7 Incredible Benefits of Bladderwrack

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated - Medically reviewed by Vanessa Voltolina (MS, RD)

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The most impressive health benefits of bladderwrack include its ability to fight obesity, benefit the thyroid, improve the metabolism, reduce inflammation, strengthen bones, protect the skin and premature aging, aid vision, lower risk of cancer, and strengthen heart health.

What is Bladderwrack?

Although the name may be a bit odd, bladderwrack is actually one of the most common types of seaweed found in the oceans. This kelp variety has the scientific name Fucus vesiculosus, as it is known around the British Isles, Europe, the Baltic Sea, and even the eastern coast of North America. Some of the other names of bladderwrack include rockweed, red fucus, and black tang, depending upon the part of the world. This type of seaweed prefers shelters inlets without too much movement or current and is found in huge numbers in certain areas. The plant is highly identifiable by the small paired air sacs found along the midrib branches.

This has been an herbal remedy and a culinary element in various cultures for centuries. In fact, bladderwrack was the original source of iodine, which was hugely important in treating various conditions, such as deficiency, a consequence of which can be goiter – and is also an important part of a nutritional diet. You can use bladderwrack most commonly as an herbal supplement or powder. It can be consumed directly or mixed into water or facial scrubs to improve its efficacy. While this has been used in alternative treatments for hundreds of years, it is only becoming well-known to the general public recently, so the demand for this herb is definitely rising. The high levels of mucilage, beta-carotene, iodine, potassium, zeaxanthin, and other organic compounds give this herb a great deal of health power as well.

Closeup of bladderwrack

Bladderwrack, type of brown algae (seaweed) Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Health Benefits of Bladderwrack

Let’s take a closer look at some of the health benefits of bladderwrack.

Thyroid Improvement

As mentioned above, bladderwrack was the original source of iodine back in the 19th century. Iodine is an important modulator of our thyroid gland and can ensure that our hormonal and metabolic activities are under control. Therefore, as a powerful source of iodine, bladderwrack has become associated with treating many types of thyroid disorders. Primarily, bladderwrack stimulates the thyroid gland to increase hormonal output.

Weight Loss

In many cultures, bladderwrack is thought to heighten metabolism, which makes it easier to lose weight. As it has been praised as a weight-loss tool for generations and many people are starting to realize how beneficial it can be. When your body is working at a high level and burning off more fat, you also suppress the appetite, thereby preventing obesity and the other related health issues that come along with it.

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Vision Health

The high levels of beta-carotene found in bladderwrack make it an ideal solution for those looking to improve their vision. Beta-carotene is an antioxidant that directly neutralized free radicals in the eyes and cornea. Essentially, bladderwrack can help slow down macular degeneration and prevent the development of cataracts.

Reduced Inflammation

One of the other popular uses of bladderwrack over the years has been as an anti-inflammatory substance. Whether you are suffering from gout, arthritis, hemorrhoids, or skin irritation, bladderwrack may successfully neutralize the irritation, reduce swelling, and even relieve pain. The internal and external (topical) uses of bladderwrack may both be useful approaches, and are even better in conjunction, such as for sore muscles and joints.

Anticancer Potential

Fucoidan is a unique type of fiber found in high quantities within bladderwrack. Research suggests that studies fucoidan has many beneficial properties that include antiviral, antitumor, anticoagulant, antiangiogenic, and antiarthritic properties.

According to a report by researchers from the University of Tasmania, Australia fucoidan has anti-cancer and anti-tumor properties and may induce apoptosis. However, more clinical trials are required to support the anticarcinogenic effects.

Improved Digestion

There are a number of different types of fiber found in bladderwrack, but one particularly important one is alginic acid. Alginic acid relieves constipation and adds bulk to stool, promoting a smooth digestive process that is efficient in terms of nutrient uptake. Furthermore, this may help to relieve excess flatulence, bloating, cramping, and more serious conditions like gastric ulcers and colon cancer.

Heart Health

Research studies have linked bladderwrack with higher levels of HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol), which may be contributory to helping you prevent atherosclerosis, lowering blood pressure, reducing your risk of strokes and heart attacks, and generally lessen the strain on your cardiovascular system.

Anti-aging Properties

There are many valuable minerals found in bladderwrack that can help to make the skin beautiful, but there are also powerful organic chemicals that can slow down the aging process. These antioxidants in bladderwrack keep the skin looking healthy and young, reduce age spots and blemishes, and lessen the appearance of wrinkles. Antioxidants can also boost skin elasticity, keeping your skin looking tight and toned well into your old age.

Word of Warning: If you suffer from hyperthyroidism, then you may not need an extra boost of iodine. Also, some people are allergic to iodine, so large amounts of bladderwrack could be very dangerous. Finally, if you have an upcoming surgery or suffer from a bleeding disorder, you should avoid bladderwrack, as it can make blood clotting more difficult. Check with your medical professional before adding this herbal remedy into your health regimen.

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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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