Astaxanthin is a naturally occurring antioxidant derived from certain algae.
Due to its oxidation-reversing properties, it can be used in the treatment and prevention of age-related memory disorders, heart and eye diseases, even cancer.
With its broad health benefits, astaxanthin could be an important supplement in your healthcare toolbox.
What is Astaxanthin?
Astaxanthin is a carotenoid, an organic chemical that gives animals and plants a particular color.
Specifically, it is responsible for giving salmon, shrimp, flamingos, and lobster their pink and red hues.
H. pluvialis is a microalgae that has the purest concentration of astaxanthin and is often used to extract the supplement for human use.
Unlike other carotenoids, such as beta-carotene and vitamin D, astaxanthin doesn’ t cause oxidation, but rather helps to discourage it by protecting cells from degeneration.
Its antioxidant properties allow for all kinds of health implications, from reducing inflammation and related pain, to fighting fatigue and treating Alzheimer’ s disease. It even has the potential for being a skin rejuvenator and sunscreen. 
Astaxanthin has been approved as a dietary supplement by the FDA in the United States and the European Union and can be purchased as a capsule or powder.
Some marketers advertise krill oil as a source of astaxanthin, but research suggests that there isn’ t enough of the antioxidant in the oil to have a therapeutic effect.
Believed to form better results than similar carotenoids like lutein and zeaxanthin, many tout astaxanthin as the most powerful antioxidant supplement.
With its wide range of health benefits, preventative properties, and origination within natural sources, astaxanthin could be great for your general health.
Other Names for Astaxanthin
Astaxanthine, Astaxantina, Dihydroxy-3, Microalgae, Microalgue, Micro-Algue, and Ovoester.
I prefer natural supplements when I can get them, so I was pleased to discover that astaxanthin is derived from a form of algae.
However, I have found synthetic formulas on the market. After a bit of research, I have learned that natural astaxanthin is more potent and has higher ratings among users than the synthetic version.
Be sure to check the label of your preferred brand to be certain it is natural. If it doesn’t list “haematococcus pluvialis” as an ingredient, it’ s synthetic and not worth your time, in my opinion.
Don’t make the mistake of ordering the powder form offline, thinking it is for human consumption. While the powder is a gorgeous red color, it’s actually meant for fish food and doesn’t taste or smell very good.
The capsule form has a slight smell, but no taste during or after consumption. I did notice that the smell can sometimes grow worse towards the end of the bottle, but I’ve otherwise haven’t experienced any adverse effects.
Astaxanthin takes a while to kick in, but after about four weeks I began to notice less pain in my wrists from my carpal tunnel.
My skin has developed a slight pinkish tint from the red pigment in astaxanthin, but I’ ll take it over getting sunburned every time I step outdoors with my pasty skin exposed.
I still get a little sunburnt if I stay out too long without sunscreen on, but it’ s less of a concern than it used to be for me.
If you’ re concerned about your skin and your overall health, I’ d recommend taking astaxanthin.
While some reviewers of astaxanthin report zero obvious health benefits, many others claim to have had good experiences.
85-90% of Amazon users gave various astaxanthin supplements a full five stars, though Amazon reviews can often be bought and are thus dubious at best.
Renegade Health reports that the potential health benefits are noticeable and that incorporating antioxidants into your diet is essential for good health. 
Benefits and effects
Antioxidants have a variety of benefits just by helping to keep our cells whole and healthy.
Astaxanthin, in particular, is useful in that it is one of the few antioxidant supplements that can cross the blood-brain barrier to work within your brain and eyes.
Some top benefits of taking astaxanthin include:
- Reducing Inflammation
- Helps with Eye Problems
- Defends against Cancer
- Protects and Heals Skin from UV Radiation
results from the breakdown of molecules and cells caused by oxidants and pro-inflammatory cytokines.
Cytokines are proteins that help oxidants do more damage by increasing their activity.
Inflammation can cause a host of problems, including carpal tunnel syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory joint disease, acute and chronic pancreatitis, and adult respiratory distress syndrome. 
By taking astaxanthin, you can naturally reduce inflammation, lessen the symptoms of your disorder, and relieve your pain.
like macular degeneration and retinal damage from sun and age can be reduced by the antioxidant effects of astaxanthin.
Damage can be prevented and reversed, allowing astaxanthin to treat both external and internal problems, like hypertension-induced stress on the eyes.
Astaxanthin could be used as a preventive measure for older adults who is experiencing eye strain and discomfort.
Defense against cancer
is another way that astaxanthin benefits the body. Studies show that free radicals can lead to cancer development, particularly if a person is exposed to elevated levels of radiation.
By increasing the amount of antioxidants in your body, you can help your cells repair and prevent cancerous tumors.
Research has also been conducted to determine if taking astaxanthin when a tumor is discovered can help fight cancer and reduce its spread through the body. 
Protecting our skin
from sun and aging can benefit people of all ages. In much the way astaxanthin helps reduce and prevent tumors, it also works in a similar way for our skin.
Studies have shown that taking astaxanthin works like an internal sunscreen, helping to protect the skin from harmful ultraviolet radiation from the sun.
