Chlorella (sometimes called sun chlorella or green algae) is a type of algae, usually from Japan or Taiwan, used to make supplements and medicine. Supplements contain “chlorella growth factor,” a water-soluble extract of chlorella that contains amino acids, peptides, proteins, vitamins, sugars, and nucleic acids. Chlorella contains vitamin C and carotenoids, both of which are antioxidants. It is also reported to contain high concentrations of iron and B-complex vitamins.
The nutrient value of chlorella supplements is widely different between brands. In fact, dried chlorella has been found to contain 7 - 88% protein, 6 - 38% carbohydrate, and 7 - 75% fat.
Chlorella is used as a medicine to:
Some people use chlorella to increase the beneficial bacteria in the intestine to:
Aid in the treatment of:
Other purported uses for chlorella have included the treatment of:
Fibromyalgia (specifically chlorella tablets plus a liquid extract containing malic acid)
Chlorella is said to contain powerful antioxidants and to have the ability to detoxify the body and increase energy. When applied topically, chlorella is used for the treatment of skin ulcers, rashes caused by radiation, and trichomoniasis (a sexually transmitted disease).
Some research has shown that individuals with a certain kind of brain cancer (glioma) might tolerate chemotherapy and radiation better if they take chlorella tablets plus chlorella liquid extract; however, scientific studies do not support its effectiveness for preventing or treating cancer in humans. All of the uses are deemed to have “insufficient evidence” and more evidence is needed to rate the effectiveness of chlorella. Available scientific evidence does not exist for any of the claims made by chlorella manufactures and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has warned proprietors to stop making unproven statements about the benefits of supplementation. Limited evidence exists that chlorella may inhibit the activity of some molecules involved in the growth of cancer cells; this research was done on cell cultures and animals only. In 2003, a supplement derived from chlorella was given to humans to see whether or not it boosted immune response to the flu; no difference in antibodies between the group that received the chlorella and the group that did not were found.
Chlorella has been determined to be “possibly safe” when taken for periods up to two months of time. The most common side effects include diarrhea, nausea, gas, green discoloration of the stools, and stomach cramps. Chlorella has caused serious allergic reactions, including asthma and other dangerous breathing problems. Chlorella can make your skin more sensitive to sunlight. Chlorella should not be taken by people with allergies to iodine or mold, or who have an immunodeficiency or autoimmune diseases. People on immunosuppressants or certain blood thinners (such as warfarin) should not take chlorella.
References and Recommended Readings
Chlorella. American Cancer Society website. http://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatmentsandsideeffects/complementaryandalternativemedicine/herbsvitaminsandminerals/chlorella. Reviewed April 29, 2011. Accessed April 10, 2015.
Chlorella. WebMD website. http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-907-CHLORELLA.aspx?activeIngredientId=907&activeIngredientName=CHLORELLA. Accessed April 10, 2015.
Review Date: 3/13/15
Contributed by Elaine M. Hinzey RDN, LD/N
Key word for search engine: chorella, supplement, algae