An herb entry from the Ancient Herbs and Modern Herbs book by James K. Sayre, Copyright, 2001. All rights reserved.


Spirulina - Spirulina platensis (Spirulina maxima) - Class: Cyanophyceae (Blue-green Algae Class).

This plant is an edible freshwater algae that grows naturally in freshwater-to-alkaline lakes and ponds located in central western Africa. It has been used there by the Native African people as a traditional food source. It is scooped off of the tops of the ponds and is dried out. Algae are a class of primitive plants that live in various forms: one-celled, in filaments or in colonies. that grow in many parts of the world. Spirulina is about sixty percent protein in its dry state. The balance is mostly carbohydrates (starch), with small amounts of fiber, fat and some minerals, namely sodium and potassium. It also contains some vitamins, namely B1, B2, B12 and C. Some recent studies indicate that Spirulina may help support the immune system in fighting infections. Thought by some to be of use for anemia. It is currently being marketed and sold in North America as a food supplement and as a weight loss aid. It is undoubtedly a useful food, but it hardly has the makings of a miracle food, as some of its sellers have advertised. It is certainly not worth paying premium prices to just purchase an algae for its plant protein content. It is an extremely expensive, at $17.00 per pound, source of plant protein. Compare to Soybeans at $0.50 per pound, even though Soybeans are only about twenty-five percent plant protein. Note: side effects of consuming contaminated Spirulina may include diarrhea, nausea and vomiting. Note: sometimes the water that these plants are collected from may be polluted with agricultural runoff including fertilizers and pesticides. Note: the quality control and testing of harvested Algae and the waters in which it has grown is currently unregulated by any governmental agency. Note: some other species of Blue-green Algae are toxic. Native to central western Africa. Cultivated as a food and as a dietary supplement in California and Hawai'i in North America.



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Web page last updated on 24 May 2003.