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Members of a diverse group of eukaryotic, photosynthetic, and mostly aquatic organisms in the plant kingdom. They differ from plants because they don’t have true differentiated roots, stems, or leaves. Algae can be multicellular macroalgae; like seaweeds, or single cellular microalgae; like the microalga that makes astaxanthin, called Haematococcus pluvialis.

There are several divisions or phyla of algae that differ in their biology and nearest common ancestor, including green algae, red algae, brown algae, and diatoms. These classifications refer to their evolutionary history, and don’t always correlate with the actual color of the algae. For example, H. pluvialis belongs to the green algae division, but it can be either green or red in color depending on whether it’s in a chlorophyll-rich growing phase or an astaxanthin-rich resting phase. Even though H. pluvlias can take on that red astaxanthin color, it is still part of the green algae family.


Antioxidants are compounds that neutralize free radicals by donating or sharing an electron or hydrogen ion. Antioxidants are abundant in plants, and a fruits and vegetables are a good dietary source of antioxidants. Dietary antioxidants are needed when our body’s own antioxidant defenses can’t keep up with free radical accumulation. Free radical levels can increase in many situations, such as during high endurance exercise, environmental stress, or with aging.


A highly colored family of yellow, orange, and red pigments with antioxidant properties, primarily found in plants. There are at least 600 types of carotenoid molecules known in nature, and about 50 in the human diet. Approximately 90% of all carotenoids in the human diet come from fruits and vegetables, but astaxanthin is not one of them. Instead astaxanthin can be found in red seafoods, including salmon, lobster, prawn, crab, and caviar.

Free Radicals

Free radicals are unstable and highly reactive molecules with an unpaired electron. They react with and damage cellular proteins, lipids, carbohydrates, and DNA by stealing an electron or hydrogen ion.

Free radicals are formed in our bodies every day as natural byproducts of cellular metabolism, and environmental exposure. If free radical levels exceed the body’s antioxidant capacity, they can lead to oxidative stress and damage over time.

Haematococcus pluvialis

A freshwater green microalgal species found around the world, adapted for growth in shallow waters. In its active growth phase, H. pluvialis is green in color. When exposed to UV-induced accumulation of free radicals, H. pluvialis initiates production of astaxanthin, which turns the algal cells a vibrate red color. This alga natively produces high quantities of the antioxidant, astaxanthin, and lends itself to large scale cultivation for commercial applications of non-GMO natural astaxanthin for nutraceutical and cosmetic products.


A type of chemical reaction that leads to loss of electrons. One familiar example is oxidation of iron that causes rust buildup and corrosion. Non-metals, including cellular proteins, lipids, carbohydrates, and DNA can also be oxidized by free radicals. A buildup of oxidative damage to cells can affect energy production, skin health, eye health, immune health, cardiovascular health, and cognitive function. Dietary antioxidants work together with the body’s own antioxidant enzymes to quench excess free radicals. 

Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC)

A lab test developed by scientists at the National Institute on Aging that is used to measure the total antioxidant capacity of nutrients in a test tube. It is a good way to compare the free radical quenching activity of different antioxidants, but it doesn’t necessarily correlate with antioxidant activity in the body because the ORAC test doesn’t account for how well the antioxidant is absorbed or metabolized. Clinical studies looking at biological markers of oxidative stress help to address these limitations of the ORAC assay, but they are more difficult to perform and standardize.

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