What is Bladderwrack?
Bladderwrack extract is taken from the bladderwrack algae, also known as Fucus vesiculosus, rockweed, black tang, bladder fucus, cutweed or Dyer’s fucus.
This perennial green-brown seaweed grows along the Eastern and Western North American coastlines and European coastlines north of the Mediterranean. The seaweed has fronds of up to 2 meters long, studded with many small air bladders.
Bladderwrack is not the same as bladderwort, an inland aquatic plant found in lakes and streams. Recipes from Eastern countries commonly use seaweed as a culinary ingredient, especially amongst coastal populations, but it’s not as popular in Western countries.
However, the popularity of seaweed like bladderwrack has grown as our understanding of its health benefits improve.
How Bladderwrack works?
Bladderwrack is an excellent source of iodine (a mineral necessary for proper thyroid function), and is also rich in nutrients such as vitamins A, B complex, C, D, E and K. It contains minerals like sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron, copper, zinc and manganese. Plus, it’s rich in all nine essential amino acids and boasts potent antioxidant properties.
Uses of Bladderwrack
Bladderwrack Benefits thyroid health
Since the third century, people have used seaweed to treat goiters and other thyroid issues. Today, science indicates that the iodine and selenium in bladderwrack help regulate the thyroid gland and may stimulate it to produce the hormone thyroxine.
Bladderwrack may also boast anticancer properties that could effectively limit thyroid tumor growth. It may also protect thyroid cells from inflammatory damage by slowing the breakdown of collagen and elastin.
Plus, research indicates bladderwrack may lower blood cholesterol levels, which can benefit those with a slow metabolism associated with thyroid dysfunction.
Aids in weight management
In 1862, French physician Louis Victor Duchesne-Duparc noted that patients treated for psoriasis with bladderwrack reported significant weight loss. Scientists now believe that through its thyroid hormone stimulatory action, the iodine content of bladderwrack improves metabolism, which results in weight loss–even without reducing food intake.
Bladderwrack contains compounds called fucoidan and alginate that may also aid in weight loss. Studies conducted on alginate suggest it may help curb appetite, thereby aiding weight loss. Fucoidan may reduce lipid (fat) accumulation and could therefore potentially prevent obesity.
Bladderwrack Natural antimicrobial and antiviral
The fucoidan and alginate in bladderwrack don’t just fight fat–they could also fight off infections. Studies suggest they have significant antiviral properties, and although research continues, early studies indicate they may kill polio, herpes, and even HIV. In one in vitro (test tube) study, alginic acid inhibited the HIV virus, although this has not yet been studied in humans.
Bladderwrack may also kill the candida bacterium, which causes fungal nail infections; meningitis, a deadly brain and spinal cord infection; and e.coli, which causes severe food poisoning.
Bladderwrack benefits vision and eye health in two different ways. First, it contains high amounts of beta-carotene, which the body converts into vitamin A, a key nutrient for healthy vision. Vitamin A protects your cells from damage, strengthening the immune system and promoting healthy skin, mucus membranes and eyes.
Secondly, bladderwrack may inhibit the activity of adenovirus type 3 and cytomegalovirus, two culprits linked to eye infections.
Lowers estrogen levels
Because of the effect bladderwrack has on the body’s levels of cholesterol, from which sex hormones are produced, it may lower circulating estrogen levels while shortening the duration of menstrual cycles. This could be useful in treating estrogen-dependent diseases. In two studies, researchers linked bladderwrack to significantly lowered estrogen levels.
These conclusions may be linked to the fact that there is generally a lower incidence of estrogen-dependent cancers among women in Asian countries, who consume not only more soy, but also more seaweed than women in Western countries.
Natural anticancer properties
Research suggests it could aid in the fight against cancer. It may inhibit enzyme activity that causes cancer, support cells that kill cancer, and stop cell growth in existing cancers.
Studies show that the fucoidan in bladderwrack works with the immune system to limit cancerous tumor growth.
In other studies, fucoidan stopped the spread of colorectal and breast cancers, lung carcinoma and melanoma in vitro.
One study suggests that it may have an anti-aging effect on the skin.
Human skin becomes thicker and less elastic with age. But applying bladderwrack extract topically twice daily over five weeks could significantly decrease skin thickness and increase skin elasticity for a firmer, youthful appearance.
In fact, bladderwrack extract combined with clawed forkweed could even reduce the appearance of cellulite for smoother skin.
In a human study, a combination extract of bladderwrack and another seaweed in the same family reduced insulin sensitivity and blood glucose levels. This could prove beneficial for diabetics, and since normal blood sugar levels keep your heart healthy, it may also benefit long-term cardiovascular health.
Relieves arthritis symptoms
Folk medicine has used the herb as a remedy for arthritis and rheumatism for centuries. Recent studies have highlighted its anti-inflammatory action, which could reduce painful swelling and stiffness associated with arthritis.
Bladderwrack Digestive support
The alginic acid in bladderwrack serves as a short-term remedy for both constipation and diarrhea. It may also relieve heartburn, since common antacids like Gaviscon use alginic acid to ease stomach acid buildup.
Side effects of bladderwrack
As long as you adhere to the recommended dosage, bladderwrack is safe to take for healthy adults, according to multiple human and animal studies.
Mild side effects may include nausea, stomach upset and diarrhea. Do not take bladderwrack if you are nursing, pregnant, or trying to become pregnant. Stop taking the herb at least two weeks before a surgery, as it could slow blood clotting.
Talk to your doctor before taking bladderwrack if you have a heart condition, tuberculosis, adrenal insufficiency, anemia, and hypertension or kidney disease. You should also talk to your doctor before taking this supplement if you’re postmenopausal and have been diagnosed with osteoporosis.
Dosage of bladderwrack
There is insufficient reliable evidence available to determine a dosage for black seed.
Medication interactions of bladderwrack with other drugs
Taking bladderwrack with antiplatelet or anticoagulant drugs might increase the risk of bruising and bleeding. Some of these drugs include the following:
- Clopidogrel (Plavix)
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
- Diclofenac (Voltaren, Cataflam, others)
- Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others)
- Naproxen (Anaprox, Naprosyn, others)
- Dalteparin (Fragmin); enoxaparin (Lovenox)
- Heparin; warfarin (Coumadin)
Concomitant use of bladderwrack and antithyroid drugs may result in additive activity and cause hypothyroidism. Conversely, it might reduce the effects of antithyroid drugs. Until more is known, use bladderwrack cautiously in combination with antithyroid drugs. Some of these medications include the following:
- Methenamine mandelate (Methimazole)
- Methimazole (Tapazole)
- Potassium iodide (Thyro-Block)
Monitor thyroid hormones closely if taking lithium and bladderwrack concomitantly.
Bladderwrack precautions and warnings
Bladderwrack may be safely used topically, but is unsafe when orally ingested. Bladderwrack may contain high amounts of iodine and heavy metals, which can lead to side effects including the following:
- Blood hemorrhaging in the stomach
- Polymorphic ventricular tachycardia
- Acneiform lesions
- Increased risk of thyroid and goiter cancer
- Laxative effects
- Genital warmth or discomfort
- Bladder fullness
- Lower abdominal pain
- Moderate pale yellow cervical discharge
- Abnormal bleeding
- Allergic reactions
- Peripheral neuropathy
- Shortness of breath
Individuals with bleeding disorders, infertility problems, iodine allergies, and thyroid dysfunction must not take the herb. This seaweed has potential antiplatelet effects and may cause excessive bleeding; it should be discontinued at least 2 weeks before surgery.