Irish Moss and Carrageenan are sometimes used interchangeably. Carrageenan gum comes from Irish Moss and other red seaweeds, but it has likely undergone heavy processing and should not be compared to raw Irish Moss seaweed. When processed into a chemical compound, carrageenan gum is nutritionally diminished and a different product altogether. Raw, unprocessed and consumed in its complete form, Irish Mossoffers remarkable health benefits and versatility in the kitchen and has done so for centuries.
In the last few decades, the word ‘carrageenan’ has been (misleadingly) used for other products with many different characteristics, such as commercial food-grade carrageenan gum. This gum is extracted from Irish Moss seaweed and other mucilaginous red seaweeds but is highly processed and should not be confused with Irish Moss gel in its pure form.
Carrageenan extract is used as an emulsifier, thickener and stabiliser in foods like yogurt, ice cream, dairy milk, and even organic boxed vegan milk to enhance the textures. It is also a common ingredient in pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and toothpaste.
The health concerns with this food additive have been the subject of much debate among health-conscious consumers as it’s been linked to various gastrointestinal disorders, including inflammatory bowel syndrome, intestinal ulcerations and tumour growths.
‘Manufactured carrageenan’ or food-grade carrageenan is treated with harsh alkali solutions such as potassium hydroxide. During the commercial carrageenan gum processing, the all-important cellulose is removed from the seaweed, and 5-8% potassium hydroxide is used to process the substance.
Additionally, food-grade carrageenan can be degraded by acids in the stomach, turning it into poligeenan; a potentially carcinogenic substance. According to the Cornucopia Institute and their carrageenan report, “degraded carrageenan is such a potent inflammatory agent that scientists routinely use it to induce inflammation and another disease in laboratory animals, to test anti-inflammatory drugs and other pharmaceuticals”.
There are no known health risks from regularly using raw Irish Moss gel as a supplementary food ingredient. There should be no comparison between the highly processed carrageenan gum and Irish moss in its natural form.
Read more about Irish Moss in our blog collection:
- Make Irish Moss Gel
- 3 ways to use Irish Moss in everyday life
- Is Irish Moss the same as Sea Moss?
- Remarkable Health Benefits of Irish Moss