Algae in medicine
Jai Prakash Keshri1
Algae are the chief primary producers of the globe. Besides photosynthesis
their role in environment is enormous. ey produce enormous range
of compounds as they face various substrate and stress conditions
including the extremophilous habitats. ese compounds now a
day are being utilized widely in medicine. Seaweeds are utilized for a
long time in folk medicine but their scientic applications have been
realized only recently. Use of microalgae in this respect is recent. Algae
are variously used as: antioxidants, source of vitamins, anticancer and
antitumour agents, anticoagulants and antithrombic agents, source of
anti-inammatory compounds, source of antibiotics, source of antiviral
compounds, food supplements, nutraceuticals, vermifuges, source of
biocosmetics, in thalassotherapy and in obstetrical uses etc.
Key words: Algae, medicine, antioxidants, anticancer, antitumour,
anticardiovascular disease, anti-inammatory compounds, antibiotics,
antiviral compounds, food supplements, nutraceuticals, vermifuges,
biocosmetics, thalassotherapy, obstetrical uses.
Algae are the thalloid phototrophic organisms (as well as their colorless derivatives) that
do not form embryo. Pond scums, seaweeds, freshwater and marine phytoplankton etc are
dierent algal forms. ey are principal photosynthesizers in the globe and control our
atmosphere in several ways. eir role in environment is enormous (Barsanti &
Gualtieri 2006, Graham et al., 2009). Although seaweeds have been utilized in
traditional and folk medicine for a long time their use in modern medicine has been
realized only aer 1950 (Lincoln et al., 1991). Use of microalgae in this respect is more
recent and is an exciting eld of research. Algae may be used as: antioxidants, source
of vitamins, antitumour agents, source of antibiotics, source of antiviral compounds,
source of biocosmetics, food supplements, nutraceuticals, vermifuges, anesthetics,
antipyretics, cough remedies, wound healing compounds, thirst quenching remedies;
1 CAS in Botany, e University of Burdwan Golapbag, Burdwan-7131 04, West Bengal
Email: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
Medicinal Plants: Various Perspectives, 31-50: 2012
Chief Eds. J. P. Keshri & R. Mukhopadhyay
Department of Botany & Publication Unit
e University of Burdwan
32 Medicinal Plants: Various Perspectives
treatments for gout, gallstones, goiter, hypertension, diarrhea, constipation, dysentery,
burns, ulcers, skin diseases, lung disease and semen discharge etc (Hoppe, 1979; Misra
and Sinha, 1979; Nisiwaza, 1979; Stein and Borden, 1984; Borowizka, 1988a, 1988b;
Lembi and Waaland, 1988; De Clercq, 2000; Smit, 2004; Zhao et al., 2004; Barsanti and
Gualtieri, 2006; Graham et al., 2009; and Chanda, et al., 2010).
1. Antioxidant activity: In the modern life excessive physical and emotional stress
is very common phenomenon. It leads to the production of active free radicals
including oxygen free radicals and non-oxygen free radical which are also produced
in normal metabolism. Superoxide and hydroxyl radicals are most important active
oxygen radicals in biological system which is the main cause of oxygen cytotoxicity
and lasts for longer time than other radicals. Hydroxyl radicals most actively attack all
the biological molecules by setting o free radical chain reaction (Barry and Susanna,
1993). Excessive free radicals are hazardous to biological molecules as it causes lipid
peroxidation (Barry and Susanna, 1993), damage to the DNA (Barry and Aruoma,
1991) and inhibits the protein synthesis (Martin and Dean, 1991). ese damages
enhance the aging process and initiate many diseases like cancer, arteriosclerosis,
reperfusion injury and hepatic injury (Barry and Gutteridge, 1989). e role of
antioxidants in scavenging harmful free radicals has been well established (Zhao et al.,
2004). In this context several natural products are becoming very popular. Carotenoids
are one of them. Many algae naturally accumulate high amount of carotenoides such as
β-carotene, astaxanthin and canthaxanthin (Borowitzka, 1988a; Lee and Zhang, 1999).
