A Marine Ally: Seaweed
The sea is a fascinating place of mystery that has long provided us with a host of discovery and benefits, among which are the highly nutritious seaweed. There's no coincidence that maritime countries that incorporate marine life into their dietary and daily routines experience less disease and longer lifespans. Seaweeds or sea vegetables offer a tremendous range of therapeutic possibilities both as medicine and within cosmetics.
A part of living a natural lifestyle heavily relies on us as individuals trying different healthful practices to see what works best for our unique bodies. A no-risk trial-and-error method, if you will. That being said, authored and world-renown herbalist, Susun Weed has found seaweed to be her "everyday miracle" and experiences the extensive benefits of seaweed in her clinic herbalism practice in the form of "increased longevity, enhanced immune functioning, revitalization of the cardiovascular, endocrine, digestive, and nervous systems, and relief from minor aches and pains" to name a few.
Sea vegetables are not actually plants but algae, and are responsible for oxygenating and detoxifying the ocean. Approximately 70-80% of the earth's oxygen is produced by marine algae which heralds it, by some, as the most important organism on Earth. There are thousands of different species of seaweeds of which are currently used for human foods, cosmetics, fertilizers, and for the extraction of industrial gums and chemicals. The use of seaweed as biofuels are currently being studied, but are not an option on an industrial scale at present.
Although non are known to be poisonous, there are only a handful chosen to be incorporated into human consumption. Some of the more popular and familiar ones include Bladderwrack, Dulse, Nori, Wakame, and Kelp, and all displaying high nutritional value.
Bladderwrack is a brown seaweed and was originally found in the early 1800's as the source of iodine, and was used extensively to treat goiter. In the 1860s, it was claimed that Bladderwrack could counter obesity by increasing the metabolic rate and recently featured in numerous weight-loss remedies. A common food in Japan , Bladderwrack is used as an additive and flavoring in various food products. Bladderwrack is commonly found as a component of kelp tablets or powders used as nutritional supplements in connection with constipation, diarrhea, gastritis, gastro esophageal reflux disease (GERD), heartburn, hypothyroidism, indigestion, and iodine deficiency. An excellent soy alternative, some studies suggest that dietary brown seaweed may contribute to the lower incidence of hormone-dependent cancers. Another study published in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine reported that women who consume Bladderwrack can experience normalization of short menstrual cycles, relief from severe PMS and exert anti-estrogenic effects in pre-menopausal women.
Dulse is red seaweed and a good source of minerals and vitamins compared with other vegetables. It contains all trace elements needed for proper growth, development, and physiology. According our study partners, LearningHerbs.com, dulse was used to remove parasites, relieve constipation, and to treat scurvy. It contains a superior source of phytochemicals that the body needs to make thyroid hormones that affect weight and metabolic rate. Dulse is a gentle alternative to Psyllium or Senna for the treatment of constipation. There are many culinary uses for Dulse. Sun-dried, it can be eaten as is or ground to flakes or powder to be used in soups, chowders, sandwiches and salads, to name a few. It can also be used in tea, encapsulated, or tinctured in herbalism practices.
Nori is red seaweed that is best known in the U.S. as a wrap for sushi. With early writings dated in 987 AD, Nori has a long history of use in traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). It is used to promote healthy circulation, combat thyroid problems, treat soft swellings such as goiters and lung conditions, kidney disease, fatty cysts, painful urination, hypertension, nervous disorders, edema, warts, and indigestion. Much of the beneficial effect comes from its diuretic effect and from high mineral and iodine content. Nori may also be able to help the body break down fatty foods, and it has some antibiotic properties. It is easy to incorporate into culinary items, and it may be added to soups, salads, entrees, or sushi.
Wakame is seaweed that looks and tastes like a slippery spinach. Recent research has found that some of the fibers in Wakame help prevent colon cancer by providing antioxidants in addition to preventing the "fermentation" and oxidation of food as it passes through the large intestine. Daily consumption of small amounts of the reconstituted seaweed (added to water) may lower blood pressure. The Japanese Journal of Cancer Research reports preliminary findings that daily consumption of small amounts of Wakame may be more beneficial in treating certain kinds of breast cancer in women than chemotherapy. The extract made from Wakame has most recently been touted as a breakthrough in weight loss, specifically targeting abdominal fat accumulation.
Kelp has been used for food, crafting and medicine for generations. Today, however, the popularity of Kelp is growing as both a gourmet food and as a possible cancer fighting substance. Japanese studies have shown that the high Iodine value in Kelp corrected hypothyroidism in disabled patients monitored for iodine deficiencies, and in the 1990’s scientists isolated constituents in Kelp that have potent anti-tumor properties. The alginates in Kelp (complex polysaccharides) have a soothing and cleansing effect on the digestive tract and are known to prevent the absorption of toxic metals like mercury, cadmium, plutonium and cesium. Kelp alginates are effective in treating habitual constipation and gastric bloating because they swell in intestinal juices rather than water or gastric juices and are non-irritating. Kelp’s naturally salty flavor comes from potassium rather than sodium, making it a great substitute for salty snacks. Dried Kelp may be used in entrees, soups, salads, encapsulated or in extract form. Powdered Kelp can be added to smoothies, juices, or teas.
Seaweed as Food
Seaweeds contain 13 vitamins, 20 amino acids and 60 trace elements including iodine and sodium. Seaweed has almost zero calories, low in fat and contain protein and 8 times more calcium than beef and milk.
