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Seaweed, Kombu - Laminaria digitata

A favorite invigorating supplement of health enthusiasts, dieters and body builders. Contains a wealth of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients including chlorophyll. Especially valued as a reliable source of the essential mineral iodine, often lacking in land-crop-based diets where reduced consumption of iodized salt is practiced. Kelp's iodine and trace mineral synergists are indispensable for proper thyroid function and conversion of fat to energy. Essential nutrients for keeping hands and feet warm.

Contains Iodine, trace minerals, vitamin, minerals, chlorophyll.

Kelp is the common name for seaweed. It absorbs fats and has been shown to have efficacy for obesity, cellulitis and rheumatism. It is rich in nutrients, containing 30 minerals, so it is especially beneficial for anyone who is mineral deficient. It is reported to be beneficial for the brain and nervous system and the spinal chord. Kelp contains iodine which stimulates the thyroid. Kelp has also been reported to improve skin, nails and hair, protect against radiation, soften stools and treat obesity and ulcers. This herb contains calcium, sulfur, silicone, carotenes, B-complex, and vitamins C, K, E and R.

Kelp contains chlorophyll, naturally chelated minerals, 25 vitamins including Folic Acid, Vitamins A, B12 and D, often lacking in vegetarian diets, sodium alginate, which actively helps remove radioactive elements and heavy metals from the body, and sterols, which are reported to exhibit anti-hyper-cholesterolemic activity, as has B-Sitosterol in humans. It is the only rich natural source of vegetable Vitamin D.

Kelp tops the list for calcium, potassium, magnesium, iron, iodine, and is also very high in sulfur.

Seawater and human blood are almost identical in chemical make up. 92 different mineral elements have been found in seaweeds, including some elements which we require only in trace amounts, but whose presence is nonetheless vital to our complete well-being. Seaweeds contain many times more minerals than land grown plants, as much as 50 times more according to Dr W Black. (Black W, Proc Nutr Soc (Eng), 32, 1953). It is expected that land-grown plants are less mineralized these days.

Natural foods synthesize essential nutrients, but kelp does it more efficiently, providing perfectly chelated mineral micronutrients and essential fatty acids. Kelp is in known to improve intestinal flora. Organic iodine acts as a thyroxin precursor and regulates metabolism. Kelp can supply daily requirements of carotenoids, vitamins A, B1, 2, 6 & 12 and D and pantothenic acid.

Typical Composition

Chlorine 0.1-1%
Sodium 1-3%
Potassium 3-7%
Sulfur 3-4%
Calcium 1-6%
Iodine 300-700 ppm
Copper 8-16 ppm
Zinc 7-60 ppm
Manganese 3-50 ppm
Selenium 0.5-3ppm
Protein 9-11%
Main amino-acid: Tyrosine 8.5g/kg (8,500 ppm)

Kelp / Seaweed: Typical Analysis of Elements in Percent


10 Grams of Kelp Typically Contains

Amino Acids
Aspartic acid12mg
Glutamic acid27mg
Vitamin A12IU
Retinol Activity Equivalent1mcg
Beta Carotene7mcg
Vitamin K7mcg

Overview of Kelp Species Growing Along North American Northern Coastline

Northern New England, the Bay of Fundy and coastal Nova Scotia comprises a region, known as one of the more productive seaweed growing area In the world. Its climate, thousands of miles of rocky habitat, abundance of nutrient-rich waters during much of the year, and large tidal flow make it an ideal habitat for seaweeds.

What Are Seaweeds

Seaweeds are large algae (macro algae) that grow in a saltwater or marine environment. Seaweeds are plants, although they lack true stems, roots, and leaves. However, they possess a blade that is leaf like, a stipe that is stem like, and a holdfast that resembles a root. Like land plants, seaweeds contain photosynthetic pigments (similar to chlorophyll) and use sunlight to produce food and oxygen from carbon dioxide and water.

Where Do Seaweeds Live

There are over 250 species of seaweeds in the Gulf of Maine/Bay of Fundy region. Certain seaweeds tend to group together in bands or "stripes" that run roughly parallel to the coast. Seaweeds live in the region between the high and low tide levels (intertidal zone) and belong the low tide mark (subtidal zone). The Intertidal zone is alternately exposed and submerged by the tides, while the subtidal zone is always covered by water, except at the uppermost level, which may be briefly exposed during extreme low tides.

The intertidal and subtidal zones are further divided into bands. This guide gives examples of common seaweeds found in the upper, mid-, and lower intertidal zones and below the low tide mark. Depending upon local conditions, bands of seaweed within these zones may be narrow or broad. Many seaweeds may also be found in more than one band.

