Sea moss has seen a surge in popularity over the past few years and it seems like every health fanatic has incorporated it into their daily routine whether in a morning smoothie or as a thickening agent for soups and stews. This superfood was catapulted into the spotlight thanks to endorsements from celebrities like Kim Kardashian and popular herbalist Dr. Sebi. If you’ve been on the internet in the past couple of years, then chances are you’ve heard about the miracle healing powers of sea moss. But what exactly is sea moss? And what are the benefits of incorporating it into your diet? Don’t worry, we’ve compiled everything you need to know about sea moss and we’re ready to share the knowledge!
Is there a “real” and “fake” sea moss? The answer to this is fairly simple. There are actually 3 different recognized species of sea moss – Chondrus Crispus known as “Irish Sea Moss” and Golden Gracilaria & Eucheuma Cottonii known as “Sea Moss”. Many people become confused when they see the golden Sea Moss strains as compared to the red/purple Chondrus Crispus variety. This strain is commonly considered the “real” sea moss because it is the most widely known, but this is just simply not true. The Golden Gracilaria & Eucheuma Cottonii strains of sea moss share most if not all of the same benefits. We primarily use the Eucheuma Cottonii strain as it has been used as a healing agent in many communities for centuries.
While natural populations of Eucheuma Cottonii sea moss tend to have color variants with pigmentations such as yellow, green, red, and brown, Chondrus Crispus is always purple making them easy to distinguish. The reason for this difference in color has nothing to do with the health benefits of either strain, it is strictly attributed to the conditions in which they grow. The Chondrus Crispus variety has a red/purple appearance because it grows in deeper, colder water with limited access to sunlight. As a sea plant, these species go through photosynthesis and rely on chlorophyll and phycobiliproteins for pigment. Since light is limited, photosynthesis becomes very slow and phycobiliproteins make the process easier by absorbing the available light and passing it onto the chlorophyll. This protein is what gives Chondrus crispus it's signature red/purple coloring.
Eucheuma Cottonii is a common food source for people in the Philippines and parts of Indonesia and Malaysia. Although this strain can be found in the Caribbean, it is mainly cultivated in the Philippines and since the 1970s it has been a major source of expansion for the carrageenan (an ingredient in food manufacturing) industry. Eucheuma Cottonii is commonly found within 20 degrees on either side of the equator in the Indo-Pacific region from eastern Africa to Guam, mostly concentrated in Southeast Asia and the Caribbean. These sea plants are usually found below the low tide, growing on the sand to rocky seafloor areas along a coral reef where water movement is slow. They tend to grow at a pace similar to terrestrial plant species, but Eucheuma Cottonii has a growing tip that is capable of dividing and forming new branches.
Alfredo Bowman also known as Dr. Sebi has perhaps been one of the most popular enthusiasts of the nutritional and healing properties of sea moss. Despite his passing in 2016 the company he founded, and his teachings live on today. Although he popularized the use of sea moss, he certainly was not the first to discover its properties. Sea moss has been popular since at the least the 1800s when it was used in medicinal practices. Below are some of the widely known benefits of sea moss:
- Respiratory Health – Sea moss has been used to treat illnesses such as sore throats, persistent coughs, and the flu. Sea moss acts as a demulcent which is a substance that relieves the irritation of the mucus membranes in the throat by forming a protective film. Sea moss has also been found to have anti-viral and antibacterial properties.
- Digestive Health – Sea moss is typically recommended in the treatment of intestinal properties such as ulcers, constipation, and diarrhea. Their high mineral and fiber content along with bioactive polysaccharides that are unique to seaweed make sea moss an effective pre-biotic to promote the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut.
- Glowing Skin – Sea moss has an extremely high carrageenan content, a mucilaginous polysaccharide used to thicken foods. This gel property is one of its most famous attributes, and this is exactly why sea moss is so good for skin care products such as lotions and creams.
- Anti-inflammatory – Sea moss is an amazing anti-inflammatory agent that can help with conditions such as arthritis, pain, swelling, and redness. It may also help with internal inflammation such as kidney inflammation.
- Vascular health – Sea moss strengthens the blood vessels which can help to prevent cardiovascular disease, strokes, and cancer.
- Bone Strength – Due to its richness in minerals like calcium and phosphorus, sea moss is known for strengthening bones. In fact, this vegetarian source contains 600 times more calcium than what can be found in many animal sources.
- Collagen restoring – Sea moss is a natural source of collagen, the most abundant protein in the human body. Collagen is great for healing joints, ligaments, and any damaged cartilage in the body. Collagen can also be great for restoring the youthful appearance of the skin by preventing wrinkles, age spots, and dry skin.
- Nutrition – Like many sea plants, sea moss is incredibly nutritious. It contains an abundance of minerals including iron, potassium, calcium, and magnesium, vitamins A, E, and C, dietary fiber, and high levels of iodine. Sea moss also contains bioactive polysaccharides that are being studied by scientists for their miraculous health benefits. Simply adding a small amount of sea moss to a smoothie can help you meet your recommended daily vitamin and mineral levels. As a good source of protein, containing up to 10% depending on where it’s grown, sea moss is a great tasting vegan food for women, men, children, the elderly, and anyone recovering from a disease.