Algae: Diverse Health Benefits


Algae is a diverse group of (primarily) aquatic, plant-like organisms. Algae can take the form of microscopic single cells, loose conglomerations, matted or branched colonies or large Seaweeds with structures resembling roots, stems and leaves. Most Algae have Cell walls, contain Chlorophyll and participate in photosynthesis. Occasionally the Chlorophyll component of Algae is masked by other pigments – accounting for the diverse range of colors of the different groups of Algae.

Algae are classified based on the type of pigments and food reserves present in the particular species. The difference in the pigments play a major role in determining the habitat distribution of the particular algal species. Regarding the distribution of algae, they can adapt in diverse environmental conditions. Majority of algae are found in aquatic habitats, either in freshwater or marine water. Some of the species are found in extreme environments like snow and ice, whereas some are adapted in hot springs.

Many brown algae contain Alginic acid, also called algin or alginate, which is an anionic polysaccharide distributed widely in the cell walls of algae, where through binding with water it forms a viscous gum.

Alginates may inhibit the absorption of dietary glucose and may also facilitate the excretion of many detrimental minerals (toxic heavy metals) by binding to them in the intestinal tract and preventing their absorption.

Types of Algae

Brown Algae

Brown algae, belonging to the class Paeophyceae, contain chlorophyll a, c and fucoxanthin pigment. Due to the green color, chlorophyll and brown pigment, fucoxanthin, the members belonging to phaeophyta exhibit a typical greenish-brown coloration. The food reserve of brown algae are complex carbohydrate polymers, called laminarin. Laminaria and Macrocystis are the examples of brown algae.

Brown algae are the most complex algae, in which some species are adapted at certain depths in the seas and oceans.


Brown Algae

Types of Brown Algae

  • Arame
  • Ecklonia cava
  • Hijiki
  • Kelp
  • Kombu
  • Wakame

The Table below lists the recognized and studied health benefits of brown algae:

Brown Algae

Brown Algae  
Algae SpeciesConditionReference
Ecklonia Cava
May stimulate the apoptosis (cell death) of Colon Cancer cells1
May be useful for the treatment of Allergies2
May reduce Inflammation3
Ecklonia cava is a potent Antioxidant4
Ecklonia cava may increase Stamina5
Ecklonia cava may be useful for the treatment of Osteoarthritis6
Ecklonia cava may improve Memory7
Ecklonia cava may alleviate Asthma8
Ecklonia cava may increase Acetylcholine levels9
Ecklonia cava may inhibit the activity of Acetylcholinesterase10
Ecklonia cava may inhibit some types of Matrix Metalloproteinases11
Hijiki may help to prevent some types of Cancer (due to the HPS-I and HPS-II content of Hijiki12
Hijiki may facilitate the release of Tumor Necrosis Factor (TNF-alpha form) from Macrophages13
Breast cancer15
Prostate cancer16
Kelp may inhibit the activity of Elastase17
Kelp may reduce the absorption of Barium and may facilitate its excretion from the body (due to Alginates in Kelp)18
Kombu may facilitate the removal of Benzpyrene from the body20
Hypertension21 22
Breast cancer23 24
Colon cancer25
Lung cancer26
Herpes Simplex Viruses27
Wakame may inhibit the absorption of Dioxin from the Gastrointestinal Tract28
Wakame may inhibit Angiotensin Converting Enzyme (ACE)29

Red Algae

Red algae, belonging to Rhodophyta, contain chlorophyll a, d, carotenoids, xanthophylls and phycobilins. The food reserve of red algae is floridean starch. The examples of red algae are Chondrus and Gelidiella species. Majority of red algae are marine species. More than 6500 species of red algae have been identified, out of which about 200 are freshwater species. The red pigment, phycobilin helps in harvesting light at a greater depth, hence some members of red algae are found in such a depth in the ocean floor, where no other photosynthetic organisms can adapt.


Red Algae

Types of Red Algae

  • Dulse
  • Dumontiaceae
  • Dunaliella
  • Furcellaria fastigiata
  • Irish Moss
  • Nori

The Table below lists the recognized and studied health benefits of red algae:

Red Algae

Red Algae  
Algae SpeciesConditionReference
May kill the Herpes Simplex Virus Type 1 and Type 2 and the Herpes Zoster Virus1
Breast cancer2
Breast cancer3

Green Algae

Green algae, belonging to the phylum Chlorophyta, contain chlorophyll a, b, carotenoids and xanthophylls. The main food reserve of green algae is starch.

Some examples of green algae are Ulva, Codium and Caulerpa, and Chlorella. As of now, about 7000 species of green algae are identified. They may be either unicellular or multicellular. Most of them are freshwater algae, while a few species are found in the marine water.


Green Algae – Chlorella

Types of Green Algae

  • Chlorella

The Table below lists the recognized and studied health benefits of green algae:

Green Algae

Green Algae  
Algae SpeciesConditionReference
May inhibit the activation of Nuclear Factor-Kappa B1
May alleviate the symptoms of Ulcerative Colitis3
May help to prevent/treat Allergies4
Liver cancer5
May help to prevent Insulin Resistance6
Increases stamina7
May reduce the Pain associated with Fibromyalgia8
May facilitate the production of Granulocyte-Macrophage Colony-Stimulating Factor9
May facilitate the production of Interleukin 110
Chlorella may stimulate the production of Interleukin 1211
May facilitate the removal of accumulated Cadmium12
May facilitate the removal of accumulated Mercury13
May facilitate the excretion of accumulated Dioxin14 15

    Print This Post Print This Post