How Are Seaweeds Grouped

Most seaweeds are divided into three groups according to their color. Generally speaking, the green seaweeds (division Chlorophyta) inhabit the shallowest zones along the shore (upper intertidal), the browns (Phaeophyta) are usually found in the mid-intertidal and subtidal zones, and the reds (Rhodophyta) inhabit the lower intertidal zone and deeper waters. Some dominant plants of protected rocky shores are knotted wrack - rockweed (Ascophyllum/Fucus), Irish moss (Chondrus crispus), and the kelps (Laminaria / longicruris and L. saccharine).

The dense vegetative stands of rockweeds, Irish moss, and kelp are ecologically very important to other flora and fauna of the rocky coast, providing food and shelter for many marine organisms. Some animals, such as green sea urchins (Strongylocentrotus droebachiensis) and periwinkles (Littorina littorea), use seaweed directly for food. When seaweeds break down, they enrich waters by adding dissolved and particulate organic matter to it. This is used by a number of microorganisms and many species of marine invertebrates.

Uses of Seaweed

Seaweeds have been harvested for food, fertilizer, and medicine for thousands of years. The Chinese used seaweed for medicinal purposes as early as 3000 B.C. One of the earliest records, the Chinese Book of Poetry, indicates that sea vegetables were considered a delicacy as far back as the time of Confucius. In Iceland, where seaweed has been eaten for centuries, the oldest law book refers to the "rights and concessions involved before one might collect and/or eat fresh sol (Palmaria palmata) on a neighbor's land." Ancient Hawaiian nobility also kept limu (edible algae) gardens where rare and choice varieties of seaweeds were cultivated to provide gourmet food for the royal family.

Other cultures have used seaweed for fertilizer and fodder. For centuries, inhabitants of the island of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides have made a sacrifice each Hallowtide to the sea god Shony, "with entreaties to send seaware to enrich our ground." Bellum Africanum, written in 46 BC, states, "The Greeks collected seaweed from the shore and having washed it in fresh water, gave it to their cattle." Throughout Europe and Great Britain, seaweed has been used for many years to replenish the soil and promote plant growth.

In northern New England, rockweeds (Ascophyllum spp. and Fucus spp.) have been collected for use as fertilizer since colonial times. Ascophyllum nodosum is used as packing material for shipping live lobsters and clams, and for transporting sandworms in the marine bait industry. Dulse (Palmariapalmata) and Irish moss (Chondrus crispus) have formed the nucleus of a cottage industry in which harvesters collect, dry, and sell the seaweeds for food and industrial use.

Seaweeds have many other important but low volume uses. Because they concentrate trace elements, seaweeds historically have been a source of iodine, potash, and other minerals used in industry and medicine. A number have been used for drugs, including anticoagulants, antibiotics, antihelmenthes (worms), antihypertensive agents, reducers of blood cholesterol, dilatory agents, and insecticides.

In the global market, seaweed is sold primarily for food. This has not been the case in New England, where seaweed has been used mainly for fertilizer, animal feed supplements, and food and pharmaceutical additives. In the past decade, however, there has been increasing interest in using seaweed for food as its health qualities are becoming better known. One seaweed used for food in the rapidly expanding Japanese cuisine market is nori or Porphyra. The U.S. has the fastest growing market for nori in the world, with sales in 1990 approaching $25 million and growing at 12 to 15 percent per year.

Seaweed Research

Rockweeds (Fucus spp.) and knotted wrack (Ascophyllum spp.) are two of the most commercially important seaweed species in the Northeast. Thousands of tons of these seaweeds are harvested each year for use as fertilizer, animal feed, packing material for the lobster and marine baitworm industries, and the extraction of algin. Several other countries have also expressed interest in harvesting large quantities of these species from the coast of Maine. With the possibility of increased harvesting activity, many are concerned about the effects of over-harvesting.

Since Ascophyllum and Fucus are found mainly in open coastal and estuarine habitats, they are susceptible to over-harvesting. Robert Vadas, researcher at the University of Maine, is studying how knotted wrack and rockweeds colonize and attach themselves to rocks in order to determine the best harvesting methods, as well as appropriate rates and amount of harvesting, to avoid damaging the resource.

Vadas found that knotted wrack, which lives 20 to 25 years, should be cut 12 to 15 inches above the substrate where it is attached in order to maintain a healthy plant. If the plant is cut or broken too low, it does not regenerate well. He also discovered that knotted wrack does not "recruit" easily ( i.e., the zygotes or early stages of the plant do not stick well to rocks). This could help explain its inability to recolonize or reseed itself.

A species of rockweed (Fucus distichus subspecies evanescent) lives only two to five years and recruits much more readily. By comparing the recruitment and attachment mechanisms of knotted wrack zygotes to those of Fucus species and the effects of water movement on recruitment, this study could provide crucial information for reseeding denuded or overharvested shores.

