Article at a glance:
- While COVID is relatively under control now, it’s far from being non-existent. Taking spirulina supplements for precaution or recovery could be a great option.
- The nutritional components of spirulina may help boost the general functions of the immune system, but studies particular to its effects on COVID infections have been promising as well.
- Learn why scientists have explored spirulina’s potential to reduce infection risks, promote recovery, and for post-COVID care.
The worst of the COVID-19 pandemic may be over, but the virus is still here, mutating to different strains. In a matter of a few years, various scientific research provided compelling results that consuming spirulina for COVID as a dietary supplement may have tremendous health benefits. Keep reading to learn how the algae superfood could be of help in COVID recovery and prevention.
What Is Spirulina?
While spirulina supplements are mostly available as green tablets and green powders, they come from the blue-green algae scientifically known as Arthrospira platensis.
The history of spirulina as a nutritious and stamina-enhancing food source goes way back to the Aztec civilization in the 16th century. The long list of vitamins, minerals, and other naturally present nutrients in spirulina made it the subject of tons of research.
Currently recognized as a superfood, spirulina is a top dietary supplement choice for many due to its great potential to boost the immune system. Bioactive components in spirulina also demonstrated antioxidant effects, anti-inflammatory properties, and antiviral activity.
Spirulina and COVID-19
At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, scientists explored spirulina consumption’s potential for lowering infection risks, aiding in recovery, and health benefits post-recovery. COVID-19, which is caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, put the world at a sudden halt in early 2020. The novel nature of the disease made it a global crisis in a matter of months because there were no established effective options for prevention and immediate treatment at the time.
Patients who were infected with the novel coronavirus also presented varying symptoms and disease severity. Some patients of the coronavirus disease went through the illness with mild to no symptoms (asymptomatic). Others experienced moderate to severe respiratory distress to the extent of needing oxygen support. Millions worldwide needed to be hospitalized or died from the disease.
In search of nutritional supplementation that can support the fight against COVID, scientists have turned to spirulina due to its previously established immunomodulatory effects, among other health benefits.
Can Spirulina Provide Stronger Defense Against COVID?
What are the benefits of spirulina against viruses?
If there’s one thing that COVID-19 shares with other diseases that have existed for years, it’s that prevention is highly important. It’s especially true in the early days of the COVID pandemic when vaccines weren’t available yet, and transmissions were rapid. In that case, maintaining a strong immune system is crucial to reduce the risk of contracting the coronavirus. Even now, various COVID-19 vaccines are more widely available worldwide.
Can spirulina and COVID vaccine work together to improve our defense against this disease? In terms of strengthening the body’s defense system, yes, they can. A strong immune system plays an important role in defending the body from novel and existing viruses. That’s where taking spirulina can provide wonderful assistance.
As a superfood, spirulina is rich in essential vitamins and minerals with powerful antioxidant properties. Studies showed spirulina naturally contains vitamins C, E, B6, zinc, beta-carotene, and other nutrients that can help boost the immune system. That means taking spirulina for COVID may complement vaccines greatly and provide an option for individuals who can’t get the vaccine.
Study Finds Fewer COVID Infections With Spirulina Supplementation
A 2022 study published in the European Journal of Medical and Health Sciences (EJMED) demonstrated encouraging results on the potential of spirulina to fight coronavirus infections.
- The clinical trial included 186 unvaccinated participants ages 30 to 60 without illnesses like diabetes and cancer, chronic conditions affecting the liver and heart, or pulmonary disease.
- For the study, 102 participants consumed 6 g of Spirulina platensis daily for six months. Only 14 of them were infected by the coronavirus Delta variant and presented mild symptoms.
- Out of 102 individuals who received spirulina supplementation, only 2 patients needed to be hospitalized due to acute viral gastroenteritis.
- Among the 84 participants who did not take spirulina supplements, 62 had COVID-19 (also Delta variant) and exhibited mild symptoms.
- There were 17 subjects infected with coronavirus that had to be hospitalized due to pneumonia, serious respiratory issues, gastroenteritis, pulmonary embolism, and acute pericarditis.
The study’s sample size was relatively small, but it provided promising outcomes. Evidence suggests that a combination of supplementing spirulina and the COVID-19 vaccine may enhance our defense against infection.
Does Spirulina Enhance Recovery From COVID?
Is spirulina good for COVID patients?
