What Is Bladderwrack Good For?

Medically Reviewed on 8/11/2022
What is bladderwrack?
Dietary bladderwrack is available most commonly as an herbal supplement, capsule, or powder.

Historically, people who lived close to the sea had low rates of thyroid problems due to their ingestion of iodine-rich foods. These included seaweeds, and bladderwrack is one of the highest iodine-containing sea vegetables known.

Bladderwrack was recognized in the early 1800s for its high iodine content and was widely used as a treatment for goiter (swelling of the neck due to enlarged thyroid glands). By the 1860s, bladderwrack was being used to counteract obesity by speeding up metabolism.

What is bladderwrack?

Bladderwrack (Fucus vesiculosus) is a type of brown seaweed (algae) that grows in the Baltic Sea, Atlantic Ocean, and North Pacific Ocean.

Although there is no authentic scientific evidence, bladderwrack's mucilaginous thallus has been used to soothe irritated and inflamed tissues in the body, for thyroid disorders, as a laxative, and to counter obesity and aging skin.

The thallus has tough, air-filled pods or bladders that help the algae float, thus the name bladderwrack.

Other names of bladderwrack

  • Ascophyllum nodosum
  • Atlantic kelp
  • Black tang
  • Bladder fucus
  • Blasentang
  • Cutweed
  • Knotted wrack
  • Laminaire
  • Marine oak
  • Norwegian seaweed
  • Rockweed
  • Varech

10 health benefits of bladderwrack

  1. Relieves constipation and diarrhea
    • Bladderwrack contains alginic acid, a kind of dietary fiber that helps regulate bowel movements and relieves constipation.
    • While fiber from dietary or herbal sources is often useful for constipation, it may alleviate diarrhea.
  2. May help with stomach problems
    • Bladderwrack is high in mucilage, which may be advantageous for people with gastritis because its slippery nature soothes irritated mucus membranes of the digestive tract.
    • It may help with other stomach and digestive issues, such as heartburn, high acid levels, and indigestion.
  3. Helps treat gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
    • The alginic acid in bladderwrack in combination with magnesium carbonate treats heartburn and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) by creating a barrier between the sensitive stomach lining and irritants, such as stomach acids and lowering inflammation.
  4. Regulates thyroid function
    • People living near the ocean in areas where bladderwrack grows have lower rates of hypothyroidism. Some speculate this is because their diets contain higher levels of iodine from fish, shellfish, and seaweeds, such as bladderwrack.
    • The thyroid gland needs iodine to produce regulating hormones that can keep the body functioning normally. Insufficiency of iodine can lead to hypothyroidism.
    • Though human studies have not confirmed this, hypothyroidism due to insufficient intake of iodine may improve with bladderwrack supplementation.
  5. May speed up wound healing
    • Early studies report that calcium alginate, a substance found in bladderwrack, may help wounds heal faster.
  6. Promotes weight loss
    • The iodine found in bladderwrack is in highly bioavailable form because of the way it interacts with the thyroid-stimulating hormone. Iodine is known to stimulate metabolism, which leads to weight loss.
    • In addition, bladderwrack is a rich source of fucoxanthin, a carotenoid that is currently being studied for its potential fat-burning effects.
  7. Good for eye health
    • Bladderwrack is rich in beta-carotene (plant-based vitamin A) and contains the nutrients fucoxanthin and fucoidan.
    • Fucoxanthin absorbs blue-green to yellow-green colors of visible light which helps protect vision.
    • Whilst studies are still preliminary, researchers suggest that fucoidan could be effective against age-related macular degeneration because it reduces extraneous blood vessel growth where cells have not been receiving enough oxygen.
    • Like fucoxanthin, fucoidan helps resist premature cell aging and death.
  8. Anti-inflammatory effects
    • Bladderwrack is rich in antioxidants, such as phlorotannins, fucoxanthin, alginic acid, fucoidans, and vitamins A and C.
    • Phlorotannins and fucoxanthin possess antioxidant activities that scavenge free radicals, which are harmful compounds that can damage cells and lead to chronic diseases and premature aging.
  9. Promotes skin health
    • Early research suggests that fucoidan promotes collagen synthesis in the skin, which may help improve the look of cellulite, increase skin healing, and delay premature skin aging.
    • Moreover, bladderwrack’s high antioxidant content can lessen collagen and elastin breakdown.
  10. Menstrual cycle regulation in premenopausal women
    • Dietary bladderwrack may help increase the duration of the menstrual cycle in premenopausal women and reduce the risk of diseases related to estrogen excess or deficiency.


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6 side effects of bladderwrack

Though generally recognized as safe, bladderwrack may have some unwanted side effects, and certain people need to be cautious before consuming bladderwrack.

  1. Pregnant and breastfeeding women: Bladderwrack has not been studied enough in pregnant or breastfeeding to determine its safety. It is advisable to check with a medical professional before adding this herbal remedy to your health regimen.
  2. People with thyroid disorders: High concentrations of iodine can worsen thyroid problems. If someone is suffering from hyperthyroidism, they may not need an extra boost of iodine because it can lead to worsened symptoms.
  3. People with iodine allergy: Some people are allergic to iodine, so large amounts of bladderwrack could be dangerous.
  4. People on blood thinners and antiarrhythmic medications: Bladderwrack may interfere with certain medications, such as blood thinners (heparin, warfarin), antiarrhythmic medications (amiodarone), and thyroid medications.
  5. People with bleeding disorders: Bladderwrack can increase the risk of excessive bleeding in people with bleeding disorders or clotting issues.
  6. Heavy metal contamination: Seaweeds that grow in water may have high levels of heavy metals, especially arsenic and mercury, and can lead to nerve or kidney damage and other problems.

What is the safe and effective dosage of bladderwrack?

Dietary bladderwrack is available most commonly as an herbal supplement, capsule, or powder.

There is no officially recommended dose for bladderwrack. However, most bladderwrack supplements come in 500 mg doses.

Bladderwrack powder can be used as a seasoning in stews, soups, salads, and smoothies, and you can make bladderwrack tea.

Bladderwrack powder can be combined with water or facial scrubs for skin-related benefits.

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Medically Reviewed on 8/11/2022
Image Source: iStock image

Health Benefits of Bladderwrack. https://www.webmd.com/diet/health-benefits-bladderwrack#1

Bladderwrack. https://wa.kaiserpermanente.org/kbase/topic.jhtml?docId=hn-3653002

Bladderwrack: Benefits & Side Effects. https://www.organicfacts.net/health-benefits/other/bladderwrack.html