Fri | Oct 19, 2018

Amazing health benefits of Seaweed

Published:Wednesday | September 3, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Kelp noodle shrimp salad.

Tracey-Ann Brown, Complementary & Oriental Medicine

You go for a swim in the ocean and there it is, floating about, minding its own business. You may have seen it in the health food store or supermarket and asked "Why?". Quite aside from the flavour it brings to Asian cuisine, kelp (Kun Bu) is used in traditional Chinese medicine for its medicinal value as well. Kelp is a type of brown seaweed which provides food and shelter to an amazing variety of marine species.


In traditional Chinese medicine, it is commonly used to soften and dissipate nodules, particularly those in the neck. In more recent times, it is used to treat enlargements of the thyroid. In reducing an enlargement of the thyroid, it is usually combined with other herbs, namely sargassum (Hai Zao), another type of seaweed.

Herbal preparations including Kun Bu have been useful in treating both hypothyroid and hyperthyroid conditions by helping to correct the functioning of hypoactive thyroids due to lack of iodine and temporarily improving the symptoms of hyperthyroid patients. These benefits are attributed to the high content of iodine in the herb, which is rather pure and is metabolised fairly slowly by the body.


In addition to reducing swelling in the neck, it is widely used in herbal preparations to reduce palpable abdominal masses such as liver and spleen enlargement, fibroids, as well as swelling and pain in the scrotum.


Kelp is also used to regulate water circulation by treating swelling in the body (oedema) and some urinary dysfunctions. In combination with other herbs, it is used to promote urination in cases of difficult urination.


In a study of 110 patients with hypertension given kelp (Kun Bu) powder, there was an improvement in blood pressure readings in 76.4 per cent of the participants.


Research also suggests it may be effective in lowering blood glucose levels.


Kelp, in combination with sargassum (Hai Zao) and green tea (Lu Cha), is often taken daily as a weight-loss cocktail, which helps to boost fat metabolism.


Kelp may be ingested in a variety of ways. It may be taken as a tea or included in a number of recipes, adding a unique and enjoyable flavour to a variety of dishes. In Asian cuisine, it is popularly included in soups and broths.

Dosage: one gram of powdered kelp can be taken two to three times daily. Five to 15 grams may be used to prepare a tea and boiled for 20 minutes, which is consumed over the course of two days.


Kelp should be used cautiously in persons with digestive weakness that is accompanied by a marked dislike of cold and a tendency to get cold easily.

Due to its ability to reduce blood glucose levels, persons who are taking antidiabetic medications should be cautious in its use in order to prevent the blood glucose becoming dangerously low and causing hypoglycemia.

Dr Tracey-Ann Brown is an Oriental Medicine Practitioner of Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine at Revamp Comprehensive and Adjunct Lecturer at the University of Technology in Oriental/Chinese Medicine; email: