The Irish moss became associated with the Irish potato famine that occurred in the middle of the 19th century, the Irish moss was consumed as a food by thousands of desperate Irish people to ward off starvation. The starving population took to eating the bushy curly red, purple, or yellow-green seaweed known as Irish moss - botanical name Chondrus crispus. The general population of Ireland was simply following the example of many generations of the hungry poor folk in Ireland and other natives of places along the North Atlantic coastline in eating the seaweed as food. Consuming the seaweed as food has been a historical fact for the natives of lands along the north Atlantic coastline, whenever hard times of food scarcity have come upon the land. The Irish moss is also used as an herbal remedy by native peoples in times of plenty; this humble seaweed has been used as an effective laxative and as a home remedy to treat persistent sore throats and chapped skin during the winter. The Irish moss is used on a commercial basis as a filler and stretcher of other food products sold in the market.
The Irish moss is also called the carrageen - moss of the rocks, in Irish. This local name could also possibly be after a village found in southeastern Ireland where the seaweed grows in particular abundance. The Irish call it the moss of the rocks because this seaweed is found clinging to submerged rocks in Ireland as well as on rocks along the shorelines of Canada and the New England states in the US, it is also seen in the British Isles and most of coastal Europe, up to the Portuguese coastline in the far south. In U.S., the early Irish immigrants were the first to gather this seaweed.
In Ireland, the harvest of Irish moss is carried out during the summer months by men on boats. These men utilize rakes to scoop up two foot long stems from the submerged rocks along the coastline on which the Irish moss can be found. The preference is for hand gathered Irish moss, while this is rare in the commercial seaweed sold in the market; it is preferred by users as the Irish moss is unmixed with other seaweeds growing on the rock. Once the Irish moss has been gathered, it is rinsed thoroughly and then subjected to drying in the sun for approximately two weeks. During this process of drying, the bright colors of the seaweed are bleached down to a grayish or yellowish white color. Once the seaweed is sufficiently dried, it is soaked in cold freshwater till the plants swell back and regain their bulk and size. At this stage, the plants are boiled till they dissolve into the water. Once the seaweed has dissolved, the resultant liquid is cooled and it turns into a jelly like mass during the process of cooling. This jelly is the commercial product that is used in the preparation of culinary and medicinal items.
The jelly is also consumed as such; it is also employed as a thickening agent in soups and stews of all kinds. The jelly is also boiled along with milk and sugar to prepare a tasty white pudding that has a very high mucilage content in it. This high mucilage food can be a soothing food for individual affected by persistent soreness of the throat. On a commercial level, the Irish moss is also employed as a stabilizing agent as well as a thickening agent in chocolate milk, in the preparation of a variety of ice creams, as well as in making baked goods, and other types of food products. The remedies prepared from the Irish moss also act as a soothing emollient or skin softening agent to treat chapped and dry skin. The extracts of the Irish moss is an ingredient in many commercially available emulsifiers that are used in preparing a variety of skin lotions and cosmetic products.
The Irish moss is an useful demulcent and emollient remedy. The remedy made from the Irish moss is primarily used in treating chronic coughs and cases of bronchitis. The Irish moss possesses a potent expectorant effect; this induces the coughing up of accumulated phlegm in the respiratory passages. The remedies made from the Irish moss help soothe the dry and irritated mucous membranes and ease the symptoms of a chronic cough. The Irish moss remedy is also effective in dealing with acidic indigestion and in the treatment of gastritis. The remedy is also useful in the treatment of all kinds of urinary infections including cystitis. The remedy prepared from the Irish moss is usually used in combination with other helpful herbs when dealing with the conditions mentioned above. The Irish moss is mucilaginous in texture, with a mild salty flavor. When prepared into a dish, the Irish moss is a valuable source of nutrition for patients in long term convalescence and rest. The remedy made from the Irish moss can also be used as a topical remedy and applied externally on the body. This emollient herb brings soothing relief to inflamed skin and eases the symptoms of inflammation disorders. One other major effect of the Irish moss is that it thins out the blood and can be used to remove blood clots.
The remedy made from the Irish moss is effective as a demulcent in treating specific types of digestive disorders, including problems like the ulceration of the stomach or ulcers on the duodenum lining. Irish moss with its soothing effect is very helpful in dealing with severe inflammations affecting the urinary system of a person. The Irish moss has also been prepared as a dish and used as a food in the maintenance diets prescribed to patients afflicted by diabetes.
Irish moss has principally been used in speeding the recuperation time of patients affected by prolonged debilitating illness, specifically tuberculosis and pneumonia affected patients. The recovery of complete health is facilitated and boosted by the consumption of useful herbs like the Irish moss and other tonic nutritive remedies.
The Irish moss was found in recently concluded animal research to have specific anti-viral effects against the influenza B and the mumps viruses in tested animals under laboratory conditions. The results from the clinical research conducted on the test animal's gives substance to the traditional uses of the Irish moss in treating these types of disorders. The value of the Irish moss herbal remedy in the treatment of ulcers have also been confirmed in these studies, the results from the tests also confirm the anti-coagulant action of the Irish moss herbal remedy.
Other medical uses
Habitat and cultivation
The habitat, in which the Irish moss can be found, is the rocky coastline along the North Atlantic Ocean that touches both Europe and the North American continent. The Irish moss can be found growing on rocks and stones that lie just below the waterline in coastal regions. The harvest of Irish moss is carried out in North America in the summer months, while it is harvested in Ireland during the fall. During the harvest, the Irish moss is pulled up by hand or using a rake during the low tide, gathered plants are then dried in the sun and stored for later use.
Herbal infusion: the infusion of the Irish moss can be prepared steeping one to one and a half teaspoonfuls of the dried Irish moss in a cup of boiling water, the Irish moss must be left standing for ten minutes to allow the herbal essence to infuse into the water. The infusion can be taken thrice daily as a remedy for various illnesses.