Tuesday, May 31, 2011

All about Irish Moss

I gratefully acknowledge the authors of the book Sweet Gratitude (Matthew Rogers and Tiziana Alipo) for the following information on Irish Moss.
Irish moss (Chrondrus crispus) is a type of seaweed that is purple to green when fresh; when cured and dried it turns to a yellow-brown transparent colour. Other common names for Irish moss are pearl moss, carrageen, red seaweed, or chondrus. This algae appears at low tide on all the shores of the Atlantic and comes from a genus of about fifteen species of marine algae. These plants, ranging in size from 3-12 inches, are collected wild, growing on rocks and stones in pools and shallow saltwater, and may be harvested by boat using a rake and by hand from the submerged rocks. It is found along the shorelines of Canada, New England, Europe, and the Caribbean.
Like all sea vegetables, Irish moss is rich in minerals and has astonishing detoxifying properties. One of its common names, carrageen, is derived from a village in southeastern Ireland (Carragheen) where the seaweed is plentiful. During the potato famine of the mid-nineteenth century, thousands of beleaguered Irish saved themselves from starvation by eating the humble, bushy seaweed known as Irish moss. Irish immigrants who found it growing in Canada and on the New England shores were the first to harvest and use it in America, and this is how the plant became known as “Irish moss.”
The entire plant, which is dried and then soaked to swell back to its original size, is used medicinally and for culinary purposes. Used commercially, it is included in cosmetics as a skin softener in creams and lotions and as a rinse for dry hair. Irish moss is a stabilizing agent for the food industry in dairy products, desserts, salad dressings, and sauces. It is used in the pharmaceutical industry to stabilize cod liver oil and toothpaste, and has a wide variety of other commercial uses in the textile, leather, brewing, printing (as an ink), and paint industries. Irish moss has a high mucilage content, sulphur compounds, protein, iodine, bromine, beta-carotene, calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, zinc, gel-forming polysaccharides (known as carragheenans), pectin, B vitamins, and vitamin C.
Respiratory System: Irish moss has a soothing effect on virtually all the mucous membranes throughout the body. This sweet, salty, mucilaginous herb has a softening effect on tissues and helps many respiratory problems including bronchitis and pneumonia. It is especially effective for pulmonary (lung) conditions, with its ability to absorb liquid and eliminate it from the body. As an expectorant, Irish moss relieves dry coughs, and the high mucilage content alleviates catarrh (inflammation) of the nasal passages and eases sore throat.
Digestion and Thyroid Function: Irish moss soothes the mucous membranes of the digestive tract, and the high mucilage content helps to ease gastritis, dyspepsia, nausea, heartburn, and indigestion and is also used to prevent vomiting. Irish moss is a mild and effective laxative and soothes inflamed tissues of the intestinal tract, providing help for intestinal disorders. In addition, Irish moss is said to absorb toxins from the bowel and draw radiation poison from the body. Irish moss is rich in iodine, supplying the nutrient throughout the intestinal tract. Iodine is highly important in supporting good thyroid gland health and relieving the many problems associated with poor thyroid function and iodine deficiency (goiter, fatigue, inability to tolerate cold, slow heart rate, low metabolism, poor skin and hair condition, etc.).
Weight Loss: Irish moss helps to reduce the appetite by virtue of its ability to absorb moisture, increasing the feeling of “fullness.” The raised metabolic rate caused by improved thyroid function (resulting from Irish moss's iodine content) helps to increase energy, burn fat, and may be helpful in weight-loss regimens.
Blood Pressure: Because Irish moss contains blood-thinning properties and is considered an anticoagulant, early research has claimed that Irish moss can reduce high blood pressure and the risk of arteriosclerosis.
Skin Care: Irish moss is wonderful used externally. It softens and soothes the skin and other exposed tissue. It eases sunburn, chapped skin, dermatitis, eczema, psoriasis, and rashes. It counters premature ageing when used topically for smoothing wrinkles.
Pregnancy: Irish moss is great for pregnant women. It is highly beneficial in supporting the healthy production of amniotic fluid. After birth, the baby benefits from the nourishment it adds to breast milk.

