Herb Reference Guide

Irish Moss

History

Irish Moss is an edible North Atlantic seaweed that yields a mucilaginous substance. It is found on the Atlantic coasts of Ireland, Europe and the United States. Irish Moss got its name when it was made famous during the potato famine in Ireland in the 1800s. Because people were starving and desperate for food, they began eating the red alga that was on the rocks. As a result, the name stuck. This alga is also referred to as carrageen moss because of its high carrageen content. Carrageen is a common food additive used to maintain stability within processed foods and as a thickening agent.

Function

Because of its naturally soothing and demulcent properties, Irish moss is often used as a skin softener in commercial cosmetic products and lotions. Irish moss supports skin's natural moisture barrier and keeps harmful, drying external elements out and beneficial moisture in. It supports the skin's ability to retain vital moisture and essential lipids and helps to support healthy skin appearance. It nourishes and protects the skin from environmental elements. Because of its naturally demulcent properties, Irish Moss is often added to formulas when soothing support for the internal mucous membranes is needed such as for the upper respiratory system.

Uses of Irish Moss

Disclaimer

This information in our Herbal Reference Guide is intended only as a general reference for further exploration, and is not a replacement for professional health advice. This content does not provide dosage information, format recommendations, toxicity levels, or possible interactions with prescription drugs. Accordingly, this information should be used only under the direct supervision of a qualified health practitioner such as a naturopathic physician.

Active Constituents

The principal constituent of Irish moss is a mucilaginous body, of which it contains about 55%. It also contains albuminoids, polysaccharides, and about 5% of mineral matter rich in iodine, calcium, magnesium, potassium and sulphur.

Parts Used

  • Irish moss is obtained from the dried thallus of Chondrus crispus.

Important precautions

Pregnant or breast-feeding patients should avoid use. Also there may be an increased risk of bleeding when Irish moss is used concomitantly with anticoagulants. Also due to absorption, it is advised to avoid taking Irish moss within 2 hours of other drugs.

Additional Resources

Alves Filho JC, Santos RC, Castaman TA, de Oliveira JR. Anti-inflammatory effects of fructose-1,6-bisphosphate on carrageenan-induced pleurisy in rat. Pharmacol Res. 2004 Mar;49(3):245-8.

Hervé C, de Franco PO, Groisillier A, et al. New members of the glutathione transferase family discovered in red and brown algae. Biochem J. 2008 Jun 15;412(3):535-44.

Natsuno T, Mikami M, Saito K. A potent inhibitor of bacterial growth from a seaweed, Chondrus crispus. Shigaku. 1986 Aug;74(2):412-21.