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Sea Moss and Irish Moss: Everything You Need To Know

 

I first discovered sea moss, often referred to as Irish moss, while I was leading retreats in the Caribbean back in 2009. It was being used to thicken smoothies and milks, and even in custardy desserts. As I am a super nutrition nerd, I had to look a little more into this amazing sea vegetable.

Health Benefits of Sea Moss / Irish Moss

Sea moss, also known as Irish moss, red algae or Chondrus crispus, offers us a variety of health benefits.

Thyroid Support

DI-Iodothyronine (DIT), what T3 breaks down into, is found in abundance in brown sea moss and for this reason, it has been used as a treatment for thyroid disorders. Thyroxin (T4) and Tri-iodothyronine (T3) have been found as the main organically bound iodine compounds in several seaweeds.

Then, of course, there is the iodine, which is highly concentrated in sea moss and this is serious fuel for the thyroid. Selenium is also present in abundance and is a necessary factor in thyroid hormone production.

Mental/Emotional Health

Sea moss is jam-packed full of potassium. The cells of the body cannot function without potassium, though strangely our bodies do not have a mechanism to conserve potassium. Adding high-potassium foods like sea moss to the diet can significantly improve behaviour and mental functioning (especially for ADD children!). High potassium foods are also very helpful for fibromyalgia, moodiness, agitation, depression and anxiety disorders. Irish moss is also an excellent source of a range of B vitamins, which are well known for supporting the nervous system and reducing stress. This food is like a warm cup of tea with good book by the fire for the nervous system.

Additional evidence indicates that sea moss has a neuroprotective effect, shielding the brain from the accumulation of a protein called α-synulein that is linked to neurodegeneration and the development of Parkinson's disease.

If all that wasn't enough, sea moss contains algin. This phytonutrient has therapeutic value as a heavy metal detoxifying agent – meaning it helps pull heavy metals out of the tissues of our bodies.

Digestive Health

Sea moss has a mucilaginous consistency, meaning it can help act as a soothing and healing agent to all mucous membranes (great for external skin health and internal digestive tract health). Recent animal studies show that it has prebiotic effects as well, leading to an increased production of helpful short-chain fatty acids in the colon, a reduction of detrimental bacteria in the gut, and improvements in overall gut health and immunity.

Immune Support

Sea moss helps relieve and prevent symptoms of colds and flu – how perfect for the cold and flu season, but also for year-round immunity. Irish moss is a source of potassium chloride, a nutrient which helps to dissolve catarrhs (inflammation and phlegm in the mucous membranes), which cause congestion. It contains compounds which act as a natural antimicrobial and antiviral agents, helping to boost immunity and get rid of any infections. Hello natural cough syrup!

Cold, flu-like, and other coughy-mucousy conditions the moss helps with include:

  • Sore throat
  • Bronchitis
  • Pneumonia
  • Tuberculosis
  • Chest coughs

In addition, Irish moss is rich in amino acids, Vitamin C and antioxidants, all of which help to boost the immune system, support immune health and prevent cellular damage and destruction. It also has anti-tumor properties.

Health Concerns About Irish Moss: Carrageenan

I love Irish moss and don't like seeing it shed salty tears over the bad reputation it has gotten across the internet. A few years ago, a report from the Cornucopia Institute criticized food manufacturers for using carrageenan in organic foods, something they termed 'Organic Watergate'.

Carrageenan is a food additive that can be derived or extracted from Irish moss, but it's not the same thing as whole food sea moss. It's often used as a thickener or stabilizer in a wide variety of foods.

