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Edible seaweeds are usually divided into three categories: brown seaweeds (phaeophyta), red seaweeds (rhodophyta), green seaweeds (chlorophyta)

These categories are based on pigments that are found in each group and the presence of these different phytopigments is related to where they are found on our shore as not all macroalgae need the same light intensity to perform photosynthesis. Sun-loving green macroalgae, which are able to absorb large amounts of light energy, flourish in upper waters, while red abounds in the lower waters and brown macro-algae prevail at greater depths where penetration of sunlight is limited but there are many exceptions.

Ireland’s clear and pure waters nourishes a pristine shoreline that hosts a bountiful and sustainable sea garden containing over 600 types of seaweed brimming with anti oxidants, minerals and vitamins. This complex ec-osystem  provides functional ingredients and a taste of wild Ireland as seaweeds contain multiple unique marine minerals and  trace elements that are rare in terrestrial plants. Seaweeds also contain polysaccharides, which are believed to have anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, anti-bacterial and immune supporting properties.  Studies have shown that polysaccharides have  pre-biotic effects on the gut, which helps in normal functioning of beneficial stomach bacteria and shields the stomach wall against harmful bacteria.

Alaria esculenta  

Common Names: Atlantic Wakame, Dabberlocks, Tangle 

Category: Brown Seaweed

Alaria esculenta is an attractive alga, whose name literally means 'edible wings'. Alaria esculenta is a hardy seaweed that is found in very exposed and wave-battered areas of the lower shore. It grows extensively on rocky outcrops in very exposed places, at low water and in shallow subtidal areas, though it can also be found in rock pools on the lower shore. It can billow about in the surf, and then lay strewn over the rocks as the tide recedes.

It is rapidly gaining popularity in the natural foods market. It is believed that Alaria esculenta can help support the immune system, aid cell and hormone reproduction as well as support the nervous system. It is rich in Vitamin C and high in Vitamins A, B2, B6, B12, K, Bromine  and other trace elements. Alginic Acid is another important component, which can aid digestion and has multiple applications in the pharmaceutical, food and paper industry.

Ascophyllum Nodosum

Common Names: Knotted Wrack, Asco, Sea Whistle, Rockweed

Category: Brown Seaweed

Ascophyllum nodosum is found attached to rocks and boulders on the middle shore in a range of habitats, from estuaries to relatively exposed coasts. This species has long strap like fronds with single egg-shaped bladders spaced along the middle.

Ascophyllum nodosum is very efficient at accumulating nutrients and minerals from the surrounding seawater, and is exceptionally rich in iodine, which is important for thyroid function, which, in turn regulates metabolism and energy levels.

Ascophyllum is also high in polyphenols, which are believed to have great anti-oxidant properties as well as its own unique polysaccharide, ascophyllan, which in one study exhibited even stronger anti-oxidant activity than Fucoidan to help fight inflammation and aging at a cellular level. Along with anti-microbial effects, this is what makes them a valuable resource for use in items such as nutritional supplements,food ingredients, animal feeds, beauty products, fertilizers, soil improvers, cleaners, degreasers, equestrian products.

Laminara digitata

Common Names: Kombu, Oarweed, Sea Tangle

Category: Brown Seaweed

Laminara digitata can be found growing on rocks in the lower intertidal and shallow sub-tidal areas and can even form whole sea meadows of growth. Underwater plants are more golden in colour in sunlight.

The brown seaweed Laminaria digitata contains vitamin C, calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, vitamin B1, B2 and B3 and sodium.  This seaweed is particularly rich source of the essential iodine necessary for many bodily functions including thyroid function.

Laminaria can be used in treatments against cellulite and obesity, either alone or combined with other extracts to enhance its activity. The mineral salts and especially iodine stimulate the metabolism.

The alginic acid present in Laminaria has thickening and emulsifying properties, and these are also very useful in cosmetic applications and it also has antibacterial properties.

Chrondrus crispus

Common Name: Carrageen Moss, Irish Moss, Carragheen

Category: Red Seaweed

Chrondrus crispus is widely abundant on middle to lower rocks and in pools. It has cartilaginous, dark purplish-red, red, yellowish or greenish fronds, and can often be iridescent under water when in good condition.

Chondrus crispus is harvested as a common source of the polysaccharide carrageenan, which is extracted from cell walls and forms a gel that is used commercially as a thickener. The gelling and thickening properties of carrageenan are used widely in the cosmetics, food, and pharmaceutical industries. Examples of applications include making ice cream and air fresheners, beer clarification, and treatment for coughs and diarrhoea.

Chondrus crispus as a whole food is rich in Retinol and derivatives such as Vitamin A, Vitamin E, F and K as well as minerals such as calcium, iodine, iron, magnesium, potassium and selenium. This nutrient rich seaweed also contains taurine and other sulfur-based amino acids, in greater numbers than any other type of seaweed. Sulfur helps to shield against infectious organisms that may lead to joint problems like arthritis further down the road. Rich in potassium chloride, it can help with congestion and mucous, and holds anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties.

       As it contains long chain polysaccharides, it can be described as a  "time released" energizing fuel source, to help to deliver nutrients over a longer period of time for a slower and more sustained nutritional uptake. It helps to reduce swelling and acts as a natural anti-inflammatory for sports injuries or ailments affecting the knees, ankles and other joints of the body as it strengthens connective tissue and cartilage.

Palmaria palmate

Common Names: Dillisk, Seagrass, Dulse

Category: Red Seaweed

Palmaria palmate  is a common  red seaweed found between the tides on rocky shores and is named for its resemblance to the palm of the human hand.

Palmaria palmata contains large amount of several unusual carbohydrates including an unusual short-chained one called floridoside.

Palmaria palmata is a good source of dietary requirements as it is rich in potassium, iron, iodine and trace elements, and relatively low in sodium. It has fluoride, calcium, magnesium and zinc as well as vitamins C, E, A, B6 and B12 and contains high levels of protein and fibre.

It is recommended to correct mineral deficiencies, anemia (due to its high iron content), for poor digestion, enlargement of the thyroid (because of its high iodine content) and for proper gland function. It is also naturally anti-viral and anti-bacterial.

Fucus vesiculosus

Common Names: Bladderwrack, Red Fucus, Seawrack

Category: Brown Seaweed

Fucus vesiculosus can be found in a wide range of habitats in both exposed and sheltered areas. It can have bladders or not in wave exposed areas and can vary in colour from olive-brown to bright yellow to deep russet.

It has a very high vitamin A content in the Summer and a very high vitamin C content in Autumn.   Fucus contains magnesium, protein, fucoidan, retinol and derivatives (vitamin A).

This brown seaweed is widely used in cosmetic preparations and thalassotherapy applications. Research findings associate various potential health benefits in the treatment of atherosclerosis and it can help support immunity.  It has also has potential as a use as an antioxidant, hormone balancing and act as an anti-aging agent by improving skin elasticity and softness.  

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