Herpes simplex is a viral disease caused by herpes simplex virus. It occurs in various parts of the body depending upon the location of infection like oral herpes involves the face or mouth and genital herpes involves infection in the genitals.
Other disorders include herpes whitlow which involves the fingers, herpes infection of the brain and herpes of the eye. The are two types of viruses causes this infection known as HSV-1, commonly causes oral infections and HSV-2, commonly causes genital infections.
These infections are transmitted by direct contact with lesions or body fluids of an infected person or sexually transmitted. It may spread to an infant during childbirth.
Symptoms include sores and blisters surrounding the infected area. There is no such permanent cure of herpes simplex. Medications are available to alleviate symptoms associated with it and relieve pain.
Various research studies have suggested the consumption spirulina supplements for the treatment of herpes simplex.
What is spirulina?
Spirulina is a biomass of the blue green algae and can be consumed by humans and animals. It is used as a dietary supplement in the form of whole food and is available as a tablet, powder and flake.
It is commonly used as a feed supplement in poultry, aquarium and aquaculture. Spirulina is rich in nutrients and vitamins. Dried spirulina comprises of 60% of protein. It is an excellent source of B vitamins and dietary minerals, iron and manganese.
5 Evidence Based Benefits of Spirulina in Herpes Simplex
Spirulina has many pharmacological properties that benefit in herpes simplex infection.
1. It has anti-viral activity
An experimental study published in the Journal of Antiviral Research suggests that spirulina extracts possess anti-viral properties which can be beneficial in inhibiting the infection of herpes simplex.
The studies isolated the most potent extract from spirulina that showed highest anti-viral activity against the herpes simplex virus type 2 which causes genital infections. The study concluded that this property of spirulina may be due to the presence of phenolic compounds in it.
A study conducted by Mader et al. in 2016 demonstrated that an extract called Calcium spirulan from Spirulina inhibits the attachment of the herpes simplex type 1 virus to human keratinocytes and protects aganist herpes labialis.
Spirulina extracts were applied topically in the form of a cream on 198 volunteers. Results showed that spirulina extracts blocked attachment of the virus and prevented herpes virus from entering into the host cells.
The study concluded that spirulina extracts can possibly be used for treatment of infections caused by the herpes virus on topical application.
Other studies suggest that cold water extracts of Spirulina also possess anti-viral activity.
An animal study conducted by Chen et al. in 2015 reported that Spirulina cold water extract shows anti-viral activity against the influenza virus and may serve as a safe and effective therapeutic agent to manage influenza outbreaks. It also reduces virus induced mortality.
What does this mean?
Spirulina extracts show anti-viral activity and therefore can be considered as safe and effective therapeutics in curing viral diseases like herpes simplex. It is found to reduce mortality rate associated with viral diseases.
2. It improves immunity
It is known that the herpes virus enters the body without being detected as foreign by the immune system and causes a block in the immune system pathway resulting in reduced immunity.
According to an observational study carried out by Blinkova et al. in 2001 it has been suggested that due to the high content of nutrients like proteins, amino acids, vitamins, carotenoids, minerals, fatty acids and polysaccharides spirulina can be used as a biological additive.
It was observed that it stimulates the immune system by increasing resistance of humans to infections, and stimulates production of antibodies and cytokines. It increases efficiency of macrophages, T and B cells.
Spirulina was found be effective against HIV and viruses like the herpes virus.
Studies suggest that supplementation of spirulina in the diet activates the human innate immune system improving its ability to fight infections.
A study conducted by Hirahashi et al. in 2002 demonstrated that oral administration of spirulina raised maturation stage of macrophages or monocytes (immune cells) that are body’s defenses against any infection.
Spirulina also acts directly on myeloid lineages (immunity providing cells) and enhances the functions of natural killer cells (type of WBCs) thus preventing easy attack by viruses, bacteria, yeast or fungi.
Animal studies conducted by Ramachandran et al.in 2006 show that Spirulina activates the cells of the innate immune system. Its oral consumption was found to be effective in improving the mucosal as well as innate immune systems.
What does this mean?
Oral consumption of Spirulina can improve immunity of the body and provide resistance to fight against infections caused by the herpes virus.
3. It has anti-oxidant properties
Research studies report that viruses like Herpes simplex virus type 1 which affects the neural cells induce oxidative stress which is required for them for efficient replication.
The herpes simplex virus increases free radicals in the neural cells and leads to immense lipid peroxidation and oxidative stress. This makes consumption of anti-oxidant supplements or foods essential in patients infected with herpes simplex.
