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Algae

Algae Products Specials

Algae are a diverse group of simple, plant-like organisms. Like plants, most algae use the energy of sunlight to make their own food, a process called photosynthesis. However, algae lack the roots, leaves, and other structures typical of true plants. Algae are the most important photosynthesizing organisms on Earth. They capture more of the sun's energy and produce more oxygen (a by product of photosynthesis) than all plants combined. Algae form the foundation of most aquatic food webs, which support an abundance of animals. Algae vary greatly in size and grow in many diverse habitats. Microscopic algae, called phytoplankton, float or swim in lakes and oceans. Phytoplankton are so small that 1000 individuals could fit on the head of a pin. The largest forms of algae are seaweeds that stretch 100 m (300 ft) from the ocean bottom to the water's surface. Although most algae grow in fresh water or seawater, they also grow on soil, trees, and animals, and even under or inside porous rocks, such as sandstone and limestone. Algae tolerate a wide range of temperatures and can be found growing in hot springs, on snow banks, or deep within polar ice.

Algae also form mutually beneficial partnerships with other organisms. For example, algae live with fungi to form lichens--plant-like or branching growths that form on boulders, cliffs, and tree trunks. Algae called zooxanthellae live inside the cells of reef-building coral. In both cases, the algae provide oxygen and complex nutrients to their partner, and in return they receive protection and simple nutrients. This arrangement enables both partners to survive in conditions that they could not endure alone. The earliest life-forms on this planet are thought to be early ancestors of cyanobacteria, a type of algae formerly called blue-green algae. Fossilized cyanobacteria have been found in rocks more than 3 billion years old. These early algae formed when there was no oxygen in the atmosphere, and scientists theorize that as the algae photosynthesized, they released oxygen as a by product, which eventually accumulated in the atmosphere. Algae were probably the first organisms capable of photosynthesis and, until the appearance of plants on earth, the only photosynthesizers for billions of years.

Physical Characteristics

With the exception of the cyanobacteria, algae are eukaryotes--that is, the insides of their cells are organized into separate membrane-wrapped organelles, including a nucleus and mitochondria. An important organelle found in eukaryotic algae is the chloroplast, which contains the light-absorbing pigments responsible for capturing the energy in sunlight during photosynthesis. In most algae the primary pigment is chlorophyll, the same green pigment used in plants. Many algae also contain secondary pigments, including the carotenoids, which are brown or yellow, and the phycobilins, which are red or blue. Secondary pigments give algae their colorful hues. The cyanobacteria are prokaryotes--that is, relatively simple unicellular organisms lacking a nucleus and other membrane-bound organelles. As their modern name implies, the cyanobacteria have many characteristics that resemble bacteria. Like plants, most algae have rigid cell walls composed largely of cellulose. An exception is the diatom, whose cell wall is composed primarily of silica, which provides rigidity and also produces elaborately sculpted patterns of grooves that serve as identifying features. Many eukaryotic algae have whiplike appendages called flagella attached to their cell walls. By beating flagella in a rotary movement, these algae are able to move through water with considerable speed. A few algae that are devoid of rigid cell walls are able to protrude one part of the body ahead of the other to crawl on solid surfaces in an amoeba-like fashion.

Algae come in a variety of shapes and forms. The simplest form is the single, self-sufficient cell, such as Euglena, dependent only on sunlight and carbon dioxide and minerals from the water. Numerous one-celled algae may clump together to form a colony. Although these cells are attached to one another, each cell within a colony continues to function independently. Still other algae are multicellular organisms. In the simplest multicellular algae, the cells are joined end to end, forming filaments, both branched and unbranched. More complex structures may be shaped like a small disc, tube, club, or even a tree. The most complex algae have highly specialized cells. Some seaweeds, for instance, have a variety of specialized tissues, including a rootlike holdfast, a stipe, which resembles a plant stalk, and a leaf-like blade. While most algae create their own food through photosynthesis, some are unable to photosynthesize. These algae ingest food from external sources by absorbing simple nutrients through the cell membrane. To absorb more complex nutrients, algae that lack rigid walls are able to engulf food particles and digest them. Some of the algae known as dinoflagellates extend a feeding tube, called a peduncle, to suck in food. Other dinoflagellates use special harpoonlike structures to snare their food. Some algae are parasites, living in or on another organism from which they get their food. Some parasitic red algae live off other red algae, and parasitic dinoflagellates live in the intestines of some marine animals, such as copepods and annelids.

Reproduction

Algae reproduce in astoundingly diverse ways. Some reproduce asexually, others use sexual reproduction, and many use both. In asexual reproduction an individual reproduces without combining its genetic material with that from another individual. The simplest form of asexual reproduction is binary fission, in which a unicellular organism simply divides into two new individuals. Some multicellular algae, including Sargassum, reproduce asexually through fragmentation, in which fragments of the parent develop into new individuals. In a similar process called budding, special buds detach from multicellular algae and develop into new individuals, commonly found in Sphacelaria. Many algae produce special cells called spores that are capable of growing into new individuals. If these spores move about using flagella, they are known as zoospores. In sexual reproduction, genetic material from two individuals is combined. The simplest form of sexual reproduction in algae is conjugation, in which two similar organisms fuse, exchange genetic material, and then break apart. For example, in Spirogyra, which produces both asexually and sexually, two long, unbranched filaments join via conjugation tubes, through which genetic material is exchanged between cells.

Most multicellular algae undergo a more complex form of sexual reproduction involving the union of special reproductive cells, called gametes, to form a single cell, known as a zygote. Many algae incorporate both sexual and asexual modes of reproduction. This is well demonstrated in the life cycle of the alga Chlamydomonas. The mature alga is a single haploid cell--that is, it contains only one set of chromosomes. During asexual reproduction the cell undergoes mitosis, a type of cell division that produces genetically identical offspring. Four daughter cells are created that emerge from the enclosing parent cell as spores. The spores develop into mature haploid cells that are genetically identical to the parent cell. Certain environmental conditions, such as lack of nutrients or moisture, may trigger the haploid daughter cells to undergo sexual reproduction. Instead of forming into spores, the haploid daughter cells form gametes that have two different mating strains. These two strains are structurally similar and are called plus and minus strains. Opposite mating strains fuse in a process known as isogamy to form a diploid zygote, which contains two sets of chromosomes. After a period of dormancy, the zygote undergoes meiosis, a type of cell division that reduces the genetic content of a cell by half.

This cell division produces four genetically unique haploid cells that eventually grow into mature cells. Some multicellular green algae, such as Ulva, follow a distinct pattern of reproduction called alternation of generations, in which it takes two generations--one that reproduces sexually and one that reproduces asexually--to complete the life cycle. The two mature forms of the algae, alternating between diploid and haploid individuals, are identical in appearance, or isomorphic. The haploid form, called a gametophyte, undergoes mitosis to produce haploid gametes. These gametes unite to form a diploid zygote, which develops into the diploid form called a sporophyte. The sporophyte undergoes meiosis to form haploid spores that, in turn, form gametophytes. Not all algae that undergo alternation of generations have haploid and diploid forms that look alike. In the life cycle of the seaweed Laminaria, the gametophyte and the sporophyte are distinct in appearance, or heteromorphic. The Laminaria sporophyte appears as long, bladelike structures that grow on rocks just below the water in intertidal zones. The gametophyte is short, with branched filaments.

