Haematococcus pluvialis (Chlorophyta) is a freshwater, unicellular alga with a complex life cycle. The cells are normally green but under stress conditions (nutrient deficiency, salinity, high temperatures in combination with high irradiance), the green vegetative cells get converted into cysts with an increase in cell volume and pigmentation to orange-red, due to an increased carotenoid deposition.

Haematococcus is the richest source of natural astaxanthin, a carotenoid showing promising anti-inflammatory activity.

The alga’s rich nutritional profile of high amounts of antioxidants and other vital nutrients makes it a potential candidate for dietary supplements, cosmetics, animal feed and more.

Natural Astaxanthin from Haematococcus

Astaxanthin is a naturally occurring high-value ketocarotenoid pigment with excellent antioxidant effects, belonging to the xanthophyll group of carotenoids, or the oxygenated carotenoids. The hydroxyl and keto functional groups present in the ending ionone ring of astaxanthin are responsible for its uniquely powerful antioxidant activity.

Astaxanthin differ from other antioxidants in its ability to penetrate the blood brain and retina barriers. Therefore, it is believed to protect the brain and nervous system from neurodegenerative diseases (e.g. cerebral thrombosis and stroke) and aging.

Similar to other nutraceuticals, astaxanthin is also synthetically produced from petrochemicals. However, the astaxanthin so produced has limited antioxidant activity and with its varied structure, has reduced bioavailability (proportion available in the body for an active effect). It is also not in the ester form making the product unstable with reduced shelf life.

Natural astaxanthin thus possess an advantage over synthetic one in having other vital nutrients and carotenoids like beta carotene, increased bioavailability (stable structure) and increased shelf life (present in the ester form).


Nutritional Composition of Haematococcus

(Composition Content in dry weight)
Component Minimum Maximum Mean
Protein (%) 17.30 27.16 23.62
Carbohydrates (%) 36.9 40.0 38.0
Fat (%) 7.14 21.22 13.80
Iron (%) 0.14 1.0 0.73
Moisture (%) 3.0 9.00 6.0
Magnesium (%) 0.85 1.4 1.14
Calcium (%) 0.93 3.3 1.58
Biotin (mg/lb) 0.108 0.665 0.337
L-carnitine (ug/g) 7.0 12 7.5
Folic acid (mg/100g) 0.936 1.48 1.30
Niacin (mg/lb) 20.2 35.2 29.8
Pantothenic acid (mg/lb) 2.80 10.57 6.14
Vitamin B1 (mg/lb) <0.050 4.81 2.17
Vitamin B2 (mg/lb) 5.17 9.36 7.67
Vitamin B6 (mg/lb) 0.659 4.5 1.63
Vitamin B12 (mg/lb) 0.381 0.912 0.549
Vitamin C (mg/lb ) 6.42 82.7 38.86
Vitamin E (IU/lb) 58.4 333 186.1
Ash (%) 11.07 24.47 17.71
Astaxanthin (including esters) (%) - - 1

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