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Latest Scientific Research
Effects on the AIDS Virus, Cancer
and the Immune System
by Richard Kozlenko DPM, Ph.D M.P.H.
and Ronald H. Henson.
Spirulina is gaining more attention from
medical scientists as a nutraceutical and source of potential pharmaceuticals.
There are several new peer reviewed scientific studies about Spirulina's
ability to inhibit viral replication, strengthen both the cellular
and humoral arms of the immune system and cause regression and inhibition
of cancers. While these studies are preliminary and more research is
needed, the results so far are exciting.
Potent Anti-Viral Activity
In April 1996, scientists from the Laboratory of Viral Pathogenesis,
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts,
and Earthrise Farms, Calipatria, California, announced on-going research,
saying, "Water extract of Spirulina platensis inhibits HIV-1
replication in human derived T-cell lines and in human peripheral blood
mononuclear cells. A concentration of 5-10 g/ml was found to reduce
viral production" 1.
HIV-1 is the AIDS
virus. Small amounts of Spirulina extract reduced viral replication
while higher concentrations totally stopped its reproduction. Importantly,
with a therapeutic index of >100, Spirulina extract was non-toxic
to the human cells at concentrations stopping viral replication.
of medical scientists has published new studies regarding a purified
water extract unique to Spirulina named Calcium-Spirulan. It
inhibits replication of HIV-1, Herpes Simplex, Human Cytomegalovirus,
Influenza A virus, Mumps virus and Measles virus in-vitro yet is very
safe for human cells. It protects human and monkey cells from viral
infection in cell culture. According to peer reviewed scientific journal
reports this extract, "holds great promise for treatment of
...HIV-1, HSV-1, and HCM infections, which is particularly advantageous
for AIDS patients who are prone to these life-threatening infections." 8.
is a polymerized sugar molecule unique to Spirulina containing both
Sulfur and Calcium. Hamsters treated with this water soluble extract
had better recovery rates when infected with an otherwise lethal Herpes
does it work? When attacking a cell, a virus first attaches itself
to the cell membrane. However, because of Spirulina extract, the virus
cannot penetrate the cell membrane to infect the cell. The virus is
stuck, unable to replicate. It is eventually eliminated by the body's
natural defenses. Spirulina extracts may become useful therapeutics
that could help AIDS patients lead longer more normal lives 1,
What Is Spirulina?
Spirulina, (rhymes with 'ballerina'), is a traditional food of some Mexican
and African peoples. It is a planktonic blue-green algae found in warm
water alkaline volcanic lakes. Wild Spirulina sustains huge flocks of
flamingos in the alkaline East African Rift Valley Lakes. It possesses
an amazing ability to thrive in conditions much too harsh for other algae.
As might be expected, it has a highly unusual nutritional profile. Spirulina
has a 62% amino acid content, is the world's richest natural source of
Vitamin B-12 and contains a whole spectrum of natural mixed carotene
and xanthophyll phytopigments. Spirulina has a soft cell wall made of
complex sugars and protein, and is different from most other algae in
that it is easily digested.
Millions of people
worldwide eat Spirulina cultivated in scientifically designed algaefarms.
Current world production of Spirulina for human consumption is more
than one thousand metric tons annually. The United States leads world
production followed by Thailand, India and China. More countries are
planning production as they realize it is a valuable strategic resource.
between spirulina, chlorella and 'wild' blue green algae.
not Chlorella or the blue-green algae harvested from Klamath
Lake Oregon. Chlorella, a green micro-algae, is a nutritious food but
does not have the same anti-viral, anti-cancer and immune stimulating
properties of Spirulina. The Chlorella cell wall is made of indigestible
cellulose, just like green grass, while the cell wall of Spirulina
is made of complexed proteins and sugars.
The Klamath Lake
blue-green algae has the scientific name Aphanizomenon flos-aquae.
It is not the same as Spirulina. There are serious concerns about the
safety of eating Aphanizomenon flos-aquae 5, because it
can sometimes contain potent nerve toxins. While the scientific literature
is full of information concerning the toxicity of Aphanizomenon flos-aquae
and its dangers to humans and animals, there are few, if any, peer
reviewed scholarly scientific papers regarding therapeutic benefit.
In contrast, the scientific literature is full of information concerning
the benefits and safety of humans and animals eating Chlorella and
Several studies show Spirulina or its extracts can prevent or inhibit
cancers in humans and animals. Some common forms of cancer are thought
to be a result of damaged cell DNA running amok, causing uncontrolled
cell growth. Cellular biologists have defined a system of special enzymes
called Endonuclease which repair damaged DNA to keep cells alive and
healthy. When these enzymes are deactivated by radiation or toxins, errors
in DNA go unrepaired and, cancer may develop. In vitro studies suggest
the unique polysaccharides of Spirulina enhance cell nucleus enzyme activity
and DNA repair synthesis. This may be why several scientific studies,
observing human tobacco users and experimental cancers in animals, report
high levels of suppression of several important types of cancer. The
subjects were fed either whole Spirulina or treated with its water extracts 3,12,13.
