Astaxanthin is my go-to summer supplement, and it’s often called nature’s strongest antioxidant. It is a potent naturally occurring carotenoid found in foods like salmon and krill.
There are many well-researched reasons for taking this supplement, but I take it for one very noticeable benefit: sun protection.
My results have been drastic. Before supplementing, I could burn after just 15 minutes in the sun. Now, I can handle moderate (and healthy) sun exposure without burning at all.
I guess you could say I eat my sunscreen!
What Is Astaxanthin?
Astaxanthin (pronounced asta-zan-thin) is a naturally occurring carotenoid found in seafood and sea life, like crustaceans and microalgae. According to the Linus Pauling Institute, carotenoids are a class of over 750 richly colored molecules synthesized by plants, algae, and photosynthetic bacteria.
Carotenoids are responsible for the bright colors of plants and vegetables. While you probably knew that beta carotene is orange, astaxanthin is responsible for the red colors seen in flamingos, salmon (especially sockeye salmon), and krill. Interesting fact, it is the higher astaxanthin content that gives wild-caught salmon a brighter red color than their farmed counterparts.
Astaxanthin is one of the most powerful carotenoids. It is produced in nature as a protectant itself from the effects of losing its nutrient supply and to stay alive. This explains why it’s found in very high amounts in salmon. They need it for the endurance to swim upstream!
Plus, astaxanthin is an incredibly potent antioxidant. While other types of antioxidants can become pro-oxidant, or harmful, during the digestive process, astaxanthin retains its broad range of health benefits.
Top 5 Benefits of Astaxanthin
While I take astaxanthin mainly for its protective effects against the sun, there are lots of amazing benefits of this super antioxidant.
Here are the top five ways your immune system and other bodily functions may benefit:
Fights Pain and Inflammation
If you thought vitamin C was a powerful antioxidant, consider this: astaxanthin is shown to be up to 6,000 times as potent! All antioxidants can fight free radicals to help reduce inflammation, but astaxanthin offers several unique properties that make it especially beneficial.
First, it has a unique ability to cross the blood-brain barrier. Animal studies show that this can help reduce neuroinflammation and might be protective against certain brain injuries. This might also be helpful for those with Alzheimer’s Disease or other cognitive diseases.
Taking this dietary supplement might increase your eye health as well. Astaxanthin can also cross the blood-retinal barrier to directly reduce inflammation in the eyes.
Astaxanthin also might also offer general pain relief for things like joint inflammation, especially carpal tunnel syndrome and rheumatoid arthritis. It’s also great for soothing muscle soreness and sports injuries.
If your workout routine needs a boost (or if you’re suffering from muscle damage), you might want to consider supplementing with astaxanthin.
Athletes are especially likely to see positive effects from taking this supplement. One clinical trial of healthy paramedic students found that taking astaxanthin for six months significantly increased the number of squats they could do — up to three times as much as the placebo group.
In addition to boosting strength and endurance, astaxanthin’s ability to fight free radicals helps speed up recovery time. In other words, the lack of muscle soreness after exercising might also play a role in its ability to increase strength and endurance.
Protects Against Sun Damage
One of the main reasons I started taking astaxanthin is because of its impressive sun-protective benefits. It works by reducing the UVA damage to skin cells from the inside. I am naturally fair skinned and this supplement allows me to get healthy sun exposure without burning or getting freckles.
Astaxanthin’s unique sun protective properties come from the algae Haematococcus pluvialis, which creates this pigment as a protection from the heat and sun to save itself when it loses its water supply. Similarly, astaxanthin works as an internal sunscreen for humans and gives skin a subtle, natural reddish-brown pigment while it protects against DNA damage.
Getting a sunburn means your body is suffering through a type of inflammation. If there are other sources of inflammation in the body, your skin is more likely to burn. My lab results found that since taking astaxanthin regularly and eating an anti-inflammatory diet, I have lower levels of inflammation and I tan more easily without burning.
