When is it safe to eat algae? Article #1- Is that Spirulina?

Hi Algae Fans,

I get asked at least once a week this question:

"can I eat fresh spirulina?"

The answer is absolutely a yes... as long as you understand and are comfortable with what you are ingesting.  I will be writing several articles that describe why we suggest caution.  This first article is on identification of the eatable algae spirulina (Arthrospira).

 

Several times over the last three years I have had customers send me images from their microscopes comparing strains of that are labeled as Arthrospira.  Specifically they compare Algae Research and Supply cultures to other 'Systems'.  The morphological differences between ours and the others was shocking.    

      Spirulina Systems Algae

Spirulina

What is the big deal?  

If you eat a blue green algae that produces toxins you can get very sick.  Straight filaments are indicative of several types of toxic algae, here is a table of toxins from the World Health Organization (link).  

 

Algae Toxins

 

Can you tell the difference between the algae sold by "Systems" and the toxic strain Oscillatoria?   The home laboratory can not.  Period. 

How can they sell this?

Spirulina is morphological plastic. Under conditions of neglect, the strain can spontaneous convert from helical to straight.  This means that the "Systems" folks algae could be spirulina.  Are you willing to take that chance with your liver?  

 

 




Matthew Huber
Matthew Huber

Author