• Science and news

Sea spice: Tetraselmis microalgae

Sea spice is used by top chefs as a high-end condiment for its uniquely pronounced seafood flavor and deep green color. Sea spice is a micro-algae, Tetraselmis, sometimes called marine plankton because like chlorella, spirulina and all micro-algae, it too is part of the large plankton family.

→ Presentation

→ Health properties

→ Physical and organoleptic characteristics

→ Use of the sea spice

→ Proven benefits: scientific bibliography

→ Composition of Tétraselmis eChlorial©

→ Taxonomy Scientific classification

→ Where to buy sea spice?


Tetraselmis is a marine microalga, unicellular with 4 flagella, about fifteen microns in diameter. The most widely used is the chuii species, named Tetraselmis chuii Butcher. Discovered by Butcher in 1959, some thirty species of Tetraselmis have already been catalogued. The two most widely used and studied species are chuii and suecica.

The micro-alga Tetraselmis chuii was included in the positive list of novel foods published by the European Regulatory Office in 2017. Its properties enable it to be marketed as a food supplement [*].

It has long been used in aquaculture to feed crustacean larvae, fry and small fish. Its lipid content, around 10% of dry biomass, has sparked interest in the development of algae production for biofuels.

Over the past twenty years, algae have also been studied for their beneficial health properties. These appear to be mainly linked to the carotenoids and polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) [** ] in which it is rich. On average, it contains 5 times more omegas than chlorella, which is already well endowed with omegas 3 (DHA and EPA) [***].

Health properties

Its effects are mainly attributed to its high content of polyunsaturated lipids (PUFA), notably omega 3, and carotenoids. Tetraselmis has the following properties:

– Antifungal
Skin protection, anti-aging
– Anti-inflammatory
– Anti-cancer

Physical and organoleptic characteristics

Dried Tetraselmis chuii comes in the form of a pretty green powder with a pronounced seafood taste. It is highly prized in culinary preparations and already used by some of the world’s top chefs, who are at the forefront of new flavors.

How to use dried Tetraselmis chuii

Dried Tetraselmis chuii is a food and can be consumed as a dietary supplement, thanks to the precious elements it contains. According to the official bodies that have accepted this new algae onto the positive list of novel foods, it can be consumed up to 0.5 g per day.

It is used in cooking to give dishes a subtle shellfish flavor and a natural green color. It is often blended with chlorella and spirulina for a combination of taste and color.

Proven benefits, scientific publications

Microalgae are natural sources of polyunsaturated lipids, particularly omega 3, which are invaluable for our health (Lee I Han 2015) [1]. Austrian researchers published in 2015 (Faruq Ahmed and co.) [2] a ranking of the microalgae richest in PUFA [**]. It appears that Tetraselmis suecica is one of the top 4 microalgae containing the most carotenoids, alongside Dunaliella salina, Isochrysis galbana and Pavlova salina.

These microalgae should see strong industrial development in the near future, thanks to the sources of natural carotenoids they represent. For the time being, they are already widely used in aquaculture, notably in hatcheries.

In view of this major challenge, researchers have studied variations in lipid content, particularly in omega 3, as a function of production conditions. It turns out that light intensity and salinity conditions are sensitive factors with regard to the microalgae’s final characteristics (Adarme Vega 2014) [3], (Mohammadi 2015) [4] (Mouna Dammak 2016) [5].

Tetraselmis has the following properties:

– Antioxidant (Banskota 2013) [6], (Amna Kashif 2018) [7].
– Antifungal (Amna Kashif 2018) [7]
– Skin protectant, Anti-aging (Carballo-Cardenas 2003) [8 ] (Jo, WS Cho 2010) [9]
– Anti-inflammatory (Jo, WS Cho 2010) (Nauroth 2010) [10] (Mobraten 2013) [11 ] (Ruairi Robertson 2015) [12]
– Anti-cancer: anti-apoptotic, anti-apoptotic, anti-angiogenic (Maeda 2018) [13](Spencer 2009)[14]

The anti-inflammatory effects ofalgae extracts have been highlighted by numerous researchers.

