Kelp Benefits

Kelp
Latin Name

Laminara digitata

Origin

Northern coasts of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans

Parts Used

Whole part of plant

Traditional Use and Health Benefits

Kelp has been eaten by various peoples in different parts of the world for thousands of years. In Asia it was used as food and medicine as far back as 3,000 BCE, where it was used to treat uterine problems, genital tract disorders and kidney, bladder and prostate problems. Kelp has been a staple food of Icelanders for centuries and was used by the Ancient Greeks to feed their cattle. In Hawaii, the ancient nobles grew gardens of edible seaweed where it was highly prized as a nutritious food stuff – they seldom ate a meal that did not contain some kind of seaweed.

Kelp Benefits

Thyroid Health

Kelp is perhaps most well-known for its rich iodine content. Iodine is an absolutely critical compound for the thyroid, with insufficient iodine levels causing goiter (an enlarged thyroid), a pre-cursor to many thyroid disorders. In Dr Gabriel Cousens essay, “Iodine – The Universal & Holistic Super Mineral”, he noted that iodine helps synthesise thyroid hormones and prevents both hypo and hyperthyroidism. He goes on to say, “There is little awareness of the importance of iodine in the synthesis of thyroid hormones, particularly T3 and T4. Thyroid hormones control metabolism, temperature, heart rate, glucose consumption, and even blood lipids. Iodine also helps to regulate cortisol.”

Dr David Brownstein, author of “Iodine – Why You Need It & Why You Can’t Live Without It”, highlights the fact that as iodine levels have fallen by over 50% during the last 40 years, thyroid disorders, including hypothyroidism, Hashimoto’s disease, Graves’ disease and thyroid cancer have been increasing at near-epidemic rates.

Kelp is a wonderful way to keep your iodine levels topped up, thus ensuring a healthy thyroid. Powdered Kelp can be added to many savoury dishes and as a wholefood it provides the full spectrum of nutrition maximising absorption of all the minerals it contains.

Heart Health

Another powerful nutrient found in Kelp is fucoidan with studies showing its effectiveness in many blood related disorders. It has been found to help to prevent the blood clotting that can lead to many dangerous health problems including strokes and heart attacks. It is so effective that researchers cite it as having the potential to be used as an antithrombotic agent – reducing the need for prescription drugs.

Fucoidan also protects cells in your body from ischemic damage, meaning damage caused by improper levels of blood flow to certain parts of the body.

Anti-Inflammatory

The aforementioned fucoidans are being widely studied for their ability to reduce inflammation within the body. These sulfated fucoidans have been shown to reduce pain, fight viruses and prevent atherosclerosis.

Fucoidans produce their anti-inflammatory effects by blocking selectin production and inhibiting pro-inflammatory prostaglandins and enzymes. Selectins are glycoproteins (sugar-protein molecules) that are often used to signal inflammatory processes in the body. Fucoidans also inhibit the enzyme Pphospholipase A2 (PLA-2) that turns on inflammatory processes.

Healthy Bones

A dense source of many important minerals, Kelp can help to keep your bones strong and healthy. Calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc and manganese all contribute to building and maintaining bone structure and strength - iron and zinc play a crucial role in maintaining the strength and elasticity of bones. Kelp has more calcium than many other vegetables, including kale and collard greens – calcium is an important mineral for strong bones, only when in the proper balance with magnesium.

Typical Use

For medicinal purposes ½ gram of Kelp Powder can be taken daily. Since Kelp contains large amounts of Iodine it is a good idea to keep servings small. Although getting enough Iodine is essential for good health, too much can be detrimental to the body. 

Folklore and History
Kelp has a very interesting history - not least that of the "Kelp Highway". Known as the "coastal migration theory", it propounds that early maritime populations boated from one island to another, hunting the bountiful amounts of sea creatures that live in kelp forests. Kelp forests are some of the world's richest ecosystems. They are homes to seals, sea otters, hundreds of species of fish, sea urchins and abalone, all of which would have been important food and material sources for maritime people.   It’s possible that ancient people from Asia followed a “kelp highway” when migrating to the Americas. There is a consistently dense line of kelp forests that stretch all the way from Japan, up past Siberia, to Alaska then down the California coastline.   Kelp
Constituents

Kelp contains Alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, vitamin C, cobalt, iodine, and iron. Kelp also contains lutein, manganese, magnesium, calcium, chrominum, niacin, phosporous, potassium, riboflavin, selenium, silicon, sodium, tin, zeaxanthin and zinc.

Precautions

It is recommended you speak to your health care professional, naturopath or herbalist, before supplementing with kelp if you suffer from a thyroid condition.