Does Irish sea moss have health benefits — and should you try it?
Irish sea moss is having a moment. Celebrities are talking about it on social media, and consumers are flocking to it as the latest nutritional miracle. The question is: Does all the hype translate to actual benefits to health?
What is sea moss?
Irish sea moss is a type of red algae found on the shores of the North Atlantic surrounding Ireland, Europe and North America. For hundreds of years, it has been used for medicinal purposes. In fact, it got its name because it was often used as a source of nutrients and food during the Irish Potato famine of the 1800s. Like a lot of algae, Irish sea moss contains high amounts of certain nutrients, including folate, vitamin K, iron, iodine, magnesium and calcium.
You’ve probably consumed Irish sea moss in products without even knowing it considering that its extract, carrageenan, is used in hundreds of food products (and cosmetics) as a stabilizing and gelling agent. It’s also often sold raw and it commonly appears as an ingredient in wellness-focused supplements, sea moss gels, Irish sea moss powder and skin care products.
What are the benefits of sea moss? Often touted as a superfood, proponents of the algae claim it can strengthen immunity, improve digestion and make your skin glow. It may even tame a sore throat, they say.
Do the health claims hold up against science?
Because of their high nutrient density, protein content and fiber, sea vegetables have often been considered “functional foods,” meaning that they offer health benefits that go beyond just supplying essential nutrients like vitamins and minerals. A study published in the September 2015 issue of Phycologia, for example, suggested that adding small amounts of seaweed to foods such as hot dogs and frozen pizza may help reduce rates of cardiovascular disease.
Very few studies have looked extensively at Irish sea moss. The ones that have suggest there may be a potential benefit associated with a healthier microbiota. A 2015 animal study published in BMC Complementary Medicine and Therapies found that sea moss may provide prebiotics — a type of fiber that acts as food for probiotics and helps them do their job better — that help boost gut health.
The nutritional components of algae appear to be somewhat dependent on the location where the plant was harvested. Scientists are still learning about how well we digest and metabolize these sea vegetables.
More is not necessarily better
Sea moss, when taken in excess, has the potential to negatively impact health. One of the reasons for this is its high density of iodine. In small amounts, iodine can help with thyroid health, but when consumed in excess, studies show that it may lead to thyroid dysfunction, including hypothyroidism and even thyroid cancer. Excess iodine can also be especially harmful to children. Iodine toxicity may cause nausea and diarrhea.
For anyone considering trying Irish sea moss supplements — rather than raw Irish sea moss — it’s important to remember that the supplement industry is not regulated, which can make it hard for consumers to decipher which Irish sea moss supplements are good quality and which ones may not be. A glut of online videos that claim to “help” consumers identify fake versus real sea moss can make choosing a good quality product even more confusing.
What’s the bottom line?
Irish sea moss has a high nutrient profile and may provide some benefits to your health. However, there is still little evidence to back up the health claims associated with most products. If you’re interested in using Irish sea moss to boost your health, it’s best to consult with your physician or a dietitian first. They can determine if Irish sea moss is right for you. They may also be able to offer guidance on how to use it and how to find high-quality products.
Kristin Kirkpatrick, MS, RDN, former lead dietitian at Cleveland Clinic and founder and president of KAK Consulting, LLC., is an award-winning dietitian, best-selling author and nationally recognized speaker and writer. Follow Kristin while she works to help people live longer and better @fuelwellwithkrissy, with the world’s greatest need in mind, good health.
Sea Moss: What Does Science Say About This Declared Superfood?
You may have heard about the sea moss “superfood” recently. It’s being touted by celebrities as an immune-boosting, skin-healing, digestive aid, but like most declared superfoods, sea moss has actually been consumed for centuries.
Although the research on sea moss is limited, there are reports of the seaweed possessing brain-protecting, immune-boosting and digestion-aiding properties. Plus, we know that seaweed is an excellent source of health-promoting nutrients.
So is sea moss all it’s cracked up to be? Let’s find out.
What Is Sea Moss?
Sea moss, also known as Irish moss, is a red seaweed with the scientific name Chondrus crispus. It’s been consumed by humans for thousands of years, found mainly on rocks along the North Atlantic Coast.
