Botanical: Fucus vesiculosus
Family: Fucaceae - Sargassum (kelp)
Other common names: Seaweed, Brown Seaweed, Black Tang, Seawrack, Sea Oak, Rockwrack, Wrack, Rockweed, Bladder Fucus, Kelp
Bladderwrack and other seaweeds are a great gift from the sea. This remarkable source of iodine has been used extensively in the treatment of thyroid gland disorders, including goiter and low-metabolism-related obesity. It is used in spa treatments as a seaweed rub for softening the skin, improving circulation and promoting a healthy glow. Bladderwrack may also be helpful for good digestion, as well as provide relief in cases of osteoarthritis and other joint ailments.
The information presented herein by Herbal Extracts Plus is intended for educational purposes only. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent disease. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.
Bladderwrack is a variety of brownish seaweed found along both coasts of North America and the Atlantic shores of Europe. It is an alga, and algae were all formerly described by the name of fucus, but now it is applied to one genus of fucaceae, and most of this species is found only in the northern seas, exposed at low water. Fucus vesiculosis is found on submerged rocks on the coasts of North America and Europe, north of the Mediterranean, where it drifts in from time to time through the Strait of Gibralter. The name, Bladderwrack, refers to the bladder-like air pods (vesicles) that keep the plant afloat on the ocean. It is a mucilaginous, salty, tonic herb, and several varieties of this seaweed have been used therapeutically; the brown alga known as Bladderwrack is also a common source of kelp. Bladderwrack is particularly rich in iodine and was the original source of the element, having been discovered by Courtois in 1812. It remained this element's main source for over fifty years thereafter. Iodine was isolated and extracted by distilling the plant's long ribbons (or thalli). Perhaps Bladderwrack's most remarkable application occurred in the eighteenth century, when a British physician prescribed it as treatment for goiter and enlargement of the thyroid gland. No one knows whether the doctor had scientific knowledge of the plant's action or was simply lucky, but there is a pharmacological basis for his prescription. High in potash, Bladderwrack was most valuable as a fertilizer, especially for potatoes, and it was gathered for that purpose along the British coast and Channel Islands. In Ireland, it was virtually the only fertilizer used for raising potatoes and increasing sparse soils on the rocky Irish west coast during hard times. In the Channel Islands, it was used for smoking and drying bacon and fish. High in vitamins and minerals, the plant carries all the positive qualities of the sea and the numerous, rich elements that the oceans produce. Among its many uses, Bladderwrack provides nutrition. It was a livestock feed and has also been used as a human food, a natural supplement, providing many nutrients and improving the condition of skin and hair. Like other seaweeds, Bladderwrack contains the iodine that was subsequently found to be essential for the healthy functioning of the thyroid gland, and in 1860, it was claimed that Bladderwrack could stimulate a sluggish thyroid gland and might also counter problems with overweight by increasing the metabolic rate. It was thus often used as a tonic and in baths and spas, and the treatments remained in favor well into the twentieth century. Since then, it has been featured in numerous slimming remedies. Some of Bladderwrack's chemical constituents include the rich iodine content, algin, mucilage, bromine, organic bromide, sodium and potassium salts, lutein, zeaxanthin (for eyes), chlorophyll, cellulose, essential oils, mannitol, silicon, essential fatty acids, vitamin C, B-vitamins, beta-carotene and minerals (zinc, magnesium, selenium, manganese, iron, phosphorus), organic iodide, oleic acid, polyphenols, protein and fibers.
Bladderwrack, like other seaweeds, is a rich source of iodine and, as such, serves as a thyroid tonic. If this critical element is lacking in the diet, the deficiency may lead to thyroid malfunction, causing an underactive (or overactive) thyroid gland. Bladderwrack is said to nourish the thyroid gland and so maintains healthy metabolism and balanced glandular function. Goiter, a swelling of the thyroid related to lack of iodine, and hypothyroidism are both said to be effectively treated by the use of Bladderwrack.
When obesity is a direct result of thyroid disorders and low metabolism, Bladderwrack may be of some help in weight control by boosting the thyroid's metabolism. There have been some reports that Bladderwrack can also reduce cellulite deposits. Because of its high iodine content, many nutritionists assume that by stimulating thyroid function, Bladderwrack will increase metabolism and the rate at which the body uses energy and, consequently, decreases fat deposits.
Bladderwrack is considered a mild laxative. The alginic acid in the herb swells upon contact with water to increase fecal bulk and has also been used in controlling diarrhea.
Bladderwrack is considered to be a digestive demulcent (soothing agent) and has been used to ease reflux and heartburn. It is believed that its algin content forms a gel within the intestines that coats and soothes the intestinal lining. Moreover, that same alginate content also swells upon contact with water and when taken orally, it forms a type of "seal" at the top of the stomach, inhibiting reflux back into the esophogus, and for this reason is used in several over-the-counter preparations for heartburn and GERD (acid reflux disease). Regarding gastric health, a 2015 study from the University of Western Australia found that an extract (polyphdnolic fucoidan) from Brown Seaweeds like Bladderwrack can inhibit Helicobacter pylori-related diseases and human gastric cancer cells (AGS).
As a metabolic stimulant, Bladderwrack has been thought to be useful in cases of fatigue and convalescence.
Bladderwrack has a reputation as an anti-inflammatory for relieving rheumatism and rheumatoid arthritis when used internally. When used externally, it is also a topical application for the relief of inflamed joints. In 2010 phase I and II clinical trials from Australia, an extract from brown seaweed (Fucus vesiculosis) was shown to reduce the symptoms of osteoarthritis by up to fifty-two percent, suggesting great promise for joint health.
Used topically, Bladderwrack is used to soften the skin and is included in creams, lotions and used in spas. It is very popular in the west of Ireland (where it grows profusely) and is rubbed on the body to stimulate circulation, promote soft skin and a healthy glow, and it is also used in slimming treatments and on cellulite patches.
Those who are suffering from hyperthyroidism, have heart or kidney problems or are pregnant or nursing should not use this product. Bladderwrack Herbal Supplement should not be taken in large amounts (many times the recommended dose), as it may increase pulse rate, cause tremors, hyperthyroidism and elevated blood pressure. Taking Bladderwrack and medicines used to treat or prevent blood clots together may cause your blood to be too thin (clot less easily), making you bleed more than usual or bruise easily. If you are taking such medication (warfarin, coumadin, aspirin, etc.), do not take Bladderwrack.