If you are unfamiliar with the name, bladderwrack is actually a common type of seaweed similar to kelp. It exhibits a number of potential health benefits including thyroid health, improved metabolism, and circulation. It is also an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant food that can help strengthen the bones, improve heart health and prevent you from aging prematurely.
What is Bladderwrack?
Bladderwrack thrives in various parts of the world’s oceans. It is commonly found in Europe, the British Isles, and in the Baltic sea while it is also seen around North America’s eastern coast. I personally love the name ‘bladderwrack’ but it is also known around the world as red fucus, rockweed and black tang or by its botanical name ‘Fucus vesiculosus’.
Bladderwrack thrives best in shallow, sheltered inlets where there is little water movement and can be found in very large masses in some areas. For anybody that wants to do some collecting, bladderwrack is easy enough to identify by the paired air sacks seen on its midrib branches.
Although it is nowhere near as well known as many herbal remedies or even other types of seaweed, bladderwrack has been used as a medicinal remedy for many long years. Bladderwrack is very rich in iodine and was a very early source of this important mineral.
Iodine is essential for thyroid health and treating numerous illnesses and is also an important part of a healthy diet. As well as iodine, it is a great source of natural antioxidants and minerals like beta-carotene and potassium, magnesium, calcium, and iron. Bladderwrack also contains mucilage, some of the B family vitamins and small quantities of vitamins A, C, K, and E.
Despite being used for centuries; it has only recently caught the eye of the general public and demand is on the up. It is available in several different forms most commonly as a supplement or powder that you can consume directly or mix with water.
Bladderwrack contains a number of active ingredients including the following:
- Fucophlorethol compounds
- A number of Phlorotannins
Facts about Bladderwrack
- Bladderwrack was the original source of iodine used for medicinal reasons. It was discovered back in 1811 and used mainly to treat goiter – a swelling of the thyroid glands linked to iodine deficiency.
- Other common names for bladderwrack are rockweed, black tang, black tany, sea oak, bladder fucus, red fucus, rock wrack and cut weed.
- Bladderwrack is distributed fairly widely. It can be found on North sea coasts, the Atlantic, the Pacific and the Baltic sea.
- Bladderwrack gives shelter to various marine species such as the tubeworm and various snails and isopods.
- Bladderwrack has anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, antioxidant and antibacterial properties.
Bladderwrack Health Benefits
1. For Thyroid Health
Back during the 19th century in the days before modern medicine, bladderwrack was used as the original iodine source for medicinal purposes. Iodine is absolutely essential for the health of your thyroid and to ensure that your hormones and metabolism remain in healthy balance.
Because bladderwrack is such a rich source of iodine, it can be used to treat a variety of thyroid conditions which help control your metabolic and hormonal balance. Bladderwrack essentially works by stimulating the thyroid and allowing it to produce sufficient hormones.
2. For Women’s Health
When it comes to female health, bladderwrack offers plenty of potential. Iodine is necessary if the thyroid is to do its job properly and produce sufficient hormones. This is significant in terms of women’s health as a lack of hormones can hinder ovulation.
Poor thyroid function during pregnancy can have a detrimental effect on both the mother’s blood pressure and mental function of the unborn child.
Another function of iodine its use for treating fibrocystic breast disease – one of the leading causes of breast cancer. According to studies, bladderwrack has a similar function to soy in regulating a female’s sex organs making it a safe alternative to soy. (1)
The same study linked above found that bladderwrack helped women with a history of short and light menstrual cycles. Those who took 1.4g of bladderwrack each day experienced considerably longer periods. Moreover, women who took bladderwrack produced less estrogen but increased their levels of progesterone.
Progesterone prepares a woman’s uterus lining for fertilization each month. Without sufficient amounts of the hormone, they are unable to conceive.
Note however that there are safety concerns regarding bladderwrack during pregnancy and pregnant women should only take it under medical supervision.
3. For Inflammatory Conditions
Bladderwrack has natural anti-inflammatory properties and it has been used down the years to treat various internal and external inflammatory conditions. For people with painful joints caused by conditions like gout or arthritis, bladderwrack may be just what they need to ease the pain and move more freely.
Bladderwrack can also help treat inflammatory skin problems and hemorrhoids in a safe and natural way. Depending on the type of inflammation you are trying to treat, bladderwrack can be taken internally or topically applied to the skin.
4. For Digestive Health
We are all aware of the importance of fiber as it relates to overall health and digestive health in particular. Unfortunately, that does not mean that we take heed and get enough of it. Bladderwrack is a great source of several types of healthy fiber including a fiber called alginic acid. Alginic acid has a very beneficial effect on digestion.
It can add bulk to the food passing through the bowels help relieve constipation. It also improves nutritional uptake making the food we eat more beneficial to our bodies. Bladderwrack can also help ease bloating and flatulence while it is also considered effective for painful stomach cramps and gastric ulcers.
5. For Heart Health
According to research, bladderwrack can help increase the levels of ‘good’ HDL cholesterol in the blood. By improving your cholesterol, this healthful seaweed can protect the heart from many killer diseases like atherosclerosis, heart attack, and stroke.