Types of Algae

The most common classification system distributes algae in more than one kingdom. Most algae are classified in the Kingdom Protista, along with other eukaryotic organisms that lack true specialized tissues. The cyanobacteria, however, are classified with the bacteria in the Kingdom Prokaryotae, which consists of prokaryotic organisms. This classification system continues to be intensely debated as new research increases our understanding of the way that these organisms are related. This article uses a classification scheme proposed in 1997 that divides algae, including the cyanobacteria, into 11 different phyla, of which the 5 largest are discussed in this article.

Green Algae

Green algae form the phylum Chlorophyta and are named for their green chloroplasts, which are similar in composition to the chloroplasts found in land plants. Green algae range in shape from unicellular plankton that grow in lakes and oceans to colonial filaments of pond scum to leaflike seaweeds that grow along rocky and sandy intertidal areas. Some green algae also live on tree trunks and soil. Several green algal species are symbiotic, forming lichens with fungi or living with corals. Green algae may also be found inside freshwater sponges, giving the sponges a bright green color, and in permanent snow banks, where a secondary pigment masks the chlorophyll and turns the snow a reddish color. More than 500 genera and 8000 species of green algae have been identified. Some familiar green algae include the genus Spirogyra, known for its spiral-shaped chloroplasts, and the desmids, recognized by their characteristic shape--two symmetrical halves, joined by a small bridge. The green algae known as Stoneworts often grow several feet in length. Their name comes from calcium crusts that make them feel like stone. Most green algae reproduce both sexually and asexually. Alternation of generations, where the algae alternates between gametophyte and sporophyte generations, is common among the multicellular green algae.

Red Algae

Red algae form the phylum Rhodophyta with approximately 500 genera and 6000 species. Found in warm coastal waters and in water as deep as 260 m (850 ft), red algae species adapt to varied water depths by having different proportions of pigments. Their red color is due to a red pigment, phycoerythrin, which is well suited to absorb the blue light that penetrates deeper into water than the other colors of light. Red algae found in deep water may be almost black due to a high concentration of phycoerythrin. At moderate depths red algae appear red, while in shallow water they may appear green because a smaller proportion of phycoerythrin is unable to mask the green of chlorophyll. Most red algae are multicellular and come in a variety of shapes, including filaments, which are shaped like a blade of grass, and seaweed shapes. Unlike most other eukaryotic algae, red algae have no flagella. Red algae use diverse strategies to reproduce, including fragmentation and spore production. One unusual strategy, found in many species including those in the genus Polysiphonia, involves the alternation among three generations. A diploid sporophyte produces diploid spores that germinate into another diploid sporophyte that looks completely different from the first one. Meiosis occurs in the second sporophyte, producing haploid spores that germinate into gametophytes. Surprisingly, in some species, the gametophytes look nearly identical to the second sporophyte. Almost all red algae live in marine habitats, although some species are found in fresh water or damp soil. Many types of seaweed are red algae, typically found growing along the coast and attaching firmly to the seafloor using a rootlike holdfast. In some species, called coralline algae, the cell walls become hardened with calcium carbonate. Coralline algae are important members of coral reefs, producing new material and cementing together other organisms.

Golden-Brown Algae, Brown Algae, and Diatoms

Golden-brown algae, brown algae, and diatoms form the large and complex phylum Heterokontophyta, with organisms ranging in size from a fraction of a millimeter to more than 100 m (300 ft) long. Heterokontophyta have carotenoid secondary pigments that tend to mask the green of the primary chlorophyll pigment, giving them a golden or golden-brown appearance. Flagellated cells in this phylum have two types of flagella: One is smooth, while the other has two rows of stiff hairs running down opposite sides of the flagellum. Algae in this phylum typically have an eyespot that can detect light. The golden-brown algae, also known as the yellow-brown algae, include about 200 genera and 1000 species that receive their characteristic coloring from the carotenoid pigment fucoxanthin. These algae are mostly unicellular or colonial, swimming or floating in lakes and oceans as phytoplankton. In shallow ponds that dry up in summer or freeze completely in winter, golden-brown algae survive by forming protective cysts that can withstand the harsh conditions.

When favorable conditions return, the algae emerge from the cysts. Like so many other algae, the unicellular algae tend to reproduce through fission, while the multicellular and colonial forms reproduce either through fragmentation or through spore production. Diatoms are best known for their glasslike cell wall made of silica. The cell wall has ornate ridge patterns. A diatom consists of two overlapping halves that fit together like a shoebox or a petri dish, with the lid slightly larger and fitting over the base. During asexual cell division, the two glass walls separate and serve as the lids for two new glass bases. The new diatom that grew from the lid is the same size as the parent diatom, while the diatom that grew from the smaller base is slightly smaller than its parent.

Sexual reproduction occurs when the succeeding generations shrink to a critical size. These smallest diatoms form gametes that shed their glass walls. Upon fertilization, the zygotes absorb water to swell and then secrete new, full-sized silica coverings. A very large class with more than 250 genera and 8000 species, diatoms are found floating in freshwater and seawater, growing attached to the seafloor, or growing on soil. The cells are either unicellular or form colonial chains of round cells. When an organism dies, its silica cell wall remains intact. Over time these shells have accumulated to form layers of soft rock in some geologic formations. This diatomaceous earth is mined and quarried for use in filters and bleaching agents, as an abrasive powder for cleaning and polishing metals, and for insect pest control (the broken cell walls of silica tear the insect gut). Brown algae include over 260 genera and 1500 species.

Multicellular algae, they may range from tiny filaments to the largest and most complex algae, such as the kelps, with leaflike blades and stems that can be up to 100 m (300 ft) long. Most brown algae grow in marine waters near the coast, attached to rocks either along the shoreline or underneath the ocean surface. One type, Sargassum, forms huge floating masses in the middle of the Sargasso Sea. The brown or olive color is due to the pigment fucoxanthin. The life cycles of brown algae vary considerably, but most demonstrate alternation of generations.

Dinoflagellates

Dinoflagellates of the phylum Dinoflagellata are mostly unicellular organisms that may be covered with stiff cellulose plates that resemble armored helmets. Many species have unusual ornamentation, such as horns, spines, or wings. A narrow groove encircles the armor, and a second groove runs perpendicular to the first groove. Flagella beat within these grooves, causing the dinoflagellates to spin like tops as they move through the water. Most of the 130 genera and 2000 species in this phylum are planktonic and live in saltwater, although there are many freshwater planktonic representatives as well. Many dinoflagellate species lack chloroplasts and are dependent on other species for their food. Some are parasites, but most are carnivores, using special harpoonlike structures called trichocysts to capture other organisms to eat.

