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What is sea moss? A guide to the viral superfood

Sea moss is being touted as a miracle supplement that can do everything from help you have better sex to clear skin – we spoke to the experts to find out if it actually works

As with any wacky wellness trend, it’s often tricky to sort the scams from the miracle workers. While something like perineum sunning, for example, is downright dangerous, other trends – such as meditating your way to clearer skin – have some truth to them and can actually be super effective.

Right now, one of the most hyped-up products in the wellness world is sea moss. On TikTok, #seamoss has over 400 million views, Google searches for ‘sea moss’ have skyrocketed, and Kim Kardashian and Cardi B have both revealed that they’re fans of the product. Sea moss users have claimed that the supplement has helped them with a range of issues, from losing weight to having better sex and clearer skin – but what is it exactly, and can it really boost your health like TikTok says?

WHAT IS SEA MOSS?

‘Sea moss’ is a generic term which covers various species of algae which grow in coastal waters, and the most famous of these is Chondrus crispus – commonly called Irish moss or carrageen moss. “This is because Irish moss was [eaten] during the famine of Ireland,” explains Tee McKen, co-owner of The Sea Moss Boss.

It grew in popularity after Irish immigrant labourers brought the moss to Jamaica, where locals served it as a drink boiled in milk with sugar or honey, plus various spices such as vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg. High in calories and rich in protein, Irish moss soon became a favourite among athletes and bodybuilders, and it’s been purported to have a wide range of other health benefits.

WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS?

Sea moss’s status as a superfood has gained traction after going viral on TikTok, where videos allege that the supplement can help with a range of issues, including weight loss, irritated skin, libido and fertility. “I wish I knew about this earlier,” @healthyholisticheals wrote on TikTok, singing sea moss’s praises. “I don’t feel so drained after work, my cycle isn’t irregular anymore, don’t get sick easily anymore, getting compliments on my skin.” Another user, @liv.ingwell, affirms that it’s had a noticeable impact on her skin. “Everybody says this, but the main thing I’ve noticed is the difference in my skin – I feel more glowy.”

Even though it has been used for hundreds of years, sea moss is trending now due to the teaching of the late Dr Sebi,” McKen explains. “He was a herbalist who was known to cure different diseases. He [believed] that sea moss could cure and heal all ailments.” It is worth noting here that Dr Sebi, AKA Alfredo Bowman, never completed any medical training and in 1987 was arrested (and then acquitted) in New York for practising medicine without a license after claiming he could cure AIDS with herbal remedies.

Despite this, a quick Google shows that businesses have leapt at the chance to tap into the sea moss trend. Sea moss is available in a variety of forms: it’s not only sold ‘raw’, but also as pills, powders, lotions, gummies and, most commonly, gel. All this begs the question – does it actually work, or is this just another instance of the wellness industry marking up and shilling a dud product for profit?

DOES IT WORK?

First things first, sea moss isn’t FDA-approved and there’s been very little research into its efficacy. While one study conducted on rats suggests sea moss may support gut health and immune response, further research is needed before scientists can draw any conclusions about sea moss’s benefits in humans.

McKen says that while she thinks sea moss’ growing popularity is a good thing – “it’s a more sustainable way of consuming minerals and vitamins”, she says – it’s unfortunately also given rise to some businesses shilling ‘fake’ sea moss, “without doing their due diligence on where the product is coming from, or even if it’s the right species of moss.” She adds that increased demand has resulted in a rise of sea moss grown on ropes in pools in the Caribbean. “All sea moss should be naturally and organically grown in order for the moss to gain its mineral density,” she explains, adding that rope-grown moss has “no nutrients”.

But, equally anecdotal evidence suggests that the benefits can be great when you’re using good quality sea moss. Kerry Torrens, a registered nutritionist, explains that “sea moss, like other sea vegetables, absorbs trace minerals from the seawater it grows in. This makes it nutrient-rich and a useful source of some of the harder-to-get nutrients, like the mineral iodine.” It’s also great for gut health, heart health, and can balance blood sugar levels and act as an antioxidant.

According to McKen, it can also help “expel mucus from the body, regulate blood pressure and brain function, help digestive issues, and it’s high in magnesium and calcium which helps with bone, muscle and tissue repair.”

It’s totally safe, too – provided you do your research. “Sea moss is safe to consume in moderation,” McKen says. “But as they say, too much of anything is bad for you. Some species of sea moss have higher iodine levels than others and can affect thyroid function if you have an overactive thyroid.”

Torrens adds that too much iodine can also affect the health of your baby if you’re pregnant, or interact with certain medications like warfarin. “Plus, sea moss can absorb heavy metals like mercury, arsenic and lead – most research suggests levels are below maximum concentration allowances, but again if you eat sea moss and other seaweeds regularly, you should bear this in mind.”

As with most supplements, moderation is key. But if you’re careful, it sounds like there are myriad benefits to spooning a dollop of sea moss gel into your morning tea or coffee.