Dulse: Medicine from the SeaWhen my children were young, one of the supplements I would give them was liquid dulse. It was naturally sweet, because it was a glycerin extract, so my kids liked it, and it had many health benefits for them too.

Dulse (Rhodymenia palmate) is a red seaweed that grows in cold waters along the northern coasts of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.  And like other seaweeds, it is a source of iodine, which is necessary for thyroid health. Iodine is a natural antiseptic so it helps the body fight infections as well as promoting healthy skin. 

Silicon and Trace Minerals

But, the benefits of dulse don’t stop with iodine. Like other seaweeds, dulse is high in minerals, including iron, magnesium, zinc, and calcium. It’s also the second-highest herbal source of silicon according to Mark Pederson’s Nutritional Herbology book, and an ingredient in Eugene Watkