Chlorella and Spirulina Found to Treat Hepatitis C Infections
The researchers treated 18 adults who had chronic cases of hepatitis C virus (HCV) with Chlorella for twelve weeks, together with a group of 26 patients who acted as control subjects – receiving conventional treatment.
The patients were tested for liver enzymes and other symptoms of the sometimes-fatal liver disease before and after the twelve week treatment period and beyond.
The researchers gave the patients 1,000 milligrams of chlorella for the first week, and then 1,500 for the remainder of the period. This was added to 30 milliliters of Wakasa Gold chlorella liquid.
Liver enzymes of aspartate aminotransferase (AST) and alanine aminotransferase (ALT) were measured at the end of the trial period. The liver produces higher levels of these enzymes when it is suffering from infection or toxicity. In the case of hepatitis the liver produces these enzymes as it deals with a virus that affects millions of people around the world.
The researchers also tested for genetic changes, specifically the RNA levels. This indicates the strength of the infection and the viral load.
After 12 weeks of chlorella treatment the researchers found that 70% of the patients’ levels of AST significantly decreased, and most of the patients had decreased ALT levels. In addition, 77% of the patients reported increased energy levels, and 46% reported feeling better.
The researchers found that the patients’ immune systems were improved. They stated in their discussion:
“We propose that the improvements in liver function tests in our population with chronic HCV infection is most likely due to the beneficial immunostimulatory effect of Chlorella supplementation.”
Genetic changes in the hepatitis virus also showed improvement among the Chlorella patients. Meanwhile, those patients who were treated with interferon did not have the same improvements in immunity.
The researchers also found that the chlorella resulted in no negative side effects among the patients.
These results confirm a study published in 2012, where Egyptian researchers treated 66 patients infected with hepatitis C virus for six months with either Spirulina platensis – a blue-green algae related to Chlorella – or Silymarin. Silimarin is the active constituent of the Milk thistle herb, proven as an effective treatment for chronic liver disorders and hepatitis.
The researchers tested the patients before the treatment period and at three and six months for HCV symptoms and liver enzymes. The Spirulina group was given a total of 1,500 milligrams of Spirulina tablets per day. The tablets given to each group appeared identical.
Once again, liver enzymes – particularly AST – were significantly lower in the Spirulina group. The Silymarin-treated group also had reduced levels, but not as much as the thirty Spirulina-treated patients experienced. And again, the Spirulina treatment resulted in no negative side effects among the patients.
Chlorella and Spirulina are both generally classified as algae, and they are both commercially produced in tanks, but there are some differences between them. Spirulina is a blue-green Cyanobacteria, while Chlorella is a green algae classified as a Eukaryote – more plant-like. Spirulina’s protein levels are typically higher, reaching over 75% by weight while Chlorella maintains 45-50% protein. Both have 20 amino acids, many minerals and other phytonutrients. For example, Spirulina contains sulfated homopolysaccharides and sulfoglycolipids, which have been shown to stimulate macrophages and cytokines that attack viral cells.
Recent estimates suggest that up to 5% of the world’s population may be infected with hepatitis, and many of the poorest countries have the worst levels of infection. Thus relatively inexpensively produced green medicine such as Chlorella and Spirulina are more important than ever.
Written by Case Adams, Naturopath
Azocar J, Diaz A. Efficacy and safety of Chlorella supplementation in adults with chronic hepatitis C virus infection. World J Gastroenterol. 2013 Feb 21;19(7):1085-90.
Yakoot M, Salem A. Spirulina platensis versus silymarin in the treatment of chronic hepatitis C virus infection. A pilot randomized, comparative clinical trial. BMC Gastroenterol. 2012 Apr 12;12:32.