Seaweed has been used as a key nutritional food for thousands of years. Civilizations have depended on these different types of seaweed to cure ailments and serious illnesses.
One example is Irish moss, also known as sea moss.
This was considered a superfood before anyone really knew what the benefits of it were. For centuries, our ancestors used Irish moss in different recipes or for aid in well-being.
And today, this species of red algae is popular once again. But why? Is it as beneficial for your wellness as believed? Is it as good for you as we believe?
Fans of sea moss claim that the plant can boost your immune system, calm your digestion, improve your skin health, strengthen joints, and soothe various respiratory illnesses.
In this blog, we are going to guide you through the benefits, uses, and history of Irish moss. Let’s find out if Irish moss really lives up to all of this hype below.
What is Irish moss?
Irish moss (sea moss if you know it better by this name) is a North Atlantic seaweed that has edible portions. These edible parts come from the dried thallus of a species known as Chondrus Crispus.
This is found along the rugged Atlantic coasts of Britain, Europe, and North America.
Irish moss goes by a few names including carrageen. This is from the Irish “carraigin” translated to “little rock.” This red algae boasts a mucilaginous substance.
In other words, it’s sticky as heck! One of the reasons Irish moss is so widely used today is due to this viscid substance.
Many people have used Irish moss to improve their skin and boost their overall health. However, it should be noted that no scientific evidence currently supports these beneficial claims.
But this doesn’t mean there are no benefits. A reason why there is no scientific evidence may be because few to no studies have been done.
One thing experts can agree on is that Irish moss has been used in various cultures as a folk medicine for centuries. And as a plant, it has some medicinal properties that can be beneficial.
In a range of countries such as Britain to the islands of the Caribbean, people still use Irish moss to ward off the common cold and respiratory illnesses.
It is believed that the moss boosts your immune system and lessens the symptoms of various ailments.
In modern society, people don’t just eat Irish moss straight. Alternatively, it is used to create a gel.
This is achieved by boiling the raw or dried sea moss in water which forms a thickening agent and results in a sticky form.
In the Caribbean, people often serve Irish Moss like tea. It is boiled and mixed with sweetened milk but is usually served cold.
However, the majority of individuals consume Irish moss in a pill or powdered form.
The Benefits of Irish Moss
Throughout the centuries, communities have relied on Irish moss for its numerous benefits. People once traveled on journeys with it as protection and placed the plant under rugs for good luck.
Whether it’s superstitions or physical advantages, let’s discover some of the main benefits this cold water seaweed has to offer.
Some of these benefits include:
- Thyroid support
- Help with Mental health and emotions
- Immune support
- Digestive support
- Nourishment for the skin
- Bone support
- Reduces the effects of radiation
- Acts as an aphrodisiac
- Acts as a blood builder
Doctors use DI-iodothyronine (DIT) to treat thyroid disorders. This naturally occurs in brown Irish moss as well as Tri-iodothyronine (T3), a thyroid hormone that is inside the human body.
Along with Thyroxine (T4), another thyroid hormone, these are the primary iodine compounds found in only a few seaweeds.
Because these iodine compounds are abundant in Irish moss, it is medically used to treat various thyroid disorders. And the results are effective too.
Iodine also fuels thyroid hormone production. As there are high levels of this in sea moss, it can help produce thyroid hormones when somebody needs an extra boost.
Having a healthy thyroid function is critical as it helps improve your mood, digestion, and much more.
It is no surprise that Irish moss is so treasured for boosting energy levels on the thyroid. Of course, Irish moss can do far more than this.
It also contains folate (B9) and riboflavin (B2) which contribute to overall energy levels.
They assist the body in forming red blood cells as well as genetic materials. Over time, this can break down fats, carbs, and proteins in the body.
Irish moss is rich in potassium which helps cells in the body function properly. By adding Irish moss and other high-potassium food items to your diet, it is believed that your mental functioning can dramatically improve.
This is especially helpful for those suffering from ADHD.
Foods that are abundant in potassium are also extremely useful when treating anxiety, depression, hyperactivity, fibromyalgia, and mood swings. Many people swear by Irish moss for reducing stress.
It supports the nervous system due to its supreme source of B vitamins.
Irish moss can also have a neuroprotective effect against Parkinson’s disease. It protects the brain from building too much a-synuclein protein.
One of the main benefits of Irish Moss is its support for the immune system. Many people use it to relieve symptoms of flu or colds. It actually achieves two things naturally that cold medicine and cough syrups should do.
It fights congestion and phlegm as well as boosts your immunity to battle infections.
Irish moss is very rich in nutrient potassium chloride. This helps to phase out phlegm and inflammation within the mucous membranes.
With such health benefits, just a dash of sea moss in a smoothie or drink could become your go-to beverage during the flu season. Let Irish moss rage against the spread of different infectious diseases.
By loading yourself up with potassium iodide, it can become easier to open your airways and dissolve a build-up of phlegm.
