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Kelp KELP  
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Botanical:  Macrocystis pyrifera; Laminaria digitata
Family:   Laminariaceae/Lessoniaceae; Fucaceae; Sargassum (kelps)
Other common names:  Brown-Green Seaweed, Brown-Green Algae, Horsetail Kelp, Knotted Wrack, Marine Algae, Seaweed, Seawrack, Giant Kelp, Tangleweed, Sugar Wrack, Rockweed

Kelp and other seaweeds are the great gift from the sea.  Besides its rich iodine content, which is essential for a healthy thyroid, Kelp has a remarkable supply of vital nutrients, amino acids, vitamins and minerals that are key to promoting healthy overall glandular function.  Kelp may even help fight obesity and be useful in weight loss programs.

The information presented herein by Herbal Extracts Plus is intended for educational purposes only. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent disease. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.

Kelp is a common name for leafy algae or seaweed - a nutritious "vegetable of the sea" - and is harvested off the coasts of many of the oceans of the world.  Kelp carries all the positive qualities of the sea and the numerous, rich elements that the oceans produce.  Among its many uses for mankind, nutrition is one of them, and it was usually used as a source of iodine or salt.  It is an important part of the diet in Japan, Norway and Scotland; and for vegans (vegetarians who eat no animal products), nutritious Kelp supplies vitamin B-12, which is normally found only in animal products).  The term Kelp is used to describe a number of brownish-green species, prepared from several species of Fucus and Laminariae, etc. (including Macrocystis pyrifera, Laminaria digitata and Ascophyllum nodosum, etc.), and they may grow from a few feet to over one hundred feet in length, sometimes growing as much as two feet in one day.  They generally grow in enormous beds just below the surface of the water and do not have any roots.  Rather, they cling to rocks with "holdfasts" (grippers), which are hardy enough to withstand fierce storms.  The entire plant is used in herbal medicine.  Kelp is particularly rich in iodine and was the original source of iodine, being discovered by Courtois in 1812.  It is interesting to note, however, that earlier, in 1750, an English physician, Doctor Russell, burned dried Kelp and used it as a treatment for goiter; and in 1862, a Doctor Dupare employed Kelp as an aid to obesity, two uses that dependend upon Kelp's iodine content.  Iodine does not appear in nature in uncombined form but is distributed in the form of iodides and iodates, which are found in sodium and potassium in seawater, some seaweeds and mineral springs.  The iodine in Kelp was extracted by "kelp burning" and distilling, which remained viable until the twentieth century when newer, cheaper methods of extraction were employed.  Chemical constituents in Kelp include iodine, bromine, alginic acid, sodium and potassium salts,  magnesium, calcium, iron, protein, alginates (soluble dietary fiber), mannitol, essential fatty acids, silicon, nitrogen, phosphorus, cellulosics, selenium, zinc, boron, laminarin, vanadium, molybdenum, beryllium, B-vitamins and vitamin C.  The trace mineral content of Kelp is among the highest of any single known source.

Beneficial Uses:
Kelp is a thyroid tonic and a rich source of iodine.  If this critical element is lacking in the diet, the deficiency may lead to thyroid malfunction, causing an under-active (or overactive) thyroid gland. Kelp nourishes the thyroid gland and so maintains healthy metabolism and glandular function.  Goiter, a non-cancerous enlargement of the thyroid gland, visible as a swelling at the front of the neck and associated with iodine deficiency, has been said to be effectively treated by the use of Kelp, and it has also been said to dissolve firm masses/lumps, ease swelling (such as enlarged thyroid gland, lymph node enlargement and swollen and painful testes) and reduce edema, all of which can be caused by the malfunction of the thyroid gland.

When obesity is a direct result of thyroid disorders, Kelp may be of some help in weight control by boosting the thyroid's metabolism.  There have been some reports that Kelp has also been effective when used to reduce cellulite deposits.  Because of its high iodine content, many nutritionists assume that by stimulating thyroid function, Kelp will increase metabolism and the rate at which the body uses energy and consequently decreases fat deposits. Apropos of weight management, 2010 research from Scotland’s University of Abertay suggests that phenolic-rich extracts from several edible marine macroalgae, including Kelp, are considered a good source of dietary soluble fibre (alginates), which can influence satiety (giving one a feeling of fulness), as well as glucose uptake from foods. 

