irish moss

The buzz about Irish Moss

Over the past week I have received emails and phone calls about the safety of consuming Irish Moss. Dr. Andrew Weil has openly spoken out against Carrageenan which is derived from Red Irish Moss, some people have taken this to mean that Irish Moss is the “bad guy”. It is my belief that the toxic alkali used on the Irish Moss to produce Carrageenan is  really the culprit.

Carrageenan is used in soy milk, boxed almond milk, ice creams and more. After doing some research and consuming Irish Moss myself for a few years I still think that Irish Moss is safe and it is the use of it to make a processed food that is the problem. Think of hydrogenated fats. Olive oil has many health benefits, however if someone were to hydrogenate it and sell it as a butter substitute, it would be harmful for human consumption. It is the processing of these wonderful whole foods that causes so many health issues.

I would hate to see a terrific product that has the ability to release heavy metals, provide iodine and minerals and clear mucus from the body be demonized. I will continue to do my research, and if I find anything that leads me to believe that this wonderful seaweed that makes a great fat and nut replacement in so many of our raw food creations is actually not okay, I will be sure to let you know.

Having said that, I urge you to do your research on Irish Moss and Carrageenan and come to your own conclusions. And first trust your intuition and your body, everything in moderation, especially concentrated seaweeds, super foods and even nuts and fats.

Here is some of the research that supports my beliefs below:

For decades carrageenan was presumed safe to eat, but new research has shown that it can cause health problems – and should be avoided. The method by which it is processed – using strong alkali solvents is also questionable. These solvents could remove the tissues and skin from your hands – it is that toxic.

There are other questionable additives that are being used in our food supply and the only way to avoid them is to eat unprocessed foods.

I started reading labels back in 1961. I was guided, not to buy something, if I couldn’t pronounce it, but I didn’t know about the dangers of eating carrageenan, locust bean gum, guar gum, xanthan, etc. All of these additives have side effects that can cause gastrointestinal problems. Most doctors treat your symptoms with medications, instead of, determining what is causing the symptoms. They are blissfully unaware that many of the foods and substances you are eating have caused your health problems. Source

Carrageenan is extracted from red seaweed by powerful chemical alkali solvents – capable of removing skin as quick as any acid.  It’s used for food thickening and its fat and gelatin qualities. In its natural state it’s healthy; in its processed state, it’s highly antagonistic to humans. It’s the vegetarian equivalent of casein – protein isolated from milk to thicken foods. Carrageenan is the magic ingredient used to de-ice frozen airplanes sitting on tarmacs…oh great, and we’re ingesting this stuff!… If you don’t believe a food additive is also an aircraft de-icer, check out the “official” explanation for de-icing aircraft by US Patent Office website here.

Why It’s Used

Besides food additive uses, carrageenan is in cosmetics, pesticides, pharmaceuticals, toothpaste, room deodorizers, ulcer medications, petrolatum, and cod liver oil. Predominantly it’s in food preparations as substitute for fat – combining with milk proteins, increases solubility and improves texture. Because of this, it’s used in low-calorie formulations like beverages, infant formula, processed low-fat meats, whipped cream, cottage cheese, ice cream, yogurt, etc. – often combined with gums like locust bean or guar, to improve texture.

Dangers of Carrageenan

Carrageenan is a suspected factor linking it to varieties of gastrointestinal disorders including inflammatory bowel syndrome, colorectal malignancy, intestinal ulcerations, tumors and growths.

Health Effects

Research shows carrageenan coats insides of the stomach like gooey honey – often causing digestive challenges. If a person consumes a soy product and reacts negatively, blaming soy for their stomach or lower gastrointestinal discomfort, it may be carrageenan they’re actually reacting to.

High weight molecular carrageenans are considered safe by the FDA. Low weight carrageenans are considered dangerous – even soy milk manufacturer SILK™ admits this.

Scientifically Speaking…

Research from Professor Joanne Tobacman, M.D., University of Iowa College of Medicine, scientist and carrageenan expert, discusses valid concerns that digestive enzymes and bacterial action convert high weight carrageenans to dangerous low molecular weight carrageenans and poligeenans in the human gut – linked to human cancers and digestive disorders. Tobacman’s evidence and conclusions are based upon human tissue samples, not animal studies.

Tobacman studied effects of carrageenan on growth of cultured human mammary epithelial cells for two weeks. She found that extremely low doses of carrageenan disrupted the internal cellular architecture of healthy breast tissue, leading her to conclude: “The food additive, carrageenan, has marked effects on growth and characteristics of human mammary cells in tissue cultures at concentrations much less than those frequently used in food products – carrageenan destroys human cells in tissue cultures, including epithelial intestinal and prostate cells.” Her conclusion: carrageenans are dangerous for human consumption, period!

Products Known to Contain Carrageenan – READ LABELS!

