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Health Benefits of Spirulina: Dosage, and Uses

Spirulina grows in salty freshwater, and it is cyanobacteria, a single-cell family of microbes often called blue-green algae. Spirulina is regarded a superfood because of its many health benefits, and it has a long and rich history. The ancient Aztecs relied on spirulina for sustenance, while NASA astronauts used it as a supplement. Scientific studies supports spirulina’s potential benefits and efficacy in treating a variety of health conditions. Spirulin may reduce oxidation, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels. Here are the health benefits of spirulina, as well as the recommended dosage and uses (1).

Spirulina nutrition facts

Spirulina is a source of vegan protein and contains a variety of nutrients. The following single tablespoon of dried spirulina powder (7 grams) contains (2):

  • Calories: 20 per tablespoon (7g)
  • Protein: 4g (8% of the daily value)
  • Fat: 1g (1% of the daily value)
  • Carbohydrates: 2g (1% of the daily value)
  • Fiber: 0.3g (1% of the daily value)
  • Iron: 2mg (13-22% of the daily value)
  • Magnesium: 13.6mg (3.4% of the daily value)
  • Potassium: 95.4mg (3-4% of the daily value)
  • Copper: 47% of the daily value
  • Thiamin: 14% of the daily value
  • Riboflavin: 20% of the daily value
  • Niacin: 6% of the daily value

Well, spirulina is one of the nutritious foods on the planet. Its protein is similar to that of eggs and provides all the amino acids.

May prevent cancer

Some evidence shows that spirulina has anti-cancer properties. A study shows it may reduce the size of cancerous tumors in animals (3, 4). One study examined people with precancerous lesions in their mouths called oral submucous fibrosis (OSMF) (5). For those who took 1 gram a day for one year, 45% of lesions were lost, compared to only 7% in the control group. However, half of these people redeveloped the lesions in the next year when they stopped taking it. Another study of 40 people with OSMF lesions found that 1 gram of spirulina a day led to more improved symptoms of OSMF than a drug called pentoxifylline (6).

Spirulina may prevent cancer in several ways

  1. Reduces oxidative damage: Spirulina is rich in antioxidants that can reduce oxidative stress, a leading contributor to chronic diseases and tumor growth (4).
  2. Anti-inflammatory properties: Spirulina has anti-inflammatory properties that can prevent inflammation that can contribute to cancer (7).
  3. Immunity booster: Spirulina can boost immunity and hence reduce the risk of cancer (8).
  4. Chemoprotective role: Spirulina has a chemoprotective role that can protect against cancer (8).
  5. Prevents tumor growth: Spirulina can help prevent tumor growth and aid in cancer treatment (9).
  6. Reduces myelosuppression: Spirulina can reduce myelosuppression in cancer patients receiving chemotherapy (8).

Summary

Studies have showed that Spirulina possesses anti-cancer characteristics, such as shrinking tumors in animals and easing symptoms in individuals with oral submucous fibrosis (OSMF). It contains a high amount of antioxidants, anti-inflammatory compounds, and substances that enhance the immune system. Additionally, it plays a role in protecting against chemotherapy, inhibiting tumor growth, and assisting in cancer therapy. Spirulina can help ease myelosuppression in individuals undergoing chemotherapy for cancer. Nevertheless, there is a possibility of the lesions returning once treatment with spirulina is stopped.

May lower blood pressure

High blood pressure is a significant cause of many serious diseases, including heart attacks, strokes, and chronic kidney disease (10). In one study, a dose of 4.5 grams of spirulina per day was shown to lower systolic and diastolic blood pressure among people with normal BP levels, while 1 gram was ineffective (11). However, this decrease is supposed to be driven by increased nitric oxide production, an indicator molecule that helps relax and dilate your blood vessels (12).

