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What is sea moss? Benefits and products to try, according to experts

It’s claimed that this trending algae can boost your immune system and improve skin, but what’s the truth?

Daisy Lester
Thursday 09 May 2024 09:41 BST
Sea moss is loved by the likes of Kim Kardashian and Bella Hadid
Sea moss is loved by the likes of Kim Kardashian and Bella Hadid (iStock/The Independent )

With the likes of Bella Hadid and Hailey Bieber long-time advocates, and with more than 93 million views (and counting) on TikTok, sea moss is one of the buzziest words in wellness right now.

Also known as Irish moss, sea moss is a type of seaweed that grows all-year-round along coastlines in Europe, North America and the British Isles. Its nutritional and medicinal use can be traced back to Chinese medicine in 600 BC, but sea moss was most notably used in 19th Century Ireland as a source of nutrients during the Potato Famine.

Packed with antioxidants, vitamins and minerals – including vitamin B2, calcium, magnesium, omega 3 and zinc – sea moss has grown a cult-like popularity online since Kim Kardashian shared she is a fan of sea moss smoothies.

As sea moss has become more fashionable, the claims around the algae have become bigger. So what actually is sea moss, and what are its benefits? We spoke to the experts to find out.

Read more: The best supplements to take, according to experts

What is sea moss?

Nutritional therapist and founder of Nourishful Nutrition, Maz Packham explains: “Sea moss is a type of seaweed that’s packed with antioxidants, vitamins and minerals and, like other sea vegetables, it’s a good source of iodine, zinc and minerals like calcium, magnesium and potassium.”

Until its recent boom in popularity, sea moss was largely known as a thickening agent. “It is also a natural source of carrageenan which is used in the food industry as a thickening agent so you may find it on the label of some foods like ice cream, and jelly,” Packham tells us.

Boasting a similar texture to aloe vera, it’s also used in the beauty industry. Eleanor Hoath, nutritional therapist and editor of Healf, says that sea moss has “been marketed as a beauty ingredient with brands adding generous scoops of it to their products.”

What are the benefits of sea moss?

Some of sea moss’s cited benefits range from boosting your immune system to helping the appearence of skin, but what’s actually true? Despite its century-long use, there’s actually not much medical research on the benefits of sea moss.

“The majority of studies conducted on sea moss have been done either on seaweed in general or on animals,” nutritionist Clarissa Lenherr told us, adding that “some studies suggest sea moss has prebiotic effects, which will support the gut microbiome. However, these studies were done on rats so without human studies, it’s hard to say whether it’ll have the same effect for you.”

But the main reason people have taken sea moss for centuries is for its nutritional value. Irish moss is vegan, gluten-free and contains many nutrients, from vitamin B2, calcium and iodine to potassium, sodium, magnesium and zinc. “As seamoss has a nutrient rich profile, it can contribute to nourishing the immune system, while also providing fiber and phytonutrients that are beneficial for the digestive tract and help combat oxidative stress,” Hoath explains.

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As for its beauty claims, sea moss contains vitamin C which can nourish the skin. Hoath tells us that “collagen production is supported, fine lines are reduced and the skin structure is rejuvenated, giving you the ‘glow’.”

But, Packham tells us to be wary of big claims: “There is not enough significant evidence on humans to suggest it’s beneficial for our health, yes it provides vitamins and minerals including iodine and magnesium but you can get these through a healthy varied diet.”

Are there any side effects to taking sea moss?

While sea moss has been cited to support immunity and skin health, Packham explains that “those with thyroid concerns should be cautious as high levels of iodine over time can be problematic and wouldn’t be advised, especially in cases of hyperthyroidism or thyroid autoimmune disorders like Graves’ disease.”

Equally, Hoath warns that taking seamoss can cause digestive discomfort for some people, especially when taken in large doses. “There have been reports of muscle aches and pains in the first few days as well.” Packham adds that sea moss can irritate the gut, “and you may experience digestive symptoms like bloating, diarrhoea or nausea.”

As with most seafood and seaweed, Packham explains that “it’s worth considering [how sea moss] can be affected by its [ocean] environment including things like toxins and heavy metals.”

Lenherr elaborates that “sea moss is marine-sourced, [so] it could also potentially contain heavy metals such as lead. Therefore check that the brand you are buying from has tested for heavy metals.”

How to take sea moss

If you’re looking to introduce sea moss into your diet, it can be consumed in a variety of ways, with Packham suggesting keeping your intake to just one tablespoon a day.

Coming in a jar and boasting a gel texture, the most popular way to take sea moss is in a smoothie. This method also helps disguise the taste, with Hoath saying that the “texture can be a little unpleasant to take just by spoon.” She suggests stocking up on Gaia Moss’s 100 per cent organic gel (£14.50, Gaiaseamoss.com) or The Moss Way’s original moss (£23.95, Themossway.co.uk).

A variation of Hailey Beiber’s viral “skin glaze” smoothie, Hoath likes to pair essential collagen peptides with vitamin C from frozen berries, essential fats from avocado, omegas from goji’s, a spoonfull of sea moss for nutritional value and a creamy vanilla powder for taste.

While gel is the products most natural form, you can also take sea moss in capsule or gummy form, with Lenherr explaining that “capsules may provide a more concentrated dose of sea moss, and therefore have the potential to have higher levels of nutrients.” Hoath recommends Kiki Health’s Irish sea moss capsules (£16.19, Healf.com).

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