In contrast, several of the photosynthetic species live inside the tissues of invertebrate animals, such as corals and giant clams. These dinoflagellates share the food they photosynthesize with their host, and in return, receive protection and some nutrients. Under favorable environmental conditions, some dinoflagellate species experience population explosions, known as blooms. If the species involved in the bloom have red pigments, their concentration can be high enough to turn the seawater red, forming red tides. Dinoflagellate blooms can be quite destructive. During the night when photosynthesis halts, such a high concentration of individuals can deplete the oxygen in the water, suffocating fish. Some dinoflagellates release toxins, some of which kill fish, while other toxins are passed up the food chain to humans, where they can cause paralytic shellfish poisoning and ciguatera fish poisoning. Recently, the dinoflagellate Pfiesteria piscicida has caused fish, shellfish, and human disease in estuaries of the southeastern U.S.

Cyanobacteria

Unlike other algae, the cyanobacteria are prokaryotes--single-celled organisms with characteristics that cause biologists to debate whether they are really algae or bacteria. Cyanobacteria are found nearly everywhere, occurring in typical aquatic and terrestrial habitats as well as in such extreme sites as hot springs with temperatures as high as 71° C (160° F) and crevices of desert rocks. Cyanobacteria make up the phylum Cyanophyta, and this phylum contains about 150 genera and 2000 species worldwide. Like other bacteria, cyanobacteria do not have organelles such as nuclei, mitochondria, or chloroplasts. Cyanobacteria are distinguished from bacteria by the presence of internal membranes, called thylakoids, that contain chlorophyll and other structures involved in photosynthesis. While higher plants have two kinds of chlorophyll, called a and b, cyanobacteria contain only chlorophyll a. Cyanobacteria color varies from blue-green to red or purple and is determined by the proportions of two secondary pigments, c-phycocyanin (blue) and c-phycoerythrin (red), which tend to mask the green chlorophyll present in the thylakoids. Cyanobacteria reproduce asexually by binary fission, spore production, or fragmentation, forming singular cells, colonies, filaments, or gelatinous masses.

Although most lack flagella and are nonmotile, filamentous forms such as Oscillatoria rotate in a screwlike manner, and the gelatinous forms glide along their slimy mucus. Cyanobacteria may be both beneficial and harmful to humans: Some act as natural fertilizers in some habitats, especially rice paddies, whereas others produce toxins. Mild cyanobacteria toxins in lakes and oceans cause a rash known as swimmer's itch, while powerful neuromuscular toxins released by other cyanobacteria can kill fish living in the water or the animals that drink the water. In certain conditions, cyanobacteria may form dense blooms, which may produce toxins that make seafood poisonous to humans. Even if the cyanobacteria do not produce toxins, blooms can cause water to have an unpleasant taste and odor.

Algae Uses

Human ingenuity has found many uses for algae. Algae provide food for people and livestock, serve as thickening agents in ice cream and shampoo, and are used as drugs to ward off diseases. More than 150 species of algae are commercially important food sources, and over $2 billion of seaweed is consumed annually by humans, mostly in Japan, China, and Korea. Red algae Porphyra, (nori), is the most popular food product. After harvesting, nori is dried, pressed into sheets, and used in soups, sauces, sushi, and condiments. Algae are nutritious because of their high protein content and high concentrations of minerals, trace elements, and vitamins. The high iodine content of many edible algae contribute to low rates of goiter in countries where people frequently eat algae. In coastal areas of North America and Europe, seaweeds are fed to farm animals as a food supplement. Cyanobacteria species that are high in protein, such as Spirulina, are grown commercially in ponds and used mostly as a health food and cattle dietary supplement. Seaweeds also are applied to soils as a fertilizer and soil conditioner, as their high concentrations of potassium and trace elements improve crop production. Some species of cyanobacteria can turn atmospheric nitrogen into ammonia, a form that can then be used by plants as a nutrient. Farmers in tropical countries grow cyanobacteria in their flooded rice paddies to provide more nitrogen to the rice, increasing productivity as much as tenfold.

Seaweeds are a critical source of three chemical extracts used extensively in the food, pharmaceutical, textile, and cosmetic industries. Brown algae yield alginic acid, which is used to stabilize emulsions and suspensions; it is found in products such as syrup, ice cream, and paint. Different species of red algae provide agar and carrageenan, which are used for the preparation of various gels used in scientific research. Bacteria, fungi, and cell cultures are commonly grown on agar gels. Agar is also used in the food industry to stabilize pie fillings and preserve canned meat and fish. Carrageenan is also used as a thickening and stabilizing agent in products such as puddings, syrups, and shampoos. Algae have been used for centuries, especially in Asian countries, for their purported powers to cure or prevent illnesses as varied as cough, gout, gallstones, goiter, hypertension, and diarrhea. Recently, algae have been surveyed for anticancer compounds, with several cyanobacteria appearing to contain promising candidates. Diatoms also have been used in forensic medicine, as their presence in the lungs can indicate a person died due to drowning. Algae can also serve as indicators of environmental problems in aquatic ecosystems. Because algae grow quickly and are sensitive to changing environmental conditions, they are often among the first organisms to respond to changes. For example, depletion of the diatom community in the Florida Everglades provided strong evidence of phosphorus-related changes in this unique ecosystem. Algal blooms may deplete oxygen concentrations in water and smother fish and plant life, as well as prevent light exposure.

Through seaweeds, the earth's sea-blood strengthens our own sea-blood. Seaweeds are an excellent source of trace minerals in our diet. As our air and water become more acidified, through pollution, minerals are leached and depleted from our land fields, and they wash down to the sea, where the wild seaweeds incorporate them. When we eat seaweeds, we take these minerals back into our bodies, and they help us maintain an alkaline condition in our bloodstream, which is a healthy condition. An alkaline bloodstream is resistant to fatigue and stress. Seaweeds have admirable qualities: they are flexible, they are tenacious, they are prolific, and they are the oldest family of plants on earth. These plants link us to the primitive vitality of the sea. An average family of seaweed eaters will consume 3+ pounds = 30 wet pounds = one bushel of wet plants. This is a very concentrated food. Anyone who has walked on the slippery rocks of the seashore will be aware of organisms, which are recognizable as belonging to a group known as algae. A very different form of alga will be familiar to swimming pool owners. The seashore algae are large, slippery, and firmly attached to the rocks, while the swimming pool algae are small, often unicellular, and either float freely in the water coloring it green, or coat the sides of the pool with a green or brownish film.

Algae, as a group, are notoriously difficult to define. Biologically, the name "algae" is given to a group of organisms of mixed affinity. The word itself has no taxonomic significance whatsoever. The algae do, however, share a number of features, which allow them to be treated as a group, although as a group with a very mixed evolutionary history. Algae are constructed fairly simply. They generally do not have vascular tissue, and they do not show the high level of organ differentiation of the familiar, more complex plants. It might be argued however that this distinction doesn't apply to the more advanced brown algae which do have a certain degree of organ differentiation, and which even have a type of vascular tissue. Algae have naked reproductive structures. This means that there are no protective layers of cells surrounding reproductive structures. None of the algae have reached even the level of organization in reproductive structures shown by the archegoniate plants, such as the mosses & liverworts. Even this distinction breaks down in the case of the female reproductive structures of the more advanced red algae. Most algae are photoautotrophic, which means that they can make their own food materials through photosynthesis by using sunlight, water and carbon dioxide. A few algae are not photoautotrophic, but they belong to groups that are usually autotrophs.

