Tuesday, 16 August 2011

(9) The Seaweed Remedies

Scotland is home to over 28 varieties of seaweeds, which are categorised into four types by colour:

             Chlorophyceae (greens)
             Phaeophyceae (browns)
             Rhodophyceae (reds)
             Cyanophyceae (blues)

All the seaweeds (algae) have extremely beneficial properties and can yield remarkably therapeutic effects when included as an ingredient in Green Pharmacy preparations.

They are a rich source of protein, fibre, vitamins, minerals and trace elements, which all promote good health and well-being. Actually, when compared to land-based botanicals, seaweeds are 10 to 20 times higher in vitamins, minerals and amino acids.

With specific seaweeds, such as the Japanese variety Hijiki, Arame and Wakame contain up to 10 times the calcium of milk. Then in comparison with red meat, seaweeds can contain from 4 times up to a staggering 25 times more iron. Also according to the noted herbalist, Dr. Ryan Drum, you would have to consume up to 40lbs of fresh vegetables and/or fruits to get the equivalent volume of iodine that 1g of whole leaf kelp can provide.

In this essay I will be looking at Carrageen Moss, Chrondus crispus and Dulse, Palmaria palmate in more detail – considering and including their individual pharmacology, together with the medicinal effects that they are likely to elicit, how they might be used in home remedies, and a well referenced recipe for each.

Carrageen Moss

Chrondus crispus, otherwise known as Carrageen Moss or Irish Moss, is a member of the Rhodophylaceae group. It grows abundantly along the rocky parts of the Atlantic coast of Europe and North America.

Reaching up to little over 20cm in length, the Irish moss branches four or five times from the holdfast in a fan-like manner. The branches are 2-15mm broad, firm in texture and range from a dark reddish brown to a pink-purple, however the colours bleach to yellow in sunlight. In its fresh condition the plant is soft and cartilaginous.

The principal constituent of Irish moss is a mucilaginous body, made of the polysaccharide carrageenan of which it contains 55%. The botanical also consists of nearly 10% protein and about 15% mineral matter, and is rich in iodine and sulphur. When softened in water it has a sea-like odour, and because of the abundant cell wall polysaccharides it will form a jelly when boiled, containing from 20 to 100 times its weight of water.

Carrageen Moss contains trace minerals, polysaccharides including carrageenan, iodine, iron and bromine. It also contains a large percentage of mucilage, as well as vitamins A and B. Carrageenan is a variable mixture of potassium, sodium, calcium, magnesium, and ammonium sulphate esters of galactose and 3-6 anyhdrogalactose copolymers. The major types of hydrocolloid copolymers are kappa-carrageenan, iotacarrageenan, and lambda-carrageenan.

Medicinal Uses:

According to Bartram, it is useful as an antitussive (used to relieve or suppress coughing), nutrient, pectoral, antibacterial, detoxicant, anticoagulant, hypotensive and when taken internally can lower the LDL (low density lipoprotein) cholesterol levels in the blood. Carrageen Moss is also reported to have demulcent and emollient properties.

Carrageen Moss can be used for bronchitis and general respiratory disorders; pulmonary tuberculosis; dry cough; to cleanse mucous membranes; wasting diseases e.g. cachexia; inflammation of the alimentary canal; irritable stomach, gastric and duodenal ulcer; recovery from surgical operations; to protect the lining of the stomach from acidity; inflammations of the kidney or bladder; and it is also useful for thin people desiring to put on weight.

Then for external uses, Carrageen Moss can be used as a base for ointments, cosmetic creams, etc.

Carrageenan has exhibited numerous pharmacologic effects in vitro and in animals, including limiting food absorption, decreasing gastric secretions (osmotically active), and producing cathartic effects and hypotension, as well as anticoagulant and immunosuppressive activities. Carrageenan has demonstrated anti-proteolytic activity against pepsin and papain in vitro. Interestingly, carrageenan has been reported to cause gastrointestinal ulceration in various animals.

The pharmaceutical industry uses Carrageen Moss as an emulsifying agent in cod liver oil.

Adverse Effects:

Carrageen Moss has some potential adverse effects; in the cardiovascular system you have to watch out for hypotension; in the gastrointestinal system, abdominal cramps, diarrhoea and ulceration should be watched out for; and in the genitourinary system, renal disease could be an adverse effect.

There are also some potential interaction problems; taking Carrageen Moss with anticoagulants can increase the risk of bleeding; with anti-hypertensives it may enhance hypotensive effects and the patient should be monitored; Carrageen Moss may also impair absorption of other orally taken drugs, and therefore should be monitored.

Carrageen moss is contraindicated in patients with active peptic ulcer disease or in those with a history of peptic ulcer disease. Avoid using this herb in pregnant or breast-feeding patients; effects are unknown.

Home Remedies:

Carrageen Moss is harvested at the end of the summer when the natural carrageenan content is at its highest. Carrageenan is a substance extracted from Chrondus crispus, consisting of a mixture of polysaccharies.