Dunaliella salina, a green halophilic agellate accumulates >10% of dry weight as
β-carotene, which is being commercially exploited in many countries (Borowitzka and
Borowitzka 1988). Astaxanthin possesses higher antioxidant activity than β-carotene
& α-tocopherol (Miki, 1991). Although for commercial reasons, astaxanthin is
presently chemically synthesized, but the current trend of consumers’ for preference
to natural products gradually leading to cheaper products from natural sources (Liu
and Lee, 2000). Astaxanthin constitute up to 6% dry weight (Tsavalos, et al., 1992) of
Haematocococcus sp., a snow alga but its commercial success is waiting. Chlorococcum
sp., a common green alga that occur in natural aquatic habitats and on the soil, appears
to be promising source of astaxanthin (Liu and Lee, 1999, 2000) as it accumulates about
35% this compound as secondary carotenoids. Since, it can tolerate temperature up to
400C it can be easily cultivated in outdoor photobioreactors using sunlight (Zhang, et
al. 1997; Zhang and Lee 1999).
Sulfated polysaccharides extracted from some brown algae like Sargassum
thunbergii, Laminaria japonica have been shown the antioxidant activity (Zhang,
et al., 1995; Xue, et al., 1998; Xue, et al., 2000; Li, et al. 2001; Zhao, et al., 2004). A
low molecular weight sulfated polysaccharide (LMWF) with molecular weight of
8-10kdalton from Laminaria japonica has shown not only antioxidant ability but also
the hepatoprotective eects in liver injuries in mice (Zhao, et al., 2004). Seaweeds
naturally contain reactive antioxidant molecules such as ascorbate and glutathione
including carotenoides (α- and β-carotene, fucoxanthin, astaxanthin), mycosporine-
like amino acids, catechines (eg. Catechin, epigallocatechin), gallate, phlorotannins
(eg. Phloroglucinol), eckol and tocopherols (α-, γ-, δ- tocopherols) etc. (Yuan, et al.,
2005; Fayaz, et al., 2005).
Algae in medicine 33
2. Antibiotic activity: Chemical compounds having antibiotic activities are
widespread in algae particularly macroalgae (Stein and Borden, 1984; Lincoln, et al.,
1991; Smit, 2004; Chanda, et al., 2010). e substances in marine algae are particularly
halogenated compounds such as haloforms, halogenated alkanes and alkenes, alcohols,
aldehyded, hydroquinones and ketones (Lincoln, et al., 1991). Terpenoides are also
having antibiotic activity, they are oen halogenated. Sterols, heterocyclic and phenolic
compounds obtained from seaweeds may be used as antiseptics and cleansing agents
but it oen achieve toxic concentration when used in vivo (Lincoln, et al.,1991).
Most of the members that have been recorded to have antibiotic activity belong
to brown and red algae (Hoppe, 1979; Hashimoto, 1979; Glombitza 1979; Hornsey
and Hide, 1974). However some microalgae and green algae also exhibit antibiotic
properties e.g. Chlorellin from Chlorella and acrylic acid from Phaeocystis pouchettii
(Hariot) Lagerheim (Fenicol, 1979; Hashimoto, 1979). Ulva lactuca L. a green marine
algae exhibited uniform antibiotic activity through out the thallus (Hornsey and Hide,
1976). Methanol extracts of Cladophora have been found eective against Bacillus
mycoides and Staphylococcus aureus (Demina and Mal’dov 1981).
e depsipetides Kahalalide A and F isolated from Bryopsis sp. shown eective
against Mycobacterium tuberculosis in vitro (el Sayed, et al., 2000). Kahalalide F is
being projected as substance in future treatments of lung cancer, tumor and AIDs
A lactone from Delisea pulchra named mbrolide has been found eective as
bacterial antifouling agent (Kjelleberg and Steinberg, 2001) and in the treatment of
Pseudomonas aeruginosa infection.
