Bladderwrack (Fucus vesiculosus)
Bladderwrack (Fucus vesiculosus) is a brown seaweed or algae. As a dietary supplement, bladderwrack is often used to stimulate metabolic rate and promote fat and weight loss. Like many seaweeds, bladderwrack has a relatively high concentration of iodine.
Primary chemical constituents of this plant include mucilage, algin, mannitol, beta-carotene, zeaxanthin, iodine, bromine, potassium, volatile oils, and many other minerals. The main use of Bladderwrack (and other types of seaweed) in herbal medicine is as a source of iodine, an essential nutrient for the thyroid gland. Bladderwrack has proved most useful in the treatment of underactive thyroid glands (hypothyroidism) and goiter. Through the regulation of thyroid function, there is an improvement in all the associated symptoms. Where obesity is associated with thyroid trouble, this herb may be very helpful in reducing the excess weight. It has a reputation in helping the relief of rheumatism and rheumatoid arthritis, both used internally and as an external application upon inflamed joints. A chemical constituent of Bladderwrack called alginic acid swells upon contact with water; when taken orally, it forms a type of "seal" at the top of the stomach, and for this reason is used in several over-the-counter preparations for heartburn. The same constituent gives Bladderwrack laxative properties as well. Other proposed uses of Bladderwrack include treating atherosclerosis and strengthening immunity, although there is no scientific evidence at present that it works for these purposes.
Fucus vesiculosus contains a wide spectrum of polysaccharides including fucoidans and fucans. In general, fucoidans are a family of high molecular weight sulfated polysaccharides, widely dispersed in the cell walls of brown seaweed. The core region (or backbone) of fucoidan is composed primarily of a repeating chain of fucose sugars. Fucose is also attached to this backbone, forming branch points at every 2-3 fucose residues within the chain. The primary theory behind how a brown seaweed can help increase energy levels and stimulate weight loss is that bladderwrack contains a relatively high concentration of iodine. One of the key functions of iodine is that the thyroid gland requires it to produce adequate levels of thyroid hormones. Low levels of thyroid hormones are associated with reduced energy levels and weight gain – so maintaining optimal levels is a key factor in promoting stamina and healthy body weight.
Similar to most plants grown in the ocean, this plant is also very high in iodine and other trace minerals. While iodine is critical for proper health, like most other trace minerals, too much good can be no good. In other words more is not always better. So bladderwrack in an appropriate dose is safe to take long-term; however, you would not want to consume ridiculously large amounts of this plant for indefinate periods of time.