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Red Marine Algae's Medicinal and Therapeutic Usefulness:
Over the last 25 years there has been an increased scientific understanding of biological specificity and its subsequent relation to the body's immune system. Current research on Dumontiaceae suggests a breakthrough in the discovery of natural immunomodulatory and antiviral agents.
It all started when intensive studies of marine organisms began in the 1970s to locate potential sources of pharmacologically active agents. In a search for anti-herpetic substances, studies of California red marine algae proved to be particularly interesting (Ehresmann et al., 1977, 1979, Hatch et al., 1979 and Richards et al., 1978). One study, conducted by Senior Research Fellow of the chemistry department at G. D. Searle & Co., Dr. Raphael Pappo, Ph. D., demonstrated the algae's beneficial effects on people with Herpes Simplex Virus I and II. Several years of study suggested to Dr. Pappo that the red marine algae assists the body's specific immune regulatory response and plays a key role in preventing the recurrence of the virus .
More recent research on extracts of red marine algae suggest that specific carbohydrates (sulfated polysaccharides) may inhibit both the DNA and RNA of viral infections and may operate both outside and within our infected cells (Baba et al., 1988, Mitsuya et al., 1988, Ueno and Kuno, 1987.) Work done in this area has shown that sulfated polysaccharide compounds suppressed retroviral replication and inhibited viral reverse transcriptases (Solomon et al., 1966, Schaffrath et al., 1976). A study done by Neushul (1990) showed that nearly all of the 39 species of marine red algae, including the family Halymeniaceae, also contained and exhibited an inhibitory substance that suppressed retroviral replication and inhibited viral reverse transcriptases. Studies by Nakashima et al., (1987, 1988) support the hypothesis that a common immunomodulatory cell wall carbohydrate, like carrageenan, is a type of heparin receptor molecule, binding to a cell and triggering a specific cellular response sequence. Carrageenan may also be internalized into infected cells, thus inhibiting the virus. It also may inhibit fusion between infected cells Neushul (1990), Gonzales et al., (1987) suggesting that sulfated polysaccharides inhibit a step in viral replication subsequent to viral internalization but prior to the onset of late viral protein synthesis. In conclusion, the research indicates that the polysaccharides act as an immunomodulatory agent.
Because of the severity of the present AIDS epidemic and the debilitating effects of Herpes Simplex and Epstein-Barr, it is becoming more important than ever to re-examine the antiviral and immunomodulatory effects of red marine algae.
Long term relief for Herpes? Alternative treatment may help!
Historically, there has been no long term relief for chronic sufferers of herpes simplex infections, let alone a cure. Herpes sufferers are seemingly at the mercy of this viral menace. Despite failure at the eradication of the herpes virus, success in the short term by temporarily suppressing its proliferation has yielded positive results. One such agent, acyclovir, a nucleoside analogue,has been regarded as the drug of choice by the medical community. However, as with most drugs, there are side effects. Are there no alternatives?
There are as many known factors which contribute to a chronic case of herpes, while other factors remain a mystery. Finding ways to stop or curb some of the known factors which predispose one to herpes activity can be helpful. Chronic herpes sufferers are well accustomed to the recommended restrictions in diet and lifestyle. Yet, even healthy individuals who seemingly do everything right to lead a herpes-free life cannot escape this relentless virus. So, what's next?
Treatment with acyclovir relieves symptoms, reduces the amount of infectious virus released from the sores and speeds healing. The treatment does not prevent subsequent attacks or diminish their frequency or severity. The effect of acyclovir in a herpes virus infection is to inhibit the synthesis of viral DNA. Prophylactic courses of oral acyclovir can have a modest impact on recurrent infections, but the cost of the drug and its potential toxicity over the long term do not justify such regimens in most cases. In the majority of cases for genital herpes, general recurrence patterns returned within 8 to 25 days after stopping long term use.
Laboratory studies suggest prolonged administration of acyclovir as a prophylactic or its prescription for trivial infections might favor the appearance of virus strains that are both drug-resistant and pathogenic. This concern over the advent of drug resistant pathogens, has recently come to pass. The NIB reported that a new strain of genital herpes (HSV-II) has evolved upon which acyclovir had no effect.
Given the drug like nature of acyclovir, with side effects included, herpes sufferers have sought a natural approach to prevent or suppress their herpes symptoms. The most popular natural remedy, sold in health food stores, are high doses of the amino acid L-lysine. High doses of L-lysine, which is an essential amino acid, have been clinically shown to suppress the proliferation of the herpes virus. Earlier research revealed that some amino acids increased growth in viral activity and others decreased such activity. Further studies showed that one could effectively alter the chemistry of the cellular environment by increasing the availability of a particular amino acid. In the case of L-lysine, inducing a higher concentration of L-lysine was shown to lower the arginine cellular concentration. The effect of depleting the existing reserves of arginine (a non-essential amino acid) combined with the presence of L-lysine effectively thwarts assembly of viralprotein coats. Without this vital structural component, herpes viruses cannot invade new cells. Potential herpes infections are thus temporarily aborted.
