At The Pure Package, we find that seaweed seems to be one of those foods that people either love or hate. So here is a bit of information to give you an insight into why we are huge fans of the stuff!
Seaweed is an umbrella term given to a huge variety of algae species that breed in rivers and oceans. When on a seaside or beach holiday it’s likely you’ve come across the stuff in the sea! Algae is essential for marine life and feeds a vast amount of sea creatures.
There are around 200 bioactive compounds in seaweed (the main ones are metabolites, meroterpenoids, phlorotanins and fucoidans). These bioactive compounds work as immunomodulators. This means that they treat diseases by regulating or normalising the immune system which reduces inflammation in the body.
Brown seaweed (Sargassum ssp) has been recognised for its numerous pharmacological properties such as anti-cancer, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-bone loss, lowering blood pressure, blood thinning, lowering cholesterol, liver protection and protection of the nervous system. Protection of the nervous system is vital to sufferers of dementia. Seaweed has also been recognised for being beneficial for asthma sufferers due to its anti-allergic properties.
Seaweed has been used for nearly 2000 years in traditional chinese medicine and research is now investigating its role in treating thyroid related diseases. The first known record of Sargassum ssp being used as medicine was for the treatment of goiter which is the swelling of the neck caused by an enlarged thyroid gland. This is one of the most important functions of seaweed in traditional chinese medicine.
Traditional chinese medicine claimed that the iodine present in seaweed plays an important role in the treatment of thyroid enlargement (goiter). Seaweed supplementation has been proven to improve iodine status in iodine-insufficient individuals and iodine deficiency is the most common cause of goiter. More recently however, researchers believe that it is the fact that seaweed is an immunomodulator and this is why seaweed is so beneficial to goiter. The reason for this is because the bioactive metabolites inhibit thyroid growth. Research is now looking further into the role of Sargassum in preventing and treating thyroid diseases.
Instead of eating seaweed as part of a balanced diet, supplementing with algae such as spirulina or chlorella has become more popular recently. Among the benefits previously mentioned, these algae powders and tablets are most popularly known for detoxifying heavy metals in the body.
As you can see, there is a lot of power in our little sea vegetables!
If you think using a seaweed supplementation may be beneficial to you, ensure to speak to your local GP or contact a local nutritionist for further advice. It is not recommended to self-diagnose or self-treat any illnesses without guidance from a professional.
Liu, L. et al (2012) Towards a better understanding of medicinal uses of the brown seaweed Sargassum in Traditional Chinese Medicine :A phytochemical and pharmacological review. Journal of Ethnopharmacology,142(3), 591-619.
Combet, E., Ma, Z., Cousins, F., Thompson, B., & Lean, M. (2014). Low-level seaweed supplementation improves iodine status in iodine-insufficient women. British Journal of Nutrition, 112(5), 753-761.