From crackers, to salads, to body care, and even fertilizer, seaweed is found everywhere!
You may be wondering if seaweed is all that it is chalked up to be. Spoiler alert - it is! In this article we dive into everything you need to know. What minerals are found in seaweed, what the benefits are for each skin types, and why you should cook with it for food. You'll also learn some useful tips about sourcing and harvesting seaweed - two important factors in your regenerative lifestyle.
SEAWEED USE IS NOT JUST A TREND, BUT AN ANCIENT PRACTICE
From Scottish folklore to traditional Chinese medicine, to archaeological sites in Chile, seaweed has been an incredible asset to humankind for tens of thousands of years.
Yep - archaeological evidence at the Monte Verde site, dated to around 14,000BC in southern Chile, shows nine different species of seaweed that were used as food and medicine (1)!
17th century Northern Europe not only used seaweed as food, medicine, fodder, and fertilizer but also as an industrial resource for soda and iodine (2).
In TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine), gulfweed, or sea holly, has been used for about 2000 years for thyroid health (3).
In ancient Greece, they were not only using seaweed to feed their plants and animals, they were putting it in their baths for its detoxifying effects.
In 961 BC, there are records from Iceland documenting the rights to coastal access for harvesting sea vegetables.
Plants love eating seaweed as fertilizer.
Animals love having seaweed in their feed.
And us humans are no different in our deliberate consumption of this multifaceted sea plant.
Clearly, seaweed use is no trend. It is a practice that is here to stay.
WHAT EXACTLY MAKES SEAWEED SO BENEFICIAL?
Traditional use affirms the global popularity of seaweed as a food and medicine, but modern research can further prove how this works.
Seaweed is rich in the following vitamins and minerals:
Bioactive compounds in seaweeds, like metabolites, meroterpenoids, phlorotannins (which are only found in marine plants), and fucoidans are responsible for potential antiviral, antibacterial, anticancer, and anti-inflammatory actions (3).
BENEFITS OF SEAWEED FOR YOUR SKIN
Not only are the above-noted benefits of seaweed helpful for healthy skin, seaweed is also remarkably demulcent and humectant!
Demulcency refers to seaweed’s mucilaginous texture that soothes redness and irritation on the skin. You know that slimy texture? Yep, that is what demulcenecy refers to.
Humectant refers to its ability to retain moisture levels on the skin and to draw moisture into the skin from the air. Isn’t that pretty incredible? Topical seaweed has the power to not just moisturize your skin with its own demulcent nature, it can actually draw upon water molecules like a magnet to bring moisture into your skin and keep it there.
How do you know if your skin would benefit from seaweed?
Consumption of seaweed will no doubt benefit your whole being. When our insides are healthy, our skin shows this through a clear, glowing complexion. Interestingly, cultures that consume consistent amounts of seaweed in their diet have significantly lower rates of melanoma. While cause and effect cannot necessarily be implicated, there certainly is a clear correlation when we look at melanoma rates in Australia versus Japan. There is a 40% lower incidence of melanoma in Japan. And as melanoma rates rise throughout the world, the rates are staying relatively low in Japan, a country in which brown seaweed is a regular part of their diets (4).
The topical use of seaweed has its benefits specific to every single skin type!
Dry Skin will of course benefit from its soothing, demulcent and humectant properties. Our skin needs a water content level of at least 10% to ensure our skin’s keratin can maintain a soft and flexible texture (5).
Maturing skin loves the moisture seaweed brings to the skin! With just a 1% decrease in our skin’s moisture level, we can see a significant change in elasticity. The silicon levels of brown seaweed also have hopeful benefits of reducing the appearance of wrinkles (6).
Acne is soothed and detoxified by seaweed’s demulcency and high mineral content. Specific minerals, like zinc and magnesium, have positive effects on acne. Studies have found that brown seaweeds, like kelp, have targeted activity against the bacteria and inflammation associated with acne (7).
Sensitive skin, like eczema, benefits from seaweeds minerals and hydration. The emollient properties of seaweed can alleviate itching, discomfort, and redness due to irritated skin.
Think it'll work for you ? Try our Kelp Forest Face Mask to discover the skin benefits of seaweed.
