Algae, source of life

The « Survival champion » with healing powers

Since the beginning of time, around 23OOO kinds of algae have populated the earth. Algae have a very great capacity to adapt and develop even in poor conditions of climate, as in deserts or glacial areas.

Algae have been cultivated in large quantities since the beginning of the 19th century, for their
nutritive properties as well as their healing powers. Our present knowledge on this subject comes
largely from China and is about 5000 years old.
Because of their abundance of proteins, vitamins, minerals and trace elements, algae and particularly
sea algae have become and still remain today one of the basic foods in many Asian coastal areas.

By means of their high chlorophyll content, algae are able to transform, with the help of light, carbon
dioxide and water into oxygen (O2) and organic elements such as glucose. This process,
photosynthesis, is the preliminary condition of all forms of life on earth. By keeping carbon dio-
xide from the atmosphere, algae also play an important role in reducing the greenhouse effect.

Algae influence our climate.

• Algae produce sulphurous gases, which turn into clouds in the atmosphere.
• Algae consume a great quantity of carbon dioxide on the surface of the water. They absorb carbon dioxide,like a pump, from the air and produce oxygen. Just the presence of the algae results in heating the upper layers of water and this plays a non-negligible part in rain formation.
• Without sea algae, sun rays would not be reflected but absorbed and warming which has allowed life to appear on earth would not have occurred.

Definition

Algae are plants which have neither flowers, nor seeds, nor leaves, nor roots. There are simple unicellular plants of microscopic size, measuring a few microns (a thousanth of a millimetre), but also giant algae of tree shape,with an organized structure, forming real underwater forests. Seas, lakes, ponds, streams, rivers, but also crevices, tree stumps and damp soils are the main biotopes for most algae families. Amongst algae two main sorts are distinguished : freshwater algae and sea algae.

Marine algae

The concept of thalassa therapy (Greek : thalassa=sea, therapeia=care) includes the medical and cosmetic use of sea algae, as also of other precious natural elements from the sea. The saltiness of the sea water plays an important part in the concentration of nutricious elements of the algae. All algae have nevertheless a large protein and iodine content. This iodine concentration is the main element which differentiates marine from freshwater algae, which are characterized by their quite low iodine content.

Absorption of much iodine can have unfavourable consequences in the case of certain thyroid gland illnesses.

One must therefore take this into account when using sea algae. In cases of lack of iodine, on the contrary, sea algae are highly recommended as a food supplement.

Freshwater algae

Apart from their very low iodine content, freshwater algae like chlorella are characterized by their particularly high concentration of essential substances (pp.15 to 22). Their supply of protein particularly is priceless, as proteins are necessary for cell and body tissue regeneration. Freshwater algae are specially good for cultivation, because they multiply and reproduce at a crazy rate. 

The freshwater alga, chlorella pyrenoidosa, the subject of this book, can multiply by 40 every 24 hours. Hunger in the world could be fought against at least partially by means of freshwater algae.

Eukaryote

The whole genetic material of eukaryote cells is situated in a nucleus protected by a cellular membrane. Human beings, animals, plants and certain species of algae, including chlorella, belong to the category of eukaryote organisms.

Eukaryote algae also have « organs » responsible for photosynthesis, called chloroplasts. The chlorophyll they contain is extremely dense and this allows effective exploitation of sunlight.

Procaryotae

As compared to eukaryote, procaryotae are primitive organisms in which the cells have no nucleus, nor cellular organs. The whole genetic material is in the cell itself, in the cytoplasm. The cynobacteria spirulina and AFA, which like many other bacteria and viruses are procaryotae, are often wrongly referred to as blue or blue-green algae. Cynobacteria are specialized bacteria which, like plants, are able to carry out photosynthesis, yet they are neither plants nor algae.

Spirulina and AFA

Spirulina bacteria are pluricellular organisms of spiral shape, measuring hardly 0.5 mm. They develop in saline lakes of warm subtropical regions in Asia or central Africa. The best known species is spirulina platensis. It contains 250 different elements, of which 70% are proteins, plus vitamins, minerals and trace elements. The blue-green AFA bacterium (aphanizomenon flos-aquae) grows in Lake Klamath in Oregon, United States. It contains much B12 vitamin, chlorophyll and phytocianine, the pigment which reinforces the immune system and is thought to protect against cancer. 

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