It may also have a knock-on positive effect on your blood pressure especially in people with hypertension which protects you from heart disease and means your cardiovascular system is put under less strain.
6. Fiber Content
Bladderwrack contains large amounts of a unique form of fiber called fucoidan. Fucoidan has been linked to a number of different health benefits including a reduction in cholesterol, reduced blood sugar and may even have anti-tumor effects.
Fucoidan helps to regulate the substance responsible for the reproduction if cells and their growth. In theory, fucoidan slows the growth of harmful cells meaning that it can hinder the proliferation of cancer.
7. For Obesity and Weight Control
As well as being high in fiber and possessing very few calories, bladderwrack can stimulate the metabolism making it a great way to lose weight. If your body is functioning at a higher level, it uses more energy and burns quickly through its fat reserves.
Some people say that bladderwrack helps you to feel sated and suppresses the appetite. This means that you will eat fewer calories throughout the day and in time….lose more weight.
Of course, there is no cure-all for obesity and simply adding one foodstuff to the diet is unlikely to have significant effects unless you use it as part of an overall diet and exercise plan.
8. For Better Vision
As we have already mentioned, bladderwrack is a good source of beta-carotene. This is an antioxidant pigment responsible for giving certain fruit and vegetables their rich colors. Beta-carotene is known to improve eye health and vision by neutralizing the damaging effect of free radicals on the eyes. It helps to slow down the macular degeneration that comes with aging and can prevent cataracts from developing.
Bladderwrack has numerous valuable nutrients that can help you feel and appear younger for longer. It is also a great source of natural antioxidants which are known to help your skin’s appearance. Taking bladderwrack supplements can reduce the appearance of age spots, wrinkles, and other unsightly skin blemishes. It also helps to tighten the skin and keep it more elastic even as you age.
Not only do antioxidants improve your appearance but they also help to combat the damage done to your insides from the harmful free radicals we can’t help but encounter every day. Natural antioxidants of the type found in bladderwrack and many other natural products can protect against disease and even reverse the damage done.
10. For Diabetes
According to a study published in 2011, bladderwrack may be useful for people with diabetes. The study set out to evaluate the effects of brown seaweed and bladderwrack on glucose and also insulin levels following a meal.
The double-blind study involved 23 patients of both sexes aged between 19 and 59. The researchers found that 500mg of bladderwrack in capsule form helped to decrease both insulin and glucose values. They also found that it increases insulin sensitivity in response to carbohydrate consumption and theoretically prevented their uptake. (2) Moreover, there were no adverse side effects associated with the use of the capsules.
The researchers had this to say…
“Consumption of the seaweed capsules was not associated with any adverse event. These data suggest that brown seaweed may alter the insulin homeostasis in response to carbohydrate ingestion.”
How to Use Bladderwrack
Bladderwrack can be eaten both cooked and raw but it tastes very salty and most people use it sparingly in a soup or something similar. You can also dry your bladderwrack to use it in the future. If you are planning to eat bladderwrack, it is important that you get it from clean ocean waters and not waters that are full of human waste.
The more popular option is to buy some sort of bladderwrack supplement. There are various supplementary forms of bladderwrack available on the market including powders and capsules.
When it comes to dosage, there is not a lot of data available. However, clinical trials have indicated that 500mg of basic bladderwrack extract is bioactive.
Frequently Asked Questions
1) What is Bladderwrack?
Bladderwrack is a common type of cold water seaweed very similar to kelp.
2) What is it Mainly Used For?
Because of it is high in iodine, it has been used historically to treat thyroid problems associated with an iodine deficiency. Today, it is still used for thyroid health but also for various other medicinal reasons including weight loss, digestive health, heart health and various inflammatory conditions.
3) Is it Safe to use?
Research has found few side effects from using bladderwrack in a supplementary form in doses up to 4,000mg. However, it may be unsafe for pregnant women and nursing mothers and there are also some other conditions that it may exacerbate. If you are considering taking a bladderwrack supplement, speak to your doctor first.
4) Can I Eat it?
Bladderwrack is edible both raw and cooked. The flavor is very strong and salty and it tends to be used very sparingly. You should be careful when eating fresh bladderwrack since it may contain pollutants.
5) How Much Should I Take?
According to research bladderwrack is bioactive in doses of 500mg. Consult an expert and read the instructions on the label carefully.
Precautions and Side Effects
- Bladderwrack is considered safe when applied topically but there are some safety concerns when taking it orally.
- Make sure that you take any bladderwrack supplements under your doctor’s supervision.
- High iodine concentrations may exacerbate existing thyroid conditions and excess iodine has been linked to thyroid cancer and goiter.
- Bladderwrack may be unsafe during pregnancy or while nursing.
- Bladderwrack might increase bleeding or bruising in individuals with pre-existing bleeding disorders.
- For the same reason, it should be avoided in the weeks leading up to surgery.
- If you are allergic to iodine..avoid bladderwrack.