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Spirulina is a type of blue-green algae that has been consumed for thousands of years as a staple in the diet of Mexican (Aztecs, Mayans), African, and Asian peoples. It is a rich source of nutrients, especially protein, and thus is an important food for vegetarians. It is known for its antiviral and anticancer properties as well as its ability to stimulate the immune system.



bulletAIDS and other viruses (for example, herpes simplex, human cytomegalovirus, influenza virus, mumps, measles). Spirulina prevents reproduction of viruses and stimulates the immune system.
bulletCancer. Spirulina inhibits some cancers in laboratory animals and oral cancer in humans.
bulletAnemia. Spirulina promotes hematopoiesis (formation and development of red blood cells).
bulletSkin disorders. Spirulina helps to maintain healthy skin and treats several skin disorders, such as eczema and psoriasis.
bulletVitamin A deficiency. Studies have determined that spirulina is an effective source of dietary vitamin A.


Spirulina can be used for general immune support, and as an easily absorbed protein supplement if you have a lack of appetite. It is also used in the treatment of Candida (yeast infections) and hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). Weight lifters often use it as a protein source.

Dietary Sources

Spirulina is a microalgae that flourishes in warm climates and warm alkaline water. It is available dried and freeze-dried.

Other Forms

Spirulina is available in pill or powder form. Most spirulina consumed in the United States is cultivated in a laboratory. There are many different spirulina species, only some of which are identified on labels of commercially available products. Spirulina maxima (cultivated in Mexico) and Spirulina platensis (cultivated in California) are the most popular.

How to Take It

Consult your health care provider for the correct dosage of spirulina. A standard dosage of spirulina is 4 to 6 tablets (500 mg each) per day.


None known. Talk with your health care provider before taking spirulina if you are pregnant or breast-feeding.

Possible Interactions

No harmful drug interactions have been reported.

Supporting Research

Annapurna VV, Deosthale YG, Bamji MS. Spirulina as a source of vitamin A. Plant Foods Hum Nutr. 1991;41:125134.

Chamorro G, Salazar M, Favila L, Bourges H. Pharmacology and toxicology of Spirulina alga. Rev Invest Clin. 1996;48:389399. Abstract.

Chamorro G, Salazar M. Teratogenic study of spirulina in mice. Arch Latinoam Nutr. 1990;40:8694.

Spirulina: good source of beta-carotene, but no miracle food. Environ Nutr. 1995;18:7.

Gonzalez R, Rodriguez S, Romay C, et al. Anti-inflammatory activity of phycocyanin extract in acetic acid-induced colitis in rats. Pharmacol Res. 1999;39:10551059.

Hayashi K, Hayashi T, Kojima I. A natural sulfated polysaccharide, calcium spirulan, isolated from Spirulina platensis: in vitro and ex vivo evaluation of anti-herpes simplex virus and anti-human immunodeficiency virus activities. AIDS Res Hum Retroviruses. 1996;12:14631471.

Mathew B, Sankaranarayanan R, Nair PP, et al. Evaluation of chemoprevention of oral cancer with Spirulina fusiformis. Nutr Cancer. 1995;24:197202.

Qureshi MA, Garlich JD, Kidd MT. Dietary Spirulina platensis enhances humoral and cell-mediated immune functions in chickens. Immunopharmacol Immunotoxicol. 1996;18:465476.

Romay C, Armesto J, Remirez D, Gonzalez R, Ledon N, Garcia I. Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of C-phycocyanin from blue-green algae. Inflamm Res. 1998;47:3641.

Salazar M, Martinez E, Madrigal E, Ruiz LE, Chamorro GA. Subchronic toxicity study in mice fed Spirulina maxima. J Ethnopharmacol. 1998;62:235241.

Shealy NC. The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Healing Remedies. Boston, Mass: Element Books; 1998:277.

Walker LP, Brown EH. The Alternative Pharmacy. Paramus, NJ: Prentice Hall Press; 1998:5153.

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