AFA, Algae, Algas Verdiazul, Algues Bleu-Vert, Algues Bleu-Vert du Lac Klamath, Anabaena, Aphanizomenon flos-aquae, Arthrospira maxima, Arthrospira platensis, BGA, Blue Green Algae, Blue-Green Micro-Algae, Cyanobacteria, Cyanobactérie, Cyanophycée, Dihe, Espirulina, Hawaiian Spirulina, Klamath, Klamath Lake Algae, Lyngbya wollei, Microcystis aeruginosa, Microcystis wesenbergii, Nostoc ellipsosporum, Spirulina Blue-Green Algae, Spirulina Fusiformis, Spirulina maxima, Spirulina platensis, Spirulina pacifica, Spiruline, Spiruline d’Hawaii, Tecuitlatl.
Overview InformationBlue-green algae refers to several species of bacteria that produce blue-green colored pigments. They grow in salt water and some large fresh water lakes. They have been used for food for several centuries in Mexico and some African countries. They have been sold as a supplement in the US since the late 1970s.
Blue-green algae products are used for treating high blood pressure. They are also used as a protein supplement and for high levels of cholesterol or other fats (lipids) in the blood (hyperlipidemia), diabetes, obesity, and many other conditions, but there is no good scientific evidence to support these uses.
Some blue-green algae products are grown under controlled conditions. Others are grown in a natural setting, where they are more likely to be contaminated by bacteria, liver poisons (microcystins) produced by certain bacteria, and heavy metals. Choose only products that have been tested and found to be free of these contaminants.
You may have been told that blue-green algae are an excellent source of protein. But, in reality, blue-green algae are no better than meat or milk as a protein source and cost about 30 times as much per gram. Don't confuse blue-green algae with algin, Ascophyllum nodosum, Ecklonia cava, or Laminaria.
How does it work?Blue-green algae have a high protein, iron, and other mineral content which is absorbed when taken orally. Blue-green algae are being researched for their potential effects on the immune system, swelling (inflammation), and viral infections.
Uses & Effectiveness
Possibly Effective for
- High blood pressure. Taking blue-green algae by mouth seems to reduce blood pressure in some people with high blood pressure.
Insufficient Evidence for
- Hay fever. Early research shows that taking blue-green algae by mouth might relieve some allergy symptoms in adults.
- Insulin resistance caused by drugs used to treat HIV/AIDS (antiretroviral-induced insulin resistance). Early research shows that taking blue-green algae by mouth increases insulin sensitivity in people with insulin resistance due to HIV/AIDS medication.
- Arsenic poisoning. Early research shows that taking blue-green algae and zinc by mouth twice daily reduces arsenic levels and the effects of arsenic on the skin in people living in areas with high arsenic levels in the drinking water.
- Athletic performance. The effect of blue-green algae on athletic performance is unclear. An early study shows that men who jog regularly are able to sprint for longer periods of time before becoming tired when they take blue-green algae. However, another early study shows that taking blue-green algae does not improve calories burned while exercising on an elliptical trainer machine.
- Attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Early research shows that taking blue-green algae with a combination of herbs might improve ADHD scores in previously untreated children. But it's not clear if this is from blue-green algae, the other herbs, or the combination.
- Tics or twitching of the eyelids (blepharospasm). Early research shows that taking blue-green algae does not reduce eyelid spasms in people with blepharospasm.
- Diabetes. Early research shows that taking blue-green algae by mouth might improve cholesterol levels by a small amount.
- Fatigue. Early research shows that taking blue-green algae by mouth does not improve fatigue in adults with long-term complaints of fatigue.
- Hepatitis C. Research on the effects of blue-green algae in people with chronic hepatitis C has been inconsistent. One study shows that taking blue-green algae by mouth results in greater improvements in liver function compared to milk thistle in adults with hepatitis C who were not yet treated or were unresponsive to other treatments. However, another study shows that taking blue-green algae worsens liver function in people with hepatitis C or hepatitis B.
- HIV/AIDS. Research on the effects of blue-green algae in people with HIV/AIDS is mixed. Some early research shows that taking blue-green algae by mouth reduces infections, stomach and intestinal problems, feelings of tiredness, and breathing problems in patients with HIV/AIDS. However, taking blue-green algae does not appear to improve CD4 cell counts or reduce viral load in HIV patients.
- High levels of cholesterol or other fats (lipids) in the blood (hyperlipidemia). Early research shows that blue-green algae lowers cholesterol in people with normal or slightly elevated cholesterol levels. However, the research findings have been somewhat inconsistent. In some studies, blue-green algae only lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL or "bad") cholesterol. In other studies, blue-green algae lower total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol, and increase high-density lipoprotein (HDL or "good") cholesterol.