Today, it’s planted and processed in several coastal countries, including the U.S., China and Ireland, and used for its carrageenan content.
Carrageenan is commonly used as a food additive for its binding, thickening and stabilizing effects. It’s used in food products including almond milk, coconut milk, hemp milk, creamers, yogurt, canned soups and frozen pizzas.
Carrageenan is also an active ingredient in some conventional medicine solutions.
Sea moss is also valued for its algal polysaccharide, which is extracted from carrageenan and has medicinal and health-related properties. Studies propose that algal polysaccharide aids:
- immunity enhancement
- antioxidant effects
- antibacterial and anti-inflammatory activities
- tumor inhibition
- hypertension prevention
- high cholesterol prevention
- blood sugar control
In addition to its carrageenan and algal polysaccharide content, sea moss is also rich in:
- amino acids
The potential health benefits of this red algae are linked to its neuroprotective and immune-boosting constituents.
There are some potential benefits of sea moss, but the studies evaluating these effects have been done in labs or on animals. There certainly isn’t a clear understanding of how Irish moss may improve the health of humans, but the nutrient content in the seaweed is promising.
1. Aids Digestion
Irish moss works as a prebiotic, allowing it to influence the composition of our gut microbiota. It’s also a mucilaginous food that has a sticky texture and helps stool move through the gastrointestinal tract more easily.
In a study published in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, rats fed Irish moss showed significant improvements in gut microbiota composition.
Researchers suggest that, based on these findings, sea moss may help improve gut health and immune modulation. It was able to increase the population of beneficial bacteria and decrease harmful bacteria, including Streptococcus pneumoniae.
2. May Boost Neurological Health
Studies suggests that red seaweed may have neuroprotective effects because of its ability to alleviate oxidative stress. For this reason, researchers indicate that C. crispus may be a promising ingredient in pharmaceutical applications for potential novel anti-neurodegenerative drugs for humans.
3. Boosts Immune Function
Research published in Applied and Environmental Microbiology indicates that red seaweed enhances host immunity and suppresses the expression of what’s called “virulence factors,” or molecules that are produced by bacteria, fungi and viruses.
This study was conducted in a lab, but researchers concluded that its results suggest that components of C. crispus may play a health-promoting role in animals and humans.
4. Increases Satiety
When combined with liquids, Irish moss has a gel-like texture that is thick and sticky. It acts as a soluble fiber that helps keep you full longer.
Adding Irish moss to meals may increase satiety and, therefore, possibly cut down on the amount of calories you consume. There isn’t scientific evidence to back this up, but the idea is that sea moss works similarly to chia seeds and aloe in this respect.
5. May Have Anti-Tumor Effects
There are some lab studies suggesting that Irish moss has anti-tumor effects that are due to its algal polysaccharide content. Researchers don’t have definitive answers about why this occurs in lab trials, but they indicate that it may be due to polysaccharide’s ability to enhance the body’s immunity and improve its antioxidant activity.
6. Rich in Iodine
A study published in the Journal of Medicinal Foodfound that iodine in C. crispus is high and bioavailable. Both low and high iodine intake levels can increase the risk of disease, so it’s important to consume the right amount.
Iodine-rich foods support thyroid function, healthy metabolism and brain health. Your thyroid, for instance, must have high enough iodine levels to make thyroxine, a key hormone that works to regulate important, everyday biochemical reactions.
Thyroid disorders that may arise from low-iodine levels can lead to symptoms like sluggish appetite, heart issues, mood changes, weight fluctuations and appetite changes.
7. May Boost Skin Health
Sea moss is used in skin care products because of its antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. It’s also rich in nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin A and magnesium.
Using sea moss topically may help hydrate and soothe your skin, while fighting damage and infections. There isn’t any scientific research on the benefits of Irish moss for skin, but its vitamin and mineral content alone is promising for promoting healthy aging.
Related: Bladderwrack Benefits for Thyroid Health, Digestion & More
How to Use
You can find sea moss in raw, dried or gel form. It’s also available as a powder or capsule, and it’s used as an ingredient in some skin care products.
