Spirulina: Edible Algae for a Healthier Life

Spirulina was introduced to me in the early 1970s by a hippie chick who lived on a dry-docked boat on the Golden Coast of California. She sprouted sprouts, burned sage, and suspended crystals everywhere. I loved visiting her by the beautiful sea.

One day, my fancy-free gal pal asked me if I was hip to how great spirulina is? “Never heard of it,” I’m sure I replied.

She explained how this blue-green algae (“Isn’t that pond scum,” I’m thinking) grows in both fresh and salt water and is an absolute super-detoxifier and wonder food.

Furthermore, “Hey, man, the ancient Aztecs were into spirulina!” (We all called each other “man” back then, not to be confused with “The Man” who wasn’t at all cool.)

I remained unswayed by this enthusiastic endorsement for a verdant micro-organism. Then, my naturalist friend pulled out a blender, filled it with assorted fruits and veggies, added a small spoonful of the extremely green, high-nutrition powder, and mixed them all up.

The result was the greenest shake I had – and have – ever seen in my life. It was shockingly green. It was a color that seemed completely unnatural, even though I had seen with my own eyes only fresh produce go into the concoction.

As my host began slurping down her blender drink, I sniffed my tall glass tentatively. Ugh.

“It smells…um…” I faltered, at a rare loss for words.

“Ummmm…good!” slurped my friend, giving me a big thumbs-up.

Bracing myself for impending gastronomic impact, I took a modest swig.

“Oh, my,” I breathed heavily, overcome with the strong, strange taste that confirmed what my nose had already told me: “You aren’t gonna like this.”

I couldn’t manage much more of that strange brew and, as you Dear Readers can tell, the potent memory became etched in my mind.

To this day, I still find spirulina somewhat frightening. As I’ve said before, it’s so green.

The University of Maryland Medical Center advises that a typical daily dose of spirulina is 2-3 grams, usually consumed in four to six portions of 500 milligrams each. Even high doses of spirulina are safe. Avoid it, however, if you suffer from phenylketonuria (an inborn metabolic defect that results in decreased metabolism of the amino acid phenylalanine) or an autoimmune disorder.

Healthy adults and parents are always advised to consult a doctor before starting any supplement, including spirulina.

One opinion from 2019 was that modern scientists haven’t collected enough data to calculate a recommended daily dose of the superalgae. Age, gender, and medical history all affect the right amount of spirulina to take regularly.

One research study used 1-8 grams of spirulina to see its effects on lowering high cholesterol. In another, 4.5 grams of spirulina was administered to test subjects daily for six weeks to study how the algae affects hypertension.

There is good news for people like me who can’t abide the taste of uber-healthy spirulina. The powder can be put into capsules – there are nifty devices sold to do just this – or you can buy filled capsules online or from many health food stores and vitamin outlets.

Spirulina is really high in riboflavin (vitamin B2), key to energy production, the function, growth, and development of cells, and metabolism of fats, drugs, and steroids. The large number of medical conditions that prompts people to ingest more riboflavin from foods and/or supplements surprised me:

  • Acne
  • Blood disorders such as congenital methemoglobinemia and red blood cell aplasia
  • Burning feet syndrome
  • Burns
  • Cancer (some types)
  • Canker sores
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Eye conditions, including eye fatigue, cataracts, and glaucoma
  • High blood pressure
  • Liver disease
  • Memory loss including Alzheimer’s disease
  • Migraine headaches
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Muscle cramps
  • Sickle cell anemia

Among the benefits to be gained from riboflavin are healthy hair, skin, and nails. Some studies link slower aging to increased levels of vitamin B2.

Spirulina is also high in thiamin (vitamin B1), which helps the body use carbohydrates to generate energy from nutrients. This nutrient is essential to metabolize glucose and is vital to proper nerve, muscle, and heart functioning.

There are several essential trace minerals also occur naturally and abundantly in spirulina: copper, iron, manganese, magnesium, sodium, potassium, zinc, calcium, phosphorus, and selenium.

Many people who add spirulina to their diets report increased strength, vigor, and endurance – right here on Planet Earth.