Spirulina reduces blood pressure through several mechanisms

  1. Nitric oxide production: Spirulina stimulates the production of nitric oxide, a signaling molecule that helps blood vessels relax and dilate, reducing blood pressure in rats (13).
  2. Antioxidant activity: Spirulina’s antioxidants help reduce oxidative stress and inflammation in blood vessels, improving their function and lowering blood pressure (14).
  3. Vasodilation: Spirulina’s active compounds, such as phycocyanin, help relax blood vessels, increasing blood flow and reducing blood pressure (15).
  4. Cardiac output reduction: Spirulina may help reduce cardiac output, which can contribute to lower blood pressure (16).
  5. Endothelial function improvement: Spirulina may help improve endothelial function, which can help blood vessels relax and lower blood pressure .
  6. Anti-inflammatory effects: Spirulina’s anti-inflammatory properties may help reduce inflammation in blood vessels, which can contribute to high blood pressure (18).

These mechanisms may help explain how spirulina can lower blood pressure, but more research is needed to fully understand its effects on blood pressure.

Summary

According to a study, consuming 4.5 grams of spirulina daily can reduce both systolic and diastolic blood pressure in individuals with normal levels. Spirulina helps lower blood pressure by increasing nitric oxide production, acting as an antioxidant, widening blood vessels, reducing cardiac output, improving endothelial function, and providing anti-inflammatory effects. Nevertheless, additional research is necessary to fully comprehend how it impacts blood pressure.

May protect against LDL oxidation

In your body, fatty structures are defenseless against oxidative damage. Therefore, lipid peroxidation is a major driver of several serious diseases (19). For instance, oxidation of LDL cholesterol is one of the main causes of heart disease (20). Spirulina antioxidants seem effective in reducing human and animal lipid peroxidation (21, 22). Two grams per day reduced oxidative damage marks in a study of 25 patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus (23). In addition, the level of antioxidant enzymes also increased.

Spirulina protects against LDL oxidation through several mechanisms

  1. Antioxidant activity: Spirulina’s antioxidants, such as phycocyanin, phenolic acids, and vitamins C and E, neutralize free radicals that can oxidize LDL (21).
  2. Scavenging of free radicals: Spirulina’s antioxidants scavenge free radicals, preventing them from oxidizing LDL (24).
  3. Reducing inflammation: Spirulina’s anti-inflammatory properties reduce inflammation, which can contribute to LDL oxidation (25).
  4. Chelating metals: Spirulina’s compounds can chelate metals like iron and copper, which can catalyze LDL oxidation (26).
  5. Increasing paraoxonase activity: Spirulina may increase paraoxonase activity, an enzyme that protects against LDL oxidation (27).
  6. Reducing lipid peroxidation: Spirulina’s antioxidants reduce lipid peroxidation, a process that can lead to LDL oxidation (28).

By protecting against LDL oxidation, spirulina may help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, as oxidized LDL is more likely to be taken up by macrophages, leading to the formation of foam cells and the development of atherosclerosis.

Summary

Fatty structures lacking defense mechanisms against oxidative damage are primarily responsible for lipid peroxidation, a leading factor in diseases such as heart disease. The antioxidants found in spirulina, including phycocyanin, phenolic acids, and vitamins C and E, have been proven to reduce lipid peroxidation effectively and increase levels of antioxidant enzymes. They counteract free radicals, eliminate them, decrease inflammation, bind metals, and enhance Paraoxonase activity, ultimately decreasing lipid peroxidation.

May protects against inflammation

Oxidative damage may harm DNA and cells. This damage can cause chronic inflammation, leading to cancer and other diseases (28). Spirulina is an excellent source of antioxidants to protect cells from damage (29). Phycocyanin can prevent free radicals and inflammatory molecules, which provide impressive antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects (30, 31, 32).