Due to its richness in antioxidants, amino acids, vitamin C, and other antiviral agents, Irish moss could fight off respiratory illnesses such as:
- Chesty coughs
- Sore throats
- Other respiratory illnesses
As with chia seeds and aloe, Irish moss is a mucilaginous food. As we mentioned, this simply means it has a slimy, sticky-like consistency.
However, this can also serve as a healing and soothing agent for the mucous membranes in your body including those in your internal digestive tract.
Irish moss is prebiotic. This means it can stimulate the growth of beneficial microorganisms in the body.
In particular, sea moss can increase the colon’s production of useful short-chain fatty acids. It can improve your gut immunity and reduce harmful gut bacteria.
When made into sea moss gel, Irish moss is a natural gelatin-like substance that is full of minerals and vitamins. You can use this gel to treat burns, eczema, psoriasis, and dermatitis.
A compound called Citrulline-arginine is also found in Irish moss which can improve metabolism and cell growth within the body.
With regular use, Irish moss can also support softer skin and hair by helping the body produce natural collagen.
Citrulline-arginine releases amino acids that are essential for synthesizing collagen and protein in the body and this results in softer and healthier looking hair.
Irish Moss has some excellent bone strengthening nutrients such as calcium, selenium, magnesium, and vitamin K.
If you’re looking for a bone-health superfood, Irish moss is a great place to start.
The effects of radiation
Hopefully, you will not have to use Irish moss to reduce radiation effects but even though the iodine is from a natural, safe, and bioavailable source, it can displace dangerously irradiated iodine-131 in the thyroid.
This happens because the thyroid can’t distinguish between iodine-131 and potassium iodide. When there are enough levels of iodine present in the thyroid, it won’t be able to absorb the irradiated iodine.
In turn, this can save you from radiation poisoning.
On the island of Jamaica and other regions of the Caribbean, Irish moss is regularly enjoyed as a drink. One reason people drink this seaweed is because of its possible aphrodisiac properties.
For those needing a certain boost in their love life, Irish moss has often been the go-to ingredient.
And, unlike its health benefits, there may be some scientific studies that back up this claim. To begin with, Irish moss is rich in zinc, folate, and vitamin E which can all benefit the production of healthy sperm.
As we mentioned, the potassium iodide within the moss is also important in maintaining a healthy thyroid that balances hormones. In turn, the sexual drive of both men and women can be significantly improved.
Lastly, the high levels of omega-3 fatty acid in Irish moss convert into Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA). this is a substance that is critical in forming sperm and building a healthy sex drive.
High in iron, copper, folate, vitamin A, vitamin C, and chlorophyll, Irish moss can help produce red blood cells.
These are critical in guarding against anemia, a deficiency in healthy red blood cells, helping with acclimatizing to different altitudes and boosting energy.
Irish moss: Common uses
Now you know some of the potential benefits of Irish moss, let’s look at how to use this plant.
Firstly, we should mention that, while you can purchase processed Irish moss from local health food stores, this isn’t a good idea.
Processed carrageenan is so highly processed that the National Organic Standards Board Handling Committee has found it to be a synthetic product with little to no effects.
When carrageenan is extracted for commercial use, it is turned into something more dangerous known as poligeenan.
Instead, use the real thing. While this may require some processing itself, this will avoid the harsh chemicals and alterations that commercial products go through.
To use Irish moss properly, try the following:
- Begin with approximately 13 grams of dried Irish moss
- Gently rehydrate the plant in around two cups of cold, freshwater for a few minutes
- Once rehydrated, pick out any rocks, shells, sand, or crustaceans in the seaweed and cut out any hard bits before rinsing thoroughly. Then, discard the water
- Soak in two cups of lukewarm (72 degrees) water for around 30 minutes or more
- After this, the seaweed should be gelatinous in nature. When at this point, you can put it in a blender for around a minute. This will produce a gel that has a natural flavor and a light scent. Keep refrigerated for longer use (about a week)
When prepared, you can use Irish moss as a gelling agent in ice cream or a stabilizer in pies, soups, or sauces.
You can use it as a face mask to soothe your skin. This will leave your skin feeling healthy, tight, and moisturized. To do this, simply:
- Apply the gel to your face or other parts of your body
- Leave on the skin for 5 to 30 minutes
- Rinse off with warm water
The gel can be less smoothly blended compared to using it as a food additive and this can offer additional exfoliation.
Irish moss can also be used as a natural hydrating skin lotion. To do this:
- Soak 1 tablespoon of powdered Irish moss into a cup of distilled water for about 20 minutes
- Then, boil the moss in a saucepan for another 20 minutes
- Next, strain off the solid parts of the moss until you’re left with jelly
- Mix ¼ cup of carrageenan jelly with ¼ cup of Aloe Vera gel.
- Use a blender at a low speed and blend 2 tablespoons of almond oil
Mixed together, this can be used to add nutrition and hydration to your skin for glowing hydration. Keep it refrigerated if you want it to last for about a week.
It’s hard to argue with countless generations who have believed in the powers of Irish moss.
Though no science backs up all of the health claims, the properties contained in this plant can certainly improve your health and well-being over time.