The word algae is plural so we say, for example, Chlorella and Spirogyra are algae. The singular form is alga so we say, for example, Chlorella is an alga. When used as an adjective, we say algal, as for example algal cells. In common with all plants, most algae contain Chlorophyll-A, as well as various other photosynthetic pigments. This is true even though, strictly speaking, not all algae belong to the plant kingdom. Algae show a broad range of complexity, as might be expected in a group of organisms with such a mixed background. They range in complexity from tiny, microscopic forms, to very complex forms such as the kelps. Algae include both prokaryotic and eukaryotic organisms. The Cyanobacteria (sometimes called Cyanophyta or blue-green algae) and a relatively recently discovered algal division called the Prochlorophyta are both prokaryotic divisions, while all other algae are eukaryotes.

The prokaryotic algae range only from unicells and colonies, to the simplest of branched filaments. The eukaryotic algae include unicells, colonies, simple and more complex filaments, as well as the very complex parenchymatous form, which is most developed in the large kelps, such as Laminaria. Algae occur in virtually any habitat on earth as long as long as water is found there at some time, even if it is just moisture which might be present for a very short time. Algae may be found as free-floating phytoplankton, which form the base of food webs in large water bodies. There are also algae, which live, attached to rocks and other substrata at the bottom of bodies of water such as the sea. Algae may occur as epiphytes on higher plants, or on other algae.

All major bodies of water have algae in abundance, including lakes, small streams, large rivers, and even waterfalls. Algae occur in fresh water, to the saline water of the sea, and even in saltpans. There are also algae that thrive in the heated water of hot springs. In the sea they may occur below the range of tidal exposure--in the subtidal zone, as well as in the harsh intertidal environment of the seashore, where they may be beaten by waves. In some parts of the world, intertidal algae are even scoured by sea ice, yet they persist in living in this environment. Those algae, which live attached to the bottom of a water body, are called benthic algae, and the ecosystems of which they are part are referred to as benthos. Small, microscopic algae that drift about in bodies of water, such as lakes and oceans, are called phytoplankton. Phytoplankton are important in freshwater and marine food webs, and are probably responsible for producing much of the oxygen that we breathe. Some forms of algae are even able to grow in Arctic and Antarctic sea ice, where they can be quite productive and support a whole associated food web. Some algae can even grow on the seabed, beneath a thick blanket of Arctic or Antarctic sea ice, even though they are in total darkness for a considerable part of the year. Algae are found in snow too.

In some parts of the world, blooms of snow algae may paint the snow beds red in spring. Algae even occur in the driest deserts. In some areas of the Namib Desert in Namibia, and the Richtersveld in South Africa, one often finds many quartz stones scattered about on the ground. Since Quartz is quite translucent, the stones permit a considerable amount of light to pass through, so there is sufficient light for photosynthesis to take place underneath the stones. A small amount of moisture may be retained in the soil under the quartz stones; so unicellular algae are able to grow underneath them. You can see these algae as a green coloration if you gently turn the stone over. If you do this, remember to put the stone back into position again so that the algae and other organisms that live there won't dry out and suffer damage or die.

Algae are also found in the air, for there are many algae that colonize new bodies of water by simply drifting about through the air. There is even a unicellular green alga called Prototheca, which causes disease in humans, although like this specimen, you have to be very ill already to get it. It produces skin lesions, mainly in patients whose immune systems have been damaged by other serious diseases. And of course there are the algae that enter into symbiosis with other organisms, for example, the symbiotic organisms that we call lichens. The stony corals, which construct coral reefs in warm tropical seas, are only able to build up these massive and beautiful structures because they have formed a symbiotic partnership with tiny single-celled algae called zooxanthellae. The zooxanthellae, which live in the tissues of the coral, share with it the organic products of their photosynthesis, as well as helping the coral with the construction of its limestone skeleton. Even the chloroplast of land plants had its origin as a blue-green alga that lived within the cells of the ancestral organism. Such a special symbiotic relationship, where one organism lives inside the cells of another, is called endosymbiosis. This fascinating group of organisms forms the basis for the science of phycology--the study of algae.

Historically, algae were treated as belonging to the plant kingdom under a two-kingdom system in which all living things were considered either plants or animals. More recently, it has been recognized that algae fall into several kingdoms. Some, such as the green algae, are plants. Others fall under the kingdom Protista. Prokaryotic algae belong to the kingdom Monera together with the bacteria, but this kingdom should probably be divided into more than one. It has even been suggested that the red algae should have a kingdom of their own. Thus it is easy to see that the "algae" constitute an artificial grouping of organisms. They are dealt with together because of historical beliefs and for the sake of convenience. Many phycologists, however, still treat the algae as though they were part of the plant kingdom, although recognizing that the prokaryotic algae (the blue-green algae) belong with the bacteria.

This is mostly so because university structures do not yet reflect the new systems of classification, and courses dealing with algae are usually offered as "botany" courses. Although algae may be treated as though they belonged to a single related group in spite of their differences, it must be recognized that they are polyphyletic. That is, there are many lines of evolution leading up to those organisms that are today called "algae" and studied by phycologists. The algae are polyphyletic because of the separate prokaryotic (blue-green algae and prochlorophytes) and eukaryotic (all other algae) lines of evolution. Within the eukaryotic algae there may also be many lines of evolution. For example, the red algae probably do not share a common eukaryotic ancestor with any of the other algae. That is why it has been suggested that they should have their own kingdom.

Thus we see that the algae are a diverse assemblage of unrelated organisms that are characterized by:

*Simple construction

*Naked reproductive structures

*Photoautotrophic nutrition

*Chlorophyll-A

Seaweeds

Seaweeds are marine algae, saltwater dwelling, and simple organisms that fall into the rather outdated general category of "plants." Most of them are red (6000 species), brown (2000 species) or green (1200 species) kinds shown on this page, and most are attached. These plant-like organisms are found throughout the world’s oceans and seas and none is known to be poisonous. Many are in fact eaten and considered to be a great delicacy. Seaweed, any of the larger, multicellular forms of algae living in fresh and salt water, especially along marine coastlines. The three main phyla, or divisions, are the brown algae, such as the kelps; the red algae, such as Irish moss; and the green algae, such as the sea lettuces, all of which are commonly seen at low tide along rocky shores of northern seas. Seaweeds differ from plants in that they lack the true stems, leaves, roots, and vascular systems of higher plants. Instead, they anchor themselves to solid objects by holdfasts and absorb nutrients directly from the water, manufacturing their food by photosynthesis. The pigments of red and brown algae mask the predominant green photosynthetic pigment, chlorophyll, and probably aid in photosynthetic metabolism by absorbing and transferring light energy to the chlorophyll.

