What Is Sea Moss Good For

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.

What Are the Benefits of Sea Moss?

Clumps of sea moss are displayed next to a small glass vial.

A famous animated crab once sang, “The seaweed is always greener in somebody else’s lake.” But you don’t have to be a musically gifted crustacean to reap the benefits of sea moss — which offers a bevy of potential health benefits.

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Sea moss is a type of red algae also known as Irish moss (or Chondrus crispus, if you want to get formal about it). It’s harvested for its carrageenan, an ingredient used to thicken milk products like ice cream, but it’s also available raw and in supplement form — think pills, powders, gels and gummies.

Registered dietitian Beth Czerwony, RD, weighs in on sea moss’s benefits and side effects, so you can decide whether this spiny sea vegetable deserves a place in your diet.

Sea moss health benefits

First things first: “There seem to be quite a few health benefits of sea moss, but they aren’t heavily studied,” Czerwony warns, “and sea moss supplements are not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.”

There’s plenty of research data on the health benefits of seaweed, sea moss’s cousin — just not on sea moss specifically. Still, it’s considered generally safe for consumption, and the benefits align with those of other seaweeds.

It’s heart-healthy

Seaweed is a bit of a superfood. It has a higher fiber content than most vegetables — which is a good thing, as fiber has all kinds of positive effects on the body. It can improve blood sugar control, help lower your cholesterol and reduce your risk of chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease.

“Studies show that sea moss may help lower bad cholesterol, which is one of the factors for heart disease,” Czerwony says. It has also been shown to help lower blood pressure, another key factor in heart health.

It may promote weight loss

Remember how much fiber seaweed has? High-fiber foods are filling foods, which means they may keep you from overeating. “Fiber keeps us fuller longer, which may help with weight control,” Czerwony says.

It’s a good source of iodine

Iodine is one of the keys to a healthy thyroid, but because your body doesn’t make iodine on its own, you can only get it through diet. (Most people, however, get enough iodine from dairy products, seafood and iodized salt.)

It supports gut health

Your digestive system is full of bacteria, some good and some bad. And because gut health is associated with overall health, balancing out those bacteria is an important element of your wellness. Algae, including sea moss, is a good source of fiber and live bacteria. “It can help replenish the good bacteria in our gut,” Czerwony says.

It may boost your immunity

One study showed Atlantic salmon that ate sea moss to have a more efficient immune response than salmon that didn’t. Of course, fish and people have very different bodies, and no similar studies have yet proven the same effect on humans.

Still, a healthy gut is associated with a healthy immune system. And sea moss is also high in iron and antioxidants, which both contribute to immune health.

It can build muscle and aid in workout recovery

Sea moss is rich in an amino acid called taurine, which helps with muscle-building. “When we exercise, we get little micro-tears in our muscles,” Czerwony explains, “but amino acids can help with that recovery.”

Sea moss also has about 6 grams of protein per 100 grams, an exercise staple. Just don’t rely solely on sea moss for exercise recovery! You’ve still got to make sure you’re getting enough healthy food, hydration, rest, etc.

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Side effects of taking sea moss supplements

Sea moss is mostly thought to be healthy, though it contains inconsistent amounts of both good nutrients and some less healthy stuff (which we’ll get to in a moment).

“Sea moss is a product of its environment, so its nutritional value depends largely on where it’s grown,” Czerwony says. “Unfortunately, there’s no real way to know exactly what’s in it or how much, and one batch may have higher potency than the next one.”

Sea moss is associated with two key risks.

You could consume too much iodine

Too much of a good thing becomes a bad thing, as is the case with iodine. In fact, endocrinologists advise against taking iodine supplements unless specifically indicated by your doctor, as they may actually have a negative effect on your thyroid.

It contains heavy metals

Yikes! Seaweed is known to absorb heavy metals from the water in which it grows. It’s not toxic in small amounts, but you definitely don’t want to overdo it on seaweed consumption.

It has an unpleasant taste and texture

Not of risk but still of note is sea moss’s slimy texture and fishy taste.

Raw sea moss has an earthy, underwater taste similar to clams and oysters. “If you don’t like seafood, the flavor of raw sea moss is probably not going to be for you,” Czerwony says. Luckily, though, it shouldn’t have much of a taste in supplement form.

Taste aside, you may also be put off by sea moss’s mouthfeel: In gel form, it has a slick, thick texture similar to aloe vera. If it bothers you, try switching to a different type of supplement.

Should you take sea moss supplements?

One study found that 4 grams of sea moss per day is typically safe — but you should still check with your healthcare provider before taking it, especially if you already have hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism.

It’s available the raw, as well as in a variety of supplement forms, including:

  • Capsules.
  • Gels.
  • Gummies.
  • Lotions.
  • Powders.

Which version you take is up to you. “It’s really about whatever your preference is,” Czerwony says, “so long as you’re following proper dosing instructions.”

But whether you’re just taking sea moss supplements or loading up on other types, too, it’s worth remembering that you can’t out-supplement a bad diet.

“Sea moss does have potential health benefits, but having a good, varied diet is going to be the most helpful to your body,” Czerwony says. “Don’t depend on supplements.”

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Sea Moss: What Does Science Say About This Declared Superfood?

Sea moss - Dr. Axe

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:

  • proteins
  • peptides
  • amino acids
  • lipids
  • pigments

The potential health benefits of this red algae are linked to its neuroprotective and immune-boosting constituents.

Benefits

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.

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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 Food found 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.

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.

Conclusion

  • 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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Alex Koliada, PhD

Alex Koliada, PhD

Alex Koliada, PhD, is a well-known doctor. He is famous for his studies of ageing, genetics and other medical conditions. He works at the Institute of Food Biotechnology and Genomics NAS of Ukraine. His scientific researches are printed by the most reputable international magazines. Some of his works are: Differences in the gut Firmicutes to Bacteroidetes ratio across age groups in healthy Ukrainian population [BiomedCentral.com]; Mating status affects Drosophila lifespan, metabolism and antioxidant system [Science Direct]; Anise Hyssop Agastache foeniculum Increases Lifespan, Stress Resistance, and Metabolism by Affecting Free Radical Processes in Drosophila [Frontiersin].
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