Irish moss is a seaweed in the Gigartinaceae family that grows abundantly in flat fan shaped fronds off the Atlantic coasts of North America and Northwestern Europe, especially in Ireland. It can range in color from greenish to reddish brown, and when dried, turns purple. It grows just below the waterline of the ocean, attached to rocks, and can be collected by hand or rake year round at low tide. Once collected, the seaweed should be dried in the sun without rinsing. It’s mucilaginous structure is made of the polysaccharide carrageenan, and consists of nearly 10% protein and about 15% mineral matter. When the seaweed is a gametophyte, one of the stages between a generation life cycle, it often shows a blue iridescence. During it’s sporophyte stage, it shows a spotty pattern.
Irish moss is known for it’s demulcent and emollient properties, useful for soothing dry and irritated membranes, most specifically of the lungs and the skin. It’s also a good yin tonic and digestive aid, cooling the system, and functions as a mild diuretic, expectorant, and laxative. It helps sooth gastric and cystitis, and is a good nutritive ingredient in foods for those recovering from lung conditions, dryness, or those in general convalescence, as it’s high in iodine and sulfur. Externally, it’s high amount of carrageen makes it a good emulsifying and suspending agent for cosmetic preparation, and is a soothing, softening, and restorative additive to creams and lotions, especially in face creams for wrinkles and inflamed skin. It is a good treatment both topically and internally for sores and ulcers.
In Ireland, it was used as a demulcent and home remedy for tuberculosis, bronchitis, coughs, and digestive problems. It has been and still is commonly used in the food industry as a binder in the production of jellies, toothpastes, aspics, and other products requiring a pasty or jelly like texture, as it will form a jelly when boiled that contains from 20 to 100 times its weight of water.
Flavor Profile and Energetics
Sweet, salty, cool
As a decoction, 1 teaspoon of the plant per cup of water, taken twice daily. Can also be prepared as an infusion, 1 teaspoon of the plant infused for 10 minutes in a cup of water, taken three times a day. As a tincture, 1-2 ml three times a day.
Combine with honey, comfrey, and Iceland moss to form a mucilage for inflamed lungs. Also commonly combined with Icelandic moss and blackstrap molasses to make a nutritive syrup.
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