Medicinal Properties of Irish Moss
During the potato famine of 19th century Ireland, Irish moss saved thousands of people from starvation.
Also known as carrageen moss (meaning moss of the rock in Irish), it is
named after the town of Carragheen in southeastern Ireland. It is also
found on northern shores of the Atlantic as far south as Portugal.
The early Irish immigrants who had migrated to Canada and New England
were the first Europeans to gather and make use of it in North America.
It contains the polysaccharide carrageenan, a natural thickener used in soups, puddings and ice cream.
Irish moss also contains many vitamins and trace minerals, including
iodine, bromine, beta-carotene, calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese,
phosphorus, potassium, selenium and zinc, pectin, B vitamins and
vitamin C. It contains antiviral and antibacterial factors. Thus, those
recovering from operations or illness will find it beneficial during
recuperation. The Holistic-online.com Web site states that
traditionally, "The primary role of this herb was in speeding
recuperation from debilitating illness, especially T.B. and pneumonia."
Typical preparations come as tea, tincture or tablets made from the whole dried plant, usually in combination with other herbs.
Because 55 percent of Irish moss is mucilage-a thick gluey substance-it
is classed as a demulcent, producing a soothing effect by lining the
mucous membranes of the intestinal tract with mucilage that is very
resistant to digestive juices. As a digestive remedy, it aids
conditions such as gastritis, colic, ulcers, flatulence, difficulty
swallowing, vomiting and diarrhea. Long-term use, however, can decrease
stomach acid and thus interfere with digestion.
In addition to soothing the intestinal tract, Irish moss can aid
respiratory complaints and urinary conditions such as kidney and
bladder inflammations. As a lung and respiratory remedy, it has the
ability to help clear the chest, ease bronchitis and restore dry and
irritated mucous membranes.
Externally Irish moss can be used to dress wounds as it alleviates pain
and relieves irritation. Its cooling and detoxifying nature comforts
sunburns, bites and other skin conditions.
Since Irish moss has blood-thinning properties, it should not be used by those taking anticoagulants.