Mobraten and his team [11] demonstrate the anti-inflammatory properties of PUFA’s [**]. They conclude their studies by noting the influence of polyunsaturated lipids such as EPA, DHA and AA [*** ] on inflammatory processes. According to the researchers, knowledge of the actions of these precious lipids could help in the fight against inflammatory diseases, particularly those linked to chronic intestinal inflammation.

Canadian researchers have demonstrated the powerful antioxidant activity of T.chuii (Banskota 2013) (9). Korean researchers have also confirmed the antioxidant properties of Tetraselmis microalgae. Their results also led them to show the antifungal activity and tyrosinase (*) inhibitory effects[****] of certain water-soluble polysaccharides, extracted from Tetraselmis (Amna Kashif 2018) (10).

Dutch researchers highlight the protective effects of Tetraselmis suecica by the fact that it also contains vitamin E, recognized for its antioxidant virtues (Carballo-Cardenas 2003) [8]. Korean researchers have published results confirming the UVB-protective effects of Tetraselmis suecica extracts on the skin (Jo, WS Cho 2010) [9].

Average composition: Tetraselmis chuii eChlorial©

Per 100 g dry matter – (control method)

– Protein: 45 – 50 g (Kjeldahl)
– Fat: 8 – 10 g (Soxhlet)
– Carbohydrates: 15 – 16 g
– Fiber: 11 – 13 g (enzymatic gravimetry)
– Minerals: 12 – 13 (dried at 105°C)

Average nutritional values

336 Kcal – 1410 KJ per 100 g dry matter


per 100 g dry matter

– Total chlorophyll: 2,350 – 2,500 mg (extraction / HPLC)
– Total carotenoids: 750 – 800 mg (extraction / HPLC)

Lipid and pigment content

Polyunsaturated fatty acid composition [15]

Omega 3: 5.3% of total fatty acids (EPA and DHA) [***]
Omega 6: 8.1% (AA) [***]
Omega 9: 32.8% of total fatty acids

Taxonomy Scientific classification

Category: Chlorophyta
Class: Chlorodendrophyceae
Order: Chlorodendrales
Family: Chlorodendraceae
Genus: Tetraselmis
Species: T. chuii

Some thirty species of Tetraselmis microalgae have been identified to date. The Tetraselmis species chuii was discovered by Butcher in 1959. The two most widely studied species are chuii and suecica.

Where to buy Tetraselmis chuii ?

Sales of Tetraselmis are currently restricted to professionals. For further information, please contact us via our contact form.


[*] Les compléments alimentaires sont réglementés par la directive du Parlement Européen, transposée en droit français par le décret n°2006-352[1]. Ils sont définis, selon l’article 2, comme « denrées alimentaires dont le but est de compléter le régime alimentaire normal et qui constituent une source concentrée de nutriments ou d’autres substances ayant un effet nutritionnel ou physiologique seuls ou combinés …».

[**]  PUFA (Polymer unsaturated fatty acid) : acides gras polyinsaturés

[***]  Parmi les PUFA, des omégas :

  • EPA : eicosapentaenoic acid (omega 3)
  • DHA : docosahexaenoic acid (omega 3)
  • AA : arachidonic acid (omega 6)

[****] La tyrosine est une enzyme qui favorise la production de mélanine. Inhiber son activité revient à agir sur la production de mélanocytes donc agir comme agent dépigmentant. L’hyperpigmentation cutanée est un problème fréquent qui peut être amoindri par l’usage d’inhibiteur de la tyrosinase.

Références scientifiques :

[1]  Lee, I.; Han, J.I. Hydrothermal-acid treatment for effectual extraction of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)-abundant lipids from Nannochloropsis salina. Bioresour. Technol. 2015, 191, 1–6.

