In terms of sargassum seaweed health benefits, more and more consensus is being made between traditional and modern medicine, e.g. the treatment of goiters. Conventionally sargassum, better known as Hai Zao, is one of the most common Chinese herbs for treating goiter, which now has been verified scientifically by its richness in iodine. This is known to all that iodine deficiency is the recognized major cause for endemic goiter. That explains why ancient Chinese and Japanese consumed it as sea vegetables and healing herbs for various diseases, which was recorded in a number of classic medical books such as “Compendium of Materia Medica”, “Explanation of Canon of Materia Medica”, “Materia Medica of Herbs from Across the Seas”, “Supplement to Materia Medica” and more.
What is sargassum seaweed?
Medicinally it mainly refers to the dried seaweed of Sargassum pallidum (Turn.) C. Ag., Or Sargassum fusiforme (Harv.) Setch., two types of seaweed in the family Sargasso. Other common name of this herb includes Herba Sargassii, gulfweed, and brown seaweed. It is generally acknowledged that the best harvesting time is summer and autumn. And next it needs to remove the impurities, wash clean, and dry in the sun.
Sargassum, a cryptogam in the plant kingdom, is a type of algae usually found in coral reefs and shallow water. Algae absorb sunlight for photosynthesis to produce energy. It is generally considered a simple plant, mainly characterized as no vascular tissue, no real root, stem, leaf’s differentiation; no flowering, no fruits and seeds; genitals without specialized conservation organizations and spores or gametes often directly produced from a single cell; and no embryo formation. Due to its simple structure, it is classified into lower plant’s thallophyte along with fungus.
Sargassum pallidum contains alginic acid, mannitol, iodine, potassium, crude protein, ash, sargassan, and phospholipids mainly consisting of cephalin. Sargassum fusiforme contains 15.32% to 32.18% alginic acid, 2.21% to 7.87% mannitol, 32.2% to 84.2% iodine, 3.23% to 11.67% potassium oxide, 19.72% to 37.53% total ash, SFPP A, SFPPR B, SFPPRR C, and Laminaran.
Sargassum seaweed health benefits
Sea vegetables, such as sargassum, kelp, nori, enteromorpha, undaria pinnatifida, eucheuma, contain essential proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. That’s to say, it nutritional value is much higher than the terrestrial vegetables. This is simply because seaweed takes advantage of photosynthesis to turn all the inorganic into organic matter and thus it contains some compounds that are not available in terrestrial vegetables. And today, there are many seaweed food products available, such as low-carb diet, salad, supplement, snacks, powder, and capsules used for weight loss and a variety of other medicinal purposes. Else, it can serve as facial mask, fertilizer and biosorbent for heavy metals too. And its pharmacological actions can reveal the mechanism behind its amazing healing properties.
Modern sargassum algae pharmacology
1. It contains iodide, which has wonderful therapeutic effect on iodine deficiency induced endemic goiter. And it can temporarily inhibit hyperthyroidism and increased basal metabolic rate;
2. Sodium alginate sulfate contained can resist hyperlipidemia, lower serum cholesterol and reduce atherosclerosis;
3. Its water exact has antihypertensive effect;
4. Alginic acid contained has a heparin-like effect, manifested as antagonizing blood coagulation, resisting thrombus, lowering blood viscosity and improving microcirculation;
5. Sargassum fusiforme inhibits Bacillus subtilis;
6. Algal polysaccharides has inhibition on typeⅠherpes simplex virus (HSV).
Proven sargassum grass herbal remedies
According to the description of Traditional Chinese Medicine Dictionary, it is bitter and salty in flavor and cold in properties. And it covers five meridians of lung, spleen, kidney, liver, and stomach. Its basic functions are softening hard mass, dissolving phlegm, using diuretic of hydragogue to alleviate water retention, and subsidence of a swelling. Principal sargassum seaweed uses and indications are scrofula, goiter and tumor, accumulation, edema, beriberi, testicular swelling, and hernia. Recommended dosage is from 6 to 12 grams in decoction, infused wine, tea pills, or powder.
1. Hai Zao Yu Hu Tang or San. This is a formula that comes from Wai Ke Zheng Zong (Orthodox Exogenous Illnesses). Sargassum combines Kun Bu (Kelp), Bei Mu (Fritillaria Bulb) and others to treat goiter and tumor.
2. Nei Xiao Luo Li Wan. Nei Xiao Luo Li Wan comes from Yang Yi Da Quan (A Compendium of External Diseases). Seaweed sargassum works with Xia Ku Cao (Prunella), Xuan Shen (Ningpo Figwort Root), Lian Qiao (Forsythia Fruit), and more to cure scrofula.
3. Ju He Wan. Ju He Wan is from Ji sheng fang (Formulas to Aid the Living). This is a description that is mainly formulated for swollen, painful testicles. Other major herbal ingredients include Ju He (Tangerine Seed), kelp, Chuan Lian Zi (Sichuan Pagoda Tree Fruit), and so on.
4. Po Jie San. Po Jie San is chosen from San Yin Fang (Prescriptions for the Three Types of Disorder). It covers gall stone, provoked goiter, consumptive goiter, depressed goiter, and more. Other prime herbs are Long Dan Cao (Gentiana), Hai Ge Ke (Clam Shell), Tong Cao (Rice Paper Pith), and more.
Benefits of seaweed recipes
As mentioned above, edible seaweed as a food can be of great help on various purposes. That’s being said, it is more than just filling our stomach. Instead, it offers enough vitamins and minerals while losing weight. The secret lies in the fact that seaweed food products contain nearly no calories. If adding sargassum into everyday recipes, it can reduce the calories itself as well as indirectly control the appetite thanks to it is a dietary fiber rich food.
Sargassum seaweed side effects and contraindications
So, is sargassum seaweed dangerous? But don’t worry since it is edible. And experiment, feeding rabbits with decoction of this herb combining licorice root, showed no obvious toxicity additive effect. In addition, use it with care when using blood thinners since it can promote the blood clotting. From the point of view of Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), this herb is against Gan Cao (licorice root) and shouldn’t be used in case of deficiency-cold in spleen and stomach accompanied with dampness.