With sushi and miso soup currently all the rage, the good news is that research into seaweed is showing this unassuming green food has some amazing healing qualities.
The research is being conducted by Southern Cross University on behalf of the Australian Centre for Complementary Medicine, Education and Research (ACCMER) and Tasmanian biotechnology company Marinova, which refines the seaweed extract called fucoidan.
Fucoidans are naturally occurring components of certain edible seaweeds and the research shows the extract has anti-inflammatory qualities, which might protect against conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease and arthritis, as well as having cholesterol lowering properties.
According to Professor Stephen Myers, head of SCUs NatMed Research Unit, this could lead to many medicinal uses in the rapidly expanding world of nutraceuticals.
Research shows the seaweed extract has broad-spectrum anti-viral properties, which could be effective against the HIV and herpes simplex (cold sore) viruses as well as tumour inhibiting properties, said Professor Myers. The results are strong enough to warrant human clinical trials as the next step to prove its value as a medicinal product.
The seaweed species used, undaria pinnatifida, arrived in Australia in the bilge water of foreign ships and is considered a noxious weed. However, the same species is highly prized in Asia as wakame, an ingredient used in foods such as miso soup.
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