Spirulina protects against inflammation through various mechanisms

  1. Inhibition of pro-inflammatory enzymes: Spirulina inhibits enzymes like COX-2, LOX, and iNOS, which are involved in the production of pro-inflammatory mediators (33).
  2. Antioxidant activity: Spirulina’s antioxidants, such as phycocyanin, phenolic acids, and vitamins C and E, neutralize free radicals that can trigger inflammation (34).
  3. Suppression of inflammatory cytokines: Spirulina reduces the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines like TNF-α, IL-1β, and IL-6 (35).
  4. Modulation of immune response: Spirulina modulates the immune response, reducing the activation of immune cells that contribute to inflammation (36).
  5. Inhibition of NF-κB: Spirulina inhibits the activation of NF-κB, a transcription factor that regulates inflammatory gene expression (37).
  6. Anti-inflammatory cytokine production: Spirulina stimulates the production of anti-inflammatory cytokines like IL-10 and IL-22 (38).
  7. Reducing oxidative stress: Spirulina reduces oxidative stress, which can contribute to inflammation.
  8. Inhibition of inflammatory cell migration: Spirulina inhibits the migration of inflammatory cells to sites of inflammation (39).

These mechanisms help spirulina to reduce inflammation and oxidative stress, which can contribute to various chronic diseases.

Summary

Spirulina is a potent antioxidant that protects cells from damage and inflammation, preventing cancer and other diseases. It inhibits pro-inflammatory enzymes, neutralizes free radicals, and reduces the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines. Spirulina also modulates the immune response, inhibits NF-κB, stimulates anti-inflammatory cytokine production, reduces oxidative stress, and inhibits inflammatory cell migration. Its antioxidant properties help prevent chronic inflammation and protect cells from damage.

May prevent heart disease

Heart disease is the world’s leading cause of death (40). However, spirulina can influence many factors that cause heart disease. For example, it can lower LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels. The study found that 2 grams of fiber per day improved DM (diabetes mellitus) in 25 people (41). In another study, 1 gram daily decreased triglyceride levels by 16.3% and LDL (bad cholesterol) by 10.1% (42). Several other studies found positive effects—albeit with higher doses of 4.5 to 10 grams per day (43, 44).

Spirulina protects against heart disease in several ways

  1. Lowers blood pressure: Spirulina helps relax blood vessels, reducing blood pressure and workload on the heart (13).
  2. Cholesterol reduction: Spirulina reduces LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglycerides, preventing their accumulation in blood vessels (45).
  3. Antioxidant activity: Spirulina’s antioxidants protect against oxidative stress, inflammation, and damage to blood vessels (14).
  4. Improves blood lipid profile: Spirulina increases HDL (good) cholesterol, reducing the risk of heart disease (45).
  5. Anti-inflammatory effects: Spirulina reduces inflammation in blood vessels, lowering the risk of heart disease (18).
  6. Cardiac function improvement: Spirulina may improve cardiac function, reducing the risk of heart failure (17).
  7. Platelet aggregation reduction: Spirulina reduces platelet aggregation, lowering the risk of blood clots and heart attack (46).
  8. Endothelial function improvement: Spirulina improves endothelial function, enhancing blood vessel relaxation and reducing blood pressure (17).

By addressing these risk factors, spirulina may help protect against heart disease, strokes, and cardiac arrhythmias. However, it is essential to consult a healthcare professional before using spirulina for heart health.

Summary

Spirulina may improve heart health by reducing triglyceride levels, and inflammation, improving blood pressure, protecting against oxidative stress, enhancing cardiac function and endothelial function, and reducing platelet aggregation. Higher doses may be necessary for positive effects, as shown by studies.

May reduce blood sugar levels

Animal studies show that spirulina can lower blood sugar levels (47, 48). However, spirulina is also effective in humans. For example, People took 2 grams of spirulina a day for 2 months, experienced a slight reduction in blood sugar levels. The study was conducted on 25 people with type 2 diabetes (49). Studies have estimated that a reduction of 1% in “HbA1c” may decrease the risk of death related to diabetes by 21% (50). The study was, however, small, and further study was needed.