3. Antiviral activity: Some sulfated polysaccharides isolated from seaweeds exhibit
antiviral property (De Clercq, 2000). Dextran sulfate, pentosan polysulfate and heparin
have been found eective as anti-HIV agents (Witvrouw and De Clercq, 1997). Sulfated
galactan from Aghardhiella tenera has been tested againt HIV-1 & HIV-2 (Witvrouw,
et al., 1994) and sulfated xylomannan from the red seaweed Nothogenia fastigata has
been tested against HIV-1, HIV-2 and other enveloped viruses such as herpes simplex
virus (HSV), human cytomegalovirus (HCMV), respiratory syncytial virus (RSV),
and inuenza A virus (Damonte et al. 1994). e former is more eective against HIV-
1 & HIV-2 while the latter is also active against certain viruses. Both of the compounds
inhibit the viral adsorption process. e polysaccharides isolated from Aghardhiella
tenera and Nothogenia fastigata have low cytotoxic activity towards mammalian cells.
is is encouraging (De Clercq, 1996). Sulfated polysaccharides isolated from some
other red algae such as Schizymenia pacica and Gracilaria corticata also exhibited
antiviral activity. A sulfated polysaccharide from Schizymenia pacica has been found
to inhibit reverse transcriptase in vitro (Nakashima, et al., 1987a, 1987b) while galactan
sulfate from Gracilaria corticata has been found to inhibit initial viral attachment to
the host cell (Mazumdar, et al., 2002). Antiviral polysaccharides have also been isolated
from a marine brown alga Fucus vesiculosus (Bruhn, et al., 1996).
Use of sulfated polysaccharides in medicine is presently limited. is is because
they are poorly absorbed following oral administration (Witvrouw, et al., 1994), their
ecacy in parenteral administration is yet to be demonstrated (De Clercq, 2000). ey
may however be used in topical applications as gel formulations to prevent sexual
34 Medicinal Plants: Various Perspectives
HIV and HSV, transmission (De Clercq 2000). An algal gel has been formulated by
Brazilian researchers based on algae found on the Brazilian coast has been claimed to
be a powerful new protection for women against HIV.
Carrageenans exhibit antiviral activity in vitro and show its eectiveness against
dierent strains of HSV types 1 & 2 during the viral adsorption stage as demonstrated
in case λ-carrageenan and partially cyclized μ/í carrageenan isolated from several
seaweeds (Carlucci, et al., 1997, 1999a, 1999b).
Similarly carrageenans isolated from cystocarpic and tetrasporophytic stages of
Stenogramme interrupta exhibited antiherpatic activity (Cáceres, et al., 2000). A range
of antiviral substances have been tested for their possibility as vaginal microbiocides
against genital herpes in mice and found that carrageenan, fucoidan of fucoidin may
be considered as hopeful substance in future studies (Zeitlin, et al., 1997). Moreover
carrageenan exhibit low cytotoxic or anticoagulant activity. Carraguard, a carrageenan
based microbiocide has been shown to block HIV and other sexually transmitted
disease in vitro, entered phase III clinical trials involving 6000 non-pregnant, HIV
negative women in South Africa and Bostwana in 2003 (Spieler, 2002).
Fucoidan another polysaccharide from brown algae has shown antiviral activity
towards RSV (Malhotra, et al., 2003), HIV (Sugawara, et al., 1989), HSV types 1 & 2
and human cytomegalovirus (Feldman, et al., 1999; Majczak, et al., 2003; Ponce, et al.,
2003). Probably they inhibit the binding of viral particle to host cell (Baba, et al., 1988).
Several uncharacterized polysaccharides isolated from Caulerpa sp., Corallina
sp., Hyphea charoides, Padina arborescens and Sargassum patens also exhibited high
antiviral activity against HSV type 1 & 2 (Zhu, et al., 2003).
