In many nutritional medicine circles, chlorella, a simple algae plant, is being held in high regard for its health benefits.

Though chlorella isn’t the most requested product in the U.S., it has been both a food and supplement in Asian cultures for many years [Source: Kay]. In this algae, there are several nutrients that can improve health. Chlorella is a potent source of B-12, a vitamin commonly found in proteins [Source: Watanabe]. It also contains B-1, B-2, folic acid, and vitamins C and K [Source: Baianova, Ohkawa]. Its unique composition gives this plant significant antioxidant properties and provides a boost to the body [Source: Miranda].

As concerns increase over pollution and environmental toxins, chlorella offers a simple avenue to better handle these elements. Studies in rats have confirmed that chlorella aided in protection from, and detoxification of, certain toxic chemicals [Source: Pore, Vijayavel]. A study looking at mothers breastfeeding found that those taking chlorella had increased levels of IgA, the body’s natural defense antibodies that can help protect babies. Chlorella also helped clear dioxin, a toxin, from the milk [Source: Nakano]. This, unfortunately, stresses the need for nutrients like this to keep our detoxification systems strong, since nearly all of the women tested in the study had some level of dioxin.

Chlorella has shown mild benefit for high blood pressure and ulcerative colitis [Source: Merchant]. It has demonstrated some positive effect for pain in fibromyalgia as well [Source: Merchant]. Study has also been done with chlorella and diabetes, with animal testing showing chlorella improves insulin sensitivity and may provide protection against the chronic effects of the condition, such as vision loss and early cataracts [Source: Cherng, Shibata]. Chlorella didn’t consistently lower blood sugar levels, but did lower the test HgA1c (or Hemoglobin A1c), which looks at average blood sugars over several weeks. Further research demonstrated that rats on a high fat diet were able to lower their triglycerides and LDL cholesterol when feed was combined with chlorella [Source: Cherng].

Because of these benefits, the nutrient may prove to be a significant supplement for diabetes patients, who are at higher risk for heart disease.

Chlorella is tolerated well, with most human studies listing no significant side effects. That said, one study did find that patients on low doses of chlorella complained of fatigue [Source: Halperin]. Another case documented kidney problems in a child taking the nutrient [Source: Yim]. And a third report suggested that chlorella may have caused high manganese levels in an elderly man [Source: Ohtake]. These were all isolated cases.

Supplements that contain chlorella typically use chlorella pyrenoidosa or chlorella vulgaris. The pyrenoidosa was more commonly used in the studies referenced above, though the vulgaris form also contains vitamin benefits. A typical starting dosage for adults is 500 mg taken twice a day, at or after a meal. This dosage could then be titrated to 1,500-2,000 mg a day, in divided doses. Patients who are on the blood thinner Coumadin (warfarin) should take chlorella with a physician’s supervision.

Chlorella has great potential as a supernutrient for the body. Its detoxification abilities make it an important part of a treatment program, especially for those want to cleanse the body of toxins. Patients with diabetes or fibromyalgia should also consider chlorella, not as a primary treatment, but as part of a program. Hopefully, research will help demonstrate further benefits for heart disease, as chlorella has already proven its benefit in high cholesterol and high blood pressure.