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Astaxanthin in Nature

Astaxanthin is widely and naturally found in marine organisms, including microalgae, crustaceans, salmon, and trout. It’s the substance that gives these marine animals their distinct color.

Animals have adapted to exploit the health benefits of astaxanthin. Astaxanthin is believed to protect microalgae from environmental stress. Salmon accumulate astaxanthin from their diet and store it in their muscle tissue; astaxanthin is believed to protect salmon from oxidative stress when they swim upstream to spawn – a taxing and traumatic event.

Identification and Study

Richard Kuhn

Richard Kuhn

In 1938, Richard Kuhn identified and isolated astaxanthin from lobster. Kuhn had setup a laboratory on the banks of the Neckar River in Germany and quickly established his reputation as a leading experimentalist in organic chemistry. Astaxanthin was one of the earliest carotenoids to be examined by the broader research community.

Noting that astaxanthin was found to improve animal health and vitality, further scientific study ensued. To date, over 1,000 peer-reviewed papers exploring astaxanthin have been published in scientific journals. More than 50 peer-reviewed papers have been published by Cardax team members, ten of which appeared in The American Journal of Cardiology.


Humans have been consuming a diverse array of sea life, including astaxanthin, for many thousands of years, but only recently have we been able to reap the benefits of astaxanthin through supplementation.

Agricultural production of astaxanthin typically comes from the following sources:

  • Krill: ~120 PPM astaxanthin
  • Arctic shrimp: ~1,200 PPM astaxanthin
  • Yeast (phaffia yeast): 10,000 PPM astaxanthin
  • Microalgae (Haematococcus pluvialis): ~40,000 PPM astaxanthin