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Spirulina maxima/Spirulina spp.

Spirulina is a blue green algae that naturally occurs in most lakes and ponds. Yet, this amazing simple organism can even withstand extreme conditions of saline volcanic lakes. Although it is a recent addition to the nutritional supplement menu of Westerners, Native people in Central America, Asia and Africa have long reaped the benefits of this 'superfood'. Spirulina, so named because of the spiral form of this one-celled organism, really packs a phenomenal amount of nutrients into its strange shape. It is extremely rich in amino acids, the building blocks of protein, and many vitamins. In particular, it is one of the richest non-animal sources of vitamin B12 (usually found in dairy products and liver meat).

Spirulina has not yet been researched sufficiently to make specific medical recommendations. It does however show great promise as a nutritional supplement to boost the immune system. There has been a good response in HIV patients and studies suggest that it can help protect against tumour growth. Spirulina can supplement a diet that is deficient in proteins and helps to re-establish healthy intestinal flora where this has been destroyed by the use of antibiotics, birth control pills or radiation and chemotherapy. Preliminary studies also suggest a hepatoprotective effect in cases of chronic hepatitis, which may help prevent cirrhosis of the liver. Animal studies have shown certain anti-allergic properties which prevented the release of histamines and thus reduced typical allergy symptoms such as runny nose etc. In one study, children, born in Chernobyl who suffered from bone marrow damage, made significant improvements after having been given Spirulina for 6 weeks, compared to the control group, which showed no improvement. Spirulina shows a lot of promise, but there is always a danger of praising a newly discovered substance so highly that it becomes victim of its own popularity. As a result such substances often become discredited and illegalised because they can't live up to all the hype - even though they may still be highly beneficial. Spirulina is a great nutritional supplement, but not a cure-all.

There are no magical uses associated with Spirulina, but it may be used as a general tonic to help build Chi energy.

Not all herbs are suitable in pregnancy, breastfeeding or for young children, or if you are unwell, or taking any medication. If in doubt, please ask a medical herbalist or healthcare practitioner.