It seems as though Irish sea moss is having a soaring interest in popularity as a supplement. Previously, Irish sea moss was mostly just used as a processing ingredient in beer manufacturing – Irish moss naturally contains carrageenan which is an important to help clarify beer during boiling.
Determining what kind of moss you are getting when buying products labelled as “Irish sea moss” can be a bit confusing – some are labelled “Irish sea moss,” some are labelled “Irish moss,” and some just ‘sea moss.’ Are these all the same thing? Is sea moss the same as any other type of seaweed?
Sea Moss vs. Seaweed vs. Kelp
First, it is important to know that all sea mosses are actually a type of red seaweed – one of the largest groups of algae. These are *not* related to “real” mosses, those which are commonly found in plant life.
What about kelp? Kelp is often used very generically as a term to describe different seaweeds. ‘Real’ kelp is a family of brown seaweed that is *not* related to sea mosses, even though both are often referred to as seaweeds.
Understanding the Difference Between ‘Irish Moss’ and ‘Irish Sea Moss’
Irish sea moss is also known as “Chondrus crispus,” and grows more commonly in the British Isles – including Ireland, but also in Canada and the U.S. It is almost always ‘wildcrafted,’ meaning it is harvested from the ‘natural’ habitat and not produced through agricultural farming or production.
Sea moss labelled as Irish moss from the Caribbean or Jamaica is still sea moss, but not the same species as “Chondrus crispus,” but from a related species known as (or often referred to as) “Gracilaria.”
Irish immigrants had brought over the tradition of consuming sea moss to Jamaica, whereby they used the old terminology of “Chondrus crispus” to refer to “Gracilaria” as well.
The Health Benefits Behind Irish Sea Moss and Sea Moss
Not only is sea moss a great addition to help boost the immune system, but it also appears to potentially have anti-cancer activity.
Many of the benefits of sea moss are going to come from the natural, bioactive compounds unique to it, including polysaccharides and polyphenols. This may be why sea moss is touted as having the ability to boost the immune system and help provide a better immune response in animal research.
While research has yet to be conducted in human studies, we already know a lot about the health benefits of compounds like polysaccharides, which are abundant in other ‘superfoods’ like mushrooms.
Sea moss can be a great digestive health tool – seaweeds have a lot of prebiotic fiber content which is great for promoting regularity, and increasing the populations of beneficial bacteria in the gut. Additionally, the fatty acids, polysaccharides, and polyphenols can help promote a healthy digestive ecosystem and reduce intestinal inflammation and permeability.
Irish sea moss — and all sea moss by extension – are great for heart health, as they have been shown to lower bad cholesterol, lower blood pressure and reduce risk of cardiovascular events and chronic disease.
Choosing A Reliable Sea Moss Product
Regardless of whether your sea moss is from the Caribbean or from North America – the important thing is that you get ‘wildcrafted’ or wild harvested sea moss to derive the whole nutritional benefit. Most brands of sea moss, such as Grateful Nutrition and Serenity Sea Moss will specify both that they are wildcrafted / wild harvested and the country of origin.
Those who are pregnant, breastfeeding or have a thyroid condition may want to check with a physician or doctor prior to consumption, as sea moss is naturally high in iodine.
How to Consume Sea Moss
With sea moss, you want to turn it into a sort of ‘gel’ to consume it. To do this, simply soak raw sea moss overnight in water, rinse in the morning or prior to use with fresh water and then blend it to your desired consistency. You can also store it in the fridge to change the consistency to a more jelly-like hardness for up to two weeks. You can then add this gel to smoothies, deserts, yogurt, or oatmeal.