Microalgae also exhibit antiviral activity. For example Cyanovirin – N, a 11
kDa protein isolated from a cyanobacterium Nostoc ellipsosporum has been found
to irreversibly inactivate HIV-1 & HIV-2 and also aborts cell-to-cell fusion and
transmission HIV-1 infection due to its high-anity interaction with gp120 (Boyd, et
al., 1997). It results in reduced infectivity and also reduced capacity of virus infected
cells with unifected cells. Cyanovinin-N is projected as anti-HIV microbiocide, in
topical formulations for the prevention of genital HIV-transmission. Similarly aqueous
extracts of another cyanobacterium Arthrospira platensis (Spirulina platensis) has been
found to reduce HIV-1 infectivity but active compound(s) of this extract is yet to be
characterized (Ayehunie, et al., 1998).
4. Anticancer and antitumor activity: Algal exptracts from several species of
marine blue green algae such as Lyngbya majuscula and Oscillatoria nigroviridis and
Schizothrix calcicola showed activity against Lymphotic mouse leukemia (Mynderse,
et al., 1977). e compound responsible probably is debromoaphysiatoxin. In Chinese
hehrbal medicine several seaweed decoctions from Sargassum sp., Laminaria sp. have
been used in treatment of cancer (Yamamoto, et al., 1974, 1981). e Kahalalide F
isolated from Bryopsis has been found to have anticancer and antitumour properties
(Hamann and Scheuer, 1993; Hamann, et al., 1996). Eectiveness has been recorded in
lung, colon and prostrate cancer (Horgen, et al., 2000; Nuijen, et al., 2000; Sparidans,
et al., 2001). e compounds has been patented for the therapeutics in human Lung
Carcinoma (Scheuer, et al., 2000), and phase II clinical trial for liver carcinoma
treatment has already been done. Kahalalide F acts on lysosome membrane (Stokvis,
Algae in medicine 35
et al., 2002), induces cell necrosis in vivo and selectively targets tumor cells in vitro.
Fucoidans exhibit antitumor, anticancer, antimetastatic and brolytic property in mice
(Coombe, et al., 1987, Maruyama, et al., 1987). Translam, a glucan produced from
laminarin shows antitumor property (Saito, et al., 1992).
Chondriamide A, a substance isolated from a red alga Chondria atropurpurea
has been found eective against human nasopharyngeal and colorectal cancer cells
(Palermo, et al., 1992). Terpenes have been found to have wide range of cytotoxic and
antitumour activities as exhibited from Bifurcaria bifurcata (Valls, et al., 1995; Culioli,
et al., 2001; Caulerpa taxifolia (Fischel, et al., 1995; Parent-Massin, et al., 1996; Barbier,
et al., 2001) and Cystoseira mediterranea (Francisco, et al., 1985).
5. Anticoagulant and antithrombic activity: Sulfated polysaccharides exhibit
notorious anticoagulant property as well as antithrombin activity (Baba, et al., 1990).
Fucoidins have been found such activity as mediated by blood anticoagulant heparin
cofactor II or antithrombin III (Church, et al., 1989; Colliec, et al., 1991; Matou, et
al., 2002). e activity increased due to increase in the amount of sulfation (Nishino
and Nagumo, 1991, 1992). Sulfated fucoidans has been found several advantages over
heparin (Trento, et al., 2001). Sulfated fucans from Fucus vesiculosus and Ascophyllum
nodosum have therefore been patented as anticoagulant substances (Smit, 2004).
6. Anti-inammatory activity: Inammation frequently occurs in living tissues.
It is responsible for numerous deaths and is linked with the pathogenesis of several
deadly diseases (Jaswir and Monsur, 2011). e anti-inammatory drugs presently
used have been found to have several side eects. For example Aspirin can cause
stomach bleeding, acetaminophen may lead to liver damage, Cox-3 inhibitor Vioxx
and Celebrex may cause heart problems while non-steroidal anti-inammatory drugs
have been reported to contribute several deaths yearly (Clegg, et al., 2006; Wolf, et. al.,
1999; Singh, 1998). It leads to the search of biological sources as anti-inammatory
compounds (Kaboli, et. al., 2001). Since the macroalgae naturally grows in aquatic
environments and have the ability to withstand several stresses they are thought to
be the reservoir of various active compounds that can trigger some immunological
responses in man (Pompani, 2001; Ehrlich 2010).
