Benefits of Irish Moss and ways to consume it

Since we've already covered the nutritional values of Irish moss, in this article I will go over the health benefits it has to offer as well as the different ways you can consume it. 

Irish moss health benefits

Increase energy levels

In order to make the most of the energy stored in food, your body needs B vitamins such as B2 and B9. B2 breaks down the proteins, carbs and fats and B9 is required to form DNA and other genetic material.

Irish moss contains an abundance of these two vitamins and therefore may have an energy-boosting effect as your body converts food into energy in a more optimal way. 

Improve immune system and antiviral properties

Irish moss is rich in zinc, an essential component of the immune system response, and is therefore very effective in “boosting” the immune system.

Additionally, studies show that “red seaweed Chondrus crispus has been reported to have a wide range of health-promoting activities, such as antitumor and antiviral activities”. [1]

May help with digestion

The high fibre content of Irish moss acts as a mild laxative while the demulcent (an agent that forms a soothing film over a mucous membrane) properties of Irish moss soothe the membranes of the intestinal tract.

Additionally, a study conducted on animals shows that it can also have a prebiotic effect during the digestion process resulting in; an increase in beneficial short-chain fatty acids in the colon, cleansing of bad bacteria in the gut, and an improvement in overall gut health and immunity. [2]

Improve thyroid function

As we’ve already established, iodine, used in the production of thyroid hormones, is of critical importance for healthy thyroid function. Irish moss, along with other types of seaweed, is one of the richest sources of iodine on the planet.

Skin nourishment

Many people use Irish moss masks to soothe eczema, psoriasis, dermatitis and burns because of its vitamin and mineral packed jelly-like qualities. Studies have found that Irish moss can also improve cell growth due to the compound citrulline–arginine. [3]

This compound also releases amino acids that are essential for protein and collagen synthesis. Collagen is important for smooth skin and silky hair.

Emotional health and brain functionality

The high levels of magnesium contained in Irish moss contributes to optimum brain function and overall mood. Low levels of magnesium in the diet have been linked to an increased risk of depression. [4][5]

Additionally, research has also been done into the “neuroprotective effects” of Irish moss, indicating that it may protect brain tissue from neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson's disease. [6]

Consuming Irish moss

So far so good, but how can you make this a regular feature of your diet?

Preparing sea moss for consumption

Most people consume Irish moss as a gel or powder. Below we are going to look at each of these processes.

Firstly though, does it lose its nutritional properties once converted into a gel or powder?

No it does not, however, cooking the Irish moss may result in some loss, especially if cooked for prolonged periods at high temperatures. Refer to the section ‘Cooking with Irish Moss’ for more information on nutrient loss and retention in cooking.

Turning raw sea moss into gel

The process for turning raw Irish moss into gel is very simple and is as follows.

  1. Rehydrate the Irish moss by soaking it in water overnight or for 4-6 hours.
  2. Rinse it thoroughly to clean off any debris.
  3. Add the Irish moss and water to a blender, less water will produce a thicker gel and vice versa. Blend it for a few minutes and it will start to form into a gel.
  4. Add a dash of grapeseed oil (optional)
  5. Pour into a glass container, cover and place in the refrigerator to thicken and set. 

Some people also prefer to boil/simmer the Irish moss in water to help break it down before blending it.

Irish moss gel can keep for about 2 weeks in the refrigerator.

Powdering the herb

The easiest way to powder dried Irish moss (or any dried herb) is to use a food processor, electric coffee grinder or the traditional mortar and pestle.

If you do decide to use a coffee grinder, don't use the same grinder for both coffee and herbs to prevent the residue from mixing.

Capsules

Sea moss capsules are an increasingly popular way to get more Irish moss into the body. The powdered herb is often mixed with bladderwrack and encapsulated to make something similar to Dr. Sebi's bromide plus capsules.

Irish moss tea

Here’s the standard way to make tea using your sea moss gel. This will be pretty flavorless so you can sweeten it up with agave nectar or date sugar if you wish.

Ingredients

  • Irish moss gel
  • Filtered or spring water
  • Ginger (optional)
  • Agave nectar or date sugar (optional)

Directions

  1. Add ginger to a pot. (optional)
  2. Add water, bring to a boil then reduce heat and let cool slightly.
  3. Add your Irish moss gel at a ratio of one part gel to four parts water. 

