Carrageen (Irish Moss)
Carrageen, also called Irish moss, is a red seaweed. It is variable in colour ranging from green to dark red. It grows in the UK, VS, Europe and Japan.
It really is one of the most commonly used seaweeds. In Ireland for instance it is traditionally used as a remedy against the common cold, while in other countries it is used as an aphrodisiac, or as a remedy against chest infections.
Carrageen is the main source of carrageenan, which serves as a vegan thickener in many products and recipes and has recently been patented as an antiviral agent. It is the vegan variant of gelatine and is widely used as a food thickener in stews, sauces, gravies, jams and many deserts. It is even found in toothpastes and serves as a clarifying agent for beer, honey and wines!
To prepare this species for consumption we bleach it from its colours, which we leave to the rain and sun to do.
Carrageen has very little flavour, making it a perfect gelling agent. If rinsed well, it should not taste salty, and a very subtle sweet aroma.
Carrageen is very high in soluble dietary fibre (up to 22%) and proteins. It contains high levels of vitamin A, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium and Vitamin B12.
The main health benefits of Carrageen or Irish Moss are attributed to its high content of carrageenan (up to 71%). This substance has been used for centuries as a traditional medicine to make medicinal teas and cough syrups to fight colds, bronchitis and even hangovers.
Some of the specific known benefits of carrageen*:
- Detoxifies body tissues, stimulates metabolism
- Treats viral and bacterial infections, cold and flue
- Relieves sore throat and coughing
- Helps digestive complaints, diarrhea and obstipation
- Treats stomach ulcers
- Regulates blood sugar levels
- Reduces inflammation
- Repairs libido
- Treats bronchitis
- Expels phlegm
- treats eczema, psoriasis & dermatitis
- Reduces acne scarring
- Soothes insect stings and skin rash
- Anti-viral properties: gonorrhoea, genital warts, cervical cancer and the HSV, genital herpes in mice
- May block transmission of HIV virus
- Maybe anti-diabetic
- Control of ulcers
- Anti-tumour and immunomodulation in mice
Check the main RECIPE page and click the Carrageen button for cooking guidelines.
Holdt and Kraan 2011 – Bioactive compounds in seaweeds. Journal of Applied Phycology