SILK™ and some other brands of soy milks
Coconut milk (some brands)
Hershey’s™ Real Chocolate – not so real!
Nesquik™
Non-dairy puddings
Liquid coffee creamer
Processed cheeses
Frosting mixes
Ice cream and sherbets
Jams & Jellies
Processed meat or fish
Cottage cheese/yogurt
Prepared pie fillings

Immediate and Delayed Responses

If you experience any symptoms, especially gastrointestinal, go back and see if what you consumed contained carrageenan. Listen to your body language; it never steers you wrong. Remember, symptoms may be immediate or as delayed as 48 hours.

Carrageenan Allergy – Case History

“Our son had an as-of-yet undiagnosed metabolic disorder as an infant and was not growing. The doctors surgically installed a g-tube in his belly and force-fed him formula containing high amounts of Carrageenan (not that they cared; it was the scientifically engineered nutrient content they wanted).

The more they insisted we pump through him, the sicker he became, the more mucous his body produced, and he nearly died. Rapid improvement occurred when we stopped feeding him the formula under a new doctor’s care, who wanted him breastfed and self-selecting his diet (all whole foods) while his gut healed. It was then we started looking into food additives, most of which trigger our son’s gastro-reflex issues. After complete avoidance of food containing carrageenan, he quickly recovered”.

Dr. Gloria Gilbère (aka Dr. G), D.A.Hom., Ph.D.,  D.S.C., EcoErgonomist, Wholistic Rejuvenist Source.

20 thoughts on “The buzz about Irish Moss

  1. I have communicated directly with Dr. Tobacman and she stated that they have tested the whole form of Irish Moss and found that it was inflammatory and has advised against eating it. She is very approachable, you can contact her and she will respond. Because of her response, I am removing all Irish Moss recipes from my website. xo

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    • Thank you Susan! What are you using instead of Irish Moss in your recipes now? As soon as I return from Canada I will start looking into alternatives for those who don’t feel good about consuming IM anymore.

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  2. THANK YOU for posting this! I totally agree and was actually thinking of posting something similar. If you don’t mind, I would like to link to this article. People need to make up their own minds. I go by what I feel..and I’ve never felt badly when ingesting Irish Moss and know the difference between the red moss and the SEA MOSS that we all actually use -it’s not Irish, and I had written about this some time ago. We really should all be calling it sea moss..and not Irish moss..which causes it to be mistaken with the reddish brown moss that cargeenan is extracted from. Thanks so much!

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    • Hi Barbara,
      I think this is where the confusion is. The moss that I use is not red at all. I wish we could find out if this is the same moss or as you say a completely different “red moss” that has nothing to do with what we are using. Thanks for the comment!

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  3. This is a reply by someone named Harlan:

    Hi All,

    I read the study here in actuality, not in regurgitated abstract form:

    http://indigo.lib.uic.edu:8080/dspace/bitstream/10027/8671/1/Tobacman%20BBA%20%282%29.pdf

    [1]

    Several items are notable here:

    1) The study was performed on disembodied colon cell cultures, not in a
    live being, human or animal.

    2) The quantity of “carrageenan” utilized is substantial for the
    cells exposed, far more than would occur in a normal food consumption
    situation.

    3) Irish moss is not the same biochemically as carrageenan

    4) The study’s funding may have pre-led to its conclusion.

    5) The tissue was exposed to a “carrageenan” solution for 12
    hours. Consuming Irish Moss or carageenan does not expose the colon to
    it for a continuous 12 hours, as colon motility prevents this from
    occurring.

    The study and its conclusions are deeply flawed. If Andrew Weil is too
    busy to read the study, he shouldn’t comment irresponsibly based on an
    abstract. I respect him as much as I do Joseph Mercola. They both
    make a good living and are busy men. They should read a little more.

    Harlan

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  4. Great Post Elaina thanks for clarifying its funny how people immediately want to find something bad about something good when there are things a hundred times worse that these same people consume!

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  5. Kristen Taylor says:
    I have seen HUGE improvement in my son’s asthma since adding Irish Moss to his daily smoothie. He rarely ever uses his inhaler anymore. I grew up with IBS and I use Irish Moss daily myself, I have NOT had any issues that I am aware of and I have a very sensitive body. I absolutely love it for the culinary dream that it is as well as the many health benefits. Thanks for sharing,

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  6. I got poizoned by irish moss that I bought in whole foods 4 month ago. I’ve used it for the first time and it had a horrible smell, very chemical. I thought that it will go away with the soaking. it did not.since I ran classes at this time, I have decided to add something to it and to try it myself first. I got 1/4 of teaspoon, it was already white, diluted, but still had this smell, and got poisoned immediately , . I have returned it back to the whole foods, they say nothing. but it was scary experience, in case other people are not as watchful as I was. But the smell, still do not know what was it, has gave this moss up.

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    • what did the package look like, say and how did you use it? did you soak and blend it before using or was it a powder or clear looking pieces? I would like to know more about the actual product you are talking about .Do you have photos or a product description?

