How is Sea Moss Different from Other Seaweeds?
Thanks to recent discoveries about its incredible health benefits, sea moss is the new buzz on the health and wellness forums. Unfortunately, this booming popularity comes with a lot of confusion, and sea moss and other seaweeds are often mixed up.
We thought it was time to bring some clarifications. What type of seaweed is sea moss exactly? What differentiates it from other edible seaweeds like kelp, spirulina, or wakame? And most importantly, why is it so special?
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Is Sea Moss a Seaweed?
Yes, sea moss is a seaweed. It’s scientifically known as Chondrus crispus. Although it comes in various colors, it's classified as a red seaweed. Its structure is sponge-like and haphazard, with thin and frilly branches resembling red leaf lettuce.
Sea moss grows in the water along the coasts of the Atlantic Ocean, mainly in Northern Europe and North America, and in warmer waters like the Caribbeans, where it’s extremely popular. That’s why you often come across different names for sea moss, including Irish moss, Caribbean moss, Jamaican moss, and others. All these names refer to the same seaweed (sea moss, Chondrus crispus). However, the nutrients and their density may vary depending on the origins, as seaweeds get their nutrients from the water in which they grow.
Red, Brown, and Green Edible Seaweeds
Seaweeds are macroalgae. As opposed to microalgae which are microscopic single-celled plant-like algae, macroalgae are multicellular and large-size algae visible to the naked eye.
There are thousands of seaweeds that botanists classify into three main groups based on their pigmentation: brown algae (Phaeophyceae), green algae (Chlorophyta), and red algae (Rhodophyta).
Sea moss belongs to the red algae group. To understand how it differs from other seaweeds and edible sea vegetables, let’s see the characteristics of each group.
Related article: The right way to use sea moss for weight loss
Red algae, Rhodophyta
There are over 6,000 species of red algae. But they’re not necessarily red! Like sea moss, their color may vary from a pale yellowish to dark purple (almost as dark as black sometimes). They’re widely used for their carrageenan compounds.
Nutritionally, red seaweeds like sea moss are very interesting. They contain high levels of calcium, sodium, and potassium. Sea moss is the edible seaweed with the most minerals and vitamins. It’s said to have 92 of the 102 minerals our body needs to function.
Common species of edible red algae are Sea Moss, Nori, Dulse, Eucheuma, Guso, Ogonori, Laverbread, Carola, and others.
Related article: The different colors of sea moss
Brown algae, Phaeophyceae
Brown seaweeds are generally larger. Giant kelp, for example, is one of the largest algae and can reach 20 meters. Their color can range from yellow to dark brown.
Brown algae are nutritionally interesting too. They usually contain higher iodine levelsthan green or red ones. Brown seaweeds are also excellent sources of polysaccharides, phlorotannin, and fucoxanthin.
Common edible brown algae include Kelp, Bladderwrack, Arame, Kombu, Sugar kelp, Wakame, Hiromi, and others.
Green algae, Chlorophyta
As you can expect, green algae owe their name to their green color due to their high chlorophyll content. There are over 4,000 species.
Nutritionally, edible green seaweeds are packed with minerals and vitamins. However, they’re known to contain more iron and magnesium than the red and brown types.
There are several species of green seaweeds you can put on your plate, including Sea lettuce, Dulse, Chlorella, Gutweed, Sea grapes (also called green caviar), and others.
Sea Moss Vs. Other Seaweeds
Now, let’s focus on how sea moss differs nutritionally from the other edible seaweeds you may encounter on your plate. Why is Chondrus crispus the ultimate seaweed supplement to add to your daily routine? What makes it so unique compared with other seaweeds?
Sea moss vs. Spirulina
Spirulina, also called blue-green algae, is a microalga, unlike sea moss. Technically, it’s not a plant but a cyanobacterium (single-celled microbe). It can grow both in salt water and fresh water.
Spirulina is incredibly nutritious and is another popular supplement used to prevent and treat numerous health conditions. Both spirulina and sea moss are considered superfoods and can help reduce blood pressure, lower cholesterol and blood sugar, prevent cancer, increase muscle mass, and others. They share many health properties.
Like sea moss, spirulina is exceptionally nutrient-rich and contains high levels of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds. However, they differ in nutrient types and density. Spirulina contains 30 times more protein than sea moss, as well as more iron too. On the other hand, sea moss provides more folate and iodine than spirulina.
Spirulina is generally available in powder or pills, whereas sea moss offers a broader variety of products like raw dehydrated alga, gel, powder, capsules, or gummies.
Eventually, we recommend taking spirulina and sea moss together and getting the best of the sea! Both are excellent natural sources of minerals and vitamins and supplement each other.
