The Therapeutic Properties...

...of Edible Algae for the promotion of health and support of disease : A combined Western and Eastern perspective

by Dr Kate James, MBBS, Integrative Medical Doctor

Article Summary: This article is written with the aim of bringing together the very best of the current evidence we have at our fingertips about the therapeutic properties of edible algae. It is written to detail both Medical Research and concepts pertaining to The Western Allopathic Medical Model and also Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), whilst touching briefly on Ayurvedic Medicine i.e. Traditional Indian Medicine. As an Integrative Medical Doctor with a British Medical Degree it is my hope we can make use of these and other wonderfully natural and adaptogenic foods. I seek to illustrate that this can support our patients alongside more conventional methods and treatments, bridging the gap between Eastern and Western Medical Practice and bringing the very best of everything we have together to enhance patient care and well being.


Algae, in particular Spirulina and Chlorella have been prescribed by doctors and herbalists in China and Japan for centuries, and used intuitively by tribes in parts of Africa, America, Mexico and elsewhere for thousands of years . More recently Russian doctors have advocated the therapeutic use of edible blue green algae to help patients recover from radiation exposure, including the effects of the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl. Since the 1930ʼs chlorophyll, found in its most concentrated natural source in algae, has been used topically to promote the healing of ulcers, including those which have become gangrenous.

More recently NASA scientists have started researching algae use for astronauts during space missions due to its unique concentration and bioavailability of life sustaining nutrients. Blue- green algae is in fact fully assimilated in about 90 seconds with the expense of very little energy.

  1. AFA (Alphanizomenon flos- aquae) and Spirulina are classified as the edible species of blue green algae.
  2. Edible algae are recognised as complete foods providing the correct balance of protein, carbohydrate, vitamins and minerals needed to sustain an individual.
  3. Bioavailability is a measure of how much of a food we can actually absorb into the bloodstream. The nutrients in many complex foods are recognised as much less bioavailable than those found in algae which have been show to be between 95-98% bioavailable. In terms of protein Spirulina has been shown to provide 85% bioavailability whilst beef 20 % bioavailability. ( Beach, R ʻModern Miracle Menʼ , 74th Congress , 2nd session US Senate Document , no. 264 June 1936, US Government Printing Office, Washington, DC, 1941 p1.) Most importantly this is even the case even if your absorption system i.e. your digestive system is not functioning normally and effectively, a common factor for many patients with an illness or disease from both a Holistic and Traditional Chinese Medical perspective.
  4. These findings were published in The Journal of the National Cancer Institute.
  5. Typically 60-70% of our daily energy is used in digestive processing. When we are able to make this process more efficient by the consumption of foods with high bioavailability and assimilability we find ourselves with so much more energy to channel elsewhere.

Book a consultation with Dr Kate James


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