The politics around carrageenan begin on page 11 of the report, but I will summarize the issues with it here:

  • Carrageenan is derived from red seaweed.
  • Carrageenan can be classified as low molecular weight, “degraded” carrageenan, or high molecular weight, or “undegraded” carrageenan.
  • Degraded carrageenan is recognized as a carcinogen in lab animals, and is therefore classified as a possible human carcinogen” by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. (More recent research has shown it can also be cytotoxic in human cells as well.)
  • Degraded carrageenan also causes inflammation in the colon in rodents, which resembles ulcerative colitis, an inflammatory bowel disease.
  • This inflammatory property of degraded carrageenan is not in dispute, especially since the medical research community has used degraded carrageenan for decades to induce acute inflammation in experimental trials conducted with lab animals, to test anti-inflammation drugs.
  • Carrageenan processors claim that food-grade carrageenan sold to food processors falls entirely in the undegraded category. However, studies (including industry-funded studies) show that food-grade carrageenan is also linked to colon inflammation and colon cancer in animals.

So with the damaging effects of carrageenan, should we be avoiding Irish moss/sea moss altogether?

No, I don't think we should – because sea moss and carrageenan are not the same thing. 

Carrageenan is one active and concentrated component of the whole food that is Irish moss. And yes, there definitely are major and valid health concerns about degraded and undegraded carrageenan – which are mainly used in processed foods anyway.

To give you a few examples, we can take B-vitamin supplements that are derived from naturally occurring sources, or we can eat a cereal that contains synthetic thiamin hydrochloride (a synthetic version of Vitamin B1 that is derived from coal tar). We will gain different benefits or receive different effects from each. We can take magnesium glycinate, a highly absorbable form of magnesium, or take magnesium oxide where we may get more benefit from just eating a chunk of cement. We could run the risk of having birth defects in our babies if we take too much Vitamin A as a supplement while pregnant, but eating Vitamin A rich foods is perfectly safe as there is no way we could eat a great enough concentration of Vitamin A from whole foods to cause the harm that a single isolated component could have.

To declare that Irish moss should be avoided due to the harmful effects of chemically processed carageenan is a bit like saying we must avoid organic corn on the cob because high fructose corn syrup is toxic to the liver and leads to obesity, or to avoid white willow bark as an herb because aspirin (from which it is derived) can cause gastric bleeding, or to avoid coconuts because hydrogenated palm oil and sodium lauryl sulfate are bad for us. Comparing sea moss to carrageenan is a bit like comparing raw sheep milk cheese with cheese whiz, or fresh strawberries with strawberry Jell-O.

I have long argued in favour of the benefit of sea moss, and will continue to do so.

Nutritional research, for the most part, is not particularly helpful when it comes to the true benefits of whole foods. That's how we get ridiculously convoluted studies on organics, and confusion over whether coffee is good or bad for us, and that omega-6 oils are heart healthy when in fact they are the exact opposite.

When it comes to food, I sincerely believe that traditional diets is the best source of information. Irish moss has been used for generations among seaside cultures as complete body nourishing tonics. I personally consumed Irish moss regularly for years as a preventative for a Crohn's flare up, for thyroid health and to keep my internal tissues healthy, leading to healthy skin.

We can not judge the health of a whole food based on unnatural processed concentrations of its component parts. We cannot compare studies on isolated phytochemicals used in higher than natural or normal concentrations as grounds for avoiding a whole, unprocessed, nature-made food. 

Granted, some people may have personal and individualized sensitivities to Irish moss, just like we can all have unique responses to any number of foods. All of the studies and articles relating to the Irish moss worries have nothing to do with Irish moss. They are about the concentration of the extracted and heavily processed carrageenan, which, as I mentioned, are not the same thing.

If you are in doubt, then please do keep it out. I only ask that you always do your own thorough research, read the information and make your own decisions. And if none of those reports make any sense, and you're still not convinced, eat something (or stop eating it) and decide for yourself how you feel. That will always be your best measure.

If you'd like to include Irish moss in your diet, here is a video explaining simple ways to prepare it.

How To Prepare Sea Moss / Irish Moss

How To Prepare Sea Moss

  • If dried: soak it for a few hours in water. Rinse away any sand that may be present.
  • If fresh: clean the fresh moss of all other bits of seaweed, and wash thoroughly to remove sand and grit.

