The benefits of spirulina are abundant. Not only is it a natural toner for your skin, it also can aid in the treatment of dark circles and beyond!
Spirulina is a type of blue-green algae, which is also a type of cyanobacteria. Spirulina naturally occurs in bodies of water, particularly ponds, lakes, oceans, and rivers. Spirulina is capable of forming in both fresh water and salt water. Like many plants, spirulina gathers its energy from the sunlight because of the naturally occurring chlorophyll within its composition. The chlorophyll within spirulina also contributes to its green hue. Spirulina has been dubbed a superfood for a number of reasons, chief among them being its incredible capacity to help improve the appearance, feel, and health of the skin. The numerous skin benefits spirulina has to offer has made it a common ingredient in many modern skin products.
Spirulina is considered one of the modern world’s superfoods because of the vast array of health benefits it offers. Spirulina offers higher protein levels than beans, fish, poultry, and meat. In addition to being high is protein, Spirulina also contains vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin B, minerals, phytonutrients, DHA and GLA (fatty acids shown to improve health), potassium, enzymes, and iron. If this list of naturally occurring elements is not enough, spirulina also contains each of the eight essential amino acids and approximately ten non-essential amino acids. Spirulina also contains the highest levels of beta-carotene of any food. Beta-carotene is a carotenoid, which is the source of pigment in plants. Beta-carotene is responsible for the orange color of carrots and offers an array of benefits once ingested. Beta-carotene also converts into vitamin A, sometimes referred to as retinol, once consumed and also aids cells in protecting themselves against the damaging effects of free radicals. The high content of beta-carotene found in spirulina contributes to the health benefits of spirulina and the benefits of spirulina for skin.
Spirulina originated three and a half billion years ago and is a large part of why Earth has breathable oxygen today. Spirulina is a type of blue-green algae with photosynthetic capabilities that allow it to convert carbon dioxide in the air into oxygen. Spirulina was discovered by a doctor from the Institute of French Petroleum (IFP) in 1962. The doctor’s name was Dr. Clement. Dr. Clement began her investigation into blue-green algae based on a tribe she discovered along Lake Chad. The Kanembu tribe was located in Africa and led very simple lives that differentiated them from the occupants of a modernized society. Despite the lack of modernized elements in their day to day lives, Dr. Clement noticed that their stature was much better than occupants of more modern societies. Upon further investigation, she learned that the tribe was gathering blue-green algae off the of the lake and incorporating it into various meals they cooked. The integration of blue-green algae, later known as spirulina, into their diet was the cause of their superior stature and health. Spirulina has existed for a very long time, but only recently have human beings begun modernizing the harvesting process and making a concerted effort to integrate spirulina into diets and skin products to improve health.
Growing and Harvesting Spirulina
When researching a new ingredient to add to a skin routine or health regime, it is important to understand where that ingredient comes from and how it is produced. Spirulina naturally grows in fresh water lakes, rivers, and ponds. It requires high levels of exposure to sunlight and moderate temperatures in order to flourish. Spirulina farming is now actively occurring all over the world, and though each operation develops its own variation for farming spirulina, the basic tenants of producing spirulina are the same. In order to grow spirulina, it is necessary to have a culture or sample of spirulina, a tank (or pond), a water pump to circulate the water (or a current), minerals or salts to aid in growth, tools to monitor the pH levels of the water, and tools to gather and harvest the spirulina once it has completed its growth cycle. The commercial production of spirulina attempts to mimic the processes naturally occurring blue-green algae undergoes in nature. To begin the process, the culture of spirulina must be seeded into the pond. The pump, or manual stirring, then is used to agitate it and promote growth. While this is taking place, regular samples must be taken of the pH to ensure that levels remain within normal range. When the spirulina reaches a concentration of 0.5g/L, it is ready to be harvested. This must be measured using a Secchi disk. Spirulina has been found to be most beneficial and nutritious when used in its wet form. However, spirulina only lasts for a few days (at most) in its wet form before it must be dried and packaged. Many companies integrate spirulina into their products to increase its health benefits, and others prefer to dry and package spirulina for consumption with food. All companies producing edible spirulina must abide by the following sanitation standards:
- Heavy metals: not more than 20 ppm (as Pb).
- Arsenic: not more than 2 ppm (as As).
- Total aerobic plate count: not more than 50,000 per gram.
- 4. Coliform bacteria: negative.
- Limit of pheophorbide:
- edible green algae: not more than 60 mg%
- edible blue algae: not more than 50 mg%
- edible green algae: not more than 80 mg%
- edible blue algae: not more than 100 mg%.
Companies must ensure they are compliant with the above standards in order to make sure the health of the public consuming edible algae remains healthy. When choosing products to apply to your skin or ingest, it is vital to understand and monitor the quality of your products to ensure they are affording the maximum amount of health benefits.
