I have been aware of spirulina for a while, and never paid much attention to it because in my mind it was just some plain old algae. Basically just microscopic vegetables. Nothing special, right?
This serves no justice to what the early research says spirulina can do for you and me. For what it seems to be able to do, it’s criminally underrated. I’ll briefly overview why it has become a staple in my regimen since February 2016, and why it might be of some use to you too.
- 1 First: What The Hell is Spirulina?
- 2 Spirulina’s Metabolic and Liver Benefits
- 3 Spirulina’s Endurance Benefits
- 4 Spirulina’s Nootropic and Mood Benefits
- 5 Spirulina’s Cancer Benefits
- 6 Spirulina as Superfood
- 7 Where to get Quality Spirulina
- 8 How to take Spirulina
- 9 Pill Scout’s Spirulina Experience
- 10 Conclusion
First: What The Hell is Spirulina?
Wikipedia dubs spirulina as a cyanobacterium, or a blue-green algae. 1 It’s cultivated around the world as a food and also sold as a supplement. It happens to be a superior plant-based source of protein compared to legumes, though is more expensive and less optimal compared to meat and eggs.
Prior to the 16th century, the Aztecs and other early Mesoamerican cultures considered spirulina to be a food source.
As with many things, the source and quality of spirulina is very important due to potential hazards like contamination with harmful toxin-producing cyanobacteria or heavy metals, but we’ll get to that later. With good products, you will not have to worry about this.
Spirulina’s Metabolic and Liver Benefits
One of the major things touted about spirulina are its metabolic benefits. This is in my estimation the first reason most people take it as a supplement to begin with. The Examine.com page 2 details all of its antioxidant and liver protecting abilities. One of its primary components happens to be very similar to our natural bilirubin, a substance the body naturally produces as a cellular antioxidant of sorts. 3
Spirulina is so effective at what it does that it actually seems to be able to heal or improve certain liver conditions, such as fatty liver and certain viral diseases like hepatitis and HIV.
Another study shows that this algae can reduce insulin resistance and “bad” cholesterol. Obviously these studies need to be explored further, but this stuff looks promising.
Spirulina’s Endurance Benefits
In a human study, spirulina has been shown an increase in time to exhaustion relative to placebo. It’s not enormous, but this is worth something in my opinion.
Spirulina’s Nootropic and Mood Benefits
No human studies here (yet), however the few rat studies show some possible neuroprotective capabilities and some minor antidepressant effects. Obviously more research is needed before we can scream from the mountaintops about it.
Spirulina’s Cancer Benefits
In several studies, spirulina has been explored for its effect on tumors and various forms of cancer. In many of these studies, it seems to inhibit or even reverse the growth of tumors. Its anti-mutagenic properties were explored in rats, and it even seemed to reduce DNA damage in sperm and eggs.
Spirulina as Superfood
Though most people seem to be excited about supplements that improve physical performance, sexual performance or mental performance (go figure), this algae is a decent source of nutrients. It’s richer in protein compared to other plant based protein sources, so it is considered a “superfood.” Practically, you’ll probably go broke trying to live off of this stuff on its own, but as a supplement to a decent diet it is fantastic.
Where to get Quality Spirulina
As I always suggest, make sure your source has tested their product for potential toxins or contaminants. Some crappy people just want to make a quick buck, and supplements in the United States are not exactly standardized for this sort of thing, so you should be picky where you can.
One of my favorite supplement vendors (iHerb) has tons of spirulina from good sources. If you take a look for yourself, you can get it in capsules or tablets, but bulk seems to be more economical in any case.
Powder City, my preferred nootropic vendor, also has bulk spirulina for sale. They do third-party lab analyses of their stuff, so you know it’s free of the nasty stuff that can be found in low quality products.
How to take Spirulina
Many of the studies above involve doses equivalent to about 3+ grams of spirulina per day. If you want those benefits, you should expect to take about 3 grams each day.
Assuming you got the bulk powder, as this is the most economical way to do it, you could mix a nice scoop of it in your protein shake. The flavor is mild in my opinion, but some pickier people might hate it. So keep that in mind.
Spirulina can be pressed into capsules at home too, but it looks like one of those sticky, messy powders that stubbornly resist rinsing. Again, tablets and capsules are available if you don’t want to deal with powders.
Pill Scout’s Spirulina Experience
I’ve been taking Earthrise’s Spirulina Natural powder nearly every day for the past month with my chocolate pea protein and other powder supplements. It doesn’t affect the flavor very much. I have nothing dramatic or life-changing to state about it, except that maybe this stuff has made up for the lack of fresh fruits and greens in my diet lately.
I can’t say that you can feel it as you might with other substances, but on an empty stomach a very minor sort of head change was noticed. Regardless of subjective feeling however, the research speaks for itself as to its known and potential benefits. I haven’t exactly turned into Superman taking this stuff, but after seeing much of the data, I feel perfectly comfortable in investing a few bucks in some of this funny tasting green powder. It’s always good to know that something this healthy for us is available to us all and that it isn’t just some hippie BS.
I’m not a “superfood” kind of guy, but I think spirulina is awesome. Most of the human research is at the preliminary stage right now. The usual skeptics are doubtful, but I look forward to all of the research on it that will uncover what other benefits it might have in store for us.
References [ + ]
|1.||↑||Wikipedia — Spirulina|
|2.||↑||Examine.com — Spirulina|
|3.||↑||Wikipedia — Bilirubin|