Chlorella is a fascinating plant with more than 20 species, with each species also having a variety of strains. Interestingly, the different strains and species have virtually the same benefits as one another once they are processed into foods and supplements. The whole plant is usually used to make supplements and medicine, and the plant is found in abundance in fresh water, as it is considered an algae.

It also interesting in that even though it has been around since virtually the beginning of time, it took the invention of the microscope for humans to notice its existence. Because of its small size, it could not be seen outside of a microscope, and was therefore not discovered until the late 1800s. A Dutch microbiologist is responsible for its name and discovery, and was named Chlorella in 1890 by Dr. Beijerinck.

Later, in World War, Germans used the plant as a protein source. By the 1920s, Japan had learned how to cultivate this microscopic plant, and by the end of World War II, the United States, Japan and Germany were working together to understand it.

This led to an understanding of its medicinal effects on several ailments, and even led NASA to study it as food in space because of its nutrient supply. Researchers also found that the plant had a growth promoting factor among animals. By the 1970s, however, many were reluctant to continue using Chlorella when some patients began suffering from blisters when exposed to sunlight. Put simply, this was caused by chlorophyll remaining in the body and reacting with sunlight.

The few who continued to research, however, soon noticed promising results against cancer, particularly as technology advanced with research methods. This discovery led to Chlorella becoming popular once again.

What it Does

Chlorella is raved about for its anticancer properties, and it is said to reduce side effects from radiation and increase white blood cell count among those with cancers, AIDS and similar ailments. Aside from cancer related treatments, Chlorella is still quite promising. It has shown to improve the response to flu vaccinations, stimulate immunity, prevent colds and even protect the body against metal toxicity from metals such as lead. Studies have also revealed promising results for the treatment of diabetes, and the general antioxidant level of Chlorella is considered to be quite beneficial, particularly in those who smoke.

Some have used Chlorella to treat stomach ulcers, constipation, menstrual ailments, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, improve fatigue, relieve asthma and reduce the symptoms of fibromyalgia. It is used to improve general digestion by providing “good bacteria” similar to a probiotic, and has even been used to treat colitis, Chrohn’s and other similar diseases.

Because it is also a source of magnesium, it can sometimes relieve symptoms of magnesium deficiency, such as joint pain or constipation.

Scientific Studies

Virginia Commonwealth University’s Medical College of Virginia published a study in 2001 which reviewed evidence of the supplement’s benefits. In double-blind, placebo-controlled randomized clinical trials, 55 patients with fibromyalgia, 33 with hypertension and nine with ulcerative colitis were studied. Subjects took variations of pure chlorella and chlorella extract for a period of two to three months, administering the supplement daily. Results concluded that the supplement may reduce blood pressure, accelerate the healing of wounds, enhance the immune system and lower cholesterol levels.

In 2003, more research was performed and then published in the Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology when a powder form of chlorella (7%) was administered to rats with diabetes for 11 weeks. Results showed lipid peroxide values decreased, decreased blood glycated hemoglobin and reduced cholesterol levels. In summary, the study concluded that chlorella not only can be beneficial in preventing diabetic complications, but it was also rich in antioxidant activity.

Perhaps the most fascinating findings were that chlorella could attenuate lipid peroxidation in cigarette smokers, preventing disease and lowering mortality rates associated with smoking. These findings, published in the peer reviewed journal of Clinical Laboratory in 2013, were supplemented with the reaffirmation that chlorella’s high antioxidant levels were beneficial for almost any ailment.

While official clinical studies are somewhat lacking, the small findings published so far in peer reviewed journals, combined with personal testimonies, look very promising for a number of ailments. While more human studies specifically are needed to determine what, if any, side effects may be present in humans, animals studies have paved the way for this supplement to be further studied and potentially be life changing for humans.

Suggested Usage

One will quickly find that most of the Chlorella sold in the United States is produced in Taiwan or Japan. Before you purchase a supplement, it is important to read about the manufacturer’s reputation, as the cultivation method can cause protein levels, carbohydrates and fat levels to differ drastically, often over 70%.

Because of these differences, one should consult manufacturers’ directions for proper dosages, but a good supplement will likely include guidelines similar to those listed below. Chlorella should always be taken with water or juice, half an hour before consuming food.

Like most supplements, it is available in both powder and capsule form. Capsules should be taken as recommended with dosage guidelines in mind. Powders can be added to foods such as salads and yogurts, mixed with smoothies, juice or water. Keep in mind that adding it to cold foods and drinks is beneficial, but the warmth from warm meals or hot drinks can greatly diminish effects, and is therefore not recommended.

While the recommended dosage is considered safe, it is recommended to begin with a smaller dose, working up to the recommendation to ensure the fewest side effects and best tolerance. Mild headaches, gas and diarrhea can occur due to intolerance, and these symptoms can be relieved by more gradually introducing the supplement to your regimen. They also generally subside within just a few days, but if they continue or concerns arise, contact a physician.

Adults should consume about 3 to 4 grams of powder or supplements per day, with a suggested dosage of 1 to 2 grams for children. Care should be taken to avoid vitamin C within three hours of these supplements, as it can cause toxins to enter your tissues due to the binding of heavy metals being loosened by the vitamin. In addition, it is best to split recommended doses into two or three doses throughout the day. If taking only one dose, it should be done before breakfast.