Despite the high efficacy rates of COVID-19 vaccines, breakthrough infections can still happen due to various factors. One of them is the existence of different coronavirus variants. While a strong immune system cannot guarantee a complete prevention of COVID-19 infection, it’s still important to try to boost our body’s immune functions.
That’s because the immune system will have a tougher job once a viral infection has occurred. COVID patients will need all the help they can get for faster recovery and to inhibit viral replication.
While the studies are still limited, they provided promising results suggesting that taking spirulina for COVID recovery may be beneficial.
Spirulina May Help Suppress Viruses
Is spirulina an antiviral?
Aside from the vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and other nutrients in spirulina that can boost the immune system, recent evidence suggests that it may directly benefit COVID-19 patients.
One scientific paper noted that evidence showing spirulina kills viruses may be explained by the bioactive compounds present in the cyanobacteria.
Spirulina contains bioactive compounds like calcium spirulan, sulfated polysaccharides, angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitor peptides, and phycobiliproteins with antiviral activity.
Is Spirulina Good for the Lungs of COVID Patients?
Can spirulina heal lungs from COVID complications?
Many factors cause complications from COVID-19, and researchers believe that the phenomenon called “cytokine storm” is one of them. In the event of most viral infections, Macrophage activation syndrome (MAS) can set in and trigger an overproduction of proinflammatory cytokines, leading to a cytokine storm induced by most viral infectious diseases.
Studies have suggested that coronavirus-induced cytokine storm could be linked to severe acute respiratory syndrome, organ failure, and death. However, evidence suggests that spirulina may also have benefits in this aspect. An in vitro simulation study observed how the spirulina extract from blue-green algae grown with natural and controlled lighting could affect proinflammatory cytokines. It found that photosynthetically controlled Spirulina helped suppress the proinflammatory cytokine TNF-α levels.
These results must still be confirmed in larger animal and human clinical trials, and they further support the likelihood of spirulina benefits for COVID-19 patients’ respiratory and pulmonary functions. The possible benefits of spirulina for COVID-19 cases may include hindering the progression of the disease, thus potentially helping patients to recover.
Spirulina for Antioxidant Boost
While blue-green algae spirulina has vitamins and minerals that act as antioxidant agents, phycocyacin also gives it its antioxidant properties. It’s the most abundant pigment in spirulina, and studies showed it has free radical scavenging capabilities. Phycocyanin can also inhibit lipid peroxidation, which can lead to cellular damage.
Antioxidants play a huge role in many aspects of our health and are even more important for COVID-19 recovery.
Evidence suggests that lower serum antioxidants may lead to more severe COVID-19 cases that could result in longer hospitalization, ICU admission, need for mechanical ventilation, and injuries to the kidney, heart, and lungs.
What Can Spirulina Do After COVID Recovery?
Once patients start to recover from COVID-19, the work to remain healthy continues.
The body may even need more attention to recuperate continuously, and it starts with getting proper nutrition and returning to an active lifestyle.
Nutrition is one area where spirulina has tons to offer — it’s a superfood, after all. It contains vitamins and minerals with antioxidant power, such as vitamin C, vitamin E, and zinc, which all boost the immune system. Spirulina is also rich in vitamins B12, B6, B1, B2, and B3, while its beta-carotene content is a good source of provitamin A.
Notable minerals naturally found in spirulina include potassium, calcium, phosphorus, and iron. All essential amino acids, essential fatty acids, phenolic compounds, and polysaccharides are also present in the blue-green algae.
Studies have shown that dietary supplementation with these micronutrients from a combination of extracts that includes spirulina enhances immune functions and fights free radical damage.
Improve Energy Level
Some patients might already test negative for coronavirus after weeks of treatment but still experience symptoms commonly including fatigue. A healthy diet and proper sleep are some of the best practices for managing post-COVID fatigue. But it also wouldn’t hurt to get extra help from superfood supplements for an energy boost.
Protein accounts for more than 60% of spirulina’s dry weight. This is important for anyone needing an energy boost by promoting stronger muscles and body tissues.
Potential Benefits of Spirulina for Long COVID
In most cases, COVID-19 symptoms linger for a few weeks when a patient is no longer contagious and typically able to return to normal activities. However, there are cases where symptoms from the coronavirus infection linger for longer, whether the patient tests positive or negative for COVID-19. Such cases have been called Long COVID or Post-COVID Conditions.