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  7. Susan – would that go for kelp noodles too? I’m also looking at other replacements for those that do not wish to use it. I’ve not found anything that does the job as well. Ground chia will thicken. Sunflower lecithin will emulsify…but nothing give it that FLUFFY body like Irish Moss paste….grrr. I stopped using agave quite some time ago, although, many continue to use that..I definitely don’t feel good about that one and my body tells me…”this is just not right.” But I never got that with Irish Moss Paste – but then again..the quantities are so small….they are only used in special desserts to help with consitency..and most of us don’t eat those all that often. I still am not sure everyone is talking about the same thing..is it ALL SEAWEED? The Irish Moss (reddish brown seaweed), or the Sea Moss, which is a beige color (most of us use to make the paste)….

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  8. Carrageenan is derived from Red Irish Moss, – I’d really like to find out about kelp noodles and Japanese sea moss, and the sea moss we all use. I don’t use red irish moss to make the paste..i use a sea moss (which is incorrectly labeled “Irish” moss” I tried contacting several large distributors of so-called Irish Moss two years ago to ask about this, but none replied to my inquiry about the labeling. Click on the link I posted below..that is Irish Moss – flat tendrils that are a very reddish/brown color. I really would love to know if studies have been done on kelp noodles and tubular brown/beige sea moss we all use. This all started for me 2 years ago when I received an email from a woman in Ireland who sells authentic Irish Moss..she is the one that enlightened me that folks in the US kept referring incorrectly to what we use as “Irish Moss Paste” but it is not Irish Moss (Carageenan) at all, according to her. Here is a link to the photo of authentic Irish Moss (Carageenan) – which looks nothing like the tubular moss we all use to make our pastes. http://www.seaweedproducts.ie/OrganicIrishSeaweedCarragheen.htm I’m not even sure where our sea moss comes from. For instance, I’m looking at a bag from Raw Food World – (Divine Organics packages it)…They are very brown before soaked, stringy and tubular. They are not Irish Moss, but the name “Irish Moss” seems to have been adopted here in the states for any seaweed that can be soaked and turned into paste. I know you can make paste with kelp noodles too..do any of these other varieties contain carageenan. I hate to throw out the baby with the bath water…This product is just too amazing and medicinal in so many other cultures. Are they the same thing? Does all sea weed contain Carageenan -…and is it this toxic..or is it only the extraction of the carageenan from the RED Irish Moss that is a problem? If anyone can answer that, I’d be so grateful……Blessings…

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  9. Sorry …I just located an email to Living Tree Community – Michael Tapscott, who did take the time to answer my question about the confusion regarding Irish Moss and Sea Moss – If this is true, than all of the sea weed products may fall under Dr. Tobacman’s studies? I don’t know, but thought this worth posting: “Thank you so very much for looking into this. That was very nice of you, and yes, the main sources of carageenan (simply meaning “moss of the rocks”) can come from : Chondrus crispus (Irish Moss) from the Maritime Provinces of Canada and various species of Eucheuma (Japanese Seaweed) from the Philippines. So carageenan can be derived from Irish Moss, and other seaweeds, but not all seaweeds are Irish moss. That would be like saying almond butter is peanut butter. While they are both nut butters, they are not derived from the same strain of nuts and each has it’s own properties.” What most of us are using, I believe is Eucheuma (Japanese Seaweed) – you can google it and see the photos. I do not know where this information originated from…but it does answer the question regarding species of seaweed, and why our friends over in Ireland are not happy about us using the term “Irish Moss”. So sorry to be so long-winded….

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  10. Pingback: Berries ‘n’ Cream Mousse, vegan, low calorie + nut free « kitchen fairy…

  11. Kim

    This is really interesting. I have been having major gastro issues the last few days and the only change as been the distinct LACK of carrageenen containing items that I usually have daily. I’m also remembering that the last few times I have had these issues they have been when I’m traveling. I always linked them to travel, but I’m wondering if it’s the lack of the milk subs I use. Like my body is cleansing itself to speak. I’m definitely going to pay more attention going forward to this item, thanks!

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  12. I love Irish Moss.

    I always listen to my body and I think that is what is most important. Do the research, trust your intuition and above all else – LISTEN TO YOUR BODY! Each body is unique and will respond differently.

    Well written, Elaina. Thanks for sharing!

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  13. emily

    Great article, I want to get my hands on some irish moss! I found some online on a dried herbs website, I think its meant to be used for medicinal purposes, but appears to be the same plant as used for culinary uses, do you think it would be ok to use it? its much cheaper than buying the culinary kind, but im worried it might taste funky or something. .. I cant find any info online about the culinary type versus the medicinal type thats why im asking!

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    • Hi Emily, I’m not sure about the medicinal type either. It might taste completely different. In the meantime if you decide you want to try the culinary type you can get some on PureJoyplanet.com

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