Sea moss vs. kelp
Kelp is commonly used in sushi and can be added to soups, stews, or salads, for example. However, unlike sea moss gel, its taste does not allow to create yummy smoothie or cake recipes. Like sea moss, you can eat kelp raw, cooked, in powder, or in health supplements. However, there’s no such thing as a kelp gel similar to sea moss gel.
Both kelp and sea moss contain valuable nutrients, minerals, and vitamins to support good health and combat heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and cancer. The main difference is nutrient density, which is much higher in sea moss than kelp.
We always recommend our customers eat a variety of seaweeds rather than one. Just make sure you’re not overconsuming algae to avoid iodine poisoning. Although extremely rare, it’s one of the possible side effects of consuming too much seaweed.
Related article: How much sea moss can you take daily?
Sea moss vs. Bladderwrack
Bladderwrack, also known as Fucus vesiculosus, sea grapes, or rockweed, is a type of brown seaweed found on the coast of the North Sea, Baltic Sea, and Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.
Like sea moss, Bladderwrack has been used in traditional medicine for centuries to treat a wide array of conditions, such as hypothyroidism, iodine deficiency, overweight, inflamed joints, skin aging, diabetes, and others.
Both bladderwrack and sea moss are rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. They work superbly together and are often used in synergy in health supplements.
We like to mix these two seaweeds to maximize health benefits, like in our sea moss and bladderwrack capsules, for example.
Organics Nature Sea Moss Capsules are Enriched with Bladderwrack and Burdock Roots
Sea moss vs. Dulse
Like Chondrus crispus, Dulse, scientifically known as Palmaria palmata, is a red seaweed. Although less common than sea moss, it also offers excellent benefits for health.
It’s often used as a snack food and sought-after by vegans chefs who use its deep burgundy leaves to make fried vegan bacon!
Sea moss vs. Chlorella
Chlorella is another seaweed commonly used for nutrition and medicine. It's primarily grown in Japan and Taiwan. It’s a freshwater microalga and is closer to spirulina than sea moss.
Like sea moss and most edible seaweeds, Chlorella is very nutrient-dense. It has more protein, chlorophyll, and iron than sea moss. It is mainly used to treat low iron levels during pregnancy and for menstrual cramps, cholesterol, depression, and other health conditions.
Chlorella is only available in powders, liquid extracts, or tablets. You can't make a gel with it as you do with sea moss.
Related article: Can sea moss help with menstruation?
Sea Moss, Chondrus Crispus, Gracilaria, and other designations
When reading about sea moss, you may be confused by different names and designations mistakenly used. So, let's close the topic with a few clarifications on what refers to sea moss and what does not.
Chondrus crispus is the scientific name of sea moss. Therefore, Chondrus crispus is sea moss, and sea moss is Chondrus crispus.
Depending on where it grows, sea moss is sometimes referred to as Irish moss, Jamaican moss, or Caribbean moss. But all these names refer to the exact same species of seaweed. Depending on its origins, there may be variations in color and nutrient density, but we are still biologically talking about sea moss.
Sea moss is also sometimes called Carrageenan moss as a reference to its high content of polysaccharide carrageenan (55% of its dry weight).
Sea moss vs Genus gracilaria and Eucheuma cottonii
We’ve come across self-proclaimed online sea moss experts claiming that there are two species of sea moss: Gracilaria and Eucheuma cottonii. That's a mistake and nonsense. While the three seaweeds may look similar, they are different.
Botanists classify plants with a specific taxonomy order which goes as follows (from the largest to the most specific): kingdom, division, class, order, family, genus, and species.
Chondrus crispus, Gracilaria, and Eucheuma all belong to the Rhodophyta division (red seaweeds) and the Florideophyceae class. But the similarities between sea moss and Gracilaria stop here, as they don’t belong to the same order. Gracilaria belongs to the Gracilariales order, whereas Chondrus crispus and Eucheuma belong to the Gigartinales order. Chondrus crispus and Eucheuma are then classified into two different families (Gigartinaceae for sea moss, and Solieriaceae for Eucheuma).
The confusion probably comes from the fact that the three seaweeds are commonly used for their carrageenan extract.
Organics Nature only sells real sea moss (Chondrus crispus).
Related article: How to tell the difference between real and fake sea moss?
 Afonso NC, Catarino MD, Silva AMS, Cardoso SM. Brown Macroalgae as Valuable Food Ingredients. Antioxidants (Basel). 2019 Sep 2;8(9):365. doi: 10.3390/antiox8090365. PMID: 31480675; PMCID: PMC6769643. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6769643/