Spirulina Health Benefits
In addition to being extremely beneficial for the skin, spirulina has a number of health benefits that have been proven to aid in the treatment of several conditions. Some of the health benefits Spirulina is thought to support are:
- Reduction in the effects and symptoms of seasonal allergies
- Spirulina is high in folate and vitamin B, both of which are known to increase brain activity and improve brain functioning. Introducing spirulina may improve cognitive performance and lead to a healthier, more responsive brain.
- Spirulina reduces appetite because of its unique cell composition. Upon introduction to water, the simple cells that comprise spirulina dissolve completely and the water absorbs its protein within several minutes. By drinking spirulina thirty to forty-five minutes prior to eating, the amount of food needed to attain a state of fullness is reduced. The introduction of protein prior to the meal aids in appetite suppression while also reducing future cravings by introducing a source of protein that is long-lasting.
- Spirulina has been known to aid in treating those suffering from diabetes. Diabetes is a condition in which the body fails to regulate blood glucose levels and requires doses of additional insulin to ensure blood sugar levels remain within normal range. The amino acids, vitamins, minerals, and phycocyanins in spirulina help to balance blood sugar levels and prevent the extreme fluctuations in glucose levels that are a trademark of diabetes. In addition, the presence of gamma linolenic acid in spirulina helps improve lipid levels in diabetics, which furthers aids in blood glucose stabilization.
- Spirulina has also been shown to improve the overall health of the liver due to the naturally occurring vitamins that comprise it. Spirulina is high in vitamin B, vitamin C, manganese zinc, iron, copper, selenium, and protein. Each of these contributes to fortifying the liver against damage, liver failure, and cirrhosis.
- One of the most common uses of spirulina is to detoxify the body. The natural detoxifying benefits of spirulina stem from the chlorophyll embedded within the cells. Spirulina is capable of reducing and ridding the body of heavy metals, substances high in radiation, and pollutants, all of which lower the toxicity of the kidneys and can improve overall health and wellness.
In addition to these remarkable benefits, spirulina has a number of attributes that make it ideal for improving skin health, appearance, and texture.
Benefits of Spirulina for Skin
Spirulina is not only ideal for consumption; the benefits of spirulina for improving skin are now becoming more widely known and accepted. Some of the benefits of spirulina for the skin are:
- Spirulina acts as a natural toner that helps brighten and improve thecomplexion. Spirulina contains high levels of phosphorous, vitamin A, vitamin B-12, vitamin, E, calcium, and iron. These elements combat and help reduce the presence of free radicals. By eliminating harmful free radicals from the skin, spirulina purifies the cells of the skin which results in an improved appearance of the skin.
- Just as Spirulina acts as a full-body detoxifier to improve the kidneys, it also acts as a powerful detoxifier for the skin. The introduction of spirulina to the skin in a topical product aids in the acceleration of skin regeneration. The faster cell turnover rate increases the speed with which the skin can heal itself and promotes the shedding of dry and dead skin cells that dull the skin’s appearance. The increased skin cell turnover rate leads to an improved skin metabolism that helps to create and maintain a healthy glow.
- Because of the high levels of selenium, vitamin E, and tyrosine found in spirulina, it is considered to be an effective anti-aging element. The tyrosine present in spirulina is comprised of powerful antioxidants that decrease the aging of skin cells and rid the skin of harmful free radicals. In addition, the high content of chlorophyll in spirulina helps to retain moisture in the skin. By holding on to the skin’s moisture, the skin appears more hydrated, healthy, and smooth. Chlorophyll also has cleansing properties that detoxify and improve skin health.
- Spirulina has also been shown to help eliminate dark circles by fortifying the body’s immune system. This fortification leads to an improvement in the strength and elasticity of the skin. According to some dermatologists, the chlorophyll present in spirulina helps boost the body’s immune system by detoxifying the skin, which reduces the appearance of dark circles and shadows underneath the skin’s surface.
- Spirulina has also been shown to help combat acne by removing the harmful toxins and bacteria on the skin’s surface that have been shown to cause breakouts. The introduction of a natural skin product containing spirulina could reduce the appearance of breakouts on the skin by improving the skin’s overall health.
Now that the wide array of skin benefits has been explained, the next question is, “Where can I buy spirulina?”
Where to Buy Spirulina
When considering where to purchase spirulina, it is vital to consider the quality of the product. For skin products, always target companies that pride themselves on using high-quality ingredients in high concentrations. To do this, look for labels that say “spirulina extract” and have spirulina extract listed as a main ingredient. To ensure it is a main ingredient, make sure it is one of the first things listed on the ingredient list. Ingredient lists identify the most highly occurring ingredients first, so always make sure to heed this step. When purchasing spirulina for consumption with food, make sure it is pure spirulina without any additives that may have negative effects. Many health food and natural remedy stores now carry spirulina, like Whole Foods, GNC, and Sprouts. No matter where spirulina is purchased, always make sure it is good quality and concentration prior to purchase.