Seaweeds abound in shallow waters from the midtide line down to depths of 50 m (165 ft). Along damp cold-water shores, they are able to withstand several hours of exposure to the sun, and they cover rocks high into the intertidal zone. In the Tropics, seaweeds are confined to the zone between the low-tide line and a depth of about 200 m (about 660 ft); red algae predominate, especially in lagoons and around coral reefs. The brown algae, commonly called kelp, comprise the largest seaweeds. Pacific species can reach 65 m (213 ft) in length and have structures that superficially resemble leaves and stems, as well as large air-filled bladders and strong holdfasts that anchor them against heavy surf. Other brown algae are the common rockweed and the gulfweed, which floats in great masses in the Gulf Stream and the Sargasso Sea. Among the red algae are several species of Irish moss, which is commonly seen along northern Atlantic coasts as a matted carpet in the sublittoral zone. Red algae are abundant in clear tropical waters, where their red pigment, phycoerythrin, enables them to carry on photosynthesis at deeper levels than is possible for ordinary green algae.

Seaweed is a commercially important food, especially in Japan, where it is called nori and is harvested mainly from red algae, extensively cultivated on bamboo screens submerged in estuaries. Agar, also derived from red algae, is consumed as a delicacy in Asia and is used as a laboratory medium for culturing microorganisms. Red algae are probably of little nutritive value to humans, however, other than for their limited protein, vitamin, and mineral (especially iodine) content. Brown algae are used as fertilizer and as an ingredient for livestock meal. Alginic acid, found in kelp, has wide industrial uses. It can be made into a silk-like thread or a plastic material, insoluble in water, that is used to make films, gels, rubber, and linoleum, and as a colloid in cosmetics, car polishes, and paints. Organic derivatives of alginates are used as food gums in making ice cream, puddings, and processed cheeses. Scientific classification: Brown algae make up the phylum Phaeophyta, red algae the phylum Rhodophyta, and green algae the phylum Chlorophyta. Large Pacific brown algae include those species classified in the genera Macrocystis and Nereocystis. Rockweed makes up the genus Fucus, and gulfweed the genus Sargassum. Irish moss makes up the genus Chondrus. The species most commonly cultivated for food in Japan is Porphyra tenera.

Dulse

Dulse, is a common name for several edible red algae that grow on rocky marine coasts. It is used widely as a food or condiment. Purple seaweeds of the genus Porphyra, sometimes called laver, are the most widely used for this purpose. P. laciniata is grown in large quantities in Japan. Rhodymenia palmata, which is eaten in the British Isles and in other northern countries, has a purple, leathery frond. Iridaea edulis, eaten in southwestern England and Scotland, has a succulent, dull-purple frond. Dulse is rich in protein and iron and has 22% more protein than chickpeas, almonds, or whole sesame seeds. A handful gives a whole day's supply of iron. The same handful will provide more than 100% of the RDA for Vitamin B6 and 66% of the RDA for Vitamin B12. Relatively low in sodium and high in potassium. Use to add flavor and nutritional content to your food, instead of salt. Dulse is very popular in its natural original leaf form.

It has a relatively strong distinctive taste and its soft, chewy texture makes it a favorite snack food to eat right out of the bag. Kids love Dulse! It can be cooked quickly and easily in a variety of ways. Dulse chowder, dulse chips, dulse sandwiches, and dulse salads are also possible. Flakes are a little coarser than granules and powder, and do not "disappear" into the food as much. Mineral and vitamin content is the same. Can be sprinkled on salads, sandwiches, in soups, stews, pasta, chowders, etc. etc. It can be used as a "salt-substitute" and "flavor-enhancer" all in one, and there are unlimited ways you can add it to your diet for flavor as well as minerals and vitamin content.

Brown Algae

About 1500 species of almost exclusively marine, brown-colored algae, known as seaweeds, that make up the brown algae phylum in the protist kingdom. They are found mainly in the tidal zones of temperate to polar seas, but some exist in the deep ocean. Brown algae are the largest of the algae; well-known forms include the giant kelp and the free-floating sargassum weed. Their brown color is derived from the presence of the pigment fucoxanthin, which along with other xanthophyll pigments, masks the green color of the chlorophyll in the algal cells. The brown algae are multicellular and have differentiated structures that, in some species, bare a superficial resemblance to the roots, stalks, and leaves of true plants. These structures, however, are quite different internally. The cell walls of the algae are made of cellulose similar to that found in red algae; a gelatinous pectic compound called algin covers the outsides of the walls. The plants undergo an alternation of generations; the diploid phase (two sets of genes in a cell) is microscopic and brief, and the haploid phase (one set of genes in a cell) is macroscopic and comparatively long-lived. Brown algae such as kelp are harvested for use as an emulsion stabilizer, an ingredient of ice cream; as a fertilizer; as a vitamin-containing food source; and for iodine. Scientific classification: Brown algae make up the phylum Phaeophyta in the kingdom Protista. Kelp are classified in the order Laminariales. Sargassum weed is classified in the genus Sargassum.

Kelp

Kelp, common name for large, leafy brown algae, known as seaweed, that grow along colder coastlines. The principal genera of kelp are the true kelps, found in most cool seas, and the giant kelps and bladder kelps, both of which are restricted to the northern Pacific. The giant kelps grow as long as 65 m (213 ft). The kelp plant has a rootlike holdfast that fixes to rocky surfaces; a long, slender stalk, or stipe; and long, leaflike blades that manufacture food by photosynthesis. Kelps, like ferns, reproduce by alternation of generations.

Once a major source of iodine and soda, kelp is now used to manufacture algin, a substance used to make tires and to prevent ice cream from crystallizing. Kelp is rich in vitamins and minerals and is a staple, especially in the diets of the Japanese. Scientific classification: Kelp belongs to the order Laminariales. The true kelps belong to the family Laminariaceae and are classified in the genus Laminaria. Giant kelps, classified in the genus Macrocystis, and bladder kelps, classified in the genus Nereocystis, belong to the family Lessoniaceae. Kelp is exceptionally high in all major minerals, particularly calcium, potassium, magnesium, and iron. Also rich in important trace minerals such as manganese, copper, and zinc. It is a good source of chromium, which is instrumental in blood sugar regulation; high in iodine, which is essential to the thyroid gland. Kelp is also a source of chlorophyll. It can be pre-soaked before cooking or added "dry" to foods, which contain liquid (soups, sauces, etc.). When adding the kelp to rice without rehydrating it, add a bit more water to allow for absorption by the kelp (kelp absorbs up to five times its weight). Uncooked kelp is chewy until soaked or marinated. To fully tenderize, soak for approx. 1 hr.

