Bladderwrack Benefits, Uses & History

Many people are turning to more natural and traditional methods when it comes to healthcare, and bladderwrack is something that can be used in this way.

It is naturally occurring, and it can provide many different health benefits.

If you are looking to find out more about the benefits, uses, and history of bladderwrack, then you have come to the right place.

We are going to tell you everything that you need to know about it in this article, so you can decide if it is something that would benefit you.

Bladderwrack Benefits, Uses & History

What is Bladderwrack?

Bladderwrack is a type of brown algae, or seaweed, that typically grows on the northern Atlantic and Pacific coasts of the United States. It also grows on the northern Atlantic coast and Baltic coast of Europe.

The main stem of bladderwrack is called the thallus, and this is something that is often used for medicinal purposes. The thallus has tough pods or bladders that are filled with air to help the algae to float.

This is how it gets its name.

Bladderwrack is also sometimes called kelp, but this is not a name that is specific to bladderwrack, and it can also include many different other things.

This is a type of seaweed that is the most commonly associated with the high and low watermarks on rocky shores, and bladderwrack actually has round air bladders that allow the seaweed to float upright when underwater.

This helps them to exchange gases and absorb nutrients when they are submerged. Bladderwrack forms dense beds on the mid-shore, and it can provide shelter for many different creatures. It is also a food source for other creatures.

The History of Bladderwrack

Bladderwrack has a long history of use, and it has been used as a fuel source and even as a winter feed for cattle. It has also been used as a food source in many different cultures around the world.

Research suggests that Bladderwrack and other kelp may have even contributed to the settlement of the Americans, since these coastal sites have remained unchanged for a very long time.

They have provided food and resources for early people that travelled along the coast, which is a type of migration that led to permanent settlements. 

Scottish highlanders were also thought to have used bladderwrack to produce something that could be used as a water softener and to make glass and gunpowder.

The process of doing this also provided jobs, and bladderwrack has even been thought to summon sea spirits and was carried to protect against age-related illnesses. The harvesting of bladderwrack reached a peak in 1919 for these purposes. 

In the 1800s, it was discovered that iodine could be extracted from seaweed, which meant that bladderwrack was introduced as a supplement that could work to support thyroid health and other issues.

More recently, bladderwrack has been harvested throughout the year to produce iodine, and the most iodine is thought to be yielded between spring and the early summer.

This is due to the fact that bladderwrack may have new growth, and the iodine content is the highest in the young blades. One of the more traditional methods of extracting iodine from bladderwrack is sun drying.

The traditional use of bladderwrack dates back to a very long time ago, and the Greeks used it for ‘gouty afflictions’ and inflammation.

The Romans used bladderwrack in order to soothe joint pains and to treat tuberculosis. In magical folklore, bladderwrack is considered to be a herb of protection, especially for people that were sailing across the ocean.

As well as this, it was used to increase psychic powers and protect against mental derangement. 

The Uses of Bladderwrack

Bladderwrack has many uses, and we are going to explain some of them below for you to read about. This will help to give you a better understanding of what it can be used for.

Anti-Inflammatory Results

Something that many people are interested in is the high levels of fucoidin that can be found in bladderwrack, and this is something that is found in many brown seaweeds.

This is a substance that has been researched for modulating a healthy inflammatory response, and it has shown strong properties for helping to support a healthy immune system and intestinal flora.

It is also recognized as a source of other naturally occurring metals, like iron, zinc, magnesium, and potassium. 

Overall Health 

Bladderwrack also contains phenolic compounds, which can help to support overall health, and these compounds include flavonoids, like fucoxanthin.

This is something that is thought to have the highest antioxidant activity in edible seaweeds. These antioxidants can help to protect cells from free radical damage. 

Thyroid Disorders and Other Conditions

Bladderwrack is also used for thyroid disorders, like underactive thyroids and oversized thyroids, and iodine deficiency.

It is also commonly used for obesity, arthritis, joint pain, hardening of the arteries, digestive disorders, heartburn, blood cleansing, constipation, bronchitis, emphysema, urinary tract disorders, and anxiety.

Other uses include boosting the immune system and increasing energy. Some people will even apply it to the skin to treat skin diseases, burns, aging skin, and insect bites.

Bladderwrack is a source of alginates, which are compounds that are used as emulsifiers, which means that they are thickening ingredients.

Alginates are often added to ice creams and dairy products, toothpastes, and textiles to add viscosity, and there is also research to suggest that alginates could be used to support healthy cartilage and joint health.

Bladderwrack is also something that is used cosmetically, and it can be found in things like face masks and conditioners to help to support healthy looking skin and hair.

It is also believed that its antioxidant content might support healthy skin cells and promote overall health. Some research even suggests that there is research to suggest that bladderwrack can have positive effects on under eye circles.

In some places around the world, bladderwrack is used as a food source, and it is often roasted to create crispy seaweed chips, and it can also be added to things like soups, salads, and sauces.

