Spirulina (speer-U-lee-nah) is a form of blue green algae, one of the planet’s most ancient forms of plant life. Spirulina’s name comes from the spiral shape of each individual, microscopic cell.
A somewhat common misconception is that spirulina is nothing more than ‘pond scum.’ Not true! There are algaes that grow in fresh water that are not spirulina and are toxic. There are also wild monocultures of spirulina in parts of the world that have been eaten safely by many civilizations throughout history. Spirulina that is grown for nutritional supplementation is typically grown in outdoor tanks under rigorous conditions with the most commonly used varieties being that of Spirulina maxima, which is grown in Mexico, and Spirulina platensis , which is grown in Hawaii.
One of Nature’s most balanced of foods, spirulina is an amazing source of protein, chlorophyll, trace minerals, vitamins and antioxidants and contains 10 times more beta-carotene than carrots. This algae is so nutrient-dense and rapidly grown that some experts believe it could be used as a whole-food, multi-nutrient supplement for populations at risk for malnutrition or starvation. Spirulina doubles in its biomass in two to five days and can be cultivated on land where nothing else will grow. And as a food source, spirulina yields over 20 times more protein than soybeans and 400 more times than beef within the same space requirements.
Both the United Nations and The World Health Organization have recommended spirulina as a safe food supplement for children and spirulina is exceptionally well-suited for people who have poor digestion as it is extremely easy to digest. Spirulina has also been researched extensively for its potential to improve immune function and has been found to increase the action of anti-cancer and antiviral cells. Spirulina was used in Russia to treat victims (children, in particular) of the nuclear accident at Chernobyl and the victims’ bone marrow, compromised in blood cell production by radiation, seemed to better return to its proper function. Spirulina also contains high concentrations of gamma-linoleic acid (GLA), an anti-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acid and many users attest to spirulina’s ability to relieve joint pains and body aches.
Spirulina users often report dramatic improvements in energy levels as well. Athletes use spirulina to improve performance and endurance and generally find that it also aids in faster recovery times.