Irish Moss

Chondrus crispus


Rhodophyta


Common name: Carragheen, Carrageenan.


Habitat: The Atlantic coast of Europe and North America.


Part used: The dried thallus. It is a seaweed.


Collection: It is collected from rocky coastlines around the North Atlantic. Large amounts are gathered from the Massachusetts coast, and in Europe mainly from Ireland and Brittany. In Ireland collection takes place in the fall, in America in the summer.


Constituents: Polysaccharides. The extract, also known as carrageenin, consists of sulphated, straight chain galactans. There are two different types, a gelling fraction known as [[kappa]]-carrageenin and a non-gelling fraction known as [[lambda]]-carrageenin. They are both composed of o-galactoseand 3, 6-anhydrogalactose residues with a high proportion of sulphate esters, but are differentiated by the relative proportions and the number, type and position of the sulphate esters. There is a variety of grades of different molecular weight, including a food grade which has a molecular weight of about l00, 000 to 500, 000. Vitamin A and Bl.


Actions: Expectorant, demulcent, anti-inflammatory Indications: With modern attention on dramatically effective `miracle drugs’, it is refreshing to remember the nourishing, and strengthening food medicines such as Irish Moss. This safety gives it some unique contributions to make in health care. Traditionally the main use of Irish Moss is in respiratory illness where it is often the core of prescriptions to treat irritating coughs, bronchitis and many other lung problems. It may be freely used in digestive conditions where a demulcent is called for, such as gastritis and ulceration of the stomach and duodenum. The soothing activity is also seen in inflammations of the urinary system, and was at one time used extensively in the way CornSilk is today. It has been used as a food in maintenance diets for diabetes patients.


However, its primary role was in speeding recuperation from debilitating illness, especially T.B. and pneumonia. Convalescence from major disease needs to be given more attention than it receives today. Herbs such as Irish Moss and other tonic nutritive remedies have much to offer in facilitating proper recovery of health. In these times of degenerative disease being the major killer in our society, such perspectives cry out for attention.


Recent research has shown an anti-viral property against the influenza B and the mumps viruses. Unfortunately the research was undertaken on animals, but supports the traditional use of Irish Moss in such conditions. This line of study has also confirmed the herbs value in treating ulcers and suggested exciting possibilities with an anti-coagulant effect. King’s suggests its use as “a demulcent in chronic affections of the air passages, chronic diarrhoea and dysentary, scrofula, rickets, enlarged mesenteric glands, irritation of the bladder and kidneys, etc. As a culinary article it may be employed in the preparation of jellies, white soup, blac- mange etc.


Preparation and dosage: To use fresh, wash it well and add one cup of Irish Moss to three cups of milk or water and flavor to taste. Simmer slowly until most of the seaweed has dissolved. Remove any undissolved fragments and pour into a mould to set.


The dried herb is best made into a decoction. Steeping half an ounce of the dried herb in cold water for 15 minutes and then boiling it for 10-15 minutes in 3 pints of water (or milk). It is then strained and often combined with liquorice, lemon, ginger or cinnamon. It may be sweetened to taste.


Go to Herbal Materia Medica Homepage

David L. Hoffmann BSc Hons MNIMH Written by David L. Hoffmann BSc Hons MNIMH

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