Basic Directions for Using Irish Moss
Soaking Irish Moss
Properly soaking the Irish moss has a huge impact on the entire recipe. Closely following these directions will result in an ingredient that is as consistent as possible for the best results in the finished product. Irish moss soaked according to these directions and stored covered with water will last for at least a week when kept in the fridge in an airtight container. After one week you may see a difference in colour and size. The Irish moss may look transparent and swollen. If this is the case you will need to add an additional 1/4 – 1/2 ounce of Irish moss to each recipe. Soak only the amount you think you will use for one week.
Unsoaked Irish moss will last in an airtight container in the fridge for months.
All preparation steps for Irish moss use cold water only. Rinsing or soaking in warm or hot water will cause the Irish moss to lose its mucilaginous gelling properties, making it less effective in these recipes.
Directions for Rinsing/Soaking Irish Moss
  • Thoroughly rinse small amounts of the Irish moss under cold running water. Ideally use filtered water. This process should remove any presence of sand, other seaweeds, or any small little plastic treads (usually light blue or red in colour) which are left over from harvesting.
  • As you wash the Irish moss one piece at a time, place rinsed pieces in an empty container. Whatever size container you container (if the container is too small, shake well with lid on to create friction and release more impurities. Drain the water and repeat two more times. The water from the re using, do not fill it up more than three-quarters of the way.
  • Once finished with rinsing, fill the container with water. With your hand mix the Irish moss in the last rinse should be really clean. If not, repeat one more time.
  • Now fill the container with water again, completely covering the Irish moss. Put lid on container and place in fridge for at least 24 hours before using.
  • Don't rinse the Irish moss after the soaking process is complete, and don't drain or replace the soaking water.
Using Irish Moss in the Recipes
Irish moss needs to be blended extremely well. All recipes using Irish moss specify the amount of liquid (usually 1 cup total) along with the measurement (in weight) of Irish moss. These ingredients are blended first until the Irish moss is completely broken down and smooth. This is what we call the “initial blending phase.” Then the remaining ingredients can be added and the recipe completed.
Irish Moss Blending Directions
  • Using a scale, weigh the amount of Irish moss called for in the recipe. When measuring Irish moss always double-check the weight. Remove from scale, dry any excess water from the scale top, and weigh the Irish moss again. The first measurement may contain up to a 1/4 ounce of water, and this will affect the recipe.
  • Coarsely chop the Irish moss and add to blender.
  • Add to blender the specified amount of liquid required for the initial blending phase.
  • Blend until mixture becomes smooth and jelly-like, and there are no visible small pieces of irish moss. The amount of time this requires will vary greatly, depending on what kind of blender you are using and/or how sharp the blade is.
  • There will always be small pieces of unblended Irish moss on the sides of the blender and underneath the lid. Stop blending and with a spatula scrape down the sides of the blender, as well as underneath the lid. Resume blending until all the Irish moss is completely broken down.
  • Stop blending and add the remaining ingredients of the recipe you are making, unless the recipe calls for coconut oil and lecithin, which always go in last.
Useful Tips
Whole-food Irish moss is available but usually hard to find unless you are looking on the internet. It should come covered in sand and salt and have a strong oceanic smell. This is perfectly normal. If properly prepared, the flavour and odour of the Irish moss become totally unnoticeable with all the other flavours it is being combined with.
More widely available is the flaked and dehydrated Irish moss. This form of Irish moss has the same gelling abilities as whole-food Irish moss. Whole-food Irish moss should be stored in the fridge, and it keeps very well.
For an easy way to use Irish moss medicinally, try gelatinizing some water. Simply blend 1 ounce Irish moss with 1 1/2 cups water. Blend until Irish moss is completely broken down. You can keep this in a container in the fridge for at least two weeks. Add 2-3 tbsps or more to juices or smoothies and blend it up briefly before drinking. This is a great way to benefit from the healing powers of Irish moss without making some elaborate raw creation.
Recipes that call for Irish moss always set better in the fridge than in the freezer.


  1. I wasn't aware that the (unsoaked) irish moss should be kept in the fridge. I've had it along time, and it now looks like it has little white crystals growing on it. Do you know why this is? Is it still edible?

  2. Hi Karen,
    Yes, I'd say it's still edible. Being a seaweed, it's likely that it's salt crystals that are forming on it. With any seaweed, rinsing thoroughly is recommended.

    For what it's worth, I keep soaked arame in my fridge for months as well, taking out little bits to add to salads and wraps every now and then and it hasn't gone bad at all. ;)

  3. And I also have unsoaked irish moss in a glass jar in my pantry and i've had no problems with it.

  4. I soaked my irish moss for 24 hrs but did not know it needed to be soaked in the fridge and I soaked it on the counter instead... on a pretty warm CA day. Now I see that's not recommended so I will resoak for the recipe but I don't want to waste what I soaked... should I use it for my skin? Any other ideas?

    1. I don't think you need to soak it in the fridge; I soak mine on the counter and then *store* the soaked irish moss in the fridge for up to 1 week at a time. I think it's just fine to use in recipes if you've soaked it on the counter, even if it was a warm/hot day. :)

  5. http://www.rawmazing.com/irish-moss-health-concerns/

    1. Thank-you for sharing. I think it is always beneficial for people to have access to as much information as possible. Personally, I am comfortable with the small amounts of seaweeds I consume in my diet, but I would encourage everyone to make an informed decision as to what is best for them.

  6. Hello,
    I am especially interested in skin care. How and how much do I use for my mature skin?
    Also I prefer to buy Irish moss not flaked, dehydrated, or powder form. I know it is very difficult to find like it is in ocean, but I do want to buy it as fresh as possible.
    Where can I buy it that is not flaked, dehydrated or powder?
    Thank You

    1. We do carry irish moss that is whole, and still covered in sand. I don't have a source for fresh irish moss, so I'm sorry I can't be of more assistance with that, but our whole irish moss is as close to what you are looking for as we currently have to offer. Look on our page "From the Sea and Greens" for current prices and sizes. We do not deliver or ship outside of the Greater Victoria area.

    2. I will ask my neighbours who are seaweed harvesters and very knowledgeable about seaweeds how to use irish moss for skin care, as I don't have this information handy. Excellent question, thank you for your post!

  7. How long after consumption of seamoss approximately how long should I wait to take a pregnancy test

  8. You dont need to do all of this to get the most from yourirish moss, in many parts of rhe caribbean you either simply soak it in good water with a few slices of lime for atleast 30 minutes to an hour after rinsing, and many people say it is best to boil it , many do that with spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, anise and bayleaf. Many simply soak n then blend using the same water you used to soak It in. The lime decreases the fresh taste n keeps it lasting longer, n more effective n beneficial to.