Sulfated polysaccharides particularly fucoidins from brown algae, alkaloids
(Caulerpin I, II, III) isolated from red and green seaweeds, carotenoids (fucoxanthin
and astaxanthin), Phaeophytin A and Vidalols A and B are anti-inammatory
compounds isolated from macroalgae (Bhakuni and Rawat, 2005; Jaswir and Monsur,
Several algae including macroalgae are rich in 20-carbon polyunsaturated fatty
acids (PUFAs), chiey eicosapentaenoic acid: EPA and docosahexanoid acid: EDA
(Stefanov, et al., 1988; Gerwick and Bernart 1993). ese fatty acids are good for
health. Moreover marine algae are capable of metabolizing C20-PUFAs via oxidative
pathways (Gerwick, et al., 1993). Protaglandins are one of its products in the members
of Gracilariales. Some other algae produce oxylipins that resemble eicosanoid
hormones in humans and higher plants (Gerwick, et al., 1993, Imbs, et al., 2001).
ese compounds have been tested in search of development of anti inammatory
drugs (Jacobs, et al., 1993).
36 Medicinal Plants: Various Perspectives
Translam, a product from laminaran is projected as radioprotective substance to
combat the radiation illness due to their immunostimulating activity (Kuznetsova, et
al., 1994; Zaporozhets, et al., 1995; Chertkov, et al., 1999). Such substances containing
mixture of Translam, laminaran and fucoidam are already in market considering its
benecial properties on the immune system (Smit, 2004). A compound carnosadine
from Grateloupia carnosa has been obtained as an anti-inammatory substance with
positive carcinostatic and immunological eects (Wakamiya, et al., 1984).
7. Anticardiovascular disease activity: It is well known that high cholesterol levels
elevate blood pressure a cause of cardiovascular disease. e algal polysaccharides
such as alginates carrageenans, funorans, fucoidans, laminarans, porphyrans, ulvans
etc have been found to produce hypocholesterolemic and hypolipidemic activity as
they reduce cholesterol absorption in gut (Kiriyama, et al., 1968; Lamela, et al., 1989;
Panlasigui, et al., 2003). is activity is oen associated with hypoglycemic response
in addition to increase in faecal cholesterol content (Ito and Tsuchida 1972; Nishide,
et al., 1993; Dumelod, et al., 1999). Algal polysaccharides have also been found to
reduce the systolic blood pressure (Renn, et al., 1994a, 1994b) and also reduce total
cholesterol, free cholesterol, triglyceride and phospholipids in the liver (Nishide and
Uchida, 2003). All these activities reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
8. Nutraceutical activity: Nutraceuticals are growing popular as health products.
Dietary bres are extremely helpful in many health problems like constipation, weight
gain, and vitamin deciency etc. Seaweeds and other algae are excellent source of
dietary bres as well as vitamins and minerals. Although a number of oriental countries
are using seaweeds as health food since long back, but its importance has recently been
realized. Reasons for consumption include food value, avour, colour, and texture.
e structural carbohydrates of seaweeds are largely indigestible but some soluble
carbohydrates are metabolized. e protein content of many of the edible seaweeds is
20-25% dry weight. Seaweeds are an excellent source of vitamins (Kanazawa, 1963),
including vitamin C at levels equivalent to citrus fruits, and vitamins A, D, B1, B12,
E, riboavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, and folic acid. Seaweeds also provide all the
required trace elements for human nutrition (Yamamoto, et al., 1979). It is estimated
that the annual value of food algae is presently in excess of a U.S. $ I billion mostly from
three genera: Porphyra (nori: Japan; zicai: China; U.S. $500 million); Laminaria (kombu:
Japan; haidai: China) and Undaria (wakame: Japan; qundaicai: China).
