Spirulina platensis, Spirulina maxima, Blue-green algae
- Indications with proven efficacy:
Source of dietary proteins and iron (popular use)
- Indications with possible, but poorly documented efficacy:
- Indications with no proof of efficacy:
Stress fatigue (popular use)
To enhance the production of antibodies
- Risk of Drug Interactions: Low
- Adverse Effects: Rare
Part of the plant used: whole
Spirulina is a microscopic aquatic plant, a blue-green algae. It is naturally found in warm waters with high-salt, alkaline content. When present in large quantities, it can give water a dark-green coloration. Commercial spirulina is cultivated in large reservoirs before being harvested.
Spirulina contains about 65% proteins, B-vitamins, calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, potassium, selenium, zinc and carotenoids. The quality of proteins found in spirulina is inferior to that of meat.
Spirulina is available in tablets, capsules and powder.
Direction of use
- Source of dietary protein and iron:
Spirulina appears to be a valid source of proteins. However, it is not a better source than meat or milk. It is estimated to cost up to 30 times as much as beef, on a per gram basis.
Used doses: 3 to 5 grams daily, taken before meals (providing 65% of their content in proteins). According to different references, this amount of spirulina may provide 1.5 to 16 grams of iron.
- Oral leukoplakia:
Available data are limited, but spirulina is thought to be useful in the treatment of oral leukoplakia.
Used doses: 1 gram daily for 12 days.
There is insufficient reliable information to conclude that spirulina is effective in any other indication.
- Side effects
Spirulina is not associated with any specific toxicity. These microscopic alga may however absorb pollutants found in their environment, such as mercury, lead, arsenic, which could be harmful. Spirulina can also be contaminated by bacteria, especially when "cultivated" in water contaminated with animal waste. The following side effects may be caused by spirulina: diarrhea, bloating, upset stomach, flatulence and edema. Rarely, it can be associated to liver toxicity.
Spirulina might exacerbate phenylketonuria or autoimmune disease and should be avoid in these conditions.
It may interfere with immunosuppressant medications.
- Pregnancy and lactation
Since there is no safety data available concerning its use during pregnancy and breast-feeding, pregnant and lactating women should not take spirulina. Also, spirulina may provide mercury traces.
- Spirulina is a costly source of dietary proteins. Furthermore, the risk of it being contaminated by heavy metals or bacteria is not negligible.
In 2004, Canada adopted new regulations that control the manufacturing, packaging, labeling and importing of natural health products. The new regulations also include an adverse reaction reporting system. Products that conform to the regulation's criteria are identified with a natural product number (NPN) and can be legally sold in Canada. This number indicates that the product meets specific criteria for safety and purity, not that it is effective for any indication.
Medicinal plant contents vary naturally from plant to plant - just as fruits from the same package may vary in taste and texture. There is no standard to measure the active content of each plant. Thus, efficacy of natural products should be expected to vary from brand to brand as well as from bottle to bottle of the same brand.
For more information about the Natural Health Products Regulations, or to check if a product has been assessed, visit the Health Canada website at www.hc-sc.gc.ca/dhp-mps/prodnatur/index-eng.php.
- Facts & Comparisons, The Lawrence review of natural products, 1998
- Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database, Therapeutic Research Faculty, 2010
- Lininger S. et Al. The Natural Pharmacy, Prima Health, 1998
- Passeportsanté.net. Spiruline. www.passeportsante.net
- The Review of Natural Products, 6th Edition, 2010
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The patient information leaflets are provided by Vigilance Santé Inc. This content is for information purposes only and does not in any manner whatsoever replace the opinion or advice of your health care professional. Always consult a health care professional before making a decision about your medication or treatment.