Irish moss (Chondrus Crispus), known as carrageen, is a perennial seaweed that grows off the European and North American Atlantic coasts. The plant grows just below the surface of the water to depths of up to seventy-five feet and attaches itself to rocks and stones. Carrageen is a whole plant considered to be a health sea vegetable. Carrageenan is a man-made extract of carrageen and may cause stomach and digestive problems in some people.
In the summer in North America and in the fall in Ireland, the plant is pulled up with a rake at low tide, and dried in the sun. Irish moss varies in color from dark purple to yellowish brown. It keeps for many years if not exposed to moisture.
Irish moss is usually purchased in its dried form. It’s not much of a surprise that when soaked in water, Irish moss smells like the sea and has a pleasant salty taste. When boiled, it forms a jelly due to its high mucilage content.
Irish moss can hold 30 times its weight in water. This property makes Irish moss an excellent remedy for respiratory and digestive complaints. Irish moss is an expectorant, which makes it useful in the treatment of lung conditions such as irritating coughs, bronchitis and other breathing problems. Always soak in water before use!
The plant contains a high nutrient content and is rich in minerals including iodine and sulphur. Irish moss is used to protect the digestive system. It helps prevent vomiting and acts quickly to sooth peptic ulcers and inflammation of the urinary system. It is used to treat constipation due to its high fiber content. Irish moss also helps treat and prevent diarrhea.
The dried herb is best made into a decoction or tea. Steep half an ounce of the herb in cold water for 15 minutes and then boil it for 10-15 minutes in 3 pints of water (or milk). Strain and add licorice, lemon, ginger, cinnamon, cocoa, or honey. Take freely as needed throughout the day.
The primary use of Irish moss as a healing herb is in helping speed recovery from debilitating illness, especially T.B. and pneumonia.
Research has shown that Irish moss has anti-viral properties and may be useful in treating influenza and the mumps. Studies support the herb’s value in treating ulcers and reports say that Irish moss can be considered an anti-coagulant (blood thinner).
Irish moss’s high mucilage content makes the plant useful for thickening soups, making jellies, and adding to face creams and lotions. It is used as a stabilizer in ice cream, luncheon meat, and toothpaste. Irish moss also acts as an emulsifying agent for cod liver oil. In a products ingredients list, Irish moss is usually called carrageen. Carrageenan with an extra an on the end, is a man-made extract.
Gelatinous extracts of Irish moss seaweed have been safely used as food additives for hundreds of years.
The man-made extract known as carrageenan is used as a vegetarian alternative to gelatin and is added to everything from yogurt to ice cream. Carrageenan has undergone many long-term dietary studies but results are not clear. While some reports indicate that carrageenan safely passes through GI tracts without adverse effect, other studies have observed colitis-like disease and tumor promotion. We can assume that Irish moss is safe, but perhaps the processed extracts can be harmful when over-used. This is just one example of how isolating a substance from a healthy food can be harmful.
* Because of its blood-thinning properties, Irish Moss should not be used by those taking anticoagulant medications. Because of its iodine content, those with thyroid problems or on thyroid medication should avoid the herb. Always consult with a doctor before taking any herbal remedies.
"The only way to really learn about herbal medicine is to touch and smell herbs, taste them, use them daily, and grow them if possible. Herbal medicine is a way of life. It is not a quick fix." ... Janice Boling, herbalist, web designer, writer, photographer
* Note - the information on this website has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.
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