Medical uses of algae

Algae have been used for centuries, especially in Asian countries, as a remedy to cure or prevent various physical ailments. Scientific research has established a connection between these nutrient-rich sea plants and the body's immune system response. It all started when intensive studies of marine life began in the 1970s to locate potential sources of pharmacologically active agents (Baba et al. 1988). Researchers found that algae contain a remarkable amount of components valuable for human health. According to Baba (1988), algae are beneficial in the following ways:
1. It is a complete protein with essential amino acids (unlike most plant foods) that are involved in major metabolic processes such as energy and enzyme production.
2. It contains high amounts of simple and complex carbohydrates which provide the body with a source of additional fuel. In particular, the sulfated complex carbohydrates are thought to enhance the immune system's regulatory response.
3. It contains an extensive fatty acid profile, including Omega 3 and Omega 6. These essential fatty acids also play a key role in the production of energy.
4. It has an abundance of vitamins, minerals, and trace elements in naturally-occurring synergistic design.
With all these benefits, it is no wonder why extensive research is being conducted on algae as a medical treatment. Three specific treatments that have been tested will be discussed.
One medical use of marine algae is for the treatment of Herpes Simplex Viruses. The drug Acyclovir (ACV) is commonly used for treatment of herpes, but it, like many medications, results in undesirable symptoms (Field & Biron 1994). ACV has induced the emergence of drug-resistant viruses and can lower immune activity, causing even more illnesses (Field & Biron 1994). These findings made it necessary to find new sources of anti-herpetic treatments, one being marine algae. Marine algae, which are a source of potential c…

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