Sea moss is a type of red seaweed that is starting to become popular for its various health benefits.
As the awareness of this algae’s superfood potential continues to grow, many people are trying to incorporate sea moss into their diets to support overall health and vitality.
Modern research, along with traditional usage, indicates that sea moss may help fight against cognitive decline, gut dysfunction, heart disease, and many other modern-day diseases.
In this article, we will look at the health benefits of sea moss, its safety, and its history.
Table of Contents
What is Sea Moss?
Sea moss is a form of red algae that is found primarily on the shores of the Northern Atlantic Ocean in Britain, North America, and Europe. It’s scientifically known as Chondrus crispus.
Other names for sea moss include Irish sea moss and carrageen moss. It thrives in cool ocean waters.
This red algae is rich in many different substances, including:
- Proteins and amino acids
- Polyphenols and carotenoids (e.g. beta-carotene)
- Polysaccharides (including carrageenan)
Sea moss is also rich in various minerals, including iodine and calcium.
It’s also known for its rich concentration of iodine and omega-3 fatty acids.
Health Benefits of Sea Moss:
Out of the many different sea vegetables, sea moss has a large amount of research showing its health benefits. There are many studies showing the benefits of sea moss as a whole, as well as a specific beneficial compound from it called carrageenan.
Overall, research shows that there are a number of potential health benefits of sea moss, including heart health, enhanced gut health, improved immune function, antioxidant activity, and neuroprotection.
1. May Support Heart Health
The first benefit to look at with sea moss is improved cardiovascular health, which involves a combination of both direct and indirect mechanisms.
One study found that a polysaccharide-rich extract of Irish sea moss was able to offer significant anticoagulant (blood-thinning) activity, and was more effective than most of the other forms of algae studied. Since blood clots increase the risk for heart attack, stroke, and other cardiovascular diseases, it’s thought that Irish sea moss may have cardioprotective properties.
Another study found that Chondrus crispus extract inhibited pro-inflammatory signaling pathways that may play a role in many metabolic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease. It didn’t show a direct effect on cardiovascular health, but given the link between inflammation and cardiovascular disease, the researchers concluded this potential benefit.
Additionally, research on sea moss reveals that it has a high concentration of omega-3 fatty acids, which research shows can decrease inflammation and protect against cardiovascular disease.
Furthermore, a study in 40 people with cardiovascular disease found that supplementation with carrageenan, the main compound in sea moss, led to decreases in total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and the atherosclerotic index compared to placebo. Moreover, the carrageenan group showed lower levels of inflammatory markers (e.g. C-reactive protein) compared to the control group.
Summary:Research indicates that sea moss benefits heart health by helping to reduce inflammation. It’s also a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, which can play a protective role in heart health. Large-scale human clinical trials are needed to further verify these findings.
2. Mineral Rich
Sea moss is one of the most mineral-rich herbs. In fact, research shows that sea moss contains two times the mineral content of spinach.
It’s been reported that sea moss has a higher concentration of essential macro minerals, including:
Sea moss is also rich in various trace elements, including:
- (i.e. K, Ca, Na) and trace elements (i.e. Fe, Cu, Zn) than terrestrial plants
One scientific paper noted that by weight, sea moss has a higher calcium content than milk. Calcium is an important mineral for building and maintaining strong bones. The heart, muscles, and nerves also need calcium to function optimally.
Irish sea moss is also rich in iodine, a trace mineral that impacts many different aspects of human health. The body requires iodine to make thyroid hormones. These hormones control the body’s metabolism and many other vital health functions. The body also needs thyroid hormones for proper bone and brain development during pregnancy and infancy. Iodine deficiency has multiple adverse effects in humans.
Summary:Research shows that sea moss is rich in minerals, which are important for overall health and wellness.
3. May Improve Gut Health
Research indicates that sea moss benefits gut health due to its fiber and prebiotic content.