A study published in the Archives of toxicology in 2016 demonstrated Spirulina activates cellular anti-oxidant enzymes, inhibits lipid peroxidation and DNA damage, scavenges free radicals and increases activity of superoxide dismutase and catalase.
A study published in the journal of Current Pharmaceutical biotechnology in 2005 demonstrated that the anti-oxidant properties of spirulina have found to be effective in protecting tissues and reducing toxicity to the liver, kidney and testes.
An experimental study conducted by Estrada et al. in 2001 showed that extracts derived from Spirulina are potent scavengers of free radicals and inhibits peroxidation of lipids.
The study demonstrated that an increase in phycocyanin content which is a fraction derived from spirulina showed an increase in the anti-oxidant activity.
What does this mean?
Spirulina shows anti-oxidant activity which can prevent lipid peroxidation and reduce exercise induced oxidative stress induced by viruses for efficient viral replication. Its consumption by patients infected by herpes virus can also reduce toxicity to organs like the liver, kidney and testes.
4. It has anti-inflammatory defenses
Several viruses have been known to affect the heart. This includes the herpes simplex virus. The herpes simplex virus has been found to cause human atherosclerosis. Cytomegalovirus which is a member of the herpes virus family is known to cause coronary heart diseases.
Apart from anti-oxidant activity Spirulina possesses anti-inflammatory properties that have been demonstrated in pre-clinical studies conducted on animal models by Deng et al.
The study suggested that spirulina shows therapeutic benefits in diseased conditions like cardiovascular diseases, hypercholesterolemia. hyperglycermia, cardiovascular diseases, inflammatory diseases, cancer and viral infections.
In an animal study conducted by Muga et al. in 2014 it was observed that when spirulina alone or in combination with fish oil was introduced in the diet it had the ability to reduce oxidative stress and inflammation in hypercholesterolemia (high cholesterol levels).
The study concluded that spirulina supplements may be beneficial in the treatment of hypercholesterolemic induced diets. Spirulina diets reduce levels of proinflammatory cytokines that are known to increase inflammation.
What does this mean?
Spirulina has anti-inflammatory properties that can prevent cardiovascular and other inflammatory diseases caused by the herpes virus from developing.
5. Spirulina prevents cancer
Animal Studies show that the herpes simplex virus causes different types of cancers like lymphoid cancer, kidney cancer and lung cancer. There is scientific evidence that type 2 herpes virus causes cervical cancer which may be cured by vaccinations.
Spirulina has anti-cancer properties. A study published in Oncology reports in 2017 showed that spirulina consumption inhibits growth of tumor in humans and mice.
Results indicated that Polysaccharides present within spirulina inhibit spontaneous development of mammary tumors. The study concluded that spirulina supplements can be used as potential agents in cancer therapy.
Another experimental study conducted by Minic et al. in 2016 demonstrated that choromopeptides isolated from phycocyanin present in spirulina show cytotoxic effect against human cervical adenocarcinoma and epithelial colon cancer cell lines.
What does this mean?
Spirulina consumption can be used as a potential agent in cancer therapy. It is found to suppress tumor progression in humans as well as animals and has cytotoxic effect against cancer cells.
Dosage of Spirulina For Herpes
There is not recommended dosage for consumption of spirulina yet. It depends upon factors like age, health and several other conditions.
Doses of these supplements can be taken under doctor’s prescription. A standard dose of spirulina supplements is 500 mg per day. Researchers have not yet come up with a safe standard dose for children under the age of 18.
Spirulina supplements are free of contaminants and are possibly considered safe for consumption. Contaminated products are however not considered safe especially for children.
One must buy spirulina supplements from reputable places where contamination in products is checked for before it is marketed.
Although no such adverse cases of spirulina have been observed yet, pregnant and breast feeding women must avoid its use.
It may interact and decrease efficiency of medicines than decrease activity of the immune system. It is best to avoid its consumption if suffering from such medical conditions.
People suffering from Phenylketonuria must strictly avoid use of spirulina supplements as spirulina contains phenylalanine chemical which can may the condition worse.
Spirulina may also slow blood clotting thus people on medications for anti-coagulant or anti-platelet drugs must avoid its use.
It is always recommended take the advice of a doctor before consuming these supplements due to the potential side effects and interaction of such dietary supplements with medications.
The therapeutic effects of spirulina may provide basis for developing drugs related to the treatment of herpes simplex and its associated complications. It is important to buy spirulina from a trusted brand.
Apart from its oral consumption in the form of tablets or powders, it can be applied topically in the form of creams or lotions on the infected area.
Spirulina shows potential properties which can be beneficial for treating the viral infection and other related diseases like heart diseases and cancer.