Available research points to several possible causes of Long COVID, although studies also noted that long-term symptoms can happen in patients without pre-existing conditions. Health issues for COVID long-haulers also vary from mild to moderate symptoms, such as fatigue, shortness of breath, loss of sense of smell, rashes, cough, sore throat, and muscle pain. There are also reports of other symptoms in Long COVID cases, including concentration issues or “brain fog,” sleep problems, mood issues, digestive distress, and chest pains.
Current data suggest that Long COVID can persist for years. Without approved treatment, patients maybe left to manage the symptoms they experience alone. In this case, taking spirulina for Long COVID could be an option that may provide some relief from several symptoms that can affect a person’s ability to function daily.
Does spirulina help with mucus?
Varying severity of cough is one of the most common symptoms, even in Long COVID cases. And that could also lead to added issues like thicker mucus. The good news is earlier studies found spirulina to improve symptoms of allergic rhinitis like nasal discharge, congestion, and sneezing. Symptoms such as coughing, shortness of breath, and muscle pain are due to inflammation.
So, it’s worth noting that nutrients found in spirulina, like amino acids, healthy fatty acids, and polyphenolic compounds, exhibited anti-inflammatory properties in animal studies.
Enhance Cognitive Functions
Impairment of cognitive functions, which includes memory and concentration, is another common complaint among Long COVID patients. Spirulina has demonstrated potential in improving these areas, including one study where older people saw an increase in visual working memory after a 12-week spirulina supplementation at a daily dose of 3 g.
Another study noted that spirulina’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties might explain its “neuroprotective role.”
Improve Mood and Well-Being
Having to deal with COVID-19 symptoms long-term can cause mental strain, which could lead to mood disorders. But spirulina has also shown compelling potential in providing support for these issues.
A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study where participants consumed 3 g spirulina for eight weeks suggested that the supplement may help improve mental and physical fatigue symptoms. Research suggests spirulina supplementation can be a good source of the amino acid tryptophan, which helps stimulate serotonin synthesis. In this manner, the study indicates that spirulina supplements may work for mental health improvements.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Spirulina Good When You’re Sick?
Flu-like symptoms are the common signs of COVID-19 and many other viral infections. So, you may also be wondering if spirulina is good for the flu. A 2016 animal study suggests it is. Extract from Spirulina platensis demonstrated antiviral effects for influenza-infected mice models.
Taking cold medicines, getting enough rest, staying hydrated, and making healthier food choices are some of the best and simplest ways to recover when you’re sick. The evidence, while done on animal models, indicates that taking spirulina when sick may have its benefits.
Its close cousin, Chlorella, also has many studies to back up how it can help patients with COVID-19.
Does Spirulina Work Immediately?
There is no known definite measure of time at which people taking spirulina can expect its benefits. However, long-time users of the supplement have reported varying durations between a few days to a few weeks.
What Is a Good Amount of Spirulina Per Day?
Most manufacturers of spirulina supplements typically recommend a daily dosage of 3 to 5 grams daily. However, many human clinical trials have administered higher doses of spirulina with few to no reports of adverse effects on the participants.
Higher spirulina doses of 10 grams daily for 6 months and 19 grams daily for 2 months are also reportedly safe, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Should You Take Spirulina for COVID Recovery and Lower Infection Risk?
Is spirulina good for COVID 19? Many scientific studies published since the pandemic began strongly indicate the benefits of taking spirulina for COVID.
Evidence suggests that spirulina supplements enhance our protection against viral infection. The microalga superfood also showcases its potential to suppress viruses before they cause further damage, although further studies are still encouraged.
At the end of the day, having a strong immune system and an overall healthy body should give us better chances to reduce the risk of contracting COVID-19.
Spirulina could be an excellent supplement for COVID-19 protection. But it may also give you other amazing health benefits, thanks to its chock-full of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, healthy fatty acids, antioxidants, and high protein content.
Lastly, ensure you only buy supplements from trusted companies that produce organic premium spirulina products. Manufacturing algae supplements without the best and hygienic processing practices always poses a contamination risk.
For a worry-free consumption of food supplements, look for products containing certified organic premium spirulina or organic spirulina free of fillers. A stamp of Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) indicates that a spirulina blue-green algae supplement was processed in safe and hygienic facilities.