Spirulina reduces blood sugar levels through several mechanisms

  1. Insulin-like protein: Spirulina contains a protein similar to insulin, which may help regulate blood sugar levels (48).
  2. Phycocyanin: This antioxidant in spirulina has been shown to lower blood glucose levels in animal studies (51).
  3. Improved liver glycogen: Phycocyanin also increases liver glycogen storage, reducing blood glucose levels (52).
  4. Pancreatic protection: Selenium in spirulina protects pancreatic cells responsible for insulin secretion, ensuring normal insulin production (53).
  5. Increased insulin sensitivity: Spirulina’s antioxidants and polyunsaturated fats improve insulin sensitivity, reducing blood sugar levels (54).
  6. Reduced glucose absorption: Spirulina may slow glucose absorption from the gut, reducing blood sugar spikes (55).

These mechanisms contribute to spirulina’s potential to reduce blood sugar levels, making it a possible adjunctive treatment for diabetes and prediabetes management. However, more human studies are needed to confirm its efficacy.

Summary

Spirulina has been shown to lower blood sugar levels in both animals and humans. Spirulina contains insulin-like protein, phycocyanin, and selenium, which help regulate blood sugar levels. It also improves insulin sensitivity and reduces glucose absorption from the gut.

Improves muscle strength

Oxidative damage caused by exercise, such as weight training, is an important part of the process (56). Some plant foods have antioxidant properties that can help athletes and active people reduce this damage. Spirulina appears useful, as certain studies have shown improved muscle strength and endurance (57). Studies show that spirulina improves endurance and increases the time for muscular fatigue during exercise (58).

Spirulina improves muscle strength in several ways

  1. Increasing muscle protein synthesis: Spirulina’s essential amino acids stimulate muscle protein synthesis, building and repairing muscle tissue (59).
  2. Reducing muscle damage: Spirulina’s antioxidants reduce oxidative stress and muscle damage caused by intense exercise (60).
  3. Enhancing endurance: Spirulina increases physical endurance, allowing for longer and more intense workouts (61).
  4. Anti-inflammatory effects: Spirulina’s anti-inflammatory properties reduce muscle inflammation, improving recovery after exercise (62).
  5. Improving muscle fiber function: Spirulina may improve the function of muscle fibers, increasing muscle strength and efficiency (57).

By addressing these factors, spirulina can help improve muscle strength, endurance, and recovery, making it a popular supplement among athletes and fitness enthusiasts.

Summary

Spirulina, a plant food with antioxidant properties, has been shown to improve muscle strength and endurance during exercise. It stimulates muscle protein synthesis, reduces oxidative stress, enhances endurance, and has anti-inflammatory effects. Spirulina also improves muscle fiber function, increasing strength and efficiency. Its antioxidant properties can help athletes and active people reduce oxidative damage caused by intense exercise.

You may also like: 10 Health Benefits of Regular Exercise

Relieves allergic rhinitis

Allergic rhinitis represents the inflammation of your nasal passages. Allergens like pollen, animal hair, or even wheat dust cause it (63, 64). Spirulina is effective in reducing allergic rhinitis symptoms. Studies show the consumption of spirulina can reduce the symptoms of allergic rhinitis, such as nasal discharge, sneezing, congestion, and itching (65, 66). According to one study, spirulina was more successful than cetirizine, an antihistamine used to treat allergies, in improving allergic rhinitis symptoms and decreasing inflammation (67).

Spirulina relieves allergic rhinitis in several ways

  1. Inhibiting histamine release: Phycocyanin in spirulina blocks histamine, reducing inflammation and symptoms (68).
  2. Inhibiting anaphylactic reactions: Spirulina prevents severe allergic reactions by inhibiting mast cells (69).
  3. Relieving congestion: Spirulina eases nasal discharge, sneezing, congestion, and itching (70).
  4. Reducing oxidative stress: Spirulina’s antioxidants combat oxidative stress, contributing to allergic rhinitis relief (70).