Acyclovir and L-lysine, although widely used, have provided variable success for its users. The fact that known side effects from taking acyclovir include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness and headache are not encouraging given that effective treatment of acyclovir requires daily use. Also, little is known about the long term effects and toxicity. One study showed chromosome damage when taking large doses even though low dosages are considered safe. L-lysine, once announced as a major medical breakthrough in the prevention of herpes disease, has its downside as well. Research has shown that a decrease in arginine lowers lymphocyte immune reactivity in healthy human beings. Essentially, an increase in daily intake of L-lysine has the net effect of lowering our natural immunity due to the decrease of arginine in the cellular environment (perhaps arginine, once thought non-essential is becoming increasingly essential for our own survival). The fact that it suppresses herpes simplex viral activity is significant, but not at the expense of our adaptive immune system. Neither acyclovir nor L-lysine are recommended for long term prophylactic treatment. Individuals seeking a dailymaintenance dosage to ward off herpes outbreaks would be ill advised to relyon L-lysine or acyclovir. Chronic herpes sufferers would be better off to investigate other means to prevent or suppress their herpes condition. Is there no hope?
Western medicine, armed with its infinite technological powers, can still help us. Many potent botanical agents have been investigated but never made it through the arduous process of drug approval. Difficulties in understanding the intricate process under which particular botanical agents interact within the human body has kept many useful medicines from ever reaching the people who most urgently need them. In addition, many botanical agents can only work in their whole plant form. They work on multiple levels and act synergistically within the body.
Although the actions of these botanical agents in whole plants (commonly described as herbs or medicinal plants) are difficult to trace and report scientifically, a close monitoring of clinical results by trained practitioners can be useful and show efficacy. Certainly, using our powers of observation to determine whether a particular treatment works better than no treatment, or better than some other treatment for a patient whose health status and history is well documented can be significant.
One such casualty of the drug approval process is red marine algae. Research on antiviral carbohydrates from marine red algae indicate a high potential for low-cost, broad spectrum antiviral agents. Further research into Red Marine Algae produced two patents where clinical efficacy for herpes I and II was clearly shown. The treatment was effective for treating subjects (e.g. human patients) both prior to and subsequent to herpes infection. It was used topically to alleviate symptoms associated with herpes infections or preferably systemic, by oral administration, to eradicate the virus and thereby prevent symptom recurrence. No side effects or toxicity were noted. This treatment, which now must be considered alternative, suggests a breakthrough in the discovery of natural immunomodulatory and antiviral agents.
Recent research and gathering of anecdotal evidence on the health benefits and antiherpetic action of red marine algae has yielded much promise. Its use as a topical has been further documented and thought superior to acyclovir. It was shown to be clinically effective against herpes zoster infections as well. Anecdotal reports from patients suffering from Epstein Barr (another herpes virus) and Candida have shown marked improvement in a short period of time through oral administration (systemic).
General health benefits show red marine algae useful in weight-loss programs and for lowering cholesterol and fat in the blood. It contains soothing, mucilaginous gels such as algin, carregeenan, and agar, which specifically rejuvenate the lungs and gastrointestinal tract. Once thought of as a liability that blocked assimilation, the tough cell wall in Dumontiaceae has been found to be invaluable. It binds with heavy metal, pesticides, and carcinogens, and carries these toxins safely out of the body. Contained within the cell walls are simple sugars called complex polysaccharides. These long chained complex sugars stimulate interferon production as well as other anti-tumor and immune-enhancing activity (improving activity of T- and B-cells). Other compounds in the cell wall are related to those found in friendly bacteria which fortify and strengthen our immune systems to fight against invading organisms and toxins.
Although the effects of long term use of an alternative treatment such as the red marine algae, Dumontiaceae, has not been clinically substantiated, edible seaweeds have been consumed for thousands of years and are considered safe, nutritious, and beneficial. The added dimension that science has uncovered surrounding its antiviral and immunomodulatory potential; opens up a whole new source of food that could serve to palliate or even hopefully cure virally caused diseases. Since most life derived from the sea, the novel idea that the ocean lies untapped as perhaps our greatest medicinal resource is entirely possible and may be critical to our human survival.
Therapeutic Application for Newly Discovered Marine Algae
Researchers in the mid seventies and early eighties were exploring rare algae that potentially modeled immunomodulatory activity in humans. Investigations revealed some thirty species which enhanced the immune systems's regulatory response and were shown to be antiviral. The more promising part of this discovery was the antiviral specificity of each species towards a variety of pathogens.
Current research on a red marine algae has exhibited promising results in controlling and reducing both Candida and Herpes Simplex Virus populations. Patients have reported a stopping or lessening of growth within the body. Researchers believe these special algae may serve as a gateway to resist or even cure many bacteria, fungi, or and viral pathogens.
Could algae, commonly known as ocean vegetables, be one of the most important new therapeutic food? Scientific research has only reinforced the medicinal and nutritional importance of ocean vegetables. Numerous cultures have used ocean vegetables to complement their healthy diet. Ocean vegetables were most commonly used to prevent aging and prolong life. Since all life evolved from the sea, we may think of the ocean as a vast nutritional soup that lies untapped as perhaps our greatest medicinal resource.
The powers of ocean vegetables has been sought for thousands of years for their ability to prolong life, prevent disease, and enhance life. Ocean vegetables contain ten to twenty times the minerals of land plants, as well as an abundance of vitamins and other elements necessary for proper metabolism. Each ocean vegetable exhibits a distinct nutrient profile and a selective nature for its medicinal use. Current research has now established a link between nutrient-rich red marine algae and the body's immune system response.
Our ability to survive in a hostile environment that may seem out of control demands that we take steps to recover our health and maintain our immunity. Therein ocean vegetables may be one of our most important allies in a changing world.
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