What is Spirulina?

What is Spirulina? 

Spirulina is one of the oldest life forms on earth has been around for “just" 3.6 billion years; this blue-green micro-algae helped produce oxygen in our atmosphere thus directly contributing to the development of other life forms.

Spirulina is not only an essential health food for developed nations but also an accredited solution against malnutrition. (1974-2003 World Health Organization & United Nations)

The original superfood spirulina is so nutrient dense that you could survive on it and water alone if you had to.

Spirulina is 60 to 70 percent complete protein because it contains all the essential and non-essential amino acids.

Spirulina properties are so exceptional that NASA used it successfully as a dietary supplement for astronauts on space missions.

The European Space Agency plans to cultivate it and use it as food in eventual future colonization of Mars.

Under the microscope, Spirulina looks like blue-green filaments, due to the presence of chlorophyll and phycocyanin in its cells.

There are 36 Spirulina species, which proliferate in many alkaline waters around the world. Spirulina grows naturally in aquatic ecosystems like ponds and lakes, and also in man-made tanks.

The spiral forms of these bacteria appear to change spontaneously depending on the pH and nutritional conditions they find in their environment, and it is entirely possible that different found forms are only morphological variations of a single species.

Spirulina thrives at a pH around 8.5 and above, which will get more alkaline, and a temperature around 30 °C (86 °F).

They are autotrophic, meaning that they are able to make their own food, and do not need living energy or organic carbon source.

A nutrient feed formula for growing it is:

Baking soda- 16 g/l (61 g/US gal)
Potassium nitrate- 2 g/l (7.6 g/US gal)
Sea salt- 1 g/l (3.8 g/US gal)
Potassium phosphate- 0.1 g/l (0.38 g/US gal)
Iron sulphate- 0.0378 g/l (0.143 g/US gal)

Some medical properties:

Research has already shown interesting results on the medicinal properties of Spirulina.

Spirulina, especially organically grown, is non-toxic in nature and has been described as having antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, antiviral, antibacterial and anti-tumor action, as well as protecting against allergic responses (asthma, rhinitis), being a neuroprotective agent and also an inhibitor of anaphylactic reactions.

Scientific research backs the anti-tumor Spirulina’s properties: the phycocyanin it contains is not only the origin of its nice blue color but also a substance that can inhibit cancer cells’ growth. 

For example, its use is recognized in the prevention and treatment of oral cancer and hepatic fibrosis.

In addition, the nutrients present in Spirulina strengthen the immune system and increase the body’s ability to generate new blood cells to prevent disease.

Spirulina can inhibit viral replication, by stimulating T-helper cell activity, and by increasing the production of T-memory cells providing long-term defense against infection.

The positive effects of Spirulina in allergic rhinitis are based on adequate evidence.

Other researches have shown that Spirulina stimulates enzyme activity at cell nucleus level, thus helping to repair some DNA copying errors that can occur during synthesis.

Moreover, Spirulina has also shown to be very helpful in eliminating radiation and heavy metal form the body.

Nutritional Properties

Spirulina, especially organically grown, contains a high protein amount, up to 70% protein per serving and many vitamins, such as B12, provitamin A (Beta-Carotenes), minerals such as iron in addition to phenolic acids (antioxidants)  -Linolenic and tocopherols. Since spirulina has no cell wall, it is easily digested by humans.

Spirulina protein content ranges from 60 – 70 percent, which is high compared to 40% in almonds, and extremely high in comparison to 26% in lentils, beef or egg white (22%), tofu 16 % and natural whey (10%).

Spirulina in short

The Scientific name of Spirulina is “Arthrospira platensis“.

In fact, the most correct would be to refer to Spirulina as “Spirulinas", because there are many species of it, and to mention that they are cyanobacteria also known as blue seaweed for convenience, or blue algae, (algae is seaweed in Latin).

They share traits with three species: plants, seaweeds, and bacteria.

They have the ability to perform photosynthesis like plants. They share features with primitive bacteria because they lack a cell wall.

Interestingly, they also share characteristics of the animal kingdom as they contain on their cellular membrane complex sugars similar to glycogen.