You may have a hard time finding sea moss at your local grocery store, so purchasing it from a reputable company online is another option.
Irish moss is pretty much flavorless, so it can easily be added to smoothie, juice and soup recipes. Remember that it works as a thickener, so it also works well in sauces and even baked goods.
Like algae, you have the option to supplement with sea moss pills and sea moss powder. However, keep in mind that the science on humans is lacking, so check with your health care provider first. This is especially true if you have hypothyroidism.
Risks and Side Effects
When consumed in normal amounts, sea moss is generally safe and may have health benefits. Excessive consumption of Irish moss, however, can mean that you’re ingesting too much iodine.
Too much iodine can cause thyroid disorders, so you need to be careful not to take in too much of the nutrient. If you have Hashimoto’s, thyroiditis or other issues related to hypothyroidism, speak to your doctor about limiting iodine foods.
- Sea moss, or Irish moss, is a red seaweed that was originally harvested from rocks along the North Atlantic Coast.
- For thousands of years, sea moss has been used to boost immune function and aid digestion. Today, it’s cultivated in many countries for its potential health benefits.
- There aren’t many studies involving Irish moss on humans, but lab and animal studies suggest that it may help boost brain function, aid digestion, promote thyroid health and support immune function.
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Our sea moss gel is organic and wild crafted from the coast of St. Lucia. Our gold premium is blended with spring water, that is it! Sea moss is one of the most powerful plants and highest mineral dense superfoods on the entire planet. It contains 92 out of the 102 minerals that our body needs. It also contains anti bacterial & anti viral properties. Additionally, it promotes a healthy thyroid, improves metabolism, promotes great digestion, eliminates excessive mucus in the body, supports the immune system, and increases energy.
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Quantity: One 12oz jar of premium gold sea moss gel
The statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drugs Administration. This product is not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease.
Does Sea Moss Have Health Benefits? Here's What a Nutritionist Says
Seaweed has long been touted as a superfood, and now sea moss, sometimes called Irish sea moss or Irish moss, has entered the wellness lexicon. Proponents have claimed that sea moss does everything from boost immunity and soothe digestion to strengthen joints and improve skin health. So does sea moss actually live up to the hype? Here are five things you should know about this trendy ingredient.
Sea moss isn’t new
Sea moss is a type of algae, which has been part of the human diet for thousands of years. In addition to being consumed historically in places like the Caribbean and Ireland, sea moss has been used medicinally in other cultures for decades, to treat conditions ranging from coughs and infections to low libido.
The benefits aren’t well researched
The research is scant on the effectiveness and safety of sea moss for various health outcomes. This includes a lack of knowledge about potential side effects; interactions with medications, herbs, or other supplements; proper dosage; and precautions based on various medical conditions. Studies on the benefits of sea moss for diseases like cancer and Alzheimer’s as well as how it impacts immunity have been conducted in labs or with animals, and they haven’t use standardized forms of sea moss. This leaves unanswered questions about the ideal use of sea moss for humans.
There’s a lot we don’t know
While there is a growing interest in algae as a functional food—a food with benefits beyond the nutrients it contains—there are many variables to consider. Algae may be rich in minerals and antioxidants, but the digestibility and bioavailability of nutrients isn’t well understood. In other words, how much nutrition is absorbed from the digestive tract into the bloodstream, and how accessible and usable are those nutrients to our cells? Other question marks include the variability of nutrient levels based on where and how the algae is grown, and issues related to potential contamination with heavy metals or other environmental toxins.
You can consume too much
Sea moss is likely a rich source of iodine. (Although as mentioned above, the levels may vary.) This essential mineral helps produce thyroid hormones. The goal with iodine is to consume a just-right amount, as both too little and too much can throw thyroid hormones out of whack. So yes, you can get too much of a good thing, and more isn’t better. If you consume sea moss, be careful not to overdo it.
It may be a supplement rather than a food
Sea moss is sold in several forms, including dried, ground, or in pills or droppers. Sea moss products sold as a dietary supplements aren’t regulated in the same way as prescription drugs. They do not have to be proven to be effective or safe before they are marketed. And there is largely no way of knowing if what is stated on the label is precisely what’s in the product.