Microalgae in this respect are extremely valuable. e main feature of various
microlalgae is its protein content (40-70%). It is most important nonconventional
protein which the world is utilizing. ey are being able to produce all amino acids
and essentially they can provide essential ones for humans and animals (Guil-
Guerrero, et al., 2004). Carbohydrates occur in form of starch, glucose, sugars and
other polysaccharides. e bioavailability & digestibility of these microalgae are high
(Becker, 2004). e average lipid content of algal cells varies between 1% and 70% but
can reach 90% of dry weight under certain conditions (Metting, 1996). Among the
fatty acids ω-3 & ω-6 fatty acids are extremely important (Borowitzka, 1988b, Tonon,
et al., 2002). ey are valuable source of nearly all vitamins (e.g. A, B1, B2, B6, C, E,
nicotinate, biotin, foloic acid and pantothenic acid (Becker, 2004). ey are also rich
in pigments like chlorophyll, carotenes & phycobiliproteins. Spirulina (Arthrospira),
Chlorella and Aphanizomenon have been prescribed by doctors and herbalists in China
Algae in medicine 37
and Japan over centuries (Jensen, et al., 2001). Moreover recently Aphanizomenon os-
aquae (AFA) has become very popular specially in UK (James, 2011). e principle is
‘like cures like’. Algae are by nature some of the most adaptogenic foods on the planet.
Algae and cereal grasses, like wheat grasses and barley grass have the unique ability to
purify and cleanse; whilst simultaneously nourishing and rebuilding tissues. Out of its
many active constituents most well known is chlorophyll. It is oen referred to as ‘the
blood of plants’ is almost structurally identical to haem, a substance which sits in the
middle of each of our haemoglobin molecules. All our bodies need to do to use the
chlorophyll to built haem is to exchange its central magnesium atom or piece for an
iron one. is helps to explain why consuming foods rich in chlorophyll is so eective
in the support of blood conditions and those which are directly linked to poor tissue
oxygenation i.e. cancer.
Algae, is one of the most alkylising of all natural foods on our planet that provide
abundant supply of many alkilising minerals and compounds. It explains its credibility
in maintaining more alkaline internal environment and thus it’s potential in treatment
including cancer (James, 2011).
AFA (Aphanizomenon os-aquae) promotes good overall health (Jensen, et al.
2001, Benedetti, et al., 2004; Pug and Pasco, 2001). It is composed of 3-6% chlorophyll
making it the most concentrated of all chlorophyll food sources on earth, including
the other edible algae. It has therefore more cooling, cleansing and detoxifying action.
It is also an excellent source of protein (60%) of its weight, containing a complete
array of amino acids. Phycocyanin, another pigment found in abundance in both AFA
and Spirulina, is known to facilitate the drawing together of amino-acids, the building
blocks of neurotransmitters. It is our neurotransmitters that allow our brain cells to
communicate with each other. Phenylalanine (PEA) an amino acid is only found in
AFA. PEA is well recognized in its support of depression having the ability to help
elevate mood. It therefore may play important role in the neurological imbalances
characterized and attention decit disorders and some learning diculties. Taking
AFA thus lead to better concentration, improved mental focus and clarity, increased
mental stamina, a deepened sense of relaxation, and improved sleep quality.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine AFA is classied as having a drying quality and
thus able to counteract internal form of dampness. Cancer is one of these, being
classied as damp condition. AFA also works on kidneys as having mild diuretic/
cleansing action. AFA has also been found to increase the production and release
of NK (Natural Killer) cells which are the body’s rst line of defense against rogue
cancer cells and viruses. Consumption of AFA leads to rapid changes in immune cell
tracking thus increases the immune surveillance without directly stimulating the
Phycocyanin has been found to have anti-inammatory and antioxidant properties.
In a study containing AFA having high concentration of phycocyanin has been found
to inhibit in vitro growth of one out of four cell lines, indicating that at least some
tumour cell types may be directly sensitive to killing by phycocyanin (Kumar, et al.,
2003). AFA has also the ability to enhance the release and migration of stem cells
from the bone marrow (James, 2011). It is therefore proposed that AFA may be used
in treatment of Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, multiple sclerosis,
cardiac arrest recovery and regeneration, as it is the only natural compound to date
38 Medicinal Plants: Various Perspectives
which has been shown to stimulate stem cell release and migration. A patent regarding
the use of AFA has therefore been led (James, 2011).