However, it does have a particularly strong flavor, which means that you only need to use a small amount of it. It is also made into tea, but due to its high salt content, it is often paired with other flavors, like mint, lemongrass, ginger, lemon peel, cinnamon, allspice, and honey.

The Benefits of Bladderwrack


As well as all of the many uses of bladderwrack, it also has a variety of benefits too. Bladderwrack can be used to help with different health conditions, symptoms, and more, and we will explain more about this below.

Aiding Thyroid Function

As you now already know, bladderwrack is something that contains high levels of iodine, which is a trace element that can help to support thyroid health by producing triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4), which are thyroid hormones.

These hormones can help to regulate your metabolism and support proper growth and neurological development. Iodine deficiency can also lead to low T3 and T4 levels, which can lead to further health complications, like weight gain, fatigue, dry skin, and increased sensitivity to the cold.

However, even though bladderwrack is a great dietary source of iodine, you should know that taking bladderwrack supplements or eating large amounts of it can lead to excessive amounts of iodine in the body.

Most people can tolerate excess iodine, but people with thyroid disorders might not be able to. It can be really bad for you and lead to worsened symptoms.

However, in moderation, bladderwrack can be a great addition to your diet to help support a healthy functioning thyroid gland in cases where more iodine is needed.

Healthy Monthly Cycle

Bladderwrack is also commonly used to maintain a healthy monthly cycle in women, and in one study, it was given to women that were known to be at a high risk for estrogen-dependent diseases, and that had irregular monthly cycles.

This study concluded that dietary bladderwrack can help to prolong the length of the menstrual cycle and exert anti-estrogenic effects in pre-menopausal women.

These studies also suggest that seaweed is really important for the reduced risk of estrogen-related cancers observed in Japanese populations.


There has also been some research into the effects of bladderwrack on cancer cells, and it is thought that some of the therapeutic compounds that are present in bladderwrack can have positive effects on both breast cancer cells and colorectal cancer.

A study that took place in 2014 studied this and found that the different compounds in seaweed are able to induce apoptosis through a variety of pathways and molecular mechanisms.

So, though research is limited in this department, it is thought that it can help with certain types of cancer.

Overall Health

If you didn’t already know, bladderwrack contains a variety of trace minerals that are essential for overall health, like magnesium, calcium, potassium, and more.

Trace minerals are present in really small amounts throughout the body, but they are actually critical to the body’s overall health and functions. There are people that will take bladderwrack supplements in order to help their bodies maintain normal levels of trace minerals.

Anti-inflammatory Effects

Something else that is interesting to know about bladderwrack is that it is rich in antioxidants, like  phlorotannins, fucoxanthin, alginic acid, fucoidans, and vitamins A and C.

Some of these things are particularly high in antioxidant activity, and they are able to scavenge free radicals. These are harmful compounds that are able to damage cells and lead to chronic disease and premature aging.

Some studies have shown that brown algae, like bladderwrack, is able to offer promising results when it comes to its anti-inflammatory abilities, and it can even help to reduce tumor growth, blood sugar levels, and the risk of heart disease.

Another large study that took place with 40,707 men and 45,406 women found that there was a 12% decreased risk of heart disease when seaweed was consumed on a daily basis.

Skin Health

Bladderwrack has also been used as a topical treatment for a variety of skin issues, including cellulite, skin aging, and burns.

Early research does suggest that the antioxidants that are present in bladderwrack can promote collagen synthesis in the skin, which can help to improve the overall look of cellulite, increase skin healing, and delay premature skin aging.

In one study, applying bladderwrack extract to the skin actually led to a 228% increase in collagen production.

In the second phase of this same study, a mixture of bladderwrack and other algae extracts were tested on the skin for a period of 12 weeks. This mixture led to a significant decrease in cellulite appearance and fat thickness.

There have also been various other studies that have taken place that have concluded that skincare containing bladderwrack extract has been associated with an increase in collagen production.

The high antioxidant content has also been linked to less collagen and elastin breakdown when bladderwrack has been applied to human skin samples.

The prevention of the breakdown of collagen and elastin is really important for the appearance of youthful skin.

However, long-term human studies are lacking, and there is not yet any research to support the idea that consuming bladderwrack as a food or supplement will help to promote healthy skin.

Taking Bladderwrack Safely

You should always be aware of how to take bladderwrack safely, and consult with a medical professional if you are ever unsure about using bladderwrack.

Applying it to the skin is usually safe unless you are applying it to open wounds and cuts, which should be avoided. You should always discontinue use if you experience any adverse reactions, like a skin rash or other irritation.

Bladderwrack is safe to eat in small amounts, but it does contain high levels of iodine, salt, and heavy metals, which can pose health risks when eaten in large quantities.

It might be unsafe for women that are either pregnant or breastfeeding, and you should avoid taking it in these circumstances. It can also interfere with some other medications and herbal products.