Also known as carrageen moss or chrondrus crispus, Irish moss is a species of red alga that can be found along the coast of Europe and North America. Popularized in Jamaica and other Caribbean countries, the Irish moss drink is a beverage made from boiling the alga for an hour while adding flavorings, sweetened condensed milk, rum and spices. Though Irish moss has established a reputation for its moisturizing and vitalizing properties when included in lotions and oils, additional health benefits range from treating ulcers to preventing cholesterol accumulation.
Skin and Cosmetic Benefits
According to Dr. Joanne K. Tobacman of the University of Iowa, Irish moss has been considered a "wonder seaweed" by the cosmetic industry since its discovery and has been associated with the prevention of varicose veins, halitosis, inflammation and dysentery. A skin softener and protector, Irish moss has also been used for the purposes of hydration and repair of skin conditions such as eczema, rashes, sunburn and psoriasis. Though the majority of these benefits occur from the topical application of the alga or Irish moss drink to the skin, consumption of nonalcoholic Irish moss beverages has been inked to a long-term hydration effect that helps preserve the skin's moist cellular walls longer than typical liquid consumption.
While Irish moss has been touted as a health aid in folkloric medicine traditions, studies such as a test conducted by Eden Foods at Albany Medical College found Irish moss to be an agent in combating peptic and duodenal ulcers. Containing 15 of the 18 essential elements that make up the human body, Irish moss includes a healthy amount of calcium, iodine, sulphur and potassium, as well as the vitamins A, D, E, F and K. Because of the chemical makeup of Irish moss, the heating and consumption of the liquid has been linked to helping a number of ulcers, tumors, bladder disorders, obesity, blood coagulation and a number of other intestinal problems. However, added ingredients such as sugars, artificial flavors, alcohol and nonorganic plant material can negate or considerably lower the healthfulness of the beverage.
Among the first clinical uses of Irish moss involved the application of the boiled liquid to speed recuperation from debilitating illnesses such as tuberculosis and pneumonia. Since then, Irish moss has been commonly used along with other tonic nutritive remedies to aid in the recovery of cancer patients who received treatment through radiation. While known for its vitamin-rich and nutritional makeup, one of the key minerals in an Irish moss infusion is magnesium. This, along with iodine and sodium, provide an ample environment for the prevention of excess fat, arteriosclerosis and hypertension, all of which can prevent or diminish convalescence.