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What is Spirulina Powder?

By Brendan McGuigan
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Spirulina powder is a health supplement made from the spirulina cyanobacteria. In addition to spirulina powder, one often finds spirulina tablets and spirulina flakes to be taken as supplements as well. Spirulina powder is also used as a supplement to a number of animal feeds, especially for aquaculture and aquariums. A decent amount of research has been done on the health benefits of this powder, and it seems to support many of the health benefits claimed by its supporters.

In fact, spirulina may have been in use as a dietary supplement more than a thousand years ago in Chad. There is evidence to suggest that as far back as the days of the Kanem Empire, spirulina cakes, or Dihé, were made and eaten as supplements. These cakes are still made and sold in modern Chad, and they are used as a sort of bouillon for some broths. Many people also believe the Aztecs cultivated and used spirulina as a supplement, as described by a soldier with Cortés in the 16th century. The Aztec word for spirulina, Tecuitatl, means literally the excrement of the stone.

As a dietary supplement, spirulina has a number of components that make it very desirable. It contains many vitamins, including thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), nicotinamide (B3), pyridoxine (B6), folic acid (B9), vitamin B12, vitamin C, vitamin D, and vitamin E. Although B12 is present, whether or not it is bioavailable in meaningful amounts is in dispute, and so many vegetarian dieticians recommend not depending on spirulina powder as a source of B12. Spirulina also contains many different minerals, including calcium, chromium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, selenium, sodium, zinc, and large amounts of potassium.

Additionally, spirulina is, by weight, a good source of protein, with around 60% of its dry weight consisting of proteins. Although containing reduced amounts of cysteine, lysine, and methionine when compared to egg or meat proteins, the amino acid content is still significantly higher than that of most plant proteins. It is a very easily-digestible form of protein, as well, and in combination with its other components is very close to a “perfect food.&rdquo

Because of its low cost, large amount of vitamins and minerals, high protein content, and ease of production, spirulina has often been looked at as a superfood of the future. Especially as a potential candidate to battle malnutrition on a global scale, spirulina has received a great deal of support from groups like the United Nations. Some proponents visualize enormous spirulina ponds feeding thousands of people and helping to supplement their nutrient-poor diets to keep them healthy.

One additional benefit of spirulina, which is a reason many people take spirulina powder daily, is that it is believed to reduce allergic reactions. A small dose taken daily can reduce the amount of interleukin-4 in the body noticeably, helping to reduce the strength of allergy responses. For people with mild allergies, such as hay fever or animal allergies, this little bit can be just enough to keep the body functioning at full strength.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By anon350911 — On Oct 09, 2013

I'm new to juicing so I started putting wheatgrass powder in. I've just purchased spirulina and also want to add msm and maca powder. Does anyone know if its safe to mix all four powders? Thanks in advance.

By anon329721 — On Apr 11, 2013

I lost 40 pounds drinking one to two teaspoons of an algae, spirulina, wheat grass powder every day in water. But I also stopped eating carbs, so no sugars, no breads, no juices, no yogurt, nada! I don't how some of you guys expect to lose weight dumping sugary stuff in a smoothie! Maybe plain, no sugar yogurt (a tiny bit) and fresh fruit would be OK once a day, but I tried this before and it wasn't cutting enough carbs to do it for me.

I notice that my body moves easier when I drink the seaweed mix too. My skin doesn't get as dry, and I don't get sick. The minute I stopped it this year, in January, and didn't buy any more, I got sick a month later!

Any of the seaweeds are diuretics, like coffee. So be sure not to take vitamins at the same time or they will flush out and not absorb, if you're adding vitamins. You probably don't need any extra if you do this.

My question is: if it comes from China, like most of it does, is it safe? Their factories are heavily polluting their environment.

By anon298893 — On Oct 22, 2012

I've been told that Spirulina helps with losing weight. Has anyone experienced significant weight loss with it?

By anon285028 — On Aug 13, 2012

I just started taking it in my smoothies. I tried in my yogurt and couldn't handle the taste, but you have to remember to always buy the hawaiian brand of it. It is the true spirulina. I think it has to do with the water it is grown in.

By anon255871 — On Mar 19, 2012

I am just starting to add it to my smoothies. Good way to get it down without ever really tasting it and still feel good about the benefits for your body.

By anon251049 — On Feb 28, 2012

I make granola bars with spirulina. My kids love the green color and you don't taste any of it. I don't know how cooking it affects it, though. I'll have to research that.

By anon221447 — On Oct 11, 2011

I have been putting a teaspoon or two sometimes, of organic spirulina in my smoothies. My smoothies are: a banana, about half a cup fresh pineapple, a small apple, and oh about a half a cup of frozen blueberries I froze, a glass of ice, a tablespoon of coconut oil, two tablespoons flax seed meal, a splash of orange juice here and there to mix and a half a scoop of my protein powder which is called Plant Fusion. I drink this every day. Excellent!

By anon191945 — On Jun 29, 2011

I love this stuff. I just put cold water in a glass jar, add a couple of tablespoons of spirulina, put the lid on the jar and shake it until it is all mixed up and fluffy. Then I drink it all. It is delicious!

By anon170233 — On Apr 25, 2011

I bought a bag of organic spirulina and it listed only the nutrients, the Pacific spirulina that I bought has supplements listed. My question is, does all spirulina powder naturally have all those B12 and other vitamin supplements?

By anon166558 — On Apr 09, 2011

If you try the taste once, you will notice it is not so bad! I like the taste of spirulina, there isn't anything like this! Plus it gives superpower to the body!

