Sea moss is a common yet generic name given to a variety of different species of seaweed, but they are, in fact, very different from one another. They are known by several different botanical names and are identified by their look, texture, and waters from whence they’re harvested. This is need-to-know information if you’re wanting to identify authentic sea moss.
Chondrus Crispus, Euchema Cottonii, and Gracilaria are the more popular species commercially available on the market today, but they’re all referred to as ‘sea moss’ which makes it impossible to educate the curious or purchase a specific kind because many people think that all sea moss is the same or should look a certain way when this isn’t the case.
The species, Eucheuma Cottonii and Gracilaria, (shown above) grow abundantly in warmer waters, which is why you can obtain them from different parts of the world and they’re more accessible than other species. Typically you can find them in:
The Java Sea
The Celebes Sea
The Solomon Sea
The Caribbean Sea, and
the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans
The waters that they grow in are normally consistently flowing open ocean currents, and they tend to be much clearer and cleaner waters too. While Chondrus Crispus is a species of seaweed which is rarer, by comparison, it tends to grow more slowly in the cooler waters of the Northern Atlantic, making it more difficult to harvest or obtain.
So, why has sea moss become a trend and many people are classifying it as a superfood today? Where exactly did this all start?
The History of Sea Moss
Chondrus Crispus, also known as Irish Moss, Carageenan, or Irish Carraigín was named Irish Moss because the Irish consumed a lot of it in the 1840s during the Irish Potato Famine. This is the original Irish Moss.
It became a primary source of sustenance for the Irish people who lived in coastal areas between 1845 and 1849 during the height of the famine.
Pictured Above: Irish Moss (Botanical Name - Chondrus Crispus)
What’s Farm Grown (Pool Grown) and What’s Wildcrafted
Pool grown and/or farm-grown sea moss is easy to spot when you know exactly what you're looking for, but what makes things difficult is that many who are selling under the label of ‘wildcrafted’ are not actually wildcrafted at all and many are mislabeling and selling sea moss under the incorrect botanical name, with the most commonly misused name being Chondrus Crispus. The only sea moss known as Chondrus Crispus is pictured above. Most sellers are labeling and selling their sea moss as Irish Moss or Chondrus Crispus, when what they're selling is in fact, Gracilaria and/or Euchema Cottonii. Many are farmed in open ocean waters in some form or another. Wildcrafted seaweed is taken from a balanced environment that includes the trace minerals and vitamins needed to be a food source for other localized marine life, and it is a key part of sustaining the immediate habitat of sea life, as we know it.
Pool grown sea moss is not able to get the benefits that it would from its natural habitat which is the flow of the ocean making its exposure to naturally occurring minerals non-existent. Pool grown sea moss is restricted to whatever is added to the pool, such as salt, mineral-dense substrate, and manufactured fertilizers in which they replicate the motion of the ocean using machinery. Ultimately, no machine can provide the nutrients and minerals necessary and naturally provided by mother nature.
What’s the difference between sea mosses?
Chondrus Crispus has long been a part of the diets of people in these areas for generations. Responsible for helping the body with many different functions, sea moss was looked to as a natural remedy for treating ailments such as:
As we have become more and more aware of the benefits of seaweed as a wholefood, the nutritional value of this superfood is gaining more and more attention around the world. Chondrus Crispus is known to be high in:
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)
Vitamin B9 (Folate)
Chondrus Crispus typically consists of approximately 15% mineral compounds and 10% protein and is capable of holding between twenty and one hundred times its weight in water. This is attributed to the polysaccharides housed within the structure of the seaweed. When washing and soaking dried sea moss, these are the parts that can initially give off a sea-like odor.
Pictured Above: Euchema Cottonii commonly referred to as Sea Moss
Eucheuma Cottonii is very similar to Chondrus Crispus in the manner by which it absorbs mineral elements, macroelements and trace elements from the sea. This is like nothing that is able to be cultivated and harvested on land in terrestrial plants.
Eucheuma Cottonii is sometimes referred to as Sea Birds Nest, particularly in Asia. Almost confusingly, this too is known by many throughout Asia as Irish Sea Moss. This common recognition or label, applied to Eucheuma Cottonii in this part of the world by merchants has meant that Chondrus Crispus has been sold as Eucheuma Cottonii, and vice versa.
Putting that element of confusion aside with regards to the botanical names of species, both carry extremely similar benefits as the other when it comes to their use as a wholefood. What matters here is that you are getting a whole seaweed, and not a highly refined powder (which is how Carrageenan is normally sold).