Red Algae

Members of the phylum Rhodophyta, a large group of aquatic algae with approximately 6000 species. The red algae are characterized by reddish phycobilin pigments--phycoerythrin and phycocyanin--that mask the color of the chlorophylls. Most species grow near tropical and subtropical shores below the low-tide mark. A few are found in fresh water. Most red algae are small to medium-sized multicellular organisms. The bodies of some are relatively complex, resembling those of kelp. Sexual structures and reproductive cells are highly specialized. Red algae vary greatly in shape; plate-like, coralline, crust-like, leathery, and featherlike forms are known. Coralline species accumulate lime as they grow--appearing as flat pink coverings on stones, or fanlike growths resembling true coral--and contribute much of the lime in coral reef deposits. Fossils of red algae have been found in rocks 500 million years old. Red algae are unique among the algae in that no flagellated cells are formed during the life cycle. Some species reproduce by vegetative fragmentation or spore formation, but most undergo a complex life cycle involving alternation of generations.

Sexual plants (gametophytes) produce either male sex organs (antheridia or spermatangia) or female sex organs (carpogonia). The small male sex cells are carried by water currents to the elongated tip (the trichogyne) of a carpogonium, where fertilization occurs. The resulting zygote may divide directly but more commonly gives rise to numerous filaments. They produce spores that develop into an asexual plantlike growth, or sporophyte. The spores then develop into gametophytes. Some red algae are of economic importance. Agar, which is used as a nutrient medium for growing bacteria and fungi and also in the food and drug industries, is obtained mostly from Gelidium and Gracilaria species. Carrageenin, obtained from Irish moss (Chondrus crispus), is used as a substitute for gelatin. Laver (Porphyra) is used as a food in Japan and the Philippines.

Laver Nori

You may be familiar with nori sheets used in making sushi. Laver leaf is the original form of nori, before it is processed into nori sheets. They are very high in Vitamins B1, B3, B6, B12, C, and Vitamin E. It is also a good source of zinc. Laver leaf is a purple/black, wild North Atlantic cousin to nori, enjoyed in the British Isles for centuries. (Many are familiar with nori sheets used in sushi.) The leaf is the original form of nori, before it is processed into nori sheets. You can crumble dry roasted laver leaf over popcorn, soups, and grains. Dry roasting brings out a nutty salty flavor. In Scotland and Wales, soaked laver is mixed with fat and rolled oats and fried into a breakfast bread.

Green Algae

Members of the largest phylum of the algae, numbering some 6000 to 7000 species. They are commonly known as green or grass-green algae because of their bright green color, which is imparted by two chlorophylls, a and b. Among the oldest of all organisms--the first green algae appeared more than 2 billion years ago in the fossil record--they are believed to be the most immediate relatives of the green land plants. Green algae may occur as single cells (which may be either motile or nonmotile), in colonies (more often nonmotile), and as multicellular filaments (nonmotile). Most have cell walls made up of two layers: an inner cellulose layer, and an outer layer of pectin. The unicellular forms assume a virtually endless variety of shapes; colonial forms may be loose aggregates of single cells or may have these cells arranged in a characteristic pattern. Some filamentous types bear a superficial resemblance to higher plants. The motile unicellular organisms are free-swimming, moving by means of whip-like flagella (usually two in number). Even the nonmotile species may produce motile reproductive cells (zoospores).

Green algae are also found on damp soil, attached to land plants (a few are parasitic), and even in snow and ice. The marine forms are often visible on coastal rocks exposed at low tide. Some terrestrial species combine with fungi in symbiotic associations called lichens. Green algae reproduce vegetatively, by fragmentation and by cell division; asexually, by means of spores and zoospores that develop directly into new plants; and sexually, by the fusion of pairs of sex cells (gametes). Many species exhibit alternation of generations. In such instances, the gametophyte generation is usually dominant, unlike seed plants, in which the sporophyte phase predominates. Green algae are extremely important as a source of food for other aquatic organisms and also make a major contribution to the world's oxygen supply. They can, however, have negative effects, as when large populations produce an unpleasant taste and odor in drinking water or clog filtration equipment. In freshwater lakes and ponds polluted by nitrates and phosphates, algal populations sometimes increase suddenly in an "algal bloom," forming a dense, malodorous scum and drastically decreasing the oxygen supply available to other life forms. Scientific classification: Green algae make up the phylum Chlorophyta. The oldest green algae are classified in the genus Gunflintia.

Alaria

Alaria is almost identical to Japanese wakame biologically and nutritionally, with a black or dark-green color, yet it grows in the wild and has a more delicate taste than cultivated wakame. It also needs to cook a little longer than its cultivated Japanese counterpart. Soaking prior to cooking shortens cooking time. Keep in mind that the soak water contains many nutrients and vitamins and can be used for your water to cook with (strain for shells). Alaria is our preferred sea vegetable for miso soup. Alaria makes a perfect calcium-rich vegetable soup and also goes well in a pot of grain, a stew, or any dish that is juicy and needs to cook for more than 20 minutes. To be eaten uncooked in salads, alaria should be presoaked or marinated in vinegar or lemon juice. Comparable to whole sesame seeds in calcium content; very high Vitamin A content (comparable to parsley, spinach or turnip greens); strong in B vitamins (B1, B2, B3, B6, B12). The word alaria is Latin for "wings" since the spore-bearing leaves at the base of mature alaria plants look somewhat like wings. When cooked with rice, gives off a flavor somewhat like chicken.

Gulfweed

Any of several tropical marine seaweeds that drift in large, floating masses. Gulfweed consists of branches with leaflike blades and numerous small, airfilled sacs that keep the gulfweed afloat. One of the most widely recognized species is the common gulfweed, or sargassum weed, a kind of brown algae. The weed drifts in large masses in the Gulf Stream, which flows northeast from the Gulf of Mexico, and in the Sargasso Sea, a large area of the Atlantic Ocean between the West Indies and the Azores. Scientific Classification: Gulfweeds belong to the family Fucaceae of the brown algae division, Phaeophyta. The sargassum weed is classified as Sargassum natans.

Agar

Gel-forming material of widespread commercial use, found in the cell wall of several species of red algae, especially Oriental members of the genus Gelidium. It is used as a solidifying agent in the preparation of candies, creams and lotions, and canned fish and meat; as a texturizer or emulsifier in ice cream and frozen desserts; as a clarifying agent in winemaking and brewing; and as a sizing material in fabrics. It is an excellent laboratory medium for growing bacteria, because it is not dissolved by salts or consumed by most microorganisms. Agar is extracted from seaweed by boiling, and is cooled and dried and sold as flakes or cakes. Originally called agar-agar, a Malay word for a local seaweed, it was produced in the Far East but is now made in other Pacific coastal regions such as California and Australia.

Chlorella

Chlorella is a special algae called Pyrenoidosa that grows in fresh water and has the highest content of chlorophyll (28.9g/kg) of any known plant on earth. It is extremely high in enzymes, vitamins and minerals, including the full vitamin-B Complex. It has been shown to activate your limited number of macrophages that scavenge and digest cancer cells, foreign proteins and chemicals. This life form emerged over 2.5 billion years ago, and was the first form of plant with a well-defined nucleus. There are fossils from the pre-Cambrian period that clearly indicate the presence of Chlorella. Because Chlorella is a microscopic organism, it was not discovered until the later 19th century, deriving its name from the Greek, chloros meaning green and ella, meaning small. Chlorella belongs to the eucaryotic cell category of algae and lives in fresh water as a single celled plant. Its size is about that of a human erythrocyte (between 2-8 microns in diameter). Under favorable growth conditions; strong sunlight, pure water and clean air, chlorella multiplies at an incredible rate. The process of reproduction can generally be divided into several steps; growth-ripening-maturity-division. Broken cell wall preparations and extracts of Chlorella pyrenoidosa, a unicellular green alga, as well as other Chlorella species, when either given orally or injected, promote growth and healing. These preparations stimulate the immune system in such a way that the host is protected from infection and cancer.

