Sea Veggies

(Kelp, Dulse, Irish Moss, Etc.)

By Steven H. Horne

If you’ve ever walked along the beach and picked up some slimy seaweed that has washed up onto the shore you probably didn’t think, “Oh, yummy!”. However, various forms of seaweeds are a type of vegetable consumed by many people in many cultures, and they’re a downright healthy vegetable, too.

Seaweeds are the most dependable food source for iodine, a very critical nutrient in the human body. Iodine, which is the subject of this month’s Nature’s Field and Tree of Light’s theme for the month of January, is a rare element, and difficult to obtain in a normal diet. Native people knew of its importance, and it was often carried far inland as an item of trade. (In areas where seaweeds were unavailable, iodine was usually obtained by eating the thyroid gland of slain animals.)

Iodine is absolutely critical for thyroid function, and a large majority of thyroid disorders could be prevented or “cured” through increased iodine intake, i.e., consuming more sea veggies.

However, the need for iodine doesn’t stop with the thyroid. Women’s breasts are the second biggest user of iodine, and many breast problems, from fibroids to cancer, could be prevented by adequate iodine intake. All tissues of the body need iodine, but the parts of the body that suffer the most from iodine deficiency (besides the breast and thyroid) are the skin, eyes, prostate and uterus.

Sea vegetables contain far more than iodine, so we need to watch the tendency to oversimplify their potential uses. Linda Page gave an excellent presentation on the value of “Sea Vegetables for Natural Health and Beauty” at a special luncheon I attended at the 2003 Clayton College of Natural Health Symposium. She pointed out that these plants are very mineral rich, containing 10-20 times more trace minerals than most land plants. Besides iodine, these vegetables contain iron, magnesium, potassium, boron, silica, selenium and chromium. They are also loaded with essential fatty acids, vitamins (including Vitamin D) and water-soluble fiber.

This high nutritional content makes sea vegetables excellent bone-building and tissue-repairing foods. They have been known to improve hair color and quality, skin tone and texture, fingernail strength, ease arthritic symptoms and strengthen bone structure. Linda Page told us that sea vegetables make wonderful topical beauty treatments. Used in baths or facial masks they make the skin more supple and elastic, helping to eliminate dry skin and wrinkles.

In the Orient, sea vegetables have been used for centuries in the treatment of cancer. Modern research is showing that there is real scientific validity to this. Anti-cancer compounds have been found in kelp, kombu and wakame. Many sea vegetables contain lignans, which are also found in flaxseeds, and are known to bond to estrogen-receptor sites and inhibit estrogen-dependent cancers. It appears that adding sea vegetables to the diet could be a powerful way to reduce the risk of breast cancer in women and prostate cancer in men.

Ryan Drum, Ph.D. is a professional herbalist who is an expert on sea vegetables. He says that fucoidan, a compound found in sea veggies like kelp and bladderwrack, is “…extremely anti-proliferative against cancer cells. It also interferes with every stage of viral attack: cell attachment, cell penetration, and intracellular virion production.” This is why people who eat lots of sea veggies also seem to be more resistant to colds and flu. Dr. Drum also notes that certain polysaccharides or glycoproteins from red seaweeds (such as dulse) have been successfully used in treating genital herpes and Herpes Zoster. So, combining Liquid Dulse with VS-C and other antivirals could increase their effectiveness in dealing with chronic viral conditions.

Because they are high in water-soluble fiber, natural chlorine and potassium, sea vegetables have a protective effect on the heart and cardiovascular system. They can lower blood cholesterol levels and high blood pressure. They also have anti-inflammatory properties.

Sea vegetables have also been used in health spas in the British Isles for joint and muscle pain. The mucilaginous seaweeds not only absorb toxins and reduce inflammation, but their minerals are also absorbed through the skin to aid tissue repair.

Sea vegetables have a powerful detoxifying effect on the body. The mineral salts they contain help move lymphatic fluids, so they enhance lymphatic drainage and can be helpful in softening hardened lymph nodes. The mucilaginous fiber they contain absorbs toxins in the bowel and promotes bowel health.

Sodium alginate, the mucilage from kelp, is a very powerful detoxifier. The Environmental Protection Agency of the United States government has found that alginates can bind and eliminate radioactive materials such as Strontium 90 from the body. They can also absorb mercury, cadmium and other heavy metals.

Sodium alginate is available as a supplement through NSP and combined with Heavy Metal Detox is an excellent way to get mercury and other heavy metals out of the body. Consuming sea vegetables regularly will help protect the body from radioactive iodine (which is emitted from nuclear power plants and destroys thyroid tissue) and heavy metals.

Linda Page said that sea vegetables are excellent foods for pregnancy. Lack of iodine can cause stunted growth, mental deficiency, puffy facial features and a lack of muscular development in infants. She stated that sea vegetables can also help raise hemoglobin levels, and reduce constipation and stretch marks in pregnant mothers.

Returning to the thyroid, Ryan Drum says the Fucus species of seaweeds (which include bladderwrack) provides di-iodotyrosine (DIT) which is a precursor to forming the essential thyroid hormones Thyroxine (T4) and Tri-iodothyronine (T3). He concludes that in providing the immediate precursors for T4 and T3, Fucus seems particularly effective in treating both hypothyroidism and Grave’s hyperthyroidism.

NSP’s products contain four kinds of seaweeds—kelp, dulse, bladderwrack and Irish Moss. Kelp is sold as a single herb in capsules and dulse is available as a liquid extract. Kelp is great to sprinkle on food and the Liquid Dulse is a great way to give iodine to kids.

All four seaweeds are found in various NSP formulas. Kelp is an ingredient in AdaptaMax, Bowel Detox, Energ-V, Heavy Metal Detox, Herbal Trace Minerals, MasterGland, MetaboMax EF, Potassium Combination, PS II, Target TS II, Thyroid Activator, Thyroid Support and TS II. Bladderwrack is found in CelluSmooth and Ultimate GreenZone. Dulse is found in HSN-W, Potassium Combination, and Super Supplemental. Irish moss is a component of All Cell Detox, Herbal CA, Target TS II, Thyroid Activator and TS II. It is also a key ingredient in the Natria Irish Moss lotion, a wonderful treatment for the skin.

In addition, bulk sea vegetables of various sorts can be purchased in health food stores or other outlets and added to NSP’s Vegetable Seasoning Broth, soups, stews or other dishes. Many of them are quite tasty and have a pleasant salty flavor. I have been experimenting with using sea vegetables as foods and am learning to enjoy them in various ways. As suggested by Linda Page, bulk seaweeds can also be used in baths.

When one considers the many benefits of sea vegetables, it adds a whole new meaning to the phrase, “Eat your veggies.”


Selected References

“Sea Vegetables for Natural Health and Beauty” by Linda Page, ND, PhD, Clayton College of Natural Health Symposium Proceedings 2003.

“Botanicals for Thyroid Function and Dysfunction” by Ryan Drum, Southwest Conference on Botanical Medicine Conference 2000.

The Comprehensive Guide to Nature’s Sunshine Products by Tree of Light Publishing