Seaweed refers several marine-based types of algae. It has been widely used by humans for centuries, and continues to make important contributions to our lives. Aside from being a food source for some, it is an efficient way to clean water, and helps keep a balanced pH in the garden. With advances in science, its uses have increased drastically, and today seaweeds are part of everything from food to cosmetics.
Many seaweed types, generally called kelp, have been widely used as a food source throughout China, Japan and Korea for years. It has grown in popularity in other countries as an exotic restaurant offering and as part of salads. Additionally, alginate, carrageenan and agar are parts of seaweed used in ice cream to keep it smooth and to prevent the formation of ice crystals. Additionally, different kinds of seaweed are used in beer and wine manufacturing and as a thickening agent in syrup, soups, mayonnaise and yogurt.
Fertilizer and Soil Conditioner
Seaweed products are widely used in organic gardening as a soil additive and as part of a regular fertilizer. Liquid seaweed is a form of seaweed that won't burn plants, will keep nutrient deficiency away, improve growth rates and requires no pH correction. Seaweed based fertilizers are used primarily as a supplement with traditional fertilizers. They feature a low N-P-K ratio to prevent burning and provide balanced nutrition and pH. Kelp meal is a second type of seaweed-based fertilizer that is commonly added directly to soil. It aids in promoting growth of helpful organisms and is a good source of much-needed chelated nutrients and hormones.
Cosmetics and Bath Products
The same types of seaweed by-products found in food manufacturing are also used in bath and body products. Algin, a seaweed extract, is widely used in lotions and creams as an anti-aging component. It also serves as a thickening agent in toothpaste, soap and shampoo. Facial masks, massage gels and a number of other spa-based bath and beauty products contain seaweed in some form.
Wastewater Purification Systems
Seaweed is showing potential in the water purification process and aids in keeping clean water available to homes and businesses. It naturally reduces the amount of ammonium in water from agriculture and absorbs as much as 95 percent of heavy metals from water. It is a clean, efficient way to naturally treat water for use in the home.
Seaweed is a common ingredient in supplemental vitamins and is also a component in medicines that treat arthritis, colds, the flu and tuberculosis. Agar is used in growing bacteria and other beneficial organisms. Certain types of seaweed aid medical lab technicians in determining different types of infections. Agarose is an extract from the red seaweed Symphyocladia latiuscula, which is used in a number of forensic science techniques, particularly in chromatography of DNA.