Have you ever headed to the beach and smelled decaying seaweed and thought it was disgusting? Or have you ever been tide pooling and a blade of slimy seaweed moves across your hand? Even though it can be pretty gross stuff, it is actually very valuable to humans. Without knowing it, you probably use seaweed in various ways every day of your life.
Commerical Uses of Seaweed
Many of the products that we use every day contain extracts from seaweed.
Carrageenan is extracted from red algae (rhodophyta) and is used to bind foods together. Some examples of products that contain carrageenan are dog food, chocolate, toothpaste and baby food.
Alginate comes from brown algae (phaeophyta) and is used to make water-based products thicker or creamier. Ranch dressing, heartburn relief medicine and hand creams all can contain alginate.
Agar comes from red algae (rhodophyta) and is used as a food thickener and jelling agent. Some products that include agar are packaged Danishes and smoothies.
Next time you brush your teeth, or eat some ice cream at home, look at the ingredients list and see if it contains algae extracts.
Algae pages created by Wyatt Dooley for the Algae Curatorial Internship under the direction of Dr. David Chapman. Photos courtesy of Evan Barba, Wyatt Dooley, Wikimedia Commons, and CCBER.