Kelp promotes a healthy-functioning and balanced system throughout the body, building immunity and generally improving glandular functions overall (also aiding digestion and respiration).  Moreover, some Japanese studies have shown a direct relationship between ingestion of the algin contained in Kelp and the prevention of fibrocystic breasts and malignant cells and think that the algin is responsible.  They believe it is partly mechanical, due to algin's fiber content (decreasing the transit time from one end of the digestive system to the other) and also biochemical, due to its enhancement of the immune system.  The researchers think that the alginates also affect T-cells, boosting their efficacy.

Considered a digestive demulcent (soothing agent), Kelp has been used to ease reflux and heartburn.  It is believed that its algin content forms a gel within the intestines that coats and soothes the intestinal lining.   Moreover, that same alginate content also swells upon contact with water and when taken orally, it forms a type of "seal" at the top of the stomach, inhibiting reflux back into the esophogus, and for this reason is used in several over-the-counter preparations for heartburn and GERD (acid reflux disease).   The soluble polysaccharides (alginates) may also act as prebiotics, stimulating growth of beneficial bacteria in the colon.

As a system cleanser, Kelp's rich supply of nutrients from the sea has a buffering ability to neutralize wastes from the body fluids to be more easily discharged from the body.  Acting as a digestive aid, the algin in Kelp absorbs toxins from the digestive system, improving digestion, stimulating kidney function, increasing circulation, and purifying the blood.  Kelp has been thought to absorb and remove drugs, chemicals, heavy metals and radioactive strontium from the body.  Herbalists claim that Kelp's active ingredient, sodium alginate, binds these toxins in the gastrointestinal tract, preventing their absorption into the body.  (By reducing strontium absorption in the body, the sodium alginate in Kelp could be helpful during radiation treatments.)

As a mild laxative, Kelp provides fiber that helps to increase fecal bulk; and at the same time it also reduces cholesterol levels through the retardation of bile acid absorption.

Kelp has been used to soothe the mucous membranes in the respiratory tract, thus reducing catarrh and relieving irritated throat and cough.

With regard to rheumatic pain, elements in Kelp are thought to handle the uric acid that contributes to the pain and eliminate the uric acid from the body.  The plant has also been known to help relieve inflamed joints and tissues caused by arthritis and osteoarthritis.

Asian people use Kelp to treat genitourinary tract problems, including kidney, bladder, uterus and prostate.  Some older men have reported that daily use has reduced enlarged prostates and painful urination.

Externally, Kelp has moistening qualities that soften skin and promote circulation, giving a healthy glow when used in a bath.

Kelp's rich supply of nutrients and ability to balance and strengthen overall bodily function helps to promote healthy growth of hair, skin and nails.

Those suffering from hyperthyroidism or have heart problems should not use Kelp Herbal Supplement.  Those with high blood pressure or blood vessel disease should not use this product without first consulting a physician.  Pregnant and nursing women should never take Kelp; the Laminaria genus is a uterine stimulant and can dilate the cervix and induce abortion.  Kelp should not be taken in large doses (many times the recommended amount), as it may increase pulse rate, cause tremors, acne, elevated blood pressure, hyperthyroidism and counterproductive thyroid function (ironically, there have been reports of an occasional side effect called "iodine goiter" associated with iodine that results in an enlargement of the thyroid gland resembling goiter, and if you experience this, discontinue using iodine, and consult your health care practitioner.  Do not take Kelp without talking to your doctor first if you are taking  thyroid hormone medicine - examples: levothyroxine (Synthroid®, Levothroid®), desiccated thyroid (Armour® Thyroid).  Rare problems with blood (such as low platelets or bleeding) and low blood pressure have been reported with the use of Kelp; speak with your doctor if you are taking blood thinning medication.

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