Strengthens Immune System
Spirulina is a powerful tonic for the immune system. In scientific studies
of mice, hamsters, chickens, turkeys, cats and fish, Spirulina consistently
improves immune system function. Medical scientists find Spirulina not
only stimulates the immune system, it actually enhances the body's ability
to generate new blood cells.
parts of the immune system, the Bone Marrow Stem Cells, Macrophages,
T-cells and Natural Killer cells, exhibit enhanced activity. The Spleen
and Thymus glands show enhanced function. Scientists also observe Spirulina
causing macrophages to increase in number, become "activated" and
more effective at killing germs.
show that even small amounts of Spirulina build up both the humoral
and cellular arms of the immune system 16. Spirulina accelerates
production of the humoral system, (antibodies and cytokines), allowing
it to better protect against invading germs. The cellular immune system
includes T-cells, Macrophages, B-cells and the anti-cancer Natural
Killer cells. These cells circulate in the blood and are especially
rich in body organs like the liver, spleen, thymus, lymph nodes, adenoids,
tonsils and bone marrow. Spirulina up-regulates these key cells and
organs, improving their ability to function in spite of stresses from
environmental toxins and infectious agents 2,10,12,14,15,16.
Spirulina Phycocyanin Builds Blood
Spirulina has a dark blue-green color, because it is rich in a brilliant
blue polypeptide called Phycocyanin. Studies show that Phycocyanin affects
the stem cells found in bone marrow. Stem cells are "Grandmother" to
both the white blood cells that make up the cellular immune system and
red blood cells that oxygenate the body.
scientists document Phycocyanin stimulating hematopoiesis, (the creation
of blood), emulating the affect of the hormone erythropoetin, (EPO).
EPO is produced by healthy kidneys and regulates bone marrow stem cell
production of red blood cells. Chinese scientists claim Phycocyanin
also regulates production of white blood cells, even when bone marrow
stem cells are damaged by toxic chemicals or radiation 17.
Based on this
effect, Spirulina is approved in Russia as a "medicine food" for
treating radiation sickness. The Children of Chernobyl suffer radiation
poisoning from eating food grown on radioactive soil. Their bone marrow
is damaged, rendering them immunodeficient. Radiation damaged bone
marrow cannot produce normal red or white blood cells. The children
are anemic and suffer from terrible allergic reactions. Children fed
just five grams of Spirulina in tablets each day make dramatic recoveries
within six weeks. Children not given Spirulina remain ill 6.
Other Potential Health Benefits
Spirulina is one of the most concentrated natural sources of nutrition
known. It contains all the essential amino acids, rich in chlorophyll,
beta-carotene and its co-factors, and other natural phytochemicals. Spirulina
is the only green food rich in GLA essential fatty acid. GLA stimulates
growth in some animals and makes skin and hair shiny and soft yet more
durable. GLA also acts as an anti-inflammatory, sometimes alleviating
symptoms of arthritic conditions.
as a functional food, feeding beneficial intestinal flora, especially
Lactobacillus and Bifidus. Maintaining a healthy population of these
bacteria in the intestine reduces potential problems from opportunistic
pathogens like E. coli and Candida albicans. Studies show when Spirulina
is added to the diet, beneficial intestinal flora increase.
Based on this preliminary research, scientists hope the use of Spirulina
and its extracts may reduce or prevent cancers and viral diseases.
Bacterial or parasitic infections may be prevented or respond better
to treatment and wound healing may improve. Symptoms of anemia, poisoning
and immunodeficiency may be alleviated. Scientists in the USA, Japan,
China, Russia, India and other countries are studying this remarkable
food to unlock its potential. More research is needed to determine
its usefulness against AIDS and other killer diseases. However, it
is already clear this safe and natural food provides concentrated
nutritional support for optimum health and wellness.
- Ayehunie S.,
Belay A., Hu Y., Baba T., Ruprecht R., 7th IAAA Conference, Knysna,
South Africa April 17, 1996.
- Baojiang G.,
et al, Second Asia-Pacific Conference on Algal Biotechnology, April
25-27, 1994, p. 24.
- Babu.,M., et
al, Nutrition and Cancer 1995, V. 24, No. 2, p.197-202.
- Belay A., Ota
Y., Miyakawa K., Shimamatsu H., Journal of Applied Phycology 5:235-241,
et al Scientific American January 1995. "The Toxins of Cyanobacteria."
- Evets L.B.
et al Grodenski State Medical University, January 15, 1994 Russian
Federation Committee of Patents and Trade, Patent Number: (19) RU
(11) 2005486 C1 (51) 5 A 61K35/80.
- Fukino H.,
Takagi Y., Yamane Y., Eisei Kagaku 36: 5.,1990.
- Hayashi T. & Hayashi
K., et al, Journal of Natural Products 1996, Vol. 59, No. 1, 83-87,
American Chemical Society and American Society of Pharmacognosy.
- Hayashi K.,
et al, Phytotherapy Research, Vol. 7, 76-80 (1993).
- Hayashi O.,
et al, Journal of Nutritional Sciences and Vitaminology, 40, 431-441,
- Kolman A.,
et al Toxicology Letters, 48 (1989) 165-169 Elsevier.
- Lisheng L.,
et al, Marine Sciences, Qindao China, N. 5, 1991, p. 33-38.
- Pang Qishen
et al, Acta Genetica Sinica (Chinese Journal of Genetics), V.15(5)
p. 374-381, 1988.
- Qureshi M.A.,
Kidd M.T., and Ali R.A., Journal of Nutritional Immunology V.3(4)
1995, pages 35-45.
- Qureshi M.A.,
Ali R.A., Immunopharmacology, Jan. 1996.
- Qureshi M.A.,
Garlich J.D., Kidd M.T., Immunopharmacology and Immunotoxicology,
1996 (submitted), "Dietary Spirulina platensis Enhances Humoral
and Cell-mediated Immune Functions In Chickens".
- Zhang C., et
al, 1994 Second Asia-Pacific Conference on Alga Biotechnology, April
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