Soldiers travelling with Hernan Cortes reported the native American tribes, including the Aztec, using condiment cakes made from spirulina, algae found on the shores of Lake Texcoco. In Africa the food has been recorded in use from the ninth century, harvested from Lake Chad.
Research over the last twenty years has started to discover some startling features and benefits to health and nutrition. In 1974 the United Nations World Food Conference announced spirulina as ‘the best food for the future.’
Spirulina is one of the most incredibly concentrated natural dietary supplements known. It is very rich in iron and non-animal protein and contains all the required amino acids as well as beta-carotene and chlorophyll. The useful bacteria in the gut are encouraged by spirulina so improving the digestion operation. Spirulina also helps the body’s processes by providing enzymes, antioxidants and phytonutrients.
Also included is the GLA important fatty acid, which may stimulate growth and help ensure the health and strength of skin and hair. Arthritis sufferers may also be helped by spirulina anti-inflammatory properties.
Excitement about this natural dietary supplement has been increased by recent research; in April 1996, an ongoing study was announced jointly by Harvard Medical School, the Dana-Farber Institute and the Laboratory of Viral Pathogenesis. The results of this project show that an extract from spirulina inhibits the growth of the
AIDS virus HIV-1 in human cells.
The high concentrations used affected the viruses but did not seem to be detrimental to human cells. In Japan a similar project used Calcium-Spirulan extract and discovered that the growth of not only the HIV-1 virus was inhibited but also that of the Mumps virus, Influenza A virus, Measles virus, Herpes Simplex and Human Cytomegalovirus (a cause of birth defects).
A virus depends on attaching itself to a cell and then puncturing the cell membrane. The spirulina extract prevents this puncture, so rendering the virus useless and open to destruction by the body’s natural defences. AIDS sufferers also benefit from spirulina as it increases their body weight and combats anaemia.
Spirulina has also proved useful in the prevention of hay fever and in the treatment of arsenic poisoning. In 2007 a Mexican study even found the alga has a positive effect in the reduction of blood pressure and cholesterol.
Even some cancers seem to be inhibited by spirulina and it also helps to repair cells damaged by radiotherapy as well as boost the immune system by promoting the manufacture of bone marrow, blood cells and stem cells among others. In the Chernobyl region Russian medical staff are giving spirulina to children suffering from damaged bone marrow and anaemia from eating radioactive fruit and vegetables.
Spirulina is proving to have many remarkable benefits as one of the more effective natural dietary supplements but may have more to reveal yet.