Plus, the extra boost in skin moisture from taking astaxanthin doesn’t hurt!
In case you’re wondering, here’s how to make your own natural sunscreen that you can use together with astaxanthin for superior sun protection.
Contains Anti-Aging Properties
If your beauty routine needs a boost, consider getting more astaxanthin. You’ll naturally reap the cosmetic benefits due to its antioxidant activity. Specifically, its ability to fight free radicals.
Since this pigment can protect our cells and DNA to fight against oxidative damage, it helps boost skin elasticity, reduces the size of age spots, and even helps smooth out wrinkles.
Research finds that after just four to six weeks of taking astaxanthin, participants noticed a reduction of UV-related aging and overall improved skin health.
Might Ease Cardiovascular Disease
Turns out that the antioxidant effect of astaxanthin can be beneficial to those with heart disease as well.
While more research needs to be done, recent studies found that use of astaxanthin led to a reduction in biomarkers of oxidative stress, which helped improve overall heart health.
Plus, animal studies find that eating an astaxanthin-rich diet can lower blood pressure in hypertensive rats.
How I Use It
I consider astaxanthin more of a food than a supplement, and I try to consume it as part of a healthy diet. I love seafood, so no problem there! Wild-caught salmon is a regular part of our diet, and we get ours here.
That being said, it would be very difficult to get large amounts from food. There are also mercury concerns with consuming high levels of seafood.
I’ve been using this supplement daily for several years, especially during warmer months when the sun is strongest. I typically take one 12 mg of astaxanthin each day, usually in the morning and with a meal or drink that contains fat, like my healthy coffee or tea.
For best results, start with this supplement well before summer to build up your system and prepare for enjoying the sun safely!Safety of Astaxanthin
Supplementing with astaxanthin is likely safe. Side effects might include stomach pain if you take high doses. You might also need to take more frequent trips to the bathroom, and don’t be alarmed if your stools are a reddish color.
Since there aren’t enough studies to prove that it’s safe, it is probably best to avoid supplementing with astaxanthin if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding.
The Bottom Line
Astaxanthin is a powerful antioxidant that can help improve your skin, benefit your heart and brain, and protect your skin against aging and sun damage.
I’ve found it to be helpful for me personally, but I’m not a doctor and can’t tell you what would work best for you. As with any other changes to your diet, be sure to check with your healthcare professional before starting astaxanthin supplementation.
Of course, adding a bit of extra salmon or krill to your diet can only be beneficial!
Have you ever taken astaxanthin? Did you notice any benefits? Share below!
Discussion (101 Comments)
Vickie- can u share what kind of krill/ha u use & how much?
I used to wonder about supplements, I mean the raw food “gurus” would say they were bad. But then I have heard of tons of research that was done in the 70s ans 80s that showed that wild animals get sick due to nutrient deficiencies and esp. mineral deficiencies. From this research many ilnesses in livestock such as MS have been cured with simple mineral supplementation but this hasn’t gotten through to the allopaths yet… they make too much money the way things are right now and there’s no incentive to do otherwise. The other thing that convinced me to take supplements was that I started to get early arthritis symptoms and other symptoms the last few years, even though I was eating “healthy.” Now I’m taking supplements (the right ones are ultra-important) and my back is getting better and better.
I’ve also been taking this for years and love it!
Thank you so much for covering this supplement and for the attached booklet by the Hawaiian Bio Astin manufacturer! I read it through & learned a ton. I’m on my second bottle of this brand & have not yet experienced tremendous changes (that are obvious to me anyway) or any of the stated benefits yet I’m committed to taking it for at least 6 months. I also appreciate getting the link to your brand of Thyroid Rx as I’ve been on Synthroid for nearly 20 years! Definitely time for a change.
I’m sure you are in the know but have you listened to Sean Croxton’s Underground Wellness.com Thyroid series?
