Bladderwrack is used in natural skin care products for its antioxidant and skin regeneration properties. Bladderwrack, also known as Fucus vesiculosus, is a seaweed found on coasts around the world.
It was the first source of iodine in 1811 and has since been used to treat conditions such as thyroid problems and weight loss. Scientists are now discovering that bladderwrack has potential for helping to prevent and treat other conditions in the body and to promote overall health.
Bladderwrack was one of several plants tested at the School of Life Sciences, Kingston University, London, for its anti-aging and anti-oxidant properties. Of the 21 plants studied, bladderwrack ranked the second highest (behind white tea) in its ability to attack the enzymes elastase and collagenase that are commonly released during inflammation.
Bladderwrack contains fucoidan, a type of dietary fiber filled with numerous sulfur groups. A study in South Korea looking at the anti-tumor effects of fucoidan extracted from bladderwrack found that it markedly inhibited the growth of cells of HCT-15, human colon carcinoma cells.
Fucoidan from bladderwrack also has been tested a means to lower cholesterol. A study in Spain found that in the short term, laboratory animals fed the extract had significantly lowered total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein, unhealthy LDL, cholesterol levels and a significantly increased antiatherogenic index, or protection against the formation of plaques in arteries. Longer-term results showed slightly fewer effects on total cholesterol and LDL, but effectiveness at increasing beneficial HDL cholesterol as well as the antiatherogenic index.
Several seaweed extracts including Fucus vesiculosus were administered orally to normal laboratory animals to test the effects on blood sugar levels, as reported in a study published in the “Journal of Ethnopharmacology” in 1989. The scientists observed a significant reduction in blood glucose eight hours after intravenous administration, with glycemia lowered 18 percent in normal rabbits and 50 percent in animals with insulin-dependent diabetes.
A study at the Molecular Epidemiology and Toxicology Laboratory, University of California, Berkeley studied the effects of bladderwrack on premenopausal women. It found that dietary bladderwrack may prolong the length of the menstrual cycle and reduce estrogen levels in the body. The researchers concluded that the consumption of bladderwrack, along with soy, may be responsible for the reduced risk of estrogen-related cancers in Japanese populations.
A topical extract of bladderwrack was used by researchers in Japan who found that it decreased skin thickness and increased the skin’s elasticity. This holds promise for use in cosmetics because the aging process leads to the opposite: increased skin thickness and less elasticity. Also, a report published in the June 2005 edition of the journal “Evidence Based Complementary Alternative Medicine” showed how folk healers among the Chumash people treat lower leg edema with Fucus vesiculosus wrapped around the leg. The report concluded that the kelp’s phytosterols were responsible for helping with water resorption in the kidneys, decreasing edema.
Bladderwrack has high concentrations of iodine, one reason it’s often used to treat under active thyroid conditions. But higher doses above the daily recommended 150 micrograms of iodine can actually lead to hyperthyroidism, or an overactive thyroid, and make existing hyperthyroidism worse, according to the Merck Manual.
Bladderwrack is used for thyroid disorders including under active thyroid (myxedema), over-sized thyroid gland (goiter), and iodine deficiency. It is also used for obesity, arthritis, joint pain, “hardening of the arteries” (arteriosclerosis), digestive disorders, heartburn, “blood cleansing,” constipation, bronchitis, emphysema, urinary tract disorders, and anxiety. Other uses include boosting the immune system and increasing energy.
Bladderwrack, like many sea plants, contains varying amounts of iodine, which is used to prevent or treat some thyroid disorders. Bladderwrack products may contain varying amounts of iodine, which makes it an inconsistent source of iodine. Bladderwrack also contains algin, which can act as a laxative to help the stool pass through the bowels.
Are there safety concerns?
Bladderwrack is POSSIBLY UNSAFE. It may contain high concentrations of iodine, which could cause or worsen some thyroid problems. Prolonged, high intake of dietary iodine is linked with goiter and increased risk of thyroid cancer. Treatment of thyroid problems should not be attempted without medical supervision.
Like other sea plants, bladderwrack can concentrate toxic heavy metals, such as arsenic, from the water in which it lives.
Special precautions & warnings:
Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Bladderwrack is LIKELY UNSAFE during pregnancy and breast-feeding. Don’t use it.
Thyroid problems known as hyperthyroidism (too much thyroid hormone), or hypothyroidism (too little thyroid hormone): Bladderwrack contains significant amounts of iodine, which might make hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism worse. Don’t use it.
Infertility: Preliminary research suggests that taking bladderwrack might make it harder for women to get pregnant.
Iodine allergy: Bladderwrack contains significant amounts of iodine, which could cause an allergic reaction in sensitive people. Don’t use it.
Bladderwrack might slow blood clotting. There is a concern that it might cause extra bleeding during and after surgery. Stop taking bladderwrack at least 2 weeks before surgery. Taking bladderwrack along with medications that also slow clotting might increase the chances of bruising and bleeding.
Taking bladderwrack along with herbs that also slow clotting might increase the chances of bruising and bleeding. These herbs include angelica, clove, danshen, fenugreek, feverfew, garlic, ginger, ginkgo, Panax ginseng, poplar, red clover, turmeric, and others.
The appropriate dose of bladderwrack depends on several factors such as the user’s age, health, and several other conditions. At this time there is not enough scientific information to determine an appropriate range of doses for bladderwrack. Keep in mind that natural products are not always necessarily safe and dosages can be important. Be sure to follow relevant directions on product labels and consult your pharmacist or physician or other healthcare professional before using.
Other names for bladderwrack
Alga Noruega o Nudosa, Algue Laminaire, Ascophylle Noueuse, Ascophyllum nodosum, Atlantic Kelp, Black Tang, Bladder Fucus, Bladder Wrack, Blasentang, Chêne Marin, Cutweed, Fucus, Fucus Vésiculeux, Fucus vesiculosis, Goémon, Kelp, Kelpware, Kelp-Ware, Knotted Wrack, Laitue de Mer, Laitue Marine, Laminaire, Marine Oak, Meereiche, Norwegian Seaweed, Quercus Marina, Rockweed, Rockwrack, Schweintang, Sea Kelp, Seawrack, Tang, Varech, Varech Vésiculeux.