These mechanisms collectively contribute to spirulina’s potential in alleviating allergic rhinitis symptoms. However, it’s essential to consult a healthcare professional for personalized advice.

Summary

Consuming spirulina can help prevent allergic rhinitis caused by allergens such as pollen, animal hair, and wheat dust. It relieves symptoms such as nasal discharge, sneezing, congestion, and itching. Spirulina’s phycocyanin inhibits histamine release, protects against severe allergic responses, soothes congestion, and decreases oxidative stress.

Effective against anemia

A decrease in hemoglobin, or red blood cells, can lead to a life-threatening disease called anemia (71). In older adults, anemia can lead to prolonged feelings of fatigue and weakness (72). In a study, spirulina supplements increased hemoglobin and improved the immune function of red blood cells in 40 older people with a history of anemia (73).

Spirulina prevents anemia in several ways

  1. Iron content: Spirulina is rich in iron, an essential mineral for healthy red blood cells. Iron deficiency is a common cause of anemia (73).
  2. Phycocyanin: Spirulina’s phycocyanin stimulates the production of red blood cells, increasing hemoglobin levels and combating anemia (73).
  3. Folic acid: Spirulina is a good source of folic acid, essential for the production of red blood cells and preventing anemia (74).
  4. Vitamin B12: Spirulina contains vitamin B12, necessary for the production of red blood cells and preventing anemia (74).
  5. Improved iron absorption: Spirulina’s phycocyanin enhances iron absorption, ensuring that the body utilizes iron effectively (75).
  6. Hematocrit improvement: Spirulina has been found to increase the hematocrit, the proportion of red blood cells in the blood, indicating improved red blood cell health (73).

By addressing these factors, spirulina may prevent anemia and maintain healthy red blood cells.

Summary

Spirulina supplements, rich in iron, phycocyanin, folic acid, vitamin B12, and improved iron absorption, have been found to increase hemoglobin levels and immune function in 40 older people with anemia history. These supplements also improve red blood cell health by increasing the proportion of iron in the blood.

Uses and dosage of spirulina

  • 2 grams daily may help reduce symptoms of allergic rhinitis.
  • 4 to 10 grams daily appear to be most effective for improving lipid profiles and possibly for reducing fatigue during endurance exercise.
  • Spirulina is usually dosed in the range of 2 to 10 grams daily in whole powder or capsule form.

Although spirulina is safe, it may have some side effects. It may interact with other conventional medicines, so first talk to your doctor before you use a spirulina supplement. Stop taking it right away and seek medical help if you notice side effects of spirulina supplements, such as an allergic reaction.

Conclusion

Spirulina, a plant, has been found to have numerous health benefits. It can shrink tumors and alleviate symptoms in individuals with oral submucous fibrosis. This is due to its abundance of antioxidants, anti-inflammatory compounds, and immune-enhancing substances. Additionally, spirulina has been shown to protect against chemotherapy and inhibit tumor growth, making it beneficial for cancer therapy.

In terms of cardiovascular health, taking 4.5 grams of spirulina daily has been found to lower blood pressure. This is achieved by boosting nitric oxide production and acting as an antioxidant. Furthermore, spirulina reduces lipid peroxidation, which is a major factor in diseases like heart disease. By lowering triglycerides, inflammation, blood pressure, and oxidative stress, spirulina can improve heart health.

Spirulina has also been found to have positive effects on muscle strength and endurance. It reduces oxidative stress and has anti-inflammatory properties, which can enhance athletic performance. Additionally, spirulina can prevent allergies and boost immunity in anemic people.

While spirulina has shown promising results in terms of blood pressure and heart health, further research is needed to fully understand its impact. Always ask your health care provider about the herbal supplements you are taking.

Naeem Durrani BSc
I am a retired pharmacist, nutritionist, and food system expert. My interests include medical research and the scientific evidence around effective wellness practices that empower people to transform their lives.

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