Irish Moss Health Concerns

by Susan on October 11, 2012

Go figure, I finally jump onto the Irish Moss train, which has been touted as a super food in the raw food community for years, only to wake up to a weekly email in my in-box from Dr. Andrew Weil warning about the dangers of carrageenan. What does this have to do with Irish Moss? Carrageenan is extracted from Irish Moss.

Alarmed, I started digging and emailing. I even went to the woman who is considered to be the one of the top experts in carrageenan research, Dr. Joanne Tobacman of the University of Illinois. Dr. Tobacman has been studying the effects of carrageenan for over a decade.

It seems that carrageenan can cause inflammation (one of our greatest enemies) and intestinal distress. Even more alarming, when carrageenan is extracted from the irish moss, this form of carrageenan has been associated with human cancers.

But wait, haven’t we all read about the wonderful health benefits of Irish Moss? Isn’t it supposed to be great for us? I wondered if there was a difference between consuming Irish Moss in it’s whole form vs an extraction, the carrageenan.

I asked Dr. Tobacman if we needed to be concerned with consuming Irish Moss in it’s whole form. While the extraction is the most dangerous form (and widely found in many organic and non-organic products for sale), Dr. Tobacman stated, “When we tested Irish moss, we found that it also caused inflammation, similar to the effect of the derived carrageenan. The degree of inflammation was less, probably due to reduced availability of the carrageenan, due to the other ingredients in the seaweed. The answer to your question is yes, I think that Irish moss should be avoided, due to the likelihood that the carrageenan in the Irish moss will lead to inflammation.”

So there you have it. Armed with that information, you will not see Irish Moss used in any more recipes designated for consumption on this website. I am also redoing the Lemon Raspberry Souffle Tart that I published last week, replacing Irish Moss on the ingredient list.

Because of the prevalence of carrageenan in so many of the products that we use, including many organic varieties,  I am including some links that I think are important for you to visit to educate yourselves on this dangerous food additive.

Dr. Tobacman’s studies can be viewed here: Studies on Carrageenan (these are published medical studies)

Another excellent, easier to read article by Rodal Press: Carrageenan, The Natural Ingredient that is Wrecking Your Gut

From the Cornucopia Institute: Carrageenan: Linked to Gastrointestinal Inflammation and Colon Cancer  This article also discusses the attempts to get carrageenan removed from organic foods and the push-back the ensued.

After researching, reading and communicating with Dr. Tobacman, I would suggest that you remove Irish Moss from your raw food pantry and also make sure you look for carrageenan on your food labels and avoid it. Cornucopia has compiled a list of food producers that use carrageenan and those who don’t. You can find that list here: Shopping Guide to Avoid Carrageenan.

*If you have Irish Moss on hand, don’t throw it away. Irish Moss paste makes a wonderful face mask! I am working on a recipe for you this afternoon!

 

 

 

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{ 104 comments… read them below or add one }

Margret K June 13, 2014 at 11:45 pm

I wonder if it is something as simple as … the Irish have traditionally used Irish Moss safely since like forever true, but because of the world being the way it is today sadly our oceans and waterways are condensed with foreign contaminants, so it is not the Irish Moss itself but an environment factor … fukushima … etc. etc. I do wonder :(

Kathie chandler August 16, 2014 at 3:04 pm

I am eating more raw and many recipes call for Irish moss so what can I replace it with?
thank you
Kathie

Susan August 21, 2014 at 12:35 pm

HI, Kathie, It would depend on each recipe and what Irish Moss does in the recipe. If you aren’t opposed to using something that isn’t 100% raw, you can try agar agar. Cheers!

martina August 24, 2014 at 7:34 pm

irish moss (nee agar agar) has been eaten by the indonesians for centuries. they have only started getting cancer since they stopped using coconut oil and started using the cheap manufactured (cooked, refined, genetically-modified) vegetable and canola oils on the market in all of the tourist areas. i don’t think agar agar is the problem. like others say, it could be the environment, but most importantly it is probably the diet! what else are we eating. i’ll keep using mine altho the last lot i purchased from natural zing was not the same colour, texture or smell as those i purchased prior to 2011.

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