Essential to the diet of Aztecs and other Mesoamericans of 16th century Mexico, the harvest and consumption of spirulina fulfilled a vast array of nutritional needs along with preservation of health.
Even though spirulina is one of the earliest lifeforms on our planet, it was not until 1940 that the harvest of spirulina was discovered by a French scientist. He noted the harvest trails around the shallow parts of Lake Chad, Africa dating back to the 9th century Kanem Empire.
Fast forward to today and this once favorite food of the Aztecs is now being investigated for use in space-flight as a dietary supplement for astronauts. Mission to Mars astronauts may be instructed to ingest spirulina as a way to sustain nutrient levels on their long journey through space.
Spirulina is a natural chelator of heavy metals, meaning it can remove toxic metal residues from our tissue and endocrine system. These include the dissolving and elimination of arsenic, cadmium, mercury, and lead – endocrine disruptors which deposit in the pineal gland and affect the efficiency and health of the brain in general.
The name Spirulina represents a biomass of cyanobacteria.
The two species of cyanobacteria are Arthrospira platensis and Arthrospira maxima.
Aztec name – Tecuitlatl – “stone’s excrement”
A practice still popular today, Spirulina was harvested, dried and molded into little cakes by the Kanembu people called “Dihe”. We are guessing this has to be the world’s healthiest “cake”!
A cousin of Chlorella, the micro-algae Spirulina is a living organism that grows in fresh water and salt water lakes and also ponds. Technically belonging to the bacteria kingdom, spirulina is a type of bacteria called cyanobacterium which presents as blue-green algae. All plants and trees on earth, including some bacterias, spirulina gains its energy from sunlight to produce all it requires to sustain its own life and produce energy.
Nutrient dense, spirulina has been touted as a super-food. Rich in amino acids, spirulina has proved a valuable source of protein for vegans and vegetarians and is a staple in the diets of the health conscious. There are over 35 different varieties of Spirulina and it is important to choose a superior type of spirulina, which is high grade and has been sourced responsibly, to get the maximum benefits this natural source of nutrients has to offer.
The health benefits of this ancient life form and Aztec favorite are numerous and now every self-respecting health food store stocks a range of products containing the blue-green algae we know as Spirulina. Let’s take at some of the additional health benefits of Spirulina.
Heavy Metal Detox
As industrialisation continues its prolific spread across our planet, its heavy metal waste products continue to contaminate our environment. Exposure to heavy metals is inevitable and heavy metal toxicity is on the rise. Metals are present in unsuspecting places such as the air we breathe, drinking water in certain parts of the world (arsenic found in the drinking water in parts of Taiwan, Bangladesh, India, Chile) aluminum in seemingly innocent products such as deodorants, dental fillings, mercury in fish and the list goes on. Spirulina is an effective chelating agent due to containing an abundance of chlorophyll. The chlorophyll in spirulina binds to heavy metals and transports them to the liver for detoxification. Chlorophyll is so thorough at binding to heavy metals that it has been used to remove radioactive substances from wastewater along with cadmium and lead.
Lowers Blood Pressure
Phycocyanin is a pigment found in the blue-green spirulina that researchers have confirmed can lower blood pressure. Japanese researchers have claimed that the lowering of blood pressure is actually due spirulina consumption supporting the reversal of a condition called endothelial dysfunction, which is linked to metabolic syndrome. This is very good news, as metabolic syndrome is one of the leading causes of ill health and, leads to the development of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.
Spirulina is a densely nutritious superfood with super immune boosting power, making it a critical choice of supplementation for people living with HIV. One of the most studied foods on the planet, spirulina is still revealing its nutrition prowess. A study published in the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes found that spirulina algae supplementation triggered an inhibited replication of HIV in the blood. In countries where consumption of spirulina is rife, such as chad in Africa, and also places like Korea and Japan, HIV rates are relatively low, and this has intrigued researchers. The Journal of Applied Phycology published a 2012 study suggesting that consumption of spirulina may be one of the reasons why immune systems of the population seem to be so strong — hence less acquisition of HIV.
Several animal studies have shown promising results regarding the consumption of spirulina and the elimination of yeast infections. It has been found that spirulina may help to control the development of yeast infections, in particular, candida. Our modern diet is rich in simple sugars, which can feed the candida bacteria and lead to an imbalance of gut bacteria and candida overgrowth. Spirulina has effective antimicrobial properties, which work particularly well on candida. Not only does Spirulina act as an antimicrobial agent eliminating candida, but it is also capable of promoting healthy gut bacteria to grow! A healthy intestinal gut flora also inhibits the overgrowth of candida.