All of the following have been associated with the consumption of Chlorella: increased production of interferon; cleansing the blood stream, liver, kidneys, and bowel; stimulates production of red blood cells; increases oxygen to your body's cells and brain; aides digestion; promotes proper growth in children; stimulates tissue repair; helps raise the pH of your body to a more alkaline state; helps keep the heart functioning normally; and helps promote the production of friendly flora in your gastrointestinal tract. Chlorella can be used by everyone. For: fatigue, high or low blood pressure, cardiovascular problems, memory loss, high cholesterol, digestive problems, obesity, headaches, infections, aged skin, toxemia, poor circulation, joint stiffness and pain, sleep disorders, allergies, injuries, and overall health.

Chlorella cell

This species' proteins contain all the amino acids known to be essential for the nutrition of animals and human beings. There are also vitamins found in Chlorella pyrenoidosa including: Vitamin C, pro-vitamin A (B-carotene), thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), pyridoxine (B6), niacin, pantothenic acid, folic acid, Vitamin B12, biotin, choline, Vitamin K, lipoic acid, and inositol. Minerals in Chlorella pyrenoidosa include: phosphorus, calcium, zinc, iodine, magnesium, iron, and copper.

Chlorella has a strong cell wall that prevents its native form from being adequately broken down and absorbed by the human digestive system and so special processing is required to break its cell wall. In addition to amino acids, peptides, proteins, vitamins, sugars and nucleic acids, Chlorella pyrenoidosa contains a water-soluble substance known as Chlorella Growth Factor (CGF). Approximately 5% of raw Chlorella pyrenoidosa is CGF; composed of amino acids, proteins, and nucleic acids believed to be derived from the nuclei of the algae. Each Chlorella pyrenoidosa microorganism is composed of a nucleus, starch grains, chloroplasts and mitochondria surrounded by a cell wall composed mainly of cellulose. Under normal conditions, Chlorella divides into four daughter cells in less than 24 hours. The length of Chlorella's life cycle depends on the strength of the sunlight, temperature and availability of nutrients.

Although the algae grow naturally in fresh water, Chlorella pyrenoidosa destined for human consumption is generally cultivated in large, fresh mineral water pools under direct sunlight. The growing process must be carefully inspected and sanitary conditions are meticulously maintained to ensure there is no contamination of the Chlorella with other microorganisms. Once the fresh-water pools have enough Chlorella cells in them, the algae are harvested and the tough cell walls of the Chlorella must then be broken down to increase the algae's digestibility. This is accomplished with the patented process utilizing the Dyno-Mill unique method developed under the guidance of Mr. Hideo Nakayama of the Sun Chlorella Corporation. All of the other methods, which include heating or treatment with enzymes, compromise Chlorella's digestibility, therefore eliminating full health benefits of Chlorella. The Dyno-Mill physically disintegrates the cell wall by using only natural, mechanical means and therefore there is no need for chemicals, enzymes or heating that can compromise its nutritional value, while assuring optimum assimilation and digestion.

With the Dyno-Mill technique, Chlorella is more than 85% digestible. Once the cell wall has been broken, Chlorella is spray-dried, producing a powder and molded into tablets using a direct press machine. The final results are solid tablets of pure Chlorella pyrenoidosa. A maintenance dosage of Chlorella tablets and Chlorella liquid extract for those in good health is 15 tablets (3g) and 30 ml. Those with severe medical conditions may increase the daily dosage as much as three times, depending on their specific needs. Chlorella pyrenoidosa affects the immune system by stimulating an increase in the number and activities of macrophages and polymorphonuclear leukocytes. An acidic polysaccharide prepared from Chlorella cell wall has also been shown to induce the production of interferon in vitro and in mice, and therefore, part of Chlorella pyrenoidosa's anti-cancer effect in part may be mediated through the actions of this cytokine. An acidic polysaccharide purified from the hot water extract of Chlorella pyrenoidosa possessed anti-tumor activity against five transplantable murine tumors in vivo. Complete blood counts, differentials, cytometric determinations of natural killer (NK) cells and T-cell subsets, and in vitro lymphocyte activation assays to assess level of immunosuppression, were performed on blood samples, as well as imaging studies of the brain and blood tests, performed at 3-4 month intervals, all showed Chlorella supplementation enhanced the body's immune abilities and slowed the development of tumors, while returning values to normal by around eight months. The algal cell wall of Chlorella pyreneidosa absorbs rather large amounts of toxic metals (similar to an ion exchange resin).

Either the specific combination of amino acids, the Chlorella derived growth factor, or some yet unknown other mechanism leads to the mobilization of mercury from within the cell. It definitely appears to mobilize some mercury inside the brain. All amino acids can cross the blood brain barrier; however, there is always competition between them for cell sites. The sulfur amino acids Methionine, Cysteine and Cystine are critical for the detoxification of heavy metals and xenobiotics. L-Glutathione is a powerful antioxidant that inhibits the formation of free radicals. It can cross the blood brain barrier and can remove mercury, cadmium and other toxic metals from the brain. The key substance for nutritional support in mercury detoxification is Chlorella. Chlorella has been shown to effectively sweep mercury out of the bowel and from the cells. Chlorella is also shown to act as an ion exchange resin in your gut, eliminating mercury from your blood. Chlorella plays a key role in helping patients remove dangerous mercury overloads in their bodies. Chlorella can have a strengthening effect on body cells by supporting the functioning of our metabolic pathways. Chlorella can promote cell reproduction, reduce cholesterol and increase hemoglobin levels. Since chlorella is such a broad-spectrum product, it can help to support and repair organs and tissues that have been injured by a variety of causes. Numerous research projects in the USA and Europe have indicated that Chlorella can also aid the body in the breakdown of persistent hydrocarbon and metallic toxins such as DDT, PCB, mercury, cadmium and lead as well as strengthening the immune system response.

