What is red, brown, green or blue-green, comes in 1700 varieties and waves gracefully from side to side? The answer is seaweed.
The main groups of edible seaweed are classified according to their predominant color.
Seaweeds are used principally in human food, animal food, fertilizer and nutritional supplements. The nutritional supplement most readily found on health food store shelves is a brown seaweed named kelp. Kelp is a principal source of iodine, but that is only a part of the story.
Kelp contains almost every mineral and trace mineral necessary for human existence. It also contains amino acids and vitamins.
Marine plants, such as the brown seaweed plant that is the source of kelp tablets and powder, live and flourish because of sunlight and the nutrients so plentiful in the sea.
The brown seaweed group is usually found in cold waters, although a number of varieties are harvested in the warmer waters of the Pacific off the coast of California. So fantastic is their growing ability, deriving nutrients only from the sun and surrounding water, that when they are harvested four feet from the surface, they grow back within ten days. Because they completely cover rocks between high and low tide, they are sometimes called rock weeds. The best known of the brown algae are the kelps. They generally grow in enormous beds just below the surface of the water. Seaweeds do not have any roots. They cling to rocks with grippers, called holdfasts, which are strong enough to take the battering of even the fiercest storms.
In 1750, an English physician, Dr. Bernard Russell, burned dried kelp and used it successfully as a treatment for goiter, a condition caused by a malfunctioning of the thyroid gland. In 1862 a Dr. C. Dupare successfully used kelp as an aid to treat obesity. These uses depend on the iodine content, which kelp contains in natural form.
Iodine is said to benefit the body in other ways, in addition to promoting the proper functioning of the thyroid gland. It helps provide energy and endurance, and relieve nervous tension. Because iodine promotes circulation, particularly to the brain, it contributes to better nourishment and to clear thought. Iodine also helps to burn food, so it is not stored as unwanted fat.
This grouping is usually a deep-water variety, up to 200 feet below the surface. Red seaweeds prefer shadier locations and warmer
water than the brown variety. The color is probably because of the subdued light that barely reaches the deep waters. Irish moss is the
best known of the red variety.
This form of seaweed is closest to the green leafy vegetables with which we are familiar. In fact, one species is called sea lettuce. Green seaweed grows not only in the salty seas but also in fresh-water lakes and rivers. They are much smaller than the brown and red varieties, ranging in size down to the one-celled organism. Some green seaweed even grows on trees on land.
Green Magic contains both kelp and dulse.