Cooking with Irish moss

Once turned into a gel, Irish moss is incredibly versatile and pretty much flavorless, after you’ve added it food it’s almost completely undetectable.

In regards to nutrient loss with cooking.

Water-soluble vitamins such as C, B2 and B3, for example, as well as some minerals, i.e. potassium, magnesium, sodium, and calcium may be reduced during cooking. [3]

That said, the cooking methods you employ do have an impact on how much of the original nutrient content is preserved.

Studies have shown that mineral (and some vitamin) loss is more prone when boiling, with parching, frying and stewing to have less of an impact [6][7].

Boiling

Boiling food, especially vegetables, means that much of the nutrition has a tendency to leach out into the water. This is generally fine as long as the water is consumed. [6]

With that in mind, soups are one of the easiest ways to introduce Irish moss into your diet ensuring that most (if not all) of the nutritional properties are retained.

Stir-frying

Stir frying is generally an acceptable way to cook with relatively low nutrition loss. [9] When we stir fry we cook the food on a high heat for a short time. The key to minimizing nutrient loss is to constantly “stir” the food rather than letting it sit and exposing it to high heats for extended periods.

The next time you make a vegetable stir fry, try adding a few tablespoons of sea moss gel towards the end of the cooking process. It’s a great replacement for things like corn starch which is often used to create a sauce base.

Points to remember when cooking sea moss
  • Avoid cooking for over-extended periods on high heats
  • Boiling or simmering is fine as long as you consume the water in its entirety, don’t throw that nutrition down the drain.

Frequently asked questions

How long until I start seeing benefits?

There is no definite answer to this question.

While some people claim to feel benefits within a couple of weeks, the consensus seems to be 2-4 months, with potentially less or more time depending on the digestive flora of the individual.

It is much more productive to consume smaller amounts over time (daily) as opposed to large amounts occasionally with “continual exposure to the new food material being the key to bacterial dietary adaptation”. [15]

Where to buy irish moss?

Since the pandemic hit suppliers have been running out of stock left, right and center. After quite a bit of searching I found this company. If you want some definitely get it before they run out!

Sources

[1] Liu, J., Hafting, J., Critchley, A. T., Banskota, A. H., & Prithiviraj, B. (2013). Components of the cultivated red seaweed Chondrus crispus enhance the immune response of Caenorhabditis elegans to Pseudomonas aeruginosa through the pmk-1, daf-2/daf-16, and skn-1 pathways. Applied and environmental microbiology, 79(23), 7343–7350. https://doi.org/10.1128/AEM.01927-13

[2] Liu, J (et al.) 2015, ‘Prebiotic effects of diet supplemented with the cultivated red seaweed Chondrus crispus or with fructo-oligo-saccharide on host immunity, colonic microbiota and gut microbial metabolites’, BMC Complement Altern Med, vol. 15, pp. 279

[3] Bourgougnon, N. (ed.) (2014) Advances in Botanical Research. Sea Plants. Volume 71. Elsevier Inc

[4] Serefko, A., Szopa, A., Wlaź, P., Nowak, G., Radziwoń-Zaleska, M., Skalski, M., & Poleszak, E. (2013). Magnesium in depression. Pharmacological reports : PR, 65(3), 547–554. https://doi.org/10.1016/s1734-1140(13)71032-6

[5] Tarleton, E. K., & Littenberg, B. (2015). Magnesium intake and depression in adults. Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine : JABFM, 28(2), 249–256. https://doi.org/10.3122/jabfm.2015.02.140176

[6] Liu, J., Banskota, A. H., Critchley, A. T., Hafting, J., & Prithiviraj, B. (2015). Neuroprotective effects of the cultivated Chondrus crispus in a C. elegans model of Parkinson's disease. Marine drugs, 13(4), 2250–2266. https://doi.org/10.3390/md13042250

[7] Kimura, M., & Itokawa, Y. (1990). Cooking losses of minerals in foods and its nutritional significance. Journal of nutritional science and vitaminology, 36 Suppl 1, S25–S33.

[8] Lee, S., Choi, Y., Jeong, H. S., Lee, J., & Sung, J. (2017). Effect of different cooking methods on the content of vitamins and true retention in selected vegetables. Food science and biotechnology, 27(2), 333–342.

[9] Franziska Spritzler, RD, CDE, 2019, How Cooking Affects the Nutrient Content of Foods, Healthline, 21 March 2020, <https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/cooking-nutrient-content>

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