Spirulina (Arthrospira) is the next. It is used in human nutrition because of its
high protein content (68%) and its excellent nutritive value (Becker, 2004, Spolaore,
et al., 2006). In addition it has many health promoting eects: the alleviation of
hyperlepidemia, suppression of hypertension, protection against renal failure, growth
promotion of intestinal Lactobacillus, and suppression of elevated serum glucose
(Yamaguchi, 1997; Liang, et al., 2004, Vílchez, et al. 1997). Spirulina has 0.7-1.1%
chlorophyll and therefore considered more gentle and tonifying than other algal
species. It has been found to inhibit HIV replication in human T-cells, peripheral
blood mononuclear cells and Langerhans cells found in both the lymphatic systems
and various organs and therefore is widly accepted as having immune strengthening
properties (James 2011). Like AFA it also promotes mental focus due largely to its
phycocyanin content. e mucopolysdaccharides found in the cell walls of Spirulina
are complex sugars which can strengthen heart muscles and protect the cardiovascular
system against vascular disease. A 2008 randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled
intervention study involving geriatric patients determined that Spirulina helped
to signicantly reduce the LDL (Low Density Lipoprotein) to HDL (High Density
Lipoprotein) ratio aer four months of supplementation in elderly Koreans (Park, et
al., 2008). Spirulina is therefore considered as cholesterol lowering diet.
Russian doctors have advocated blue-green algae (AFA & Spirulina) to help
patients recover from radiation exposure, including the eects of nuclear disaster at
Chernobyl. is is because due to its chlorophyll topical applications promote healing
of ulcers, including those which have become gangrenous (James, 2011).
Chlorella is next most important microalgae very popular as nutraceutical. Its
protein content (51-60%) is next to Spirulina. e most notable part of Chlorella is
its tough outer cell wall. is property helps in binding heavy metals, pesticides and
carcinogens like polychlorobiphenyls (PCB’s) and so gently and safely allow the body to
excrete them. erefore role of Chlorella in removing residues of chemotherapy which
contains some substances containing heavy metals like Ciplastin and Carboplastin
from the body has been accepted. Its β 1-3 glucan is an active immunostimulator; free
radical scavenger and a reducer of blood lipids. e other health promoting eects of
Chlorella are its ecacy on gastric ulcers, wounds, and constipation; preventive action
against atherosclerosis, hypercholesterolemia and antitumor action (Yamaguchi, 1997;
Jong-Yuh and Mei-Fen, 2005). Chlorella contains CGF (Chlorella Growth Factor)
derived from its RNA/DNA. It helps in facilitating cellular repair and regeneration.
It is important as we age because it may protect our cells from daily environmental,
damage as well as nonspecic eects of radiotherapy and older types of chemotherapy
It is important to note that these three algae are component of Dr. Scultze’s
super food which is a combination blend of approximately 90-95%: AFA, Spirulina,
Chlorella, wheatgrass, and barley grass, with approximately 5-10%: dulce, spinach
leaf, acerola cherry, beet tops, palm fruit, rose hips, lemon and orange peel added.
It one of a number of dierent blends of chlorophyll rich food available in UK and
Algae in medicine 39
9. Biocosmetics: Extracts of algae is now oen found on the list of ingredients on
cosmetic packages, particularly in face and skin care products (e.g. anti-aging cream,
refreshing or regenerant care products, emollient and as an anti-irritant in peelers),
hand, body creams or lotions and hair care products. Most of the biocosmetic companies
are utilizing microalgae as source, some of course from macroalgae. Hash laboratory
including several in our country have introduced many products on the basis that
the combination of pigments like chlorophyll, carotenoids, phycoerythrin, proteins,
minerals, amino acids, polysaccharides, fatty acids and enzymes act as antioxidant,
makes algal biomass best for the exploitation in the Bio Cosmetic industry.
