Irish sea moss, also just called Irish moss or sea moss, is a red algae that people in Jamaica, Ireland, and Scotland have consumed for generations. The food is highly regarded for its purported curative properties, and now that it has caught the attention of celebrities, the whole world is taking notice.
Much of what we know about Irish sea moss comes from folklore, as not much research concerning its effects on humans exists. However, growing evidence shows great promise for this sea treasure.
Sea vegetables such as Irish sea moss contain unique proteins not found among terrestrial sources. Irish moss is up to 45% protein, significantly higher than other seaweeds. Gram for gram, this food has protein and amino acid content similar to those of beef.
A 2019 study found that sea moss is high in bioavailable iodine. This trace element is vital to thyroid function, brain health, and metabolism. Too little or too much iodine can increase the risk of illness, however. If you have any thyroid-related issues, consult a physician before consuming sea moss.
The carrageenan in Irish sea moss has a long-held reputation for alleviating coughs and curing a common cold, and research suggests it can bolster immune function by suppressing molecules produced by viruses, bacteria, and fungi. The mucilaginous property of sea moss also helps soothe a sore throat. Animal and in vitro studies indicate that the compound also has anticoagulant potential.
Some people apply sea moss gel topically to heal wounds and soothe burns, eczema, and psoriasis. Research shows that one component, citrulline-arginine, can protect the skin in extreme weather conditions, increase skin energy levels, and enhance metabolism and cell growth. This substance also facilitates collagen and protein synthesis.
The findings presented in a 2015 article suggest that sea moss has neuroprotective properties. This may be due to seaweed’s ability to mitigate oxidative stress and enhance the functioning of stress response genes. Researchers believe that multiple compounds in sea moss act in tandem to counter cognitive decline.
Irish sea moss is a prebiotic, feeding good bacteria in the gut and helping eliminate bad microbiota. Its sticky texture helps soothe mucus membranes in the gastrointestinal system and promote smooth stool movement, and it can increase the production of beneficial short-chain fatty acids in the colon.
A recent review reported that porphyran and carrageenan, two bioactive compounds derived from sea moss, possess remarkable chemopreventive potential. These compounds appear to be toxic to tumor cells but do not harm normal tissue. The study indicates they interact favorably with conventional cancer drugs, enhancing the benefits.
Carrageenan is a popular thickening agent for many food products, but experts have raised some health concerns. The International Agency for Research on Cancer labeled the sea moss derivative “a possible human carcinogen” in 1983. However, another report notes that it is processed carrageenan, which is extracted from seaweed and chemically modified, that has the potential to trigger inflammation and cancer.
Sea moss is an excellent plant-based option for thickening agents or gelatin. Prepare the raw moss by thoroughly washing it and soaking it for a day. It has virtually no flavor, so you’re only adding great nutrition and texture to smoothies, sauces, soups and stews, and even homemade ice cream.
You can purchase Irish moss raw or in gel or powder form. If you’re buying raw seaweed, look for a wild-harvested or wildcrafted product. It should have some sand, sea salt, or other natural debris that needs to be washed off. Your moss should not smell of chlorine or other chemicals.
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