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Six Seaweed Surprises

Posted by E.G.D. on March 13, 2012

Aloha, everyone, and welcome to one of our strangest Tuesday Tallies yet.  I’m sure that many of you remember Jody’s article “Seaweed- Trash or Treasure?” and today’s tally is a bit of a follow up.  We all know that seaweed is an important feature of many beaches, and we know that seaweed is part of beach wildlife habitats, but how many of us really stop to think of how often we as human beings use seaweed in our everyday lives?  I think a good many readers out there will be very surprised by at least some of these uses for seaweed I found yesterday:

Yum! Edible Seaweed (Photo by Nimur/Wikimedia Commons)

1: Food.  That’s the obvious one!  Seaweed has been used as a food source since prehistoric times in China, Korea, and Japan!  It has also been used as food in the British Isles since time immemorial in foods like laverbread.  Seriously, though, don’t think we don’t consume a great deal of seaweed in all the other parts of the world!  Alginate, carrageenan, and agar are used as additives in a ridiculous number of foods we eat every day, and all of them are seaweed products.  Have you eaten store bought ice cream lately?  I can almost guarantee it had carrageenan in it!  Also, believe it or not, it isn’t an uncommon additive in beer.

On a side note, my nephew is sitting behind me at this very moment eating a sheet of sushi nori.  It’s one of his favorite snacks!

2) Bath products and cosmetics.  Heck, if you’re in Ireland, you’ve probably been exposed to the idea of seaweed baths, in which people soak in hot briny water and seaweed as a sort of detox therapy.  These days, seaweed can be found as a feature in all sorts of bath and beauty products, from bath salts to lotion to soap.  Trust me, if you look “seaweed bath” or “seaweed cosmetics” up on amazon, you’ll find pages and pages of seaweed product options.

3) Fertilizer.  I have a good quote for this one: Seaweed has a vast history of being used for fertilizer by coastal populations all over the world. In most locales, large brown seaweed that has been cast adrift on beaches will be collected for use on nearby crops. Wet seaweed is heavy, so rarely travels very far inland, but more recent seaweed fertilizers have been commercialized with dried seaweed or seaweed extracts. Seaweed has a suitable nitrogen and potassium content for fertilizer, and its large amounts of insoluble carbohydrates are great for retaining moisture and conditioning soil, as well.

4) STD preventative.  OK, this one really blows me away.  Apparently, carrageenan can be used to prevent HPV, HIV, and herpes.  Who knew?

Seaweed Farms in Indonesia (Photo by J Milburn/Wikimedia Commons)

5) Biofuel?  Apparently!  There are a ridiculous number of scholarly articles about using seaweed to make biofuel.  If you’re interested, here’s one for your reading enjoyment.

6) Medicine.  Once again, I came across scholarly articles on this subject.  This one is very thorough, but also extremely academic, and therefore not always interesting.  The gist, as I see it, is that different seaweed products are used in different medicines to achieve different ends.  As a specific example, some seaweed products have been found useful in the treatment of HIV and AIDS.

Tada!  I would venture to say that seaweed is definitely more treasure than trash.  Three cheers for multipurpose beach treasures! -E.G.D.

One Response to “Six Seaweed Surprises”

  1. Jody said

    Yum! I really like that packaged roasted seaweed snack!

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