Skin care market is presently occupied by the products from the microalgae
Spirulina (Arthrospira) and Chlorella (Stolz and Obermayer 2005). Most of the
cosmeticians have their own microalgal production system (e.g. LVMH, Paris, France
and Daniel Jouvance, Carnac, France) (Spolaore, et. al., 2006). ese products are
growing as sun protection and sin care products which prevent early skin aging, exert
a tightening eect and prevent stria formation and stimulate collagen synthesis in skin
thereby supporting tissue regeneration and wrinkle reduction.
Several new products have also been launched in the market. Mention may made
of a few: A skin-tightening product (Pepha-Tight) from Nannochloropsis oculata
and a product claimed having the ability to markedly stimulate cell proliferation and
turnover and positively inuencing the energy metabolism of skin (Pepha-Ctive), both
from Pentapharm (Basel, Switzerland) (Stolz and Obermayer 2005).
10. alassotherapy: A new therapy emerging in recent times based on macroalgal use
is alassotherapy. In this therapy macroalgae pastes, made by cold-grinding or freeze-
crushing, are applied to the person’s body and then warmed under infra-red radiation.
is treatment, in conjunction with seawater hydrotherapy, is said to provide relief for
rheumatism and osteoporosis. e therapy is growing popular in France (Barsanti and
11. Vermifuge activity: e conception of vermifuge or anthelmintic activity of
seaweeds is very old (Stein & Borden 1984). Digenea a red alga is used as vermifuge
over a thousand years eciently. e active compound is Kainic acid (KA) which
causes neuromuscular block in the worm. In a dose of 5-10 mg it forces the Ascaris
out of the patient without causing any side eect. In Japan Kainic acid (KA) is used
with santonin (a compound isolated from Artemisia maritime L. a owering plant)
(Michanek 1979). In addition Domoic acid – containing extracts of Digenea simplex
and Chondria armata are also used as anthelmintic agent in Japan over centuries (Higa
and Kuniyoshi 2000). Kainoids are most potent compounds. eir insecticidal activity
against house ies and cockroaches has also been established (Maeda et al., 1984,
1986, 1987). Besides Kainoids several other compounds have also been isolated from
macroalgae e.g. bis-indolic amides chondriamides A, B and C have been isolated from
Chondria atropurpurea (Palermo et al., 1992; Davyt et al., 1998). Terpenoids are also
insecticidal. For example crenulacetal C, a diterpene isolated from Dictyota dichotoma
has been found to inhibit Polydora websterii, a harmful lung worm damaging
pearls cultivation (Takikawa et al., 1998). Similarly polyhalogenated monoterpenes,
aplysiaterpenoid A and telfairine isolated from Plocamium telfairiae have been found
eective against mosquito larvae of Culex pipiens pallens and Anopheles gambieae and
German Cockroaches (Blatella germanica) (Watanabe et al., 1989; 1990).
40 Medicinal Plants: Various Perspectives
In sea weeds, many other algae have vermifuge activity such as Corallina ocianalis L.,
Durvillaea, Sargassum and Ulva spp. (Hashimoto 1979).
12. Obstetrical Uses: Dried stripes of Laminaria known as ‘laminaria tent’ are now
used as cervical dilators in obstetrical and gynecological practices (Newton 1972; Hale
& Pion 1972; Feochari 1979). ese are found eective when used to insert intrauterine
(IUD) for birth control (Manabe et al., 1982) although it has some side eects.
13. Goitre treatment: For long time Indians in Chilean Andes used ‘goitre sticks’
made of Phyllogigas (Michanek 1979) in the treatment of goiter as the seaweeds are
rich source of iodine. Dried Ulva, Porphyra and Sargassum have also been used in the
treatment of goiter (Stein and Borden 1984) but the history of Sargassum is long back
since 2700 BC in Chinese medicine.
e author is extremely thankful to his research scholars Mr. Subhabrata Ghosh and
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