You’ve heard of spirulina and wheatgrass – often deemed to be the green superfoods with great health benefits. However, have you heard of Euglena? Cultivated on the pristine shores of Okinawa, Japan, this largely unheard-of species of microscopic algae contains 59 essential nutrients needed by our bodies for optimal health and is a rare organism that combines both plant and animal cell characteristics to efficiently absorb nutrients.
The discovery of Euglena
Although Euglena evolved more than 500 million years ago, it was discovered only in the 1660s by Dutchman Antoni van Leeuwenhoek. In the 1950s, researchers conducted studies on photosynthesis using Euglena which American scientist Melvin Calvin won a a Nobel Prize in Chemistry for. In the 1990s where this research was expanded to the fields of food products, medicine, CO2 fixation and other uses in Japan as well as in cities around the world.
However, nobody was able to reach commercial production of Euglena due to difficulties encountered in mass cultivation, particularly since it is at the bottom of the food chain and therefore, vulnerable to foreign organisms. Extensive studies were done by researchers in Japan to achieve large scale cultivation and Euglena Co. Ltd finally became the first in the world to successfully cultivate Euglena in 2005.
What exactly is Euglena?
Euglena belongs to the algae family along with kelp and seaweed. It has been supporting life on earth since the pre-historic era. Among its bounty of nutrients are 14 vitamins such as Vitamins C & D, 9 minerals such as Iron & Calcium, 18 amino acids such as Lysine & Alanine, 11 unsaturated fatty acids such as DHA & EPA and 7 others – Chlorophyll & Paramylon (β-glucan) to name a few.
As a plant-animal hybrid, Euglena is rich in nutrients in both folic acid and fibre, which are frequently found in vegetables, together with omega oils and vitamin B1 which are frequently found in animals products such as meat and fish. That is why it is considered a superfood but it also has environmental applications including water treatment, reduction in carbon dioxide and even biofuel as an alternative to fossil fuels.
Health benefits of Euglena
Euglena drink which contains a mixture of Euglena with fruit and vegetable juices
As a food supplement, Euglena contains a unique naturally occurring compound called Paramylon (β- glucan) which helps remove undesirable substances like fats and cholesterol, enhances the immune system, and reduces the level of uric acid in the blood. It is a non-digestible dietary fibre with a sponge-like structure for detoxification and composed of β-1, 3-glucan for immune support. Euglena has a notable biological characteristic which is its absence of a cell wall. Its cell is surrounded by a membrane mainly made of protein, resulting in its high nutritional value and efficient nutrient absorption to boost and restore cellular activity. Euglena is recommended for regulating bowel movements, improving energy levels and supplementing those who have no time to prepare nutritious meals.
For those in Singapore, the Euglena P-3 supplements (S$120 incl. GST) are currently available online at HealthPro or at the following shops:
- Aesthetic & Medical Clinic
- Dr JS Medical Clinic
- The Nutrition Practice
- Life Giving Sciences
- Nishino Pharmacy (Iseton Scotts, Iseton Westgate, Takashimaya S.C. and Liang Court)
- Welcia-BHG Pharmacy (Bugis Junction)
Skincare range with Euglena as their key ingredient
As a component in cosmetics and beauty products, Euglena helps to make skin smoother, more elastic and radiant. With the development of RejunaTM, a cosmetic extract synthesised through the hydrolysis of Euglena by means of enzymes, this ingredient abounding in vitality and nutrition has highly notable effects. It increases the production of dermal fibroblasts, which provides additional defences against ultraviolet light and helps keep skin looking youthful. It also triggers the formation of collagen, an important element for resilient and anti-ageing skincare. Euglena is also used in hair and scalp care products to restore damaged hair, provide moisture and bounce to create luscious and healthy looking hair.
There are plans to bring in the other food and beauty products into Singapore, and perhaps then Euglena will soon be recognised as yet another superfood!
Photo credits: Euglena Co. Ltd