Tuesday, 6 December 2011
BLADDERWRACK - AS SATISFYING TO POP AS BUBBLE WRAP AND GOOD FOR YOUR HEALTH; HISTORY AND HEALTH BENEFITS OF BLADDERWRACK
There is a lot of bladderwrack around the
South Wales coastline and as a child I enjoyed popping the globules on this seaweed when I was bored at places like on the Gower coast. It’s similar to popping bubble wrap. I didn’t know then that this ugly (I thought) seaweed could be so beneficial for our health. Limeslade Bay
Like laverbread and Irish moss it contains a lot of iodine, which is essential for the functioning of the thyroid gland which supports the growth and development of children and infants. Because it stimulates the thyroid it is believed that it can help reduce weight in people who are obese because of a sluggish thyroid as it can increase the body’s metabolic rate.
Chemists who had shops along the coast of South Wales used to use the expressed juice of bladderwrack (got from the globules I loved to pop) as a treatment for rheumatism and to reduce fat. Grapes and dried bladderwrack were made into a wine cordial (Fucus wine) to give to children with bone problems. People used to use this seaweed in a cold poultice of the bruised fronds to relieve the problem of hardened or enlarged glands.
Bladderwrack can be found on the
North Atlantic coasts and the Pacific coasts of North America, but care should be taken if you harvest it as it should not be taken from polluted waters which contain arsenic, cadmium or mercury from factories and agricultural practices. It is best gathered towards the end of June, but you have to gather it from the rocks to which it is attached, rather than harvesting fronds which have been cast up on the beach by the sea; such seaweed has lost much of its medicinal properties.
Bladderwrack has traditionally been rapidly dried in the sun after harvesting and needs to be turned fairly often so that it dries evenly. It can then be ground to a powder, which is believed to have astringent properties and can be used in the treatment of both constipation and diarrhoea according to traditional medicine systems. This is because of the alginic acid it contains.
There have been clinical trials on this sea plant although there have been no human trials. Studies on animals suggest that it has anti-tumour properties and can reduce the growth of cancerous cells. It has potent antioxidant properties and is chemo-preventive, as it contains fucoidan which seems to have anti-angiogenic, anti-viral and immunomodulatory properties. In vivo tests have shown that a topical application of extracts of bladderwrack can help improve skin problems, be chemo-preventive, anti-collagenase and help remove cellulite. However tests need to be carried out on people before these claims can be proven.
It is believed to reduce the risk of oestrogen-related cancers in some Asian populations and may improve menstrual problems. It is also said to help alleviate fatigue and lower cholesterol levels, thus improving the health of the heart.
People who have hormonal-sensitive cancers should avoid using it or at least treat it with caution and only use it under strict medical supervision.
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