[2] Faruq Ahmed and co.,  Profiling of carotenoids and antioxidant capacity of microalgae from subtropical coastal and brackish waters, , Food Chemistry, vol 165, 15 December 2014, page 300-306

[3]  Adarme-Vega, T.C.; Thomas-Hall, S.R.; Lim, D.K.; Schenk, P.M. Effects of long chain fatty acid synthesis and associated gene expression in microalga Tetraselmis sp. Mar. Drugs 2014, 12, 3381–3398.

[4]  Mehdi Mohammadi and co.  Fatty acid composition of the marine micro alga Tetraselmis chuii Butcher in response to culture conditions. J. Algal Biomass Utln. 2015, 6 (2): 49 -55

[5] Dammak et al., Enhanced lipid and biomass production by a newly isolated and identified marine microalga. Lipids in Health and Disease (2016) 15:209

[6] Banskota, A.H.; Gallant, P.; Stefanova, R.; Melanson, R.; O’Leary, S.J. Monogalactosyldiacylglycerols, potent nitric oxide inhibitors from the marine microalga

[7] Amna Kashif S and col., Potent biomedical applications of isolated polysaccharides from marine microalgae Tetraselmis species. Bioprocess Biosyst Eng. 2018 Nov;41(11):1611-1620.

[8] Carballo-Cardenas, E.C.; Tuan, P.M.; Janssen, M.; Wijffels, R.H. Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) production by the marine microalgae Dunaliella tertiolecta and Tetraselmis suecica in batch cultivation. Biomol. Eng. 2003, 20, 139–147

[9] Jo, W.S.; Cho, Y.J.; Kim, H.J.; Nam, B.Y.; Hong, S.H.; Lee, G.A.; Lee, S.W.; Seo, S.Y.;

Jeong, M.H. Anti-inflammatory effect of microalgal extracts from Tetraselmis suecica. Food Sci. Biotechnol. 2010, 19, 1519–1528.

[10] Nauroth, J.M.; Liu, Y.C.; van Elswyk, M.; Bell, R.; Hall, E.B.; Chung, G.; Arterburn, L.M. Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and docosapentaenoic acid (DPAn-6) algal oils reduce inflammatory mediators in human peripheral mononuclear cells in vitro and paw edema in vivo. Lipids 2010, 45, 375–384.

[11] Mobraten, K.; Haug, T.M.; Kleiveland, C.R.; Lea, T. Omega-3 and omega-6 PUFAs induce the same GPR120-mediated signalling events, but with different kinetics and intensity in Caco-2 cells. Lipids Health Dis. 2013, 12, 101

[12] Ruairi C. Robertson  , Freddy Guihéneuf   , Bojlul Bahar  , Matthias Schmid  Dagmar B. Stengel   Gerald F. Fitzgerald    R. Paul Ross  and Catherine Stanton , The Anti-Inflammatory Effect of Algae-Derived Lipid Extracts  on Lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-Stimulated Human THP-1 Macrophages,  Mar Drugs. 2015 Aug 20;13(8):5402-24

[13] Maeda, N.; Kokai, Y.; Ohtani, S.; Sahara, H.; Kumamoto-Yonezawa, Y.; Kuriyama, I.; Hada, T.; Sato, N.; Yoshida, H.; Mizushina, Y. Anti-tumor effect of orally administered spinach glycolipid fraction on implanted cancer cells, colon-26, in mice. Lipids 2008, 43, 741–748.

[14] Spencer, L.; Mann, C.; Metcalfe, M.; Webb, M.; Pollard, C.; Spencer, D.; Berry, D.; Steward, W.; Dennison, A. The effect of omega-3 FAs on tumour angiogenesis and their therapeutic potential. Eur. J. Cancer 2009, 45, 2077–2086.

[15] Dammak et al., Enhanced lipid and biomass production by a newly isolated and identified marine microalga.  Lipids in Health and Disease (2016) 15:209

Note from the eChlorial team
We would like to stress that the people interviewed or who testify on our blog do so in all sincerity without any conflict of interest.


* required fields