Sea Moss, commonly known as Irish Sea Moss, is one of the trending “superfoods” that may be the answer to glowing skin, weight loss and better digestion. But does this health trend have merit or will it join the long list of fads like celery juice and lemon detox diet?
Where to buy Irish Sea Moss in Australia
You may be able to purchase Irish Sea Moss in its whole form at your local health food store. They can also be found in local markets like Melbourne’s Caribbean Market.
What is Irish Sea Moss?
Irish Moss is a type of red algae that is found in the oceans of the Caribbean as well on the rocky areas of the Atlantic coast. Also known by its Latin name “Chondrus crispus”, Sea Moss has been used traditionally by a variety of cultures across Jamaica, Ireland and Scotland to improve health. In folk medicine, the red algae is used as an anti-viral to support the immune system, an anti-inflammatory and for its micronutrient profile.
In some cultures, the extract “carrageenan” derived from Irish Moss, is used as a food additive or thickening agent to make ice cream, yoghurt and cottage cheese. Others drink the superfood with milk and honey after it has been boiled with water.
However, these days you are more likely to find Irish Moss in pill or powder form used to make celebrity-backed superfood smoothies, skincare lotions and masks as well as vegan supplements.
What are the health benefits of Irish Sea Moss?
Considered one of the most powerful marine superfoods, Sea Moss is rich in nutrients including vegan protein, fibre, potassium chloride, magnesium, iodine, folate, selenium, calcium, zinc and phosphorus.
It’s the properties of Irish Sea Moss that have been associated with improved thyroid function, digestive tract health, weight loss, mucus membrane support, mental health and even fertility. We take a look at the health benefits of Irish Moss and why it has become one of the most sought after plant-based superfoods on the market.
One of the most talked-about benefits of Sea Moss is preventing and relieving cold and flu symptoms through its anti-microbial and anti-viral properties. Irish Moss is rich a source of vitamin C, zinc and amino acids – nutrients that are vital in supporting the immune system and preventing cellular damage. It’s also rich in potassium chloride, which acts as an anti-inflammatory and anti-coagulant breaking down phlegm in the mucus membranes and relieving congestion. So if you have a sore throat or a phlegmy cough it may pay to add the red algae into your whole food diet.
By acting as an anti-coagulant and soothing the mucus membranes, Irish Sea Moss also helps to heal and maintain digestive tract health. In addition, animal studies have found, sea moss exerts a prebiotic effect on the gut microbiome and may reduce pathogenic bacteria. This can not only improve the gut microbiome environment but also strengthen your immunity and enhance your mental health.
The red algae may also help to alleviate persisting acid reflux and the fibre content can help to regulate bowel function and reduce symptoms of gas. For some, Irish See Moss may have a laxative effect, relieving chronic constipation.
Kelp contains the thyroid hormone T3 precursor DI-Iodothyronine (DIT) as well as Thyroxin (T4) and Tri-iodothyronine (T3). Short-term dietary supplementation may help to treat disorders where thyroid function is impaired.
Sea Moss also contains high concentrations of iodine, the fuel of the thyroid gland, and the essential mineral, selenium, which is necessary for thyroid hormone production.
Irish Sea Moss is rich in essential minerals and vitamins that are needed for prenatal health. For example, the b-vitamin, folate, is vital for healthy development of the foetus and protecting against neural tube defects such as spina bifida. The iodine content also helps to support optimal brain and bone development during pregnancy and infancy and promotes normal breast tissue.
Edible seaweed also contains neuro-active properties which may offer a neuroprotective effect. Red algae, in particular, may be beneficial in slowing the progression of disorders such as Parkinson’s disease. As Sea Moss contains high amounts of potassium, a nutrient vital for the function of human body cells, its consumption may improve overall cognitive function and behaviour. Potassium-rich foods are also prescribed for depression, anxiety, agitation and fibromyalgia.
In addition, B vitamins are vital for the function of the nervous system and energy production, as well as reducing symptoms of stress.
Heavy Metal Detoxification
Sea moss may also be used in heavy metal detoxification due to the presence of the phytonutrient, algin. Heavy metals are present everywhere – in the air, water, soil, and food supply which can lead to toxicity. Even chronic, low-level exposure to heavy metals has been linked with a variety of health problems from neuropsychiatric imbalances and fatigue to organ dysfunction, infertility, headache and infections like candida. Consumption of Sea Moss may help to pull these heavy metals from the body’s tissues and reduce the toxic load.
The nutrient content of Irish Sea Moss and it’s health benefits for digestion and detoxification are all going to be beneficial for overall skin health. In addition, red algae is rich in sulphur which can help to relieve inflammation and reduce pathogenic microorganisms on the skin.
The addition of the vitamins and minerals such as vitamin A, vitamin K and omega-3 fatty acids are also essential to promote optimal skin cell function and keep your skin hydrated.
Are there any cautions of using Irish Sea Moss?
The research into Irish Sea Moss and its health benefits or negative effects isn’t substantial with mostly animal studies leading the way. There are however some things to consider when using Irish Sea Moss.
- There are valid concerns about the degradation of one of the active component of Irish Moss, carrageenan and how it affects our health. Carrageenan is extracted from the algae and used as a food additive to stabilise or thicken processed foods. It’s not the same as sea moss in its whole food form.
- For people with autoimmune thyroid diseases, like Hashimoto’s, too much iodine from any source can trigger hypothyroidism.
- While it is rare, you can consume too much iodine which long term can lead to the enlargement of the thyroid gland and inflammation. It is, therefore, important to consider how much Sea Moss you are consuming. However, iodine deficiency is particularly common in women.
- As with any nutrition supplement, it is important you are purchasing a quality product from a trusted source due to impurities, additives and poor labelling that could negatively affect your health. Read the labels and do your research!
- Beauty products containing Sea Moss can also be misleading. Be cautious of products that read “organic” as there is no true legislation around this when it comes to skincare and “extract” as this may refer to the compound, carrageenan.
One thing to keep in mind is that although there have been several animal studies researching the health benefits of Sea Moss, there is still a need for human-controlled trials to support these claims. However, due to the beneficial vitamin and mineral content, Irish Sea Moss is likely to be a good addition to a balanced and healthy whole food diet.
How do you prepare and use Irish moss?
Irish Sea Moss has a variety of uses depending on the form it is purchased in and how it is prepared.
If purchased dry, it is recommended you soak the Sea Moss in filtered water for a few hours to soften. Once soaked, rinse well to remove any sand or other impurities.
If purchased fresh sea moss, you’ll simply need to rinse it well to remove any sand or grit.
To get the most therapeutic benefit of Sea Moss, it is recommended you avoid cooking it as this changes the chemical structure of the algae in a similar way to fruits and vegetables.
In its natural form, Irish Sea Moss has a strong, seaweed flavour so it may be worth starting with small quantities or disguise it with other flavours as you build up a tolerance. Once prepared, the Sea moss can be used as-is or blended up with water to make a gel before adding to recipes for consumption.
You can try using Irish Sea Moss in:
- Casseroles and stew
- Salads and dressings
- Raw desserts
- Cakes and muffins
- Vegan nut cheeses
The gel of Irish Sea Moss can also be used topically to make skin lotions or facemasks.
Have you tried Irish Sea Moss? Let me know about your experiences in a comment below!