This isn’t to say that supplements shouldn’t be used. I believe many are beneficial, but it’s important to use caution, and to take supplements with the guidance of your doctor or a dietitian who can recommend the right form, dose, frequency, and length of use, or identify any potential precautions to be aware of.
Bottom line: Adding some sea moss to an occasional smoothie or a plant-based pudding (note: sea moss has a natural thickening property) is probably fine, and may offer some nutritional advantages. But don’t overdo it, count on it as a cure all, or blindly accept all of the claims about its benefits, particularly from those profiting from its sale. Most importantly, seek out an independent expert before you incorporate any supplements into your daily or regular routine.
Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD, is Health's contributing nutrition editor, a New York Times best-selling author, and a private practice performance nutritionist who has consulted for five professional sports teams.
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Superfood sea moss
Sea Moss: Is It the Superfood of the Sea?
A few years back, people decided that eating more seaweed and certain types of nutrient-rich algae was the new key to 21st-century eating. Now, all of a sudden, sea moss has been added to this list of ocean-borne, plant-based superfoods. But what is sea moss, anyway, and why are nutritionists suddenly going gaga over this spiny marine vegetable?
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What is sea moss?
Sea moss is a type of seaweed that is generally harvested for its use in supplements and other commercial products like baked goods and cosmetics. According to ScienceDirect, sea moss is readily available, growing year-round in inlets and tide pools along the rocky Atlantic coasts that line European and American shorelines.
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Also known as intertidal seaweed, Irish moss, or red seaweed, sea moss actually comes in a variety of colors including red, brown, yellow, purple, green, and black. Sea moss’ spiny, sometimes slimy leaves, contain a gelatinous carbohydrate called carrageenan, which has been used to thicken stews and soups for hundreds of years. Nevertheless, its most overt uses in modern times seem to be as a supplemental, plant-based superfood.
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What is the nutritional value of sea moss?
According to Healthline, a 4-tablespoon serving of sea moss contains a slew of carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins, and essential nutrients. Each serving clocks in at a mere 10 calories and contains 0.5 grams of protein, 3 grams of carbohydrates, and no fat. It also contains iron, magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, copper, zinc, and iodine, which is good for thyroid function. The most common variety, red sea moss, also contains antioxidant compounds that can help reduce inflammation.
What are the health benefits of sea moss?
According to WebMD, sea moss might be beneficial for slowing the progression of Parkinson’s Disease, a degenerative disease that causes tremors, stiffness, and slowness of movement. Research indicated that sea moss regulated the release of α-synuclein, a synaptic protein that regulates the release of neurotransmitters.
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There is also some evidence that eating or taking sea moss can boost immune function, and is specifically useful in fighting off infection from bacteria like salmonella. Research has also shown that seaweeds are good at improving gut health by adding beneficial bacteria to the digestive tract.
Finally, studies performed on pigs have shown that seaweeds like sea moss are capable of lowering blood sugar. This is allegedly due to two distinct compounds called alginate and fucoxanthin which are usually found in certain types of seaweed. It remains to be seen if these compounds work the same way in human beings.
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Does sea moss pose any health risks?
As beneficial as it might sound, sea moss can present health concerns in rare instances. According to Shape, sea moss’ high iodine content can be dangerous to people with thyroid conditions like Hashimoto disease. Also, it should be noted that some folks have experienced itchiness, burning, stinging or irritation when either taking or applying sea moss topically, so it’s best to contact your doctor before you consider adding this product to your diet.
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How does one eat sea moss?
Sea moss can be eaten raw, or made into a gel and added to things like smoothies or other beverages. As a supplement, it often comes in powder or pill form, though you can get it whole through several online retailers. The reason that folks tend to add it to stews, soups, shakes, and smoothies is that on its own, sea moss doesn’t really have much of a taste.
This actually works in sea moss’ favor, because an innocuous flavor and prodigious health benefits make it a more desirable dietary supplement than something with a bitter or sour aftertaste.
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