I love your site & share your blogs, recipes etc. daily, I cannot say Thank You enough!
Katie - Wellness Mama
Yes 🙂 I’m actually speaking at it!
Can Astaxanthin be given to the patients suffering from Psoriasis?
Yes,you can give
I have taken it initially for sun protection, and definitely noticed benefits for endurance activities. I have done some long distance bicycle touring, with days of riding over 100km loaded with bags, and felt great all day. I am about to ride 1330km around Iceland non-stop in the Wowair Cyclothon, and your article has reminded me to get back on Astaxanthan! (And try chia seeds!) Thanks
I have been taking this for almost one year now and cannot emphasize how great I’ve felt.
I took a trip to South America and initially started taking it for my skin since I fair skinned, but the benefits were tremendous! It gives me a boost of energy and helped me not burn but tan beautifully while under the scorching sun for a month. This is coming from someone who always burns.
I highly recommend this!
Just looked up your daily routine and didn’t see this listed. Have you had to make other changes such as eliminating and discarding some natural supplements once you were diagnosed with Hashimoto’s? Would you mind linking the T3 and T4 supplements that you use so that we can research and ask our practitioners? Seems they only want to use Synthroid as the magic cure all. Thanks.
Katie - Wellness Mama
I’ll work on a follow-up post to that. This is the supplement I am on https://wpthyroid.com/
I’ve not heard of this supplement but as a very fair skinned mama, I’m very open to giving this a try. Do you tend to feel this is a supplement you can give children? I’m thinking in terms of my nearly 15 year old daughter who is also fair skinned but not always great about staying in the shade when she’s out of my sphere of influence.
Katie - Wellness Mama
I’d ask a doc. I personally would feel comfortable with my 15 year old taking it if I had one, but do your own research for sure
Yes, Yes Yes~!! I take a Krill/HA/Astaxanthin blend once a day and love the stuff~! It’s the one thing that really works for me in eliminating a little tendon/joint discomfort. The stuff works!!! I had no idea about the sun protection qualities, I was just desperate for some relief for exercise induced inflammation in a troublesome spot that I have. I tried many products before finding this one and I can honestly say that within 12 hrs of taking one pill—-pain gone. I’m hooked. It was my miracle cure. It’s incredible.
Do you mind sharing what brand of krill/HA/Astaxanthin you take?
I don’t mind at all, but I haven’t done my research, like Katie does, on this particular brand; all I know is that it’s the one brand that really works for me. The reason I got it was because I overheard a couple doctors talking about it (long story short) when I was out shopping one day. They were standing in the aisle in front of the product and discussing its benefits and sharing some success stories they had seen with some of their patients with each other. They did not know I was listening. 🙂 At that point, I thought I’d give it a try—I was just looking for some relief!! It’s one of the Schiff MegaRed formulas, but it has to be a specific one: MegaRed Joint Care. Just 1 small softgel daily. They make several different kinds so you have to look carefully, but this specific one is the one (Joint Care) that works for me. On the label, it shows 353mg of Proprietary blend of Krill Oil, Hyaluronic Acid, and Astaxanthin. I don’t know exactly how much Astaxanthin is actually in it, but it works.
I was thinking, though, that I would try Katie’s Astaxanthin suggestion when I finish my MegaRed bottle, just to see if there is a difference. 🙂 Hope that helps~!
That sounds like a good blend, but I don’t like the other ingredients in there unfortunately (color dyes are really bad for you and titanium dioxide has toxic effects on the brain). Dr. Mercola has krill oil and astaxanthin supplements that look more pure. Just an idea. 🙂 I think Dr. Josh Axe has some good supplements as well, not sure if he has krill oil.
I agree on avoiding food dyes. I order kirll oil and astaxanthin from here: https://wellnessmama.com/go/radiant-life/ and they are really high quality without the dyes. Mercola’s seem ok too, but I would personally not ever use or take anything from Josh Axe as I am not a fan of his products or policies.