It is used as a thickening or emulsifying agent in food products, it is a vegetarian and vegan alternative to gelatin. It is used in creams as a emulsifier, and has been used for centuries as a thickening agent in milk puddings, however it needs to be counteracted with a significant sweetness to be palatable.

Also used extensively in small quantities as a binder, an emulsifier, or a stabiliser in creams, hand lotions, tablets and toothpastes. It can also be found in some teas.

A good way to use Carrageen Moss is in a decoction: using the dried seaweed, 5 to 10 grams to each large cup water gently simmered for 20 minutes. Cannot be strained. Half a cup eaten with a spoon – honey enhances the action.

No dosage has been established based on controlled clinical trials. If a decoction doesn’t take your fancy then Carrageen Moss can be found in tablet form in some countries.

The powder can be used to thicken soups, jellies aspic and for recipes requiring a thickener. A pinch of the powder in your early morning tea is useful for chest protection in the winter.


Lemon Carrageen Moss Pudding
Carrageen moss from the Irish coast is given an Italian light touch in this unusual dessert from Clodagh McKenna.

Prep Time:     10 minutes, plus 15 for soaking and setting
Cook Time:    30 minutes
Serves:           6

-          1 tbsp Carrageen Moss
-          700ml Milk
-          200ml Cream
-          12 Lemon Balm leaves
-          1 Vanilla pod, split
-          2 Eggs, free range
-          1 tbsp Caster Sugar

For the Raspberry Coulis:
-          250g Raspberries, fresh or frozen, thawed
-          100g Icing Sugar


1. Soak the carrageen moss in warm water for 15 minutes. Drain and squeeze out any excess water. Put into a saucepan with the milk, cream, half the lemon balm leaves, and the vanilla pod. Bring to the boil, before turning down the heat and simmering for 30 minutes.

2. Separate the eggs into two bowls and beat the sugar into the yolks. Pour the milk mixture through a sieve into another bowl, making sure to push all the natural gelatine from the carrageen moss through the sieve, but avoiding strips of moss getting through. Add the infused milk mixture to the egg yolks, whisking to combine.

3. Whisk the egg whites until stiff, before folding into the milk and yolk mixture. Pour into dariole moulds and place in a fridge until set - about 2-3 hours.

4. For the raspberry coulis, combine the raspberries and icing sugar in a bowl and whiz with a hand blender until pureed; pass through a fine sieve.

5. To serve, run a knife around the edge of each mould and turn the panna cotta onto a small serving plate; garnish with lemon balm leaves and a drizzle of raspberry coulis

1.       http://uktv.co.uk/food/recipe/aid/517514
2.       http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chondrus_crispus
3.       http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carrageenan
4.       http://home-remedies.info/herbal-medicines/irish-moss.htm
5.       http://harmonia.meccahosting.com/~a0005075/carrageen.html
6.       http://www.gourmetsleuth.com/Dictionary/C/Carrageen-moss-6397.aspx


Palmaria palmate, otherwise known as Dulse, is a member of the Rhodophyceae group. It grows on the Northern coasts of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans; and is to be found growing from mid-tide of the intertidal zone (the area between the high tide and low tide) to depths of 20m or more in both sheltered and exposed shores.

Dulse is a pink, nearly transparent seaweed, that has been an important source of fibre for centuries. The frongs are variable in length, and vary in colour from a deep-rose to a reddish-purple, and are rather leathery in texture. The flat foliose blade gradually expands and divides into broad segments ranging in size to 50cm long, and 30-38cm in width.

It's found in deeper water, attaching itself to tall kelp stems and can survive harsh ocean conditions. Dulse is similar to another seaweed Dilsea carnosaDilsea however is more leathery with blades up to 30cm long and 20cm wide. Unlike Palmaria palmate it is not branched and does not have proliferations or branches from the edge of the frond. The older blades may split however.

It grows quickly in the summertime and may be collected every two weeks during that time. Sun-dried Dulse is eaten as is, or as a powder, or cooked, or fried into tasty chips. Un-dried, fresh Dulse is leathery and unpalatable, but after drying, it becomes pleasant to chew with little fat. Its botanical genus, Palmaria, is derived from the Latin “palma” because of its resemblance to the palm of the human hand; and in Irish, two names are used “Creathnach” (feminine and smaller plant) and “Duileask” (masculine and larger plant, giving the plant its English name). Currently they are both believed to be the same species, but may ultimately be in a separate class. It has been used in Ireland since the 12th Century as an important nutritive that was eaten as a vegetable and also used as an important source of animal fodder.

Dulse provides an excellent source of vitamin A and C, while also containing all the trace elements needed by humans and has a high protein content. A handful of Dulse will provide more than 100% of the daily amount of vitamin B6 and 66% of the required vitamin B12, a day’s supply of iron and fluoride, and it is relatively low in sodium and high in potassium.

In regions where other plants do not grow well, Dulse has traditionally been an important dietary supplement, as it is a vitamin-and-mineral rich. Alongside the above, Dulse provides a source of non-animal protein, an unusual carbohydrate named floridoside, dietary fibre (alginates), calcium, iodine, magnesium, copper, zinc, nickel, manganese, chromium, and small amounts of vitamins C and E.

