The first human consumption of microalgae was started some 2000 years ago by the Chinese for survival during the famine. It has now been used for several commercial reasons because of its dense nutritional value in animal feed, aquaculture, in cosmetics and its high polyunsaturated fatty acid content makes it fit for use in infant formulas and nutritional supplements.It is abundant in phytochemicals, which are excellent for properties like anti-inflammatory nature, immune booster, analgesic, protection against cancer and cardiovascular diseases, and regulation of hormones. Macroalgae have been used to treat ailments like cancer, inflammation, arthritis, Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), bacterial, viral, and fungal infections. Eicosapentaenoic – a long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid is found in abundance in macroalgae. Also, Polar phenols like phlorotannins and phloroglucinols and non-polar phenols such as sterols, triterpenes tocopherols, and pigment are found as a component of macroalgae.
A common wildly found red microalga in Bali is Bulung sangu, which belongs to the genus Gracilaria. Ethanol extracted from Bulung is rich in carotenoids and chlorophyll pigments, which gives it a strong antioxidant and lipid-lowering power. Some researchers believe that the anti-inflammatory mechanisms of bulung are due to its antioxidant activity. Inflammation is triggered by disease-causing agents like cell debris, toxic compounds, pathogens, and radiation. And in the process of elimination and recovery, the body starts an inflammatory cascade. A known initiator for inflammation is free radicals, which do so by inducing oxidative stress as seen in certain cardiovascular diseases, cancer, and hypertension. Ultraviolet radiations are considered an inflammation stimulus and are well known for causing cancer, due to their ability to cause mutation in the DNA, while on the other end of the spectrum, UV radiations are needed for humans to mediate the natural synthesis of vitamin D and endorphins. A team of researchers at the Udayana University, Indonesia synthesized a cream using bulung sangu ethanol extract and then observed its anti-inflammatory after UVB exposure.
Maria Malida and her team used gas chromatography analysis for detecting phytochemical constituents of bulung sangu extracts and DPPH (2,2-diphenyl-1-picryl-hydrazyl-hydrate) assay for measurement of antioxidant activity of the synthesized creams. For studying anti-inflammatory effects, histological analysis was done using two variables, one epidermal thickness, and another epidermal erosion scores.
They reported that those creams prepared with 5 to 10% ethanol extracts of bulung sangu showed antioxidant activity by impeding half of the free radicals. Additionally, the application of ethanol extracts in the cream form on the skin demonstrated better protection against UVB- induced inflammation on the skin. The test of the extracts in the lab showed high antioxidant activity, with an abundance of n-hexadecanoic acid, which is also believed to be responsible for decreasing inflammation.
The findings of the study open a new hope for using bulung sangu as an adjuvant therapeutic tool for the management and treatment of inflammation and oxidation-related diseases. These results suggest a potential for its use in the chemical and cosmetic industry like never before. Future studies should be dose and potential related, with the emphasis on creating drugs specific for the diseases for humans.
bulung sangu extracts, ethanol extracts, macroalgae, sunscreen, UVB sunscreen, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant. Free radicals, oxidative stress, phytochemicals.