Is Bladderwrack all it's cracked up to be?

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Bladderwrack; also known as Black Tang, Alga Noruega or Fucus Vesiculosis, is a type of seaweed found on sheltered shores in Cornwall in England. It is also common on the shores of the North Sea, The Pacific and Atlantic oceans and the Baltic Sea.

It is an edible brownish green seaweed which contains chemicals, minerals and volatile oils in varying proportions. The chemicals Algin, Potassium, Beta-Carotene, Bromine, Mannitol, Iodine, Mucilage and Zeaxanthin are all present. The plant is named because of the bladders or air sacs which help to keep it afloat.

Lady with goitre
Lady with goitre | Source

Generally only the central stalk of the Bladderwrack plant is used in medicine. It is reported to help quite a number of health conditions; the most well known use is for Thyroid problems such as Goitre and Hypothyroidism. As it is so rich in Iodine it is also used for Iodine deficiency. Other conditions it is used for are:

  • Arthritis
  • Arteriosclerosis
  • Asthma
  • Anxiety
  • Blood purifying
  • Bronchitis
  • Burns (topical use)
  • Constipation
  • Coughs
  • Digestive problems
  • Emphysema
  • Gnat Bites (topical use)
  • Heartburn
  • Immune System disorders
  • Menstrual regulation
  • Obesity
  • Rheumatism
  • Skin ageing and problems (topical use and oral use)
  • Urinary disorders

Thyroid

The thyroid gland is quite a complex gland as far as disorders are concerned. Before using any seaweed preparation I would suggest that you get your iodine levels checked via a urine test. If you are not actually deficient you could make matters worse by taking iodine rich supplements. Because the thyroid gland and its disorders are so complex many naturopaths do not fully understand it and all too readily prescribe bladderwrack and other such preparations. You should only take these if it is proven that you are actually iodine deficient. In recent years the number of people presenting with symptoms of Iodine deficiency has gone up more than fourfold in the US and UK. This is thought to be because of the discontinuation of use of iodised salt and of iodine in flour processing.

Iodised salt ad
Iodised salt ad | Source
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© Susan Bailey 2013 All Rights Reserved

Obesity

There is a lot of hype around regarding the slimming properties of bladderwrack. It was used as long ago as the 1860’s to stimulate thyroid function and increase the metabolism so that weight was lost.

There are a number of stories in the media about some high profile celebrity’s success stories with bladderwrack. There are also multitudes of slimming pills on sale worldwide containing seaweed, which are purported to work excellently in fighting the flab.

Recent research shows that some of the pills which additionally contain Lecithin or Galium Aparine do not work for weight loss. At most they may have diuretic or laxative effects. Maybe someone should tell Ms’s Beckham and Spears this as they apparently attribute their trim figures to this salty sea vegetable.

Precautions

Although a natural substance; caution should be exercised when taking seaweed supplements for any of the above conditions. Prolonged periods of high doses are believed increase the risk of thyroid cancer.

If you are due to have surgery; discontinue usage at least 2 weeks before as bladderwrack may inhibit blood clotting.

Do not take if pregnant or breastfeeding

May contain arsenic

Do not use if taking medication for goitre or Hyperthyroidism

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