Once soaked/cleaned, you'll want to simmer the moss in clean water until tender.

How to Use Irish Moss

Irish moss has a strong, sea-like flavour, so it's better to start using it in small amounts and also use it in recipes where the taste will be disguised by the other flavours. Try using it in:

Recipes That Use Irish Moss

Where To Purchase Sea Moss/ Irish Moss

For a long time, I carried this product and sold it directly. Unfortunately, after a hurricane wiped out my Caribbean supplier in 2010, and Fukushima made sea vegetables from the Pacific a questionable choice, I have chosen not to sell directly.

I recommend checking out your local West Indian grocer or looking online. You can find it on Amazon.ca here and Amazon.com here.

Sea Moss

126 Responses to “Sea Moss and Irish Moss: Everything You Need To Know”

  1. Marvin L. Zinn said… January 5, 2019
    Sea Moss is probably what I was looking for. But whatever I buy requires I subtract something else. I already eat no food unhealthy, and supplements for a balance on what I miss. I will see if it is available in a health food store in capsule form.
  2. Mesha said… January 6, 2019
    Are the capsules just as effective? How long do you have to take to feel the relief from ailments and some disease?
    • I've never taken the capsules - I aim to use whole sources whenever I can. The timing for effectiveness to kick in varies from person to person, and also depends on what else you are doing to support your health. Working with a practitioner can be very helpful, too.
  3. Victoria Jackson said… January 18, 2019
    How do you feel about the Irish Sea Moss powder? I picked some up from my local heath food store to help with my son’s iron intake. He also has inflammation of the gut. Do you think the powder is free of carogenean? Thoughts please. ❤️
    • If it's just Irish Moss powder, then it shouldn't have carrageenan. But if it's a product that has other ingredients in it, then check the label to see if carrageenan (or anything else you may not want) is in there.
  4. Paula said… January 23, 2019
    Hello there. Can I add see moss on my diet considering I just finish my treatment against a breast cancer, succefully thank God.. I really would love but not sure due some concerns I have been reading about. Thanks.
    • Hi Paula! I'm glad that your treatment was successful and I wish you a full and quick recovery. I am unable to give specific nutrition advice here without knowing your full health history. I'd recommend working with a health practitioner to determine if sea moss is appropriate for you. Be well!
  5. Renee Bonner said… February 12, 2019
    Can seamoss cause bloating of the stomach also?
    • Sea moss would generally help with digestive symptoms, but it really depends on the person and his or her individual health. Also, anything could potentially cause bloating if you take too much or it doesn't personally agree with you.
  6. Lyneka Jackson said… February 18, 2019
    I purchased seamoss in herbal form. How do I prepare this to eat?
    • I'm not sure what you've purchased, so I don't know. I've given instructions for preparing whole moss in the video in this post. But if you've bought something else, like a capsule or a powder, it's best to follow the instructions that came with the product.
  7. Samantha said… February 19, 2019
    I found a supplier who gets theirs from the Caribbean, is it safe to get it from there?
    • It depends on the supplier, how the moss is processed, and the water it's coming from (and any pollutants that may be in it). Ask your supplier and see what they have to say.
  8. jane said… February 20, 2019
    hi. I just got irish sea moss powder and was wondering can my husband and I take it daily and for how long should we take it?
    • Hi Jane! I recommend getting in touch with a health practitioner who can advise you about how you and your husband can best use Irish moss to suit your health needs.
  9. India Y Lee said… March 5, 2019
    how do i prepare moss powder for tea? can i just put some in hot water and drink it?
  10. Lyeta Herb said… March 19, 2019
    Hi Meghan: I am so glad that you are into Irish Sea Moss. I always soak and rinse with lime/lemon for days to release the salt. One more tip try not make the heat too high, it will boil over. It is a sticky mess to clean up! Thanks for Sharing. I truly appreciate you. And you and Josh look amazingly beautiful and happy.

Before you post your comment, please note that I am unable to offer nutritional advice or recommendations via my blog.

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