Tossed by the gentle undulations of the cold Atlantic waves, Chondrus crispus, or “Irish Moss,” grows off the craggy coasts of the British isles.
Not actually part of the moss family, Irish Moss is actually a coldwater red algae used since the 15th century in herbal medicines, food additives, beer fining, cattle foddering, paper marbling, and as a thickening agent in ink and calico printing. But there’s so much more magic to this “moss.”
History and Uses of Irish Moss
In Irish folklore, adventurers would carry small bags of this moss for spiritual protection and homemakers would place it under their welcome mats and rugs for good luck. Its name in Gaelic, “carraigín” means “little rock.”
While Irish Moss is classified as a ‘red’ algae, its color can vary from green to red to purple, yellow, brown, or white. It grows mainly off the coasts of Northern Europe but can also be found in the oceans surrounding Asia and North America.
Most reputable Irish Moss today is cultivated commercially on Prince Edward Island in Canada, where its production comprises a good deal of the local export economy.
Traditionally, Irish Moss was harvested in the British Isles during the spring tide when the water was farthest from shore. Using long rakes, harvesters would separate the moss from the rocks then leave it to dry for up to two weeks in the sun before using it in a variety of recipes and medicines.
By 1810, Irish Moss was a popular medicine used in Ireland to treat respiratory problems and other ailments. During the Great Hunger (1846 – 1851), it was one of the few available sources of nutrition in Ireland (provided you lived near the coast).
Today, Irish Moss is harvested commercially. In Ireland and Scotland, it is boiled in milk and strained then mixed with sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, brandy, and whiskey, creating a jelly similar to tapioca, while in Jamaica, Irish Moss is boiled with cinnamon and milk and drank as a powerful aphrodisiacal beverage.
The principal constituent and extract of Irish moss is a substance known as “carrageenan” (a name phonetically derived from the traditional Gaelic name for Irish Moss) which refers to the sulfated polysaccharides found in Irish Moss that provide it with its slimy texture. Its naturally gelatinous form makes it perfect as a vegan alternative to animal gelatins and as a thickening agent in processed foods like ice cream, yogurt, cottage cheese, deli meats, protein drinks, and non-dairy milk.
Comprised of mucilages and proteins, Irish Moss also makes a great emulsifying agent and skin softener in salves, lotions, and prescription skin creams that treat dry skin, psoriasis, and eczema. Due to its demulcent properties, Irish Moss helps retain the skin’s natural moisture barrier, keeping harmful elements out and natural lipids and moisture in, maintaining the skin’s youthful appearance.
The New Superfood
Making waves under the waves, Irish Moss is quickly gaining popularity as the trendy new “superfood.” Rich with omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, fiber, iron, folate, sulfur and Vitamins A, E, F, K, it is also a naturally-occuring source of iodine and selenium, making it essential for healthy thyroid functioning and male sexual wellness, performance, and semen quality.
Packed with potassium chloride, Irish Moss is also used as a remedy for congestion and mucus. Its mucilage diverts mucus production in the sinuses, providing a soothing support for mucous membranes and the upper respiratory system.
With antioxidant, antibacterial, antiviral properties, bioactive compounds and secondary metabolites known to improve human health, Irish Moss is considered an all-around panacea for daily maladies and can even provide a boost in the bedroom.
The fiber in Irish Moss aids digestion and its prebiotic quality nurtures healthy gut bacteria. Joint health is supported by the omega-3 fatty acids and chlorophyll found in Irish Moss, which guard against inflammation and assist in hydrating joint cartilage.
The Selenium, calcium, and vitamin K in Irish Moss help strengthen bones, while its zinc, iodine, vitamin E, folate, and omega-3 fatty acids help regulate thyroid hormone function and aid in the production of healthy sperm.
But there is some controversy surrounding carrageenan derived from Irish Moss, however. Some studies claim that long term consumption of carrageenan can lead to inflammation and digestive issues while other studies have found no risk associated with consumption of organic carrageenan consumption.
The health risks associated with carrageenan are falsely attributed to the substance when they really lie with the commercial extraction process, which often removes the nutritional benefits of unprocessed Irish Moss through extensive heating.
The Moss with the Most
At CHOQ™, we use only 100% USDA-certified organic, wild-harvested Irish Moss. Sourced in Canada, our Irish Moss is Star K Kosher certified, vegan, gluten-free, fair-trade, non-GMO and retains its essential nutrients via our aqueous synthesization process free of chemical solvents.
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