January 30, 2012
By Donna Earnest Pravel
Spirulina is a blue-green algae which is commercially produced and widely marketed as a “superfood” and immune booster. It is also a rich source of natural, plant-based iron, calcium, vitamin A and vitamin C, and an excellent source of plant protein, with up to 70% of its dry weight being protein. The alpha-linolenic acid profile in spirulina is the highest in the plant kingdom, coming in third overall behind milk and evening primrose oil.
A study published in the Spring 2005 issue of the Journal of Medicinal Food indicated that ingested spirulina made a significant improvement in human patients with nasal allergies, also known as allergic rhinitis. In this study, researchers measured the amount of cytokines, interferon, and other immune system signals found in the bloodstream before and after taking spirulina. Cytokines are immune system molecules which send signals to alert immune “fighters” to come to the body’s aid when a pathogen is encountered. They act as auto-immune communicators. Cytokines can be either proteins, glycoproteins, or peptides.
According to the University of South Carolina School of Medicine, interferons are another type of immune system signal. They work by binding to receptors located on cell membranes, sending a “red alert” message to the cells. Cells then respond to this message by triggering 20-30 genes which then create an anti-viral cellular environment.