In one study, rats supplemented with Chondrus crispus in their diet had higher amounts of beneficial bacteria, such as Bifidobacterium breve, and lower amounts of pathogenic bacteria, such as Clostridium septicum, compared to the control group. Moreover, the rats that were fed Irish sea moss had higher levels of short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) and elevated immunoglobulins compared to placebo, suggesting further improvements in both gut and immune health.
In another study, laying hens who were fed Chondrus crispus had higher levels of beneficial bacteria and SCFAs, lower levels of pathogenic bacteria, and enhanced villi health compared to control groups. Enhanced villi health is beneficial since the villi are important for aiding digestion, absorption, and overall gut health.
Taken together, this suggests a multi-faceted improvement in gut health and microbiome composition due to taking sea moss, which is very important for other aspects of health too, including the immune system and brain.
Summary:Small-scale animal trials indicate that sea moss may benefit gut health. Human clinical trials are needed to verify this potential health benefit.
4. May Support Immune Health
It appears that Irish sea moss benefits immune health in a few ways.
In one study done in mussels, supplementation with a polysaccharide extract from Irish sea moss led to increased immune activity compared to placebo, with specific benefits such as an increase in hemocyte concentration and viability, higher lysozyme activity, and an increase in host defense peptides.
Additionally, research in roundworms has shown that supplementation with an extract from Irish moss leads to increased host immune responses alongside greater suppression of various virulence factors (i.e. it decreases the severity of the disease or infection).
Other research has shown that enzymatic extracts from Chondrus crispus offer antiviral activities without causing cytotoxic effects. For example, Irish sea moss may be able to protect against the Herpes simplex virus and other viruses.
Furthermore, many studies have shown that the carrageenan found in Irish moss has its own specific anti-viral effects.
For example, one in vitro study found that carrageenan inhibited influenza A virus replication and mRNA and protein expression.
And a critical review showed that different forms of carrageenan have antiviral activity against both coronaviruses and many other viruses, such as dengue virus, rhinovirus, and human immunodeficiency virus.
Summary:A combination of animal studies and lab research shows that sea moss may help to support immune health. Human clinical trials are needed to verify these findings.
5. Antioxidant Properties
Sea moss is also known for its potent antioxidant activity, which may carry over into other diseases, such as neurodegeneration and even cancer.
One study in roundworms found that extracts of Irish sea moss helped the roundworms have a greater tolerance to oxidative stress and increased their lifespan. Furthermore, Irish moss reduced reactive oxygen species and increased the transcription of stress response genes. The particular substances noted for these effects include fatty acids, lipids, and pigments.
Other research has found that Chondrus crispus extracts significantly reduce free radicals and increase total antioxidant capacity, while also inhibiting markers of inflammation. This same study showed that the antioxidant effects can be beneficial against cancer cells due to their cytotoxic effects.
Moreover, in vitro research has shown that carrageenan oligosaccharides have their own potent antioxidant activities and are able to scavenge a number of different free radicals.
Summary:Research suggests that sea moss has strong antioxidant properties. Clinical trials are needed to verify the effects of these antioxidant properties in humans.
6. May Benefit Brain Health
The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory health benefits of sea moss also play a role in neurodegenerative diseases, given oxidative stress’ influence on brain health.
Specifically, one study in roundworms showed that sea moss extract decreased the accumulation of alpha-synuclein, a protein linked to Parkinson’s disease. This same study also showed that Irish sea moss extract helped protect against neuronal toxins while offering antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, thus playing a protective role against Parkinson’s disease and neurodegeneration.
A somewhat similar study adds to these findings. They also looked at sea moss extract supplementation in roundworms, and found that this extract helped to reduce beta-amyloid build-up, upregulated stress-induced genes, and reduced reactive oxygen species, all of which highlight its antioxidant and neuroprotective effects.
Of course, human studies are needed to solidify claims of these potential health benefits, but this is still promising and potentially very beneficial, as neurodegenerative diseases continue to rise in the modern world.
