(NaturalNews) Astaxanthin, a substance known to be the most potent known antioxidant, has a natural and scientifically proven anti-inflammatory ability. The fact that astaxanthin is natural and has no side effects makes it very attractive to people as a health supplement. The scandals and deaths associated with leading pharmaceutical anti-inflammatories make it all the more appealing.
Astaxanthin is a red pigment found in different strains of algae, phytoplankton and plants. Because these organisms constitute the base of many food chains, the pigments can also be found in some animals as well. For example, it is astaxanthin that gives salmon and trout their reddish colour; in fact, the redder the fish are the healthier we can assume they are.
When certain types of algae are under stress, usually caused by a lack of nutrition or too much sun, the cells of the algae accumulate high concentrations of astaxanthin for protection. Due to the protective abilities of the pigment, these algae cells can lay dormant for up to 40 years without food or water and still return to normal under proper conditions.
Inflammation is a first-response defence and healing function that becomes active before our immune system does. If our bodies cannot solve the problem with inflammation, then our immune system takes over. Inflammation can occur within seconds in response to some kind of injury or attack on the body. It is non-specific, which means that is does not matter what the problem is: your body always responds in a similar way.
Specifically, the inflammation process is an extremely complex and highly evolved system. In general, inflammation causes redness, swelling, heat and pain. These effects occur due to the effects of a wide spectrum of inflammation mediators that are released after a detected injury or attack. Some of the known mediators include prostaglandins, tumor necrosis factors, interleukins and nitric oxide. All of these different substances play a role in a complex, coordinated and balanced defence of the body.
One type of mediator, prostaglandins, are chemical messengers that can, for example, regulate the contraction and relaxation of smooth muscle to increase or decrease blood flow. Prostaglandins are generally made from arachidonic acid and two enzymes called COX-1 and COX-2. The biggest-selling pharmaceutical anti-inflammatories are extremely strong COX-2 inhibitors, which means they limit the production of prostaglandins and therefore ease swelling and pain. Part of the reason that these synthetic drugs cause undesirable, and sometimes dangerous, side effects is because it is very unnatural and unbalanced for the body to deal with the extreme suppression of a single mediator (in this case just one of the two COX enzymes) without affecting the balance of all the other mediators. Naturally occurring anti-inflammatories in foods we eat ease inflammation by gently inhibiting several inflammation-causing mediators, including prostaglandins, thereby calming the process as a whole.
Although astaxanthin is no where near as strong as leading pharmaceutical anti-inflammatories, it has been found to be one of the strongest anti-inflammatories found in nature. Several double-blind, placebo-controlled animal and human clinical trials have shown that astaxanthin naturally inhibits many of the known inflammation-mediators and therefore can ease inflammation and pain without any negative side-effects.
The red pigment does, however, have many side-benefits such as being the strongest acting antioxidant known as well as being extremely beneficial for your eyes, central nervous system, brain, skin and immune system and for increasing sports performance & recovery.
[Editor`s Note: NaturalNews is strongly against the use of all forms of animal testing. We fully support implementation of humane medical experimentation that promotes the health and wellbeing of all living creatures.]
Dave Gabriele, D.Ac, BA, is a registered acupuncturist, a practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine and a health researcher helping people in and around the Greater Toronto Area. He is the founder of Life Balance Family Health Care (www.balanceyourlife.ca), an organization committed to providing people with the information and guidance they need to make positive lifestyle changes. Dave has been a teacher of Chinese martial arts since 1997, including the arts of Taiji and Qigong.