Blue-Green Algae / Spirulina

Lan Zao (Blue-Green Algae) / SpirulinaBlue-Green Algae (Lan Zao) / Spirulina

Botanical Name: Cyanobacteria – Aphanizomenon flos-aquae (Blue Green Algae) and Arthrospira platensis, A. maxima (Spirulina).

Blue-green algae changed our Earth forever by their photosynthetic activity that brought the needed oxygen into the environment so new and more-complex organisms, plants and mammals could evolve. It is a highly nutritious food that is loaded with proteins, minerals and vitamins.

Below is an overview of Blue-Green Algae (Lan Zao) / Spirulina, combining and interpreting the best of Western Science, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Shamanism, Folklore and more. Gain a balanced and thorough understanding of the healing properties of Blue-Green Algae (Lan Zao) / Spirulina.

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Western Name: Blue-Green Algae / Spirulina

Also Known As: Blue Ground, Blue Run

Organs/Systems: Digestion, Immunity, Nutrition

Key Western Actions & Medicinal Uses: Anti-inflammatory, Antiviral, Immune Enhancing, Tonifying.


Pin Yin: Lan Zao (Blue-Green Algae) / Spirulina

Also Known As: N/A

Meridians: Spleen, Kidney

Key TCM Actions & Medicinal Uses: Tonifies Spleen and Kidney: strengthens the lungs, prevents and calms allergies, anemia, promotes digestion, strengthens immunity, improves mental faculties, increases metabolism. Tonifies and Builds Qi: improves energy, lifts depression, chronic fatigue syndrome, stress. Clears Heat: headaches, jaundice, stuck menses.

Basic Habitat/Botany:

Blue-green algae are a phylum of bacteria that obtains energy from photosynthesis. It is a large and diverse group of simple, plant-like organisms that are found in both salt and fresh water. Blue-green algae are nitrogen-fixing bacteria that can live in water and damp soils the world over. They range from unicellular to filamentous species. Spirulina is a variety of blue-green algae.

Algae and spirulina bloom in salt or fresh, temperate waters.

Lan Zao (Blue-Green Algae) / SpirulinaParts Most Frequently Used: Algae

Flavors/Temps: Sweet, Bitter, Cooling to Cold

Caution: None noted.

History/Folklore: Cyanobacteria are thought to have converted the early atmosphere by producing gaseous oxygen as a by-product of photosynthesis. This process was said to be the “rusting of the Earth” and caused the Great Oxygenation Event that changed Earth forever, allowing new, more-complex life forms to develop.

New research suggests that algae may have potential as a renewable energy source by converting sunlight into electricity. Efforts are currently being explored to commercialize algae-based fuels, such as gasoline and diesel.

Spirulina is about 60-percent protein, containing all the essential amino acids. It is a superior source of protein even compared to other plant sources, such as legumes.

Spirulina has been a food source for the Aztecs and other Mesoamericans. After the sixteenth century, when many of their lakes, where the algae grew, were drained for agricultural and urban development, the food fell out of common usage.

Spirulina has been used successfully as an economical and highly-nutritious food source to feed the poor, promoting better health in children. The World Health Organization recognizes spirulina as being safe and without risk for feeding children suffering from malnutrition.

Spirulina has the highest level of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), or “good” fat, compared to blue-green algae. GLA supports healthy brain and heart functioning. Spirulina is also generally considered a more-hygienic food source than many blue-green algae for its ability to thrive safely in more diverse environments, and it is often farmed in highly-controlled, safe conditions. An exception is Klamath Lake blue-green algae, which is considered very safe, due to the pristine nature of its environment.

The constituent makeup of spirulina is said to match mother’s milk in its nutritional value and content ratios, making it, along with its simple cellular structure, extremely easy to digest and be absorbed by the body.

In China, the largest algae bloom ever recorded took place in 2013, and turned the Yellow Sea green. The growth was believed to be related to pollution from agriculture and industry. More than 20,000 tons of algae washed ashore.

Key Constituents:

Protein, B Vitamins, Iron, Minerals, Magnesium.

Did you know?

Know Your Source!

Blue-green algae are one-celled organisms that absorb toxins directly from their environments, so be sure the source is clean and nontoxic.


Vitamin B12?

Research indicates that, contrary to popular press, spirulina is not a reliable source of active Vitamin B12, which is the type best-absorbed and used by humans.

Fun fact!


Blue-green algae is considered the most nutrient-dense food available and is, therefore, often called a “superfood.”


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