Don't worry, this was me until not very long ago. I'm almost ashamed at how long it took me to dive in this deep into the sea moss debate. Regardless, I have enlightened myself & it's only right that I share the knowledge. Let's get right into it.
There seems to be a widespread misunderstanding surrounding the validity of certain types of sea moss. I’m not talking about the “wild-crafted vs pool grown” debate, which could be a whole ‘nother blog post in and of itself (I’ll just clarify for anyone wondering, HolisticraticVegan sea moss is always wild-crafted and sourced from the Caribbean island of St. Lucia.)
What I mean by “real” vs “fake” sea moss is in terms of the actual species. There are actually 3 types of recognized sea moss, with purple Chondrus Crispus usually referred to as "Irish Moss" and Golden Gracilaria & Eucheuma Cottonii usually referred to as "Sea Moss".
Golden sea moss is the primary type of sea moss that I use in all of my products. In fact, Eucheuma cottonii & Gracilaria are the primary types of sea moss that most people sell & use if it is golden. I’ve had a potential customer come to me and claim that I didn’t have “real” sea moss because it wasn’t of the red/purple Chondrus Crispus variety. I know this not to be true, of course, because many people have been benefiting from using the golden variety of sea moss for ages. As it turned out this person was mistaken because of something Dr. Sebi, an admired herbalist and self-proclaimed healer of our community, said in this video.
Some people seem to believe that Chondrus Crispus is the only “real” sea moss because he singled out that specific name, but go re-watch that video from 3:55 again and tell me what you think. He does indeed call it Chondrus Crispus, but what he described and held up as an example actually matched the Eucheuma Cottonii/Gracilaria physical description, which looks different from Chondrus Crispus. Does this matter much to me? Not really, the 3 types of sea moss species all have most of the same benefits.
These days the same term “sea moss” is commonly used interchangeably for 3 different species of seaweed (Chrondus Crispus, Gracilaria, & Eucheuma cottonii). When doing research on this you’ll usually read the term sea moss referred to interchangeably as seaweed or sea algae as well. We mix them all up all the time, but it all grouws abundantly in the ocean under certain conditions. Naturally, because these conditions vary slightly thoroughout parts of the ocean, so too will the sea moss.
Natural populations of Gracilaria & Eucheuma Cottonii tend to have color variants with different pigmentations such as yellow, green, red, and brown. Chondrus Crispus is always purple. So naturally, all golden varieties tend to be Eucheuma cottonii or Gracilaria.
Top: Chondrus Crispus // Bottom: Eucheuma Cottonii
For instance, the reason the Chrondus Crispus is red is because it grows in deeper, colder waters without access to as much sunlight. Keep in mind these are essentially sea plants, they go through photosynthesis & get pigment from chlorophyll and phycobiliproteins as well. As this website simply explains, "since it is difficult for light to reach underneath the water in the oceans, food production, scientifically called photosynthesis, becomes very slow. Phycobiliproteins are proteins that make this job easier, by absorbing the available light and passing it on to the chlorophyll.” Chondrus crispus is a red sea moss because grows deeper where it’s darker and needs more help for absorbing light, so the developed phycobiliprotein (called phycoerythrin) gives this variety a reddish-purple color. That’s it, that’s all. It’s not so superior to golden sea moss that you should only consume the red variety, as I've mentioned you get many of the same benefits and the differences are slight.
This website explains that “Chondrus Crispus is a species of red seaweed that grows in cooler rocky waters. When compared to Eucheuma Cottonii, it has a flatter looking leafier appearance, while Eucheuma Cottonii can look more twig-like and grows in warmer waters. Eucheuma Cottonii is what most in the Caribbean, and Chondrus Crispus in the Atlantic would call Irish Sea Moss.” Dr. Sebi himself is Honduran, his homeland has Carribean coast lines. He would have likely had much more direct access to the golden Eucheuma Cottonii variety of sea moss, but again this doesn’t matter as much as we make it out to matter.
From the same website, “Eucheuma Cottonii is very similar to Chondrus Crispus in the manner by which it absorbs mineral elements, macro elements and trace elements from the sea. This is like nothing that is able to be cultivated and harvested on land in terrestrial plants.
Eucheuma Cottonii is sometimes referred to as Sea Birds Nest, particularly in Asia. Almost confusingly, this too is known by many throughout Asia as Irish Sea Moss. This common recognition, or label, applied to Eucheuma Cottonii in this part of the world by merchants has meant that Chondrus Crispus has been sold as Eucheuma Cottonii, and vice versa.” So you can see how the widespread misunderstanding became normalized. The places labelling the goods for sale were mislabeling the sea moss species, further spreading the confusion this blog post addresses.
“Putting that element of confusion aside with regards to the botanical names of species, both carry extremely similar benefits as the other when it comes to their use as a wholefood. As the cataloging of seaweed species gets better, and there is more research in the area of marine vegetables, our collective understanding is also improving.
You learn something new every day, right?
Now that I’ve cleared that up, let me clear up one thing. Just because I feel Dr. Sebi was slightly mistaken in how he classified “real” sea moss, doesn’t mean I’m disregarding the profound & much needed impact his teachings have made for us, particularly people of color. I love Sebi & what he's done to bring our attention to health consciousness, but I don't strictly adhere to everything he has said. For instance, if you follow Dr. Sebi's guidelines alone then you shouldn't use aloe or garlic either, yet these both still have powerful medicinal properties and have shown actual results. My current goal is reaching towards an alkaline diet as well, but I don't want or need to give up certain things based solely off of what others say. I take what's valid and integrate it into my own way of life, I use my own real life experience to make that judgement call.
All I’m saying is, use your own mind & circumstance when making decision