SOURCING SEAWEED SUSTAINABLY FOR A REGENERATIVE LIFESTYLE
As the name indicates, seaweeds grow like a weed - meaning in abundance. They grow abundantly throughout the oceans of the world. And most are perfectly safe for human consumption. This makes them a sustainable resource for our diets and self-care routines, and for our plant & animal friend diets, as well (8).
With over 32 countries harvesting wild seaweeds, totaling to over 800,000 tons a year - we need to think ahead. As seaweed grows in popularity, we want to ensure it is being harvested sustainably so that future generations of these macroalgaes can continue to thrive (9). To read more about the future of our oceans, check out our blog post Saving the Forests To Save Our Oceans.
Sourcing your seaweed as local as possible, and knowing who is harvesting it from the sea, often ensures support for thoughtful and renewable harvesting practices.
Once the seaweed is harvested, it needs to be cured and dried properly to retain maximum nutrition while not spoiling from too much moisture. Freeze drying, or air drying at room temperature are the best methods for preserving the bioactive compounds, vitamins, and minerals.
For incredible tasting, perfectly cured, or super fresh seaweed, head to Seaquoia! They harvest fresh seaweed in Santa Cruz, California and sell nutrition packed options to the community. It can be found in our Kelp Forest Face Mask.
LEARN HOW TO HARVEST SEAWEED
Always check your local laws and regulations about harvesting living seaweed from the beaches. You likely do not need a license to harvest a small amount for personal use.
Always use scissors to cut the seaweed from it’s holdfast. Do NOT pull seaweed off of rocks because this can kill the “roots” and prevent future generations of seaweed from growing.
Always do your research about which seaweeds grow near you, so you can appropriately identify and harvest the best species.
- Add seaweed to broths and soups
- Sprinkle seaweed onto dishes like rice or popcorn
- Use it to flavor meats
- Add seaweed to your baths
- Make sushi at home!
- Sprinkle seaweed in your garden!
- Consider seaweed supplements for thyroid health
- Use seaweed in your skincare routine, like facial masks
Regenerative Foods: Learn how to cook with seaweed
- Seaweed has enriching benefits for your skin and internal health.
- Honor, enjoy, and play around with this incredible and abundant resource that the ocean has to offer!
- Always be sure to source your seaweed ethically.
- Learn more about seaweed and discover delicious recipes in our free guide: Culinary & Therapeutic Uses for Seaweed
*This article was inspired by the Changing Tides Foundation - an empowering group of women focused on grassroots environmental stewardship like access to clean water, ocean health, and sustainability.*
(1) Dillehay, T. D., Ramírez, C., Pino, M., Collins, M. B., Rossen, J., & Pino-Navarro, J. D. (2008). Monte Verde: seaweed, food, medicine, and the peopling of South America. science, 320(5877), 784-786.
(2) Kenicer, G., Bridgewater, S., & Milliken, W. (2000). The ebb and flow of Scottish seaweed use. Botanical Journal of Scotland, 52(2), 119-148
(3) Liu, L., Heinrich, M., Myers, S., & Dworjanyn, S. A. (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.
(4) Teas, J., & Irhimeh, M. R. (2017). Melanoma and brown seaweed: an integrative hypothesis. Journal of applied phycology, 29(2), 941-948.
(5) Choi, J. S., Moon, W. S., Choi, J. N., Do, K. H., Moon, S. H., Cho, K. K., ... & Choi, I. S. (2013). Effects of seaweed Laminaria japonica extracts on skin moisturizing activity in vivo. J. Cosmet. Sci, 64, 193-205.
(6) Dweck, A. C. Article for Soap, Perfumery and Cosmetics The Fascinating Seaweed.
(7) Ruxton, C. H., & Jenkins, G. (2013). A novel topical ingredient derived from seaweed significantly reduces symptoms of acne vulgaris: a general literature review. Journal of cosmetic science, 64(3), 219-226.
(8) Mahadevan, K. (2015). Seaweeds: a sustainable food source. In Seaweed sustainability (pp. 347-364). Academic Press.
(9) Mac Monagail, M., Cornish, L., Morrison, L., Araújo, R., & Critchley, A. T. (2017). Sustainable harvesting of wild seaweed resources. European Journal of Phycology, 52(4), 371-390.
Any statements or claims about the possible health benefits conferred by any foods or supplements have not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) and are not intended to diagnose, treat, prevent or cure any disease.