- A condition caused by a poor diet or the body's inability to absorb nutrients. Early research on the use of blue-green algae in combination with other dietary treatments for malnutrition in infants and children shows conflicting results. Weight gain was seen in undernourished children who were given spirulina blue-green algae with a combination of millet, soy and peanut for 8 weeks. However, in another study, children up to 3 years-old who were given blue-green algae daily for 3 months did not gain weight more than those given general treatments to improve nutrition alone.
- Symptoms of menopause. An early study shows that taking blue-green algae by mouth lowers anxiety and depression in women going through menopause. However, it doesn't appear to reduce symptoms such as hot flashes.
- Mental alertness. An early study shows that taking blue-green algae improves feelings of mental tiredness and scores on a mental math test.
- Obesity. Research on the effects of blue-green algae in people who are overweight or obese is unclear. Some early research shows that taking blue-green algae by mouth slightly improves weight loss in overweight or obese adults. In addition, some early research shows that taking blue-green algae might improve levels of cholesterol in obese adults. But other studies show no weight loss with blue-green algae.
- White patches inside the mouth that are usually caused by smoking (oral leukoplakia). Early research shows that taking blue-green algae by mouth reduces mouth sores in people who chew tobacco.
- A serious gum infection (periodontitis). Early research shows that injecting a gel containing blue-green algae into the gums of adults with gum disease improves gum health.
- Low levels of healthy red blood cells (anemia) due to iron deficiency.
- Premenstrual syndrome (PMS).
- Build up of fat in the liver in people who drink little or no alcohol (nonalcoholic fatty liver disease or NAFLD).
- Indigestion (dyspepsia).
- Heart disease.
- Wound healing.
- Other conditions.
Side Effects & SafetyWhen taken by mouth: Blue-green algae products that are free of contaminants, such as liver-damaging substances called microcystins, toxic metals, and harmful bacteria, are POSSIBLY SAFE for most people when used short-term. Doses up to 19 grams per day have been used safely for up to 2 months. Lower doses of 10 grams per day have been used safely for up to 6 months. Side effects are typically mild and may include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal discomfort, fatigue, headache, and dizziness.
But blue-green algae products that are contaminated are POSSIBLY UNSAFE. Contaminated blue-green algae can cause liver damage, stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, weakness, thirst, rapid heartbeat, shock, and death. Don't use any blue-green algae product that hasn't been tested and found to be free of microcystins and other contamination.
Special Precautions & Warnings:Pregnancy and breast-feeding: There isn't enough information available to know if it is safe to use blue-green algae when pregnant or breast-feeding. Contaminated blue-green algae products contain harmful toxins that might be transferred to an infant during pregnancy or through breast milk. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.
Children: Blue-green algae are POSSIBLY UNSAFE for children. Children are more sensitive to contaminated blue-green algae products than adults.
Auto-immune diseases such as multiple sclerosis (MS), lupus (systemic lupus erythematosus, SLE), rheumatoid arthritis (RA), pemphigus vulgaris (a skin condition), and others: Blue-green algae might cause the immune system to become more active, and this could increase the symptoms of auto-immune diseases. If you have one of these conditions, it's best to avoid using blue-green algae.
Bleeding disorders: Blue-green algae might slow blood clotting and increase the risk of bruising and bleeding in people with bleeding disorders.
Diabetes: Blue-green algae might affect blood sugar levels. Watch for signs of low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) and monitor your blood sugar carefully if you have diabetes and use blue-green algae.
Phenylketonuria: The spirulina species of blue-green algae contains the chemical phenylalanine. This might make phenylketonuria worse. Avoid Spirulina species blue-green algae products if you have phenylketonuria.
Surgery: Blue-green algae might lower blood sugar levels. There is some concern that it might interfere with blood sugar control during and after surgery. Stop using blue-green algae at least 2 weeks before a scheduled surgery.
Be cautious with this combination
Medications that decrease the immune system (Immunosuppressants) interacts with BLUE-GREEN ALGAE
Blue-green algae might increase the immune system. By increasing the immune system, blue-green algae might decrease the effectiveness of medications that decrease the immune system.
Some medications that decrease the immune system include azathioprine (Imuran), basiliximab (Simulect), cyclosporine (Neoral, Sandimmune), daclizumab (Zenapax), muromonab-CD3 (OKT3, Orthoclone OKT3), mycophenolate (CellCept), tacrolimus (FK506, Prograf), sirolimus (Rapamune), prednisone (Deltasone, Orasone), corticosteroids (glucocorticoids), and others.
The following doses have been studied in scientific research:
- For high blood pressure: 2-4.5 grams of blue-green algae per day has been used.
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