It is used in creams and lotions as it has been proven to increase cellular activity and improve skin elasticity.

Medicinal Uses:

Dulse may influence satiety (helpful for dieters) due to its high dietary fibre content, it also may influence the glucose uptake from foods, which, according to 2010 research from the University of Avertay, may indicate blood-glucose regulation potential. Moreover, these soluble polysaccharides may also act as prebiotics, stimulating growth of beneficial bacteria in the colon.

Due to Dulse’s rich iodine content, it is believed to stimulate thyroid activity and be helpful in cases of hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid), as well as hormone secretion.

Dulse has been used traditionally as a medicine both externally and internally. A fresh plaster of Dulse leaves has been used traditionally to treat skin disease, headaches and expel the placenta during childbirth. The leaves have also been used as chewing tobacco after being dried and rolled. The dried powdered Dulse has been used to treat worms. The high iodine content can also be used to prevent goitre (inflammation in the thyroid gland), and has been indicated as useful in the prevention of tumours, lumps and cysts. Dulse is indicated as being good for relieving constipation and is known to play a part in weight loss.

Traditionally Dulse was used to treat scurvy, as it is a rich source of vitamin C. It was also seen as a cure for kidney stones.

It is also said to be a safe, all-natural, low-calorie alternative to refined sugar. This has caused it to be used as a herbal supplement to regulate blood sugar levels and lower blood pressure and LDL cholesterol. People who have consumed Dulse daily have often reported a decrease in their desire for sweets and fatty foods, which may be very helpful for dieters, and its antibacterial qualities help to promote healthy and clear skin, scalp and lustrous hair.

Adverse Effects:

Currently, there appear to be no warnings or contraindications with the use of Dulse. However, the iodine content in Dulse may cause hyper- or hypothyroidism if taken in excessive amounts and may interfere with existing treatment for abnormal thyroid function. Each individual should seek the advice of a qualified medical practitioner if they have any worries with using Dulse as a food or medicine.

Home Remedies:

One of the best ways to use Dulse, is to consume it, 5-10 grams daily.

However, the benefits of Dulse tea are extreme. It can be prepared by placing a handful of Dulse in enough hot water to cover the Dulse and cooking at low temperature for 15 minutes. Remove the Dulse and save it to eat, add honey to the Dulse ‘tea’ for flavour.

The tea is great to prevent against cold symptoms.


Dulse Quiche with Dulse Slaw
Jenny Heath, Irish Seaweeds, Belfast, Northern Ireland; Recipes taken from Simply Seaweed by Leslie Ellis

Ingredients for the Dulse Quiche:

-          17g Dulse
-          1 small packet of ready-made Shortcrust pastry (about 250g)
-          300ml Milk
-          3 or 4 Eggs
-          50g Cheese (grated)
-          Salt and Pepper


1.       Roll out the pastry to fit a greased and lined 8 inch pie/flan dish and line the dish with the pastry. Leave at room temperature for 30 minutes (resting). After 30 minutes trim the excess pastry off the pie/flan dish.

2.       Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celcius (Gas Mark 5).

3.       Finely chop the Dulse – preferably in a blender. Place into a sieve and put into a bowl of water for 10 minutes. Remove sieve from bowl and pat Dulse dry.

4.       Sprinkle whole pieces of Dulse and grated Dulse into the pie dish.

5.       Put eggs into a jug and beat. Add milk to the eggs slowly and beat. Pour the mixture into a pie dish. Season with Salt and Pepper.

6.       Bake for 20 minutes or until the egg mixture is firm and check with a skewer – it should come out clean with no residue.

Ingredients for the Dulse Slaw:

-          25g Dulse
-          50g Raisins
-          175g white Cabbage (shredded)
-          1 medium Carrot (grated)
-          2 Shallots (finely chopped)

For the Dressing:
-          4 tbsp Mayonnaise
-          2 tbsp Apple Juice
-          Salt and Pepper


1.       Soak Dulse for 5-10 minutes in a bowl of water.

2.       Put Raisins in a small bowl with warm water for 5 minutes, to allow them to plump.

3.       Put shredded Cabbage, shredded Carrot and finely chopped Shallots into a large mixing bowl.

4.       Drain Raisins and add to bowl.

5.       Drain Dulse, chop and also add to bowl.

6.       In a small bowl mix the dressing ingredients together and then pour over and coat the salad thoroughly.

7.       Season to taste, mix again and serve.

1.       http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palmaria_palmata
2.       http://www.grandmanannb.com/dulse.htm
3.       http://www.irishseaweeds.com/irish_seaweeds__seaweed__sea_vegetable_recipes.asp
4.       http://www.herbalextractsplus.com/dulse.cfm
5.       http://www.homeremedycentral.com/en/herbal-remedies/herb/dulse.html
6.       http://www.crazyfortea.com/dulseherb.html

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