University of New Hampshire (UNH) researchers Arthur Mathieson and Subhash Minocha are studying the kelps, another ecologically and commercially important group of seaweeds. These large brown algae provide substrata and cover for a host of marine organisms and are another important source of algin. UNH researchers are exploring the genetic basis for the inheritance of desired traits by the kelps Laminaria longicruris and Laminaria saccharine, information that is essential to their cultivation. In addition, these scientists are seeking to identify genetic markers for desirable traits, indicators that will aid in the selection of the strains most suitable for aquaculture.

Kelp Report Abstracts

Kelp / seaweed are potentially adequate sources of vitamin B-12 for vegans. (Dagnelie P, J Nutr. 127(2): 379, 1997) The present study examined the vitamin B-12 status in long-term adherents of a strict uncooked vegan diet called the "living food diet." Vegans consuming seaweeds had serum vitamin B-12 concentrations twice as high as those not using seaweeds. On the basis of the results we conclude that some seaweeds consumed in large amounts can supply adequate amounts of bioavailable vitamin B-12. (Rauma A, J Nutr, 125(10): 2511, 1995) Edible brown seaweeds have anti-tumor activity and were effective from 70-84% in inhibiting colon cancer in rats, by boosting the animal's immune systems, enabling it to better fight off the cancers. (Yanamoto I, Hydrobiologica, 116/117: 145, 1984)

Research on the properties and / or anticarcinogenic role of various types of seaweed, has led to the proposal that the mechanisms of seaweed's breast cancer preventing action were reduction of plasma cholesterol, binding of biliary steroids, the antioxygenic activity of the phospholipids, inhibition of carcinogenic fecal flora, binding of pollutants and the addition of important trace minerals to the diet. It is suggested that by eating seaweed, breast cancer may be prevented and that this dietary habit among the Japanese is an important factor in understanding their lower breast cancer rates. (Teas J, Med Hypotheses, 7(5): 601, 1981; Teas J, Nutrition Cancer 4(3): 217, 1983; Teas J, et al, Cancer Res 44(7): 2758, 1984)

The alginates found in kelp/seaweeds have a soothing and cleansing effect on the digestive tract and are known to help prevent the absorption of toxic metals like mercury, cadmium, plutonium and cesium. (Tanaka Y, et al, Application of algal polysaccharides as in vivo binders of metal pollutant. Proc Seventh Int Seaweed Symp, 602-607, Wiley & Sons, 1972) Kelp is also therapeutic for heart disease, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. (Kameda J, Fukushima Igaku Zasshi, 11, 289,1961; Funayama S, et al, Planta Medica, 41, 29, 1981; Kosuge T, et al, Yakugaku Zasshi, 103(6), 683,1983)

Kelp is now best recognised for its ability to protect the body against radiation. The sodium alginate in kelp helps prevent the absorption of Strontium-90, a by-product of nuclear power and weapons facilities. Studies have shown that alginate supplements can reduce Strontium-90 absorption by as much as 83 %. (Carr T, et al, Int J Radiat Biol. 14(3), 225,1969.) The US Atomic Energy Commission guidelines advocate 2 tablespoons of an alginate supplement per day to prevent Strontium-90 absorption and the troubles that go with it, such as leukemia, bone cancer and Hodgkin's disease. (Yamamoto I, et al, Japan J Exp Med, 44(6), 543,1974; Suzuki Y, Chemotherapy (Tokyo), 28(2), 165, 1980; US Dept Health & Human Services, Dietary Aspects of Carcinogenesis, Nov 1981; Yamamoto I, et. Al, Japan J Exp Med, 51(3), 187,1981)

Seawater itself has antibiotic and healing properties. Algae in the sea have properties related to the seawater's medicinal powers, which may explain why marine products have fungicidal, anti-tumor, anti-viral, anti-biotic, hemolytic, analgesic, cardio-inhibitory and other properties. It is also interesting to note that seawater contains dissolved bromine, a compound used in many sedatives. (Riekert H, Drugs from the Sea, Govt Printer, RSA, 1972)

Seaweed contains antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, antiprotozoal, anthelmintic and antineoplastic elements and properties. The halogens, iodine and bromine in particular are effective antiseptics and disinfectants and the tannin polyphenols have antibacterial actions. The polysaccharides present have antitumor and blood anticoagulant actions similar to heparin. (Tressler D, Marine Products in Commerce, Reinhold, 1954; Chapman V, Seaweeds and Their Uses, Methuen, 1970; Arasaki S & T, Vegetables From the Sea, Japan Publications, 1983).

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