It has also been shown to help reduce aging caused by the sun, including wrinkles, liver spots, and skin firmness. 
How Astaxanthin Works
To understand how astaxanthin works, we have to understand cell anatomy. Cells are made up of molecules that bind together, creating different structures that define the type of cell.
Over time, molecules can become damaged, causing them to lose the electrons that help draw the molecules together. Taking away electrons makes the molecules structurally unstable and can result in damage to the cell.
As an antioxidant, astaxanthin helps your cells remain whole by repairing free radicals, or unstable molecules which are missing vital electrons.
They do this by giving away their electrons to stabilize the damaged molecule. Astaxanthin is unique in that donating its electrons doesn’ t cause it to become a pro-oxidant, which encourage degradation of molecules into free radicals.
Because astaxanthin helps to heal molecules, it can treat and prevent disorders caused by damaged cells.
Cancer, Alzheimer’ s, and carpal tunnel syndrome are some of the health problems that can benefit from rejuvenated cells.
This process takes time, however, and many users report it taking 4-6 weeks to see benefits, unless using it as a sunscreen. Astaxanthin takes roughly two weeks to improve sun protection.
It is not known how long it takes for the effects to wear off, though some users reported that it took 1-2 days before side-effects went away.
The recommended dose varies from 4mg-16mg daily, depending on the brand and personal experience.
Age, health, and other factors can change the dosage range, though no hard evidence exists to offer specific prescribing information. Consult a healthcare professional to decide what amount of astaxanthin is right for you.
Though no known toxicity exists for astaxanthin, increased levels have been reported to cause an increase in side effects.
We recommend starting out at the dose prescribed by your particular brand, and increase in small increments as necessary.
Because astaxanthin is fat soluble, it should be taken with a meal to prevent stomach upset.
While astaxanthin has no known toxicity and common side effects are minor, there are a few rare ones you’ll want to watch out for:
- Increased Acne
- Lower libido
- Male breast growth
- Erectile dysfunction
- Lower blood pressure
- Reduced calcium
Some reports claim that astaxanthin can work as a testosterone enhancer in some users, but the results are not conclusive.
No studies have been done to assess astaxanthin’s effects on pregnancy and lactation, so pregnant or breastfeeding women are advised against taking it.
Due to the way astaxanthin can boost your immune system, anyone who is taking immunity-suppressing drugs should discuss the use of astaxanthin with their healthcare provider.
Avoid taking astaxanthin if you’ re currently on any medications for high blood pressure.
Astaxanthin plays well with other vitamins, minerals, and supplements, making it an easy addition to any stack.
Some users will add it to a stack as their ‘ overall health’ supplement, alongside other vitamins and minerals that target a particular need.
The only supplements we advise avoiding are other carotenoids, like beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin. Having too many antioxidants in your body can have negative effects and could potentially lead to cancer.
Because astaxanthin is fat-soluble, some users may introduce an oil supplement to their stack, such as coconut oil. The belief is that it will help with the distribution and absorption of astaxanthin, but no studies can verify if this is true.
If you prove allergic to astaxanthin, or are wary of the side effects, here are some similar supplements you can try:
is another carotenoid antioxidant that has been studied for various health purposes.
Unlike astaxanthin, it can convert to vitamin A in your body, a vital nutrient involved in immune function, eyesight, and reproduction.
The body only converts as much as it needs, however, freeing up some beta-carotene to do the tasks of an antioxidant.
It offers many of the health benefits that astaxanthin does, especially with cancer and heart disease.
- Can convert to vitamin A
- Orange rather than red pigment
- Somewhat less expensive than astaxanthin
- Can be found in orange fruits and vegetables
If astaxanthin isn’ t your thing, beta-carotene is probably the best replacement you will find.
is a yellow-pigmented carotenoid, often found in green fruits and vegetables like kiwis and broccoli.
Lutein is considered to be a good vitamin for eye health in particular and is also taken to prevent lutein deficiency.
Significant amounts of lutein are found in the macula lutea of the eye, further suggesting its role in protecting vision. It may also play a part in atherosclerosis, or the buildup of fat in arteries.
- Found in the macula
- A yellow pigment
- Especially good for eye health
- Less side effects than astaxanthin
Lutein may be a good replacement for astaxanthin if eyecare is a bigger concern for you over other health benefits.
is a carotenoid and antioxidant most often used for treating heart conditions, artery health, and certain cancers.
It is responsible for the reddish-pink pigments in tomatoes, watermelons, and guavas. There is some concern that lycopene may have adverse effects on prostate cancer, but more research is needed to confirm.
- Requires a higher dose of 120 mg taken daily
- Somewhat more expensive than astaxanthin
- Helps prevent heart disease
Of the antioxidant supplements on the market, astaxanthin offers the most overall health benefits with the least amount of risk.
It helps to prevent age-related memory disorders, cancer, and heart disease and is a natural internal sunscreen.
Taking astaxanthin may be an excellent way to defend your body from the effects of oxidizing free radicals and radiation while making your skin healthier and reducing the effects of aging.
Like taking a multivitamin to cover all of your nutrient bases, adding astaxanthin to your daily regimen could be the best way to ensure an array of health benefits.