Kim Kardashian is hip to it. So is Erykah Badu. TikTok influencers have jumped on the sea moss bandwagon too, alerting their followers to the many purported benefits of this seaweed, such as clearer skin, better breathing and digestive aid. As with many other superfoods, this Irish sea moss has functioned as folk medicine for centuries, especially in the Caribbean and Ireland. These days, it’s popping up everywhere you look, in body lotions and facial masks, as well as in powders, pills and dried varieties that people put in their smoothies and even lattes.
So what is sea moss?
Despite its name, Irish moss (Chondrus crispus) isn’t technically a moss: It’s a type of algae. This red, sometimes brown, branching seaweed is predominantly found on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean in Britain, Europe and North America. Seam moss is typically linked to its most well-known ingredient, a jelly-like substance known as carrageenan, a food additive that functions as a thickening agent. Carrageenan can be used as a vegan substitute for gelatin, as well as a general emulsifier, which improves texture and stability. It’s found in cottage cheese, ice cream, dairy alternatives, such as vegan cheeses or nondairy desserts and creamers.
It’s important to realize that carrageenan (a chemically processed ingredient) is different than sea moss. Sea moss, on the other hand, is a whole food that contains an exciting mix of vitamins, nutrients and antioxidants. Here are nine ways sea moss can support your health.
1. It can aid digestion.
Like chia seeds, aloe and okra, sea moss is a mucilaginous food. Its slimy texture makes it an effective soothing agent for mucus membranes in the body, including the respiratory and digestive systems. According to a study done on animals, sea moss can have a prebiotic effect during digestion. The study suggests sea moss increased beneficial short-chain fatty acids in the colon, helped the gut clear bad bacteria and improved overall gut health.†
2. It may support thyroid function.
Seaweed is rich in iodine, and sea moss is no exception. Iodine is an important nutrient for your thyroid because it helps your thyroid produce hormones that control your metabolism, nerves and bone growth. In one study, supplementing with seaweed was effective as a source of iodine in an iodine-insufficient population.†
3. It may help support heart health.
Seaweed, including Irish moss specifically, is a stellar plant source of omega-3 fatty acids, fats critical for a healthy heart. Adequate omega-3 fatty acids intake is connected to a lower risk of heart disease, blood clots, high cholesterol and high blood pressure. Some studies have found that seaweed reduces LDL (bad) cholesterol and acts as a blood thinner, which may help promote heart health. Another study suggested that adding small amounts of seaweed to frozen foods, such as those served in school cafeterias, may help reduce rates of cardiovascular disease.†
4. It may help support healthy blood sugar levels.
Studies have shown that fucoxanthin, found in brown seaweeds, may have significant benefits for supporting blood sugar levels. It may help the body respond to insulin more effectively, meaning that your body can control its own blood sugar with less work. For example, for people with diabetes, eating Irish moss may help with blood sugar spikes or crashes. This was suggested by an eight-week study in 60 Japanese people revealed that fucoxanthin, may help improve blood sugar control. Participants received a local seaweed oil that contained either 0 mg, 1 mg or 2 mg of fucoxanthin. The study found that those who received 2 mg of fucoxanthin had improved blood sugar levels, compared to the group who received 0 mg.†
5. It may be an antidote to depletion.
Sea moss contains a significant amount of iron. One hundred grams, roughly 20 tablespoons of sea moss, contains 8.9 milligrams of iron, which provides 50 percent of the recommended daily value of iron. It’s a great iron source option for vegetarians, because sea moss has 9 times more iron than chicken. If you’re feeling fatigued or low energy, it can sometimes be connected to low iron levels. Iron helps your body create red blood cells to move oxygen from your lungs to your cells, and when you take in adequate amounts you tend to feel more energetic.†
6. It can help support your immune system.
During cold and flu season, sea moss smoothies could become your go-to meal. Sea moss contains potassium iodide, which acts as an “irritating” expectorant, great for helping dissolve troublesome phlegm in clogged airways. Sea moss, rich in amino acids, vitamin C, antioxidants, as well as a host of antiviral and antimicrobial agents, can help support your immune health.†
7. It may bolster mental health.
Potassium, somewhat surprisingly, can be a very important adjunct to mental and emotional health. An extreme deficiency in potassium can lead to confusion, depression and fatigue. Since the body can’t store potassium for extended periods, it’s a good idea to replenish your body with it regularly. Did you know: Sea moss packs in about two times more potassium than an average-sized banana with roughly twice as few calories?
8. It can nourish the skin
Because of its vitamin and mineral packed gelatin-like quality, many people use sea moss masks to soothe eczema, psoriasis, dermatitis and burns. Studies have found that citrulline–arginine, a compound found in Irish moss, can encourage skin cell growth and metabolism. Because of its high sulphur content (endows it with antimicrobial properties), sea moss can also be useful to people who suffer from acne or oily skin. Sea moss also releases amino acids that are essential for protein and collagen synthesis, a protein that maintains smooth skin and silky hair.†
9. It may help support a more robust sex life.
There are no studies to support this, so should be taken on anecdotal value only. But Caribbean natives have been using sea moss as a natural aphrodisiac for decades. But there could be a grain of truth in it because sea moss’s high zinc content helps support the body’s production of sex hormones, such as testosterone and prolactin, which can aid sexual health.†
†These statements have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent disease.