All seaweeds are high in fiber. Each seaweed contains a wide range of essential nutrients, including enzymes, nucleic acids, amino acids, minerals, trace elements, and A, B, C, D, E, and K vitamin complexes. Seaweeds is and excellent medium for electrical nerve flow since they contain the highest mineral content of any consumable food.
Incorporating seaweed into our natural lifestyles is becoming increasingly more convenient. At an Asian bistro? Try their seaweed salad with that order of sushi. At the local Whole Foods, Trader Joe's or health food store? Pick up some dried seaweed snacks while there. For the more adventurous, below are a few ways to easily incorporate our marine friends while in the kitchen.
- Handful of bladderwrack
- Spices of choice
In a small pot, throw in a handful of bladderwrack. Add enough water to cover. Gently simmer for 15 minutes. Cap and let steep overnight.
Next morning, strain (give the seaweed to the nearest patch of earth), warm and season to taste.
Green and Purple Salad
- 4 cups of watercress
- 1 cup dulse pieces
- 1 cup goat cheese
- Olive oil and lemon at table for dressing
Tear watercress and dulse into pieces. Sprinkle with crumbled goat cheese. Dress with oil and lemon.
Nutritive Salt Blend
- 1 part milk thistle seeds, ground
- 1 part kelp, ground or powdered
- 1/2 part alaria or sea lettuce, ground or powdered
- 1/4 part bladderwrack, ground or powdered
- 3 parts sea salt
Mix together well and dump into a shaker. Use on anything that needs a little extra salt.
Seaweed as medicine
Seaweeds are an excellent source of calcium, folic acid and magnesium. They are also high in ligans, plant compounds that protect against cancer and help relieve menopausal symptoms, and fucans, which can reduce inflammation. The B vitamins, pantothenic acid and riboflavin, found in seaweeds can help to relieve stress and anxiety issues. Below are a few other benefits to seaweed consumption:
By providing optimum nourishment to the thyroid, helping to regulate metabolism, and increasing the effectiveness of the digestive system, seaweed can help you get in shape and stay that way.
Seaweed provides a multitude of gifts to the digestive system: soothing, disinfecting, nourishing, helping out with the metabolism of lipids, and maintaining a healthy balance of digestive yeasts and bacteria in the intestines.
Seaweed is an exceptional ally to those with gastric ulcers, duodenal ulcers, ulcerated colon, colitis, constipation, watery stools, and other intestinal ills, thanks to its bio-available nourishment, high algin content and mucilaginous fiber.
Seaweed strengthens circulation, balances blood pressure, lowers cholesterol, builds healthy blood, increases the veins and hearts contractile force, restores and increases cardiac efficiency and nourishes and prolongs the life of the heart muscle.
The hormonal system uses minerals and trace elements so richly available from seaweed to repair tissue, build new cells, and create hormones responsible for regulating blood pressure, metabolism, fertility, sexuality, and reaction to allergens, to name a few.
The lymphatic and immune systems are avid partakers of seaweed’s splendid feast of nutrients. Combined with this optimum nourishment, the communication enhancing effects of seaweed further enhance response time and strength in the immune system. This reduces opportunist bacterial and viral infections.
The urinary system gets a special boost from seaweed’s seeming excess of potassium and sodium. The nervous system also relaxes in the presence of seaweed’s mineral abundance. Seaweed creates an inner environment where nerve signals flow more smoothly and where brain chemicals are produced as needed: to maintain alertness, increase memory, reduce pain.
Seaweed as Skincare
Daily consumption of seaweed is known to produce glossier hair and more luminous skin. This is not only because of their high source of minerals, polysaccharides, proteins, and lipids, but also because of the secondary metabolites and nitrogen derivatives that they can produce.
The wealth of essential vitamins, minerals, amino acids and antioxidants in seaweed helps in keeping the skin revitalized, moisturized, and youthful. These elements guard the skin against the harmful effects of environmental pollutants and helps to slow down the skin’s aging process. Some research has suggested that seaweed extracts contain anti-aging properties and are a useful ingredient in the manufacturing of skin care cosmetics. The anti-inflammatory properties present in seaweed are useful in treating skin rashes and wounds. The phytonutrients elevate blood flow and bring a healthy glow to the face. Seaweed wraps found in some spa locations can help to detoxify and cleanse the skin by expelling toxins out of the pores. Seaweed baths have also been admired among British and Irish people for ages due to their therapeutic effects.
As with any harvested product, careful consideration of source and farming practices should be used. Please ensure they are organic and sustainably harvested.
Buffing Grains with Seaweed
At balm skincare, we use seaweed in the form of dulse in a variation of our buffing grains to provide added minerals, phytonutrients and vitamins. For those with mature, aging or dry skin, finding skincare products with bioavailable nutrients is key to maintaining skin health. By using raw and unprocessed seaweed in our Buffing Grains with Seaweed, we are able to activate its power when water is added with each individual use, making sure you get the most out of the highly beneficial ingredient.
Try our Buffing Grains with Seaweed combined with our Raw Honey Cleansers as a mask (approximately for 5 to 10 minutes at least twice a week) for better absorption of nutrients. Simply used as a daily cleanser, our Buffing Grains with Seaweed will bring added softness and a youthful glow to the skin with each use. Learn more about the benefits of our Buffing Grains with Seaweed by clicking the button below.