Spirulina grows in the wild in salty lakes in Mexico and on the African continent. It reproduces quickly, and because the individual plants tend to stick together, it is easy to harvest. Records of the Spanish conquistadors suggest that the Aztecs used spirulina as a food source; we also know that the Kanembu people of Central Africa harvested it from what is now called Lake Chad.
Unless you live within 35 degrees of the equator and on the shores of an alkaline lake, you will have difficulty finding spirulina anywhere but in a health food store. Most carry a number of brands of spirulina that has been dried and processed into powder or tablets.
Researchers studying spirulina's effects on health have used a variety of doses, ranging from 1 to 8.4 g daily.
Spirulina might have other specific therapeutic uses beyond general nutritional support, but the evidence supporting these recommendations is highly preliminary at best.
Despite widespread publicity, there is no evidence that spirulina is useful for attention deficit disorder .
What Is the Scientific Evidence for Spirulina?
There are no well-documented uses of spirulina.
Fibromyalgia is a common chronic condition whose main symptoms are specific tender points on various parts of the body, widespread musculoskeletal discomfort, morning stiffness, fatigue, and disturbed sleep. The cause of fibromyalgia is not known, and current treatments are far from completely satisfactory.
Nevertheless, there are areas of serious concern for consumers.
Some states, such as Oregon, require producers to strictly limit the concentration of microcystins in blue-green algae products, but the same protections cannot be assumed to have been applied to all products on the market. Furthermore, the maximum safe intake of microcystins is not clear, and it is possible that when blue-green algae is used for a long time, toxic effects might build up. Long-term use by children raises particular concerns, especially in light of the widely popularized, but unsubstantiated belief, that blue-green algae is useful for attention deficit disorder.
These researchers, however, go on to suggest that it is not prudent to eat more than 50 g of spirulina daily. The reason they give is that the plant contains a high concentration of nucleic acids, substances related to DNA. When these are metabolized, they create uric acid, which could cause gout or kidney stones. This is of special concern to those who have already had uric acid stones or attacks of gout.
The safety of spirulina in pregnant and nursing women, young children, and individuals with kidney or liver disease has not been determined.
- Reviewer: EBSCO CAM Review Board
- Review Date: 08/2013 -
- Update Date: 08/22/2013 -