By anon165143 — On Apr 03, 2011

I add half a teaspoon to half a cup of plain yogurt and it tastes great. You need to overcome the bright green color though! Alternatively if I have run out of yogurt, I just add it to a glass of water and mix it with a fork.

By anon159853 — On Mar 13, 2011

I just tried spirulina powder, 1 teaspoon in 8oz of V-8 and it was great. You could see that it was very green, other than that you don't taste anything but the V-8.

By anon158341 — On Mar 06, 2011

I add 1/2 tsp to all smoothies that I make. Any more than that and it overpowers the tastes of the fruit. Good recipe for after a particularly hard work out (ginger helps reduce inflammation):

1 banana

1 pear

1/2 c apple or pineapple juice

1 tbsp hemp protein

1 tbsp ground whole flax seed

1 tbsp grated ginger (can buy frozen chopped - no stringy/hairy pieces)

1/2 tsp spirulina powder


By anon152117 — On Feb 12, 2011

Mix 1 tsp Spirulina with half cup plain yogurt. I like mine in plain vanilla yogurt as well. I love the taste.

By anon151947 — On Feb 12, 2011

Thanks for all the input. I'm about to take my first dose in organic blueberry applesauce. I think I'm going to like it. I have not heard any comments that would cause me think that I'm making a wrong decision. I'll let you know what happens.

By anon148232 — On Feb 01, 2011

I have studied for 2yrs plus on the effects of spirulina, wheatgrass, barley, etc., etc., and I am convinced that it is one of the best food sources on the planet.

I often make green smoothies with as many veg and fruit I can mix for my main meal with 2-4 teaspoons. For a quick mix, a glass of OJ with a good teaspoon of spirulina blended in with a fork briskly.

Personally, I don't have an issue with the taste. In fact,I now prefer the taste over a greasy pizza or gluggy rice or pasta! The chlorophyll in it is the key to its success, in my opinion. Look it up -- 15kg of spirulina /wheatgrass is equivalent to taking 350kgs of vegetables.

By anon130775 — On Nov 29, 2010

I put maybe 4 oz of orange juice, a banana, 4 ice cubes and a teaspoon of spirulina in a blender, it is light green and you can't taste the yuck, only the juice and banana! I also do about 4 oz of milk, 2 tablespoons of peanut butter, 2 tablespoons of nutella, and a scoop or two of ice cream with teaspoon of spirulina for my son, who is underweight, and he loves it. you can barely see the green color, so he scarfs it down.

By anon126166 — On Nov 11, 2010

Spirulina is a superfood. It contains chlorophyll and is a very dark green vegetable. Winston Churchill killed the benefits of it when he was in power, and like the benefits of hemp have been lost. We will reclaim its benefit to health from this day forward. --energy guru

By anon122716 — On Oct 29, 2010

If you can't really eat it because of the gagging effect, just sip it fast with a straw in some cold water. The stuff does taste awful. But the benefits are tremendous!

By anon108921 — On Sep 04, 2010

very good supplement for everybody.

By anon106739 — On Aug 26, 2010

My Mom and I take the spirulina powder in applesauce. You cannot taste it, but the color is gross. Oh well. She is 93 and says she will be around till she is 100, with the help of spirulina.

By anon89822 — On Jun 12, 2010

I have been researching spirulina and absolutely plan on buying some, but I heard that it is important to buy spirulina from a reputable source, since it can potentially absorb toxic metals if not sourced from clean water. Thanks everyone for the input on what spirulina has done for you and for posting the delicious sounding recipes!

By anon85508 — On May 20, 2010

Spirulina powder is great. I add 1 tbsp when making my smoothie. it gives me the energy I need and keeps me going throughout my day. I have anemia and this stuff makes my body feel 100 percent.

By anon77199 — On Apr 13, 2010

i had a headache which started around 4 p.m. today, i took spirulina around 7 p.m. for the first time today and less than half an hour later, my headache disappeared!

By anon70611 — On Mar 15, 2010

I attended a nutritional class where the speaker, a N.D., spoke about the benefits of spirulina. One of the attendees told me how good spirulina was on popcorn. She said it was addictive. So I sprinkled some over popcorn. It was good. Just be careful not to get the green on anything.

By anon67445 — On Feb 24, 2010

Mix it with some V-8! It's quick and it doesn't taste bad at all. It will turn dark-green, but what else can you expect? This stuff is doing wonders for my concentration and energy as well.

I've only been taking it for about two weeks, but have noticed wonderful results. I also take Maca powder and Goji/Noni juice. Look 'em up if you're into this type of stuff.

By anon63802 — On Feb 03, 2010

in blender: 1 banana, 2 tbsp peanut butter, 1 1/2 cup soy milk, 1 tsp spirulina, 1 tbsp ground flax. this is good stuff, especially after workouts.

By anon56401 — On Dec 14, 2009

Fresh orange juice. Sprinkle teaspoon of spirulina on top. Mix (may still see little blobs but that's OK). Still tastes of orange juice :)

By anon49593 — On Oct 21, 2009

I must admit I have the same problem: how do you take the stuff? I tried just eating it but it glued my mouth closed and coated my teeth for ages - green teeth -- ugh! Other than smoothies how do you take it? I tried putting it on cornflakes and it looked and tasted awful.

By anon47546 — On Oct 05, 2009

I put some in my smoothies.

By anon33689 — On Jun 10, 2009

i have just been recommended premium spirulina powder from an earth foods health shop and am looking for ideas of how to eat the stuff! it smells disgusting! got any ideas?

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