The term spirulina refers to a large number of blue-green algae. Both Spirulina and non-Spirulina species are classified as blue-green algae and include: Aphanizomenon spp., Microcystis spp., Nostoc spp., and Spirulina spp. Most commercial products contain Aphanizomenon flos-aquae, Sprirulina maxima, and/or Spirulina platensis. These algae are found in the warm waters of the world, especially in Mexico and central Africa.
Spirulina is different from other blue-green algae because it has a spiral structure. Spirulina spp. are most often grown under controlled conditions and are less likely to be contaminated, compared to naturally harvested non-spirulina species.
Spirulina is rich in nutrients and contains up to 70 percent protein, B-complex vitamins, beta-carotene, vitamin E, and numerous minerals. Spirulina has been found to contain more beta-carotene than carrots.
Spirulina has been used since ancient times. It is believed to be useful as an antioxidant, antiviral, anticancer, weight loss aid, and cholesterol-lowering agent.
The accompanying Monograph available for download includes information on science evidence, along with other background information. For more, click Download.