levels of endogenous antioxidants to normal. Spirulina had a significant effect on scavenging free radicals, thereby protecting the organs from damage caused by the exposure to lead. Further more it led to a significant decrease in the deposition of lead in the brain.

I have been consuming spirulina product over the past few months. I recently came across some articles which warned that the benefits claimed by manufacturers have not had much evidence behind them but on the contrary there may be ill effects as it may contain toxins and heavy metals. I feel concerned after reading the articles. I would like to ask if you can provide assurance to users that spirulina products are safe to consume and that there will be no toxic effects from consumtion. Thank you.
   We cannot claim that any supplement is safe for long term use. There just isn't enough known about long term use of spirulina or other supplements for us to have a good understanding of their benefits and risks. This is one reason why I consistently mention that people should take breaks from the use of supplements just in case there's something harmful going on that we don't know about. By taking breaks from use, we can get many benefits from the supplements, and minimize risks.

Do you have any reason to feel that a food such as spirulina would be good for increasing a man's semen / ejaculate volume and quality, and therefore fertility? I ask this based on spirulina's reported high quality protein and amino acid content, and based on my understanding that Peruvian Maca is also good for this, partly because of its own amino acid content. So could this be the case? (I see ejaculate volume as a sign of good fundamental nutrition right down to the cellular level, let me add.) And further, what other foods are good for increasing a man's ejaculate volume especially -and by extension quality, etc.?
And would Passion Rx have these benefits as well?
   Spirulina could help with the above but we have no studies to rely on. Maca has been studied in fertility and could have benefits in terms of sperm volume. I think fish oils or eating cold water fish could help with semen volume. Passion Rx seems to have a number of benefits in terms of semen volume, orgasm power, etc.

Can I take saw palmetto with spirulina?
   The safety of combining herbs and supplements mostly rests on the dosage. In most cases, as long as the amounts are low, many supplements can be combined. However, each person is unique and there are many factors to consider in combining supplements.

Was just wondering why you recommend skipping 1 week a month while taking a spirulina supplement.
   My recommendations of taking breaks are not specific to this supplement. As a general guideline, I think it may be wise to take breaks since no long term human studies have been done to determine benefits and side effects. By taking breaks, potential side effects would be minimized.

I was wondering if spirulina would interfere with someone who has Von Willebrand disease Type I. Could you please get back to me on this issue.
    I have not seen any research on this interaction.

Just a question regarding Spirulina, is it normal to experience an increase in heart rate? I feel that after just 3 tablets which is less than the bottle recommendation. It prevents me from taking it too late at night as my heart rate remains elevated for at least an hour and a half thereafter. I use it as a cheaper alternative to Barley Green which strangely had a very calming effect.
    I have not had such feedback yet from users, but it is possible. You may wish to try another brand to see if the same results occur.

purchase Spirulina supplement 500 mg per tablet

For many years Spirulina platensis has been a good choice for supplementing a vegetarian diet. This special blue-green algae is a good source of numerous vitamins, minerals, carotenoids, and essential fatty acids that are hard to maintain at adequate levels with a vegetarian diet. Most notable is the high quality protein, which contains all nine essential amino acids. Spirulina cell walls do not contain cellulose to slow down digestion. Spirulina is naturally grown and harvested without herbicides or pesticides. Also consider Chlorella supplements.

Buy Spirulina 500 mg

Suggested Use: 1 to 3 spirulina tablets daily with meals. Take a week off from use each month.

Supplement Facts Healthy Origins, Organic Spirulina, 500 mg, 720 Tablets
Serving Size: 3 Tablets
Servings Per Container: 60
  Amount Per Serving % DV
Calories 5  
Total Carbohydrates <1 g  
Vitamin A (as beta-carotene) 3,600 IU 72%
Protein 1 g 2%
Parry Organic Spirulina (Arthrospira platensis) 1.5 g
Phycocyanin 240 mg
Total Carotenoids 5,625 mcg
Beta-Carotene 2,250 mcg
Zeaxanthin 1,875 mcg
Vitamin B12 1.5 mcg 25%
Chlorophyll 15 mg
Gamma Linolenic Acid (GLA) 15 mg
Daily Value not established
Percent Daily Values (DV) are based on a 2,000 calorie diet.