Summary:Initial animal research indicates that sea moss may help to support brain health. Large-scale human clinical trials are needed to verify these effects.
Sea Moss for Weight Loss:
Sea moss has been said to help with weight loss. However, does sea moss help you lose weight?
There are no clinical trials linking sea moss with weight loss. However, it’s known that ingesting sea moss will increase iodine levels.
Iodine plays a key role in ensuring proper thyroid function. Iodine helps to regulate the production of the two vital thyroid hormones, thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). Getting adequate amounts of iodine is important for preventing low thyroid hormone production and hypothyroidism.
Improving iodine status could help to support thyroid health, which could theoretically lead to weight loss.
A case report of a woman with hypothyroidism showed that increasing iodine intake led to a host of health benefits, including lower body mass index (BMI), reduced cholesterol levels, and improved thyroid-stimulating hormone numbers.
A recent research review found that iodine deficiency could potentially be tied to increased BMI. However, the researchers noted that the results are inconclusive and that additional research needs to be conducted.
So, should one take sea moss for weight loss? The answer is “maybe”. As part of a healthy lifestyle that includes good nutrition and regular exercise, sea moss appears to be a beneficial supplement to add in to your routine. If you are low in iodine, it may help to support your thyroid, which could potentially lead to weight loss.
Sea Moss Safety:
Is sea moss safe for kids to take? Yes, sea moss is safe for kids. Sea moss is a vitamin and mineral-rich food that can help to support children’s developing bodies.
One thing to note is that sea moss contains iodine. Iodine is an important trace mineral that helps to regulate thyroid function. Too much iodine can lead to thyroid dysfunction.
The World Health Organization recommends the following daily intake for children:
- 90µg (micrograms) of iodine for infants (0-60 months)
- 120µg for schoolchildren (6-12 years)
- 150µg for adolescents and adults
- 200µg for pregnant and lactating women.
A safety review found that four grams per day of dehydrated Irish moss seaweed contribute greatly to the iodine recommended daily intake for children (25.7%). The researchers found that the consumption of seaweeds (4 g/day) does not pose a health risk for children.
What is Wildcrafted Sea Moss?
Wildcrafted sea moss means that the sea moss was sourced directly from the ocean. This is thought to be a more pure product since it’s straight from nature.
A non-wildcrafted sea moss means that it was farmed.
Most forms of sea moss available as supplements are from a wildcrafted source.
History & Traditional Use:
Sea moss has an interesting history, with documentation showing that it was used as far back as 1200BC in the British Isles, although there is some speculation as to how far back it goes.
More well-known is that Irish sea moss has been used since the the1800s in Ireland to treat chest and lung ailments, kidney problems, and burns. Moreover, Irish sea moss was used as a therapeutic agent for tuberculosis, pneumonia, and whooping cough, as well as to ease gastrointestinal symptoms.
Sea moss eventually made its way into the Americas as immigrants came over and carried their knowledge and practices with them.
And today, Irish Moss is a part of not only medicine and health but also the food and commercial industries, largely due to its carrageenan content, which has a number of health benefits.
How to Add Irish Moss to Your Diet:
With its many potential benefits, it’s important to know how one can actually get sea moss in one’s diet.
Irish moss is typically available in a raw, dried form, which can be used as-is or soaked in water overnight to create a gel. This can be added to smoothies or taken straight.
There are also a number of sea moss supplements available (sometimes labeled “Irish Sea Moss”), so one can take it in capsule form too.
Sea Moss vs. Other Herbs:
Sea moss is often compared with many other different types of herbs. We have put together helpful articles going over the most common comparisons.
Sea moss has a long history of medicinal use, and there is now growing evidence of its potential benefits for human health.
While more human clinical research is ultimately needed, preliminary research in animals and cell models shows that sea moss has many health benefits, including cardiovascular health, gut support, immune enhancement, antioxidant activity, and neuroprotection.
Thus, incorporating this seaweed into the diet is likely a way to add valuable nutrients and support many of the body’s systems.