Spirulina is a type of green-blue algae that grows naturally in alkaline (high pH) lakes. Spirulina has a long history as a food; in fact, the Aztecs harvested spirulina from Lake Texcoco in central Mexico. Nowadays, it is most commonly commercially grown in ponds, where quality is monitored, and upon harvesting it is dried and powdered for supplemental use. With over 20 years of use as a supplement (and a much longer history of use as a food in ancient cultures), spirulina is touted for being high in antioxidants (compounds that help combat cancer and DNA damage), vitamins and minerals.
Spirulina is a superfood! It contains significant amounts of calcium, niacin, potassium, magnesium, B vitamins and iron. Due to its high iron content, it offers support during menstruation, when there is loss of iron, and before and after donating blood. Spirulina is also high in protein; in fact, protein makes up 70-80% of its dried weight!
Research also indicates that spirulina offers immune-support. A study at UC Davis showed that spirulina increases the activation of T-cells (immune cells which engulf invading microorganisms and destroy infected cells), showing how spirulina can support the body in fighting off pathogens and parasites. While more research needs to be done, spirulina has also been shown to promote the growth of healthy bacterial flora in the intestines; a healthy microbiome also helps to inhibit harmful pathogens.
If you are interested in experiencing the benefits of spirulina for yourself, here is a way to start: most studies suggest using between 1-8 grams of spirulina daily (7 grams is about a tablespoon); the powder may be added to water or smoothies if you don’t care for the flavor.