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Spirulina is a microalga that was first harvested by the Aztecs in Central Mexico. The product that was once known as “pond scum” has now become famous as a “superfood” due to its significant nutritional and health benefits. 
Spirulina has been a standard source of nutrition for a number of years. In fact, the United Nations called it “the best food for the future” at its food conference in 1974. This was followed up with a report issued by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization in 2008, where they urged governments to consider spirulina in their plans for food security. 
This powerful nutritional supplement has become a vital ingredient in the fight against malnutrition. So important is this product, that the United Nations set up a specific institution to mobilize its use – the Intergovernmental Institution for the Use of Micro-Algae Spirulina Against Malnutrition. Spirulina contains vitamins, minerals, carotenoids and protein. Its protein content surpasses that of soybeans by 20%, corn by 40% and beef by 200%. As a nutritional supplement, spirulina has no rivals. 
The popularity of this supplement increased significantly when it became public that NASA was using it for the nutritional profile of their astronauts.  As the health benefits of spirulina were explored more and more, the value of this supplement has grown in all sectors of society – not only the malnourished. It has positive effects on fighting cancer, lowering glucose levels, reducing anemia and giving improved exercise performance.
Spirulina can be taken safely at high doses and does not have many documented side effects or compatibility issues. Its versatility enables it to be taken in tablet or powder form where it can be mixed with other supplements.
Benefits and Effects
One of the most well-known benefits of spirulina is found in its use to combat malnutrition.
Studies conducted in Gaza, Cameroon and India all showed similar results. Malnourished children and women who are HIV-positive were treated with standard care, a balanced diet, and some supplements, while others also received spirulina. Without fail, the participants who received spirulina showed marked improvements compared to those who did not. They gained more weight and height. Iron and hemoglobin levels increased. Immune system cells also increased in HIV-positive women. 
Spirulina contains a rich mixture of protein, vitamins and other nutrients. Specific elements that contribute to the nutrition value spirulina provides are: protein, Vitamin B1, Vitamin B2, Vitamin B3, Copper, and Iron. 
Resists Oral Cancer
As an antioxidant, spirulina is known to have positive health effects on the human body. This includes its ability to inhibit and chemoprevent oral cancer. A study was performed among the pan tobacco chewers of Kerala, India. Many of them suffer from an oral cancer called oral leukoplakia. Spirulina caused complete regression of lesions in 45% of participants compared to 7% without spirulina. These results show that spirulina can help the body to resist cancer and to recover from its effects. 
Improves Exercise Performance
Nine moderately fit males participated in a test to determine the effect of spirulina on their exercise performance. The test was very specific involving 2-hour runs with blood samples taken at fixed intervals as well as after the test. Over a four-week testing period, participants using spirulina showed a marked improvement in exercise performance. Besides their physical performance, the blood tests showed positive improvements in fat oxidation, GSH concentration and a lowering in lipid peroxidation production. 
May lower blood glucose levels
Diabetes is a disease, which has become a significant health issue in modern society. Managing blood glucose levels is critical for diabetic patients. Tests using spirulina to improve blood glucose management in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus have been performed. Blood samples were analyzed over a period of 2 months comparing patients using spirulina and those on a placebo control. Appreciable lowering of fasting blood glucose and postprandial blood glucose was noted along with a significant reduction in the HbA(1c) level. This indicated not only a reduction in glucose but an improvement in glucose regulation. 
Helps reduce cholesterol
Studies using rabbits have shown promising signs in the use of spirulina to reduce cholesterol. High cholesterol was induced through diet. According to the test results, spirulina supplements significantly reduced lipid peroxidation levels, which returned to their normal values. 
May reduce anemia
Anemia is a common condition among the elderly, which leads to symptoms of weakness and fatigue.  It can also result in a decreased ability to fight disease and infection. Spirulina has been shown to improve average values of mean corpuscular hemoglobin in anemic patients. More studies are needed to understand this effect more fully, but signs are promising that spirulina can be used to reduce anemia. 
May reduce allergic rhinitis
Allergic rhinitis is an allergic reaction where nasal congestion causes physical discomfort. Symptoms include nasal discharge, sneezing, congestion and itching. Existing medical treatments largely involve the use of antihistamines, which have undesirable side effects like drowsiness. A study investigated the effect of spirulina on the symptoms of allergic rhinitis. The results showed a significant improvement in the patients taking spirulina compared to those using a placebo control. Although the sample size of this study was small, indications are that spirulina could be a valid treatment for allergic rhinitis. 
How Spirulina Works
Spirulina is an antioxidant. This means that it protects the human body from free radicals, which have the potential to damage healthy cells. 
Studies show that spirulina works by activating cellular antioxidant enzymes. It also inhibits lipid peroxidation and DNA damage. Another mechanism of action is the increase of activity of superoxide dismutase and catalase. The different ingredients of spirulina each have their own mechanism of action, some of which are listed below :
- Phycocyanin decreases peroxyl radicals, lipid peroxidants, and total cholesterol.
- B-carotene inhibits NF-KB nuclear translocation and protects against the intracellular accumulation of ROS.
- Sulfated polysaccharide repairs DNA. It also decreases oxidative stress.
- Y-linolenic acid (GLA) inhibits B-secretase (BACE1). It reduces the antioxidant content of tumor cells.
- Sulfolipids inhibit DNA polymerase activity. It also reduces phosphorous demand and inhibits the production of superoxide anion.
The Maryland Medical Center recommends a spirulina dosage of 2,000 to 3,000 mg per day. This is usually split into 4 to 6 portions of 500 mg each during the day.  Dosages much higher than this have been safely consumed. Daily consumption of up to 10,000 mg per day has been used effectively. 
Spirulina is available in different forms like powders and flakes as well as tablets. In powder form, it can be added to smoothies or fruit juice blends in combination with other nootropics.
It is important to drink a lot of water when taking spirulina due to its diuretic effect. Some recommendations specify between 6 to 8 glasses of water per day between meals. 
Because high-protein foods have the potential to improve alertness, they should not be consumed too late in the day. It is advisable not to take spirulina less than 4-hours before retiring to bed. 
Spirulina has the ability to absorb heavy metals and toxins, and as such, it is very important not to use contaminated spirulina. Some people have experienced severe side effects not from the spirulina itself, but from contaminants that have become entrained in the product. 
Some consumers have reported symptoms of headaches, sweats, nausea, concentration problems and flushes when using spirulina. However, the general consumer experience is very positive even at high doses. 
People who suffer from autoimmune diseases should avoid spirulina. One of the benefits of the product is the stimulation of the immune system, but this could be detrimental for autoimmune patients.  Always consult a medical practitioner if you are unsure about the effect of a nootropic on your health.
Spirulina may slow blood clotting.  If you are taking any other blood thinning medications or supplements, you should first inquire of a medical practitioner before starting with spirulina. Any change to your nootropic regime should be done gradually to test for any adverse side effects.
Spirulina can be taken safely with cumin, paprika and chili powder. 
Spirulina and multivitamins can be a good combination. The amino acids present in spirulina will not be found in any multivitamin supplement. However, spirulina contains high amounts of carotenoids and vitamin E. The human body normally excretes excess carotenoids rather than converting them to vitamin A. If you multivitamin also contains large amounts of vitamin E, it may be advisable to get medical advice before taking it with spirulina.