The fibrous materials in Chlorella will also improve digestion and promote the growth of beneficial aerobic bacteria in the gut. Other research programs have indicated that regular use of chlorella can help to guard against heart disease, reduce high blood pressure and lower serum cholesterol levels. Summing up, it could be said that there is no other green plant under the Sun that is more beneficial to the human body than Chlorella. With the many positive findings of scientific researchers around the world, this food should become an indispensable part of our daily diet so that we can enjoy the many health benefits that it has to offer. Chlorella binds strongly to cadmium and will not give it up to the body. Blood levels of cadmium were determined and demonstrated that the cadmium that was bound to the Chlorella was not absorbed into the body. Chlorella has been used to detoxify people suffering from P.C.B. (polychlorobiphenyl) exposure. Chlordecone (kepone) another very harmful chlorinated hydrocarbon insecticide, has been shown to be removed, more than twice as fast from the body, when chlorella is taken by mouth. Chlorella given to rats speeded up the detoxification of this toxin, decreasing the half-life of the toxin from 40 days to 19 days. Chlorella walls absorb and hang onto lead. Cell components extracted from chlorella even bind uranium. Chlorella's ability to detoxify the body is very significant because of the large amount of chemicals we are exposed to in today's modern world. This ability to detoxify chemicals is also one of the important differences between chlorella and other "green" products. As a perfect food, Chlorella has no peers.

Spirulina Plankton

Spirulina, (rhymes with 'ballerina'), is a traditional food of some Mexican and African peoples. It is a planktonic blue-green algae found in warm water alkaline volcanic lakes. Wild Spirulina sustains huge flocks of flamingos in the alkaline East African Rift Valley Lakes . It possesses an amazing ability to thrive in conditions much too harsh for other algae. As might be expected, it has a highly unusual nutritional profile. Spirulina has a 62% amino acid content, is the world's richest natural source of Vitamin B12 and contains a whole spectrum of natural mixed carotene and xanthophyll phytopigments. Spirulina has a soft cell wall made of complex sugars and protein, and is different from most other algae in that it is easily digested.

Millions of people worldwide eat Spirulina cultivated in scientifically designed algaefarms. Current world production of Spirulina for human consumption is more than one thousand metric tons annually. The United States leads world production followed by Thailand , India and China . More countries are planning production as they realize it is a valuable strategic resource.

Differences between spirulina, chlorella and 'wild' blue green algae.

Spirulina is not Chlorella or the blue-green algae harvested from Klamath Lake Oregon. Chlorella, a green micro-algae, is a nutritious food but does not have the same anti-viral, anti-cancer and immune stimulating properties of Spirulina. The Chlorella cell wall is made of indigestible cellulose, just like green grass, while the cell wall of Spirulina is made of complexed proteins and sugars.

The Klamath Lake blue-green algae has the scientific name Aphanizomenon flos-aquae. It is not the same as Spirulina. There are serious concerns about the safety of eating Aphanizomenon flos-aquae, because it can sometimes contain potent nerve toxins. While the scientific literature is full of information concerning the toxicity of Aphanizomenon flos-aquae and its dangers to humans and animals, there are few, if any, peer reviewed scholarly scientific papers regarding therapeutic benefit. In contrast, the scientific literature is full of information concerning the benefits and safety of humans and animals eating Chlorella and Spirulina.

Anti-Cancer Effects

Several studies show Spirulina or its extracts can prevent or inhibit cancers in humans and animals. Some common forms of cancer are thought to be a result of damaged cell DNA running amok, causing uncontrolled cell growth. Cellular biologists have defined a system of special enzymes called Endonuclease which repair damaged DNA to keep cells alive and healthy. When these enzymes are deactivated by radiation or toxins, errors in DNA go unrepaired and, cancer may develop. In vitro studies suggest the unique polysaccharides of Spirulina enhance cell nucleus enzyme activity and DNA repair synthesis. This may be why several scientific studies, observing human tobacco users and experimental cancers in animals, report high levels of suppression of several important types of cancer. The subjects were fed either whole Spirulina or treated with its water extracts.

Strengthens Immune System

Spirulina is a powerful tonic for the immune system. In scientific studies of mice, hamsters, chickens, turkeys, cats and fish, Spirulina consistently improves immune system function. Medical scientists find Spirulina not only stimulates the immune system, it actually enhances the body's ability to generate new blood cells.

Important parts of the immune system, the Bone Marrow Stem Cells, Macrophages, T-cells and Natural Killer cells, exhibit enhanced activity. The Spleen and Thymus glands show enhanced function. Scientists also observe Spirulina causing macrophages to increase in number, become "activated" and more effective at killing germs.

Feeding studies show that even small amounts of Spirulina build up both the humoral and cellular arms of the immune system. Spirulina accelerates production of the humoral system, (antibodies and cytokines), allowing it to better protect against invading germs. The cellular immune system includes T-cells, Macrophages, B-cells and the anti-cancer Natural Killer cells. These cells circulate in the blood and are especially rich in body organs like the liver, spleen, thymus, lymph nodes, adenoids, tonsils and bone marrow. Spirulina up-regulates these key cells and organs, improving their ability to function in spite of stresses from environmental toxins and infectious agents.

Spirulina Phycocyanin Builds Blood

Spirulina has a dark blue-green color, because it is rich in a brilliant blue polypeptide called Phycocyanin. Studies show that Phycocyanin affects the stem cells found in bone marrow. Stem cells are "Grandmother" to both the white blood cells that make up the cellular immune system and red blood cells that oxygenate the body.

Chinese scientists document Phycocyanin stimulating hematopoiesis, (the creation of blood), emulating the affect of the hormone erythropoetin, (EPO). EPO is produced by healthy kidneys and regulates bone marrow stem cell production of red blood cells. Chinese scientists claim Phycocyanin also regulates production of white blood cells, even when bone marrow stem cells are damaged by toxic chemicals or radiation.

Based on this effect, Spirulina is approved in Russia as a "medicine food" for treating radiation sickness. The Children of Chernobyl suffer radiation poisoning from eating food grown on radioactive soil. Their bone marrow is damaged, rendering them immunodeficient. Radiation damaged bone marrow cannot produce normal red or white blood cells. The children are anemic and suffer from terrible allergic reactions. Children fed just five grams of Spirulina in tablets each day make dramatic recoveries within six weeks. Children not given Spirulina remain ill.

Other Potential Health Benefits

Spirulina is one of the most concentrated natural sources of nutrition known. It contains all the essential amino acids, rich in chlorophyll, beta-carotene and its co-factors, and other natural phytochemicals. Spirulina is the only green food rich in GLA essential fatty acid. GLA stimulates growth in some animals and makes skin and hair shiny and soft yet more durable. GLA also acts as an anti-inflammatory, sometimes alleviating symptoms of arthritic conditions.

Spirulina acts as a functional food, feeding beneficial intestinal flora, especially Lactobacillus and Bifidus. Maintaining a healthy population of these bacteria in the intestine reduces potential problems from opportunistic pathogens like E. coli and Candida albicans. Studies show when Spirulina is added to the diet, beneficial intestinal flora increase.

Conclusion

Based on this preliminary research, scientists hope the use of Spirulina and its extracts may reduce or prevent cancers and viral diseases. Bacterial or parasitic infections may be prevented or respond better to treatment and wound healing may improve. Symptoms of anemia, poisoning and immunodeficiency may be alleviated. Scientists in the USA , Japan , China , Russia , India and other countries are studying this remarkable food to unlock its potential. More research is needed to determine its usefulness against AIDS and other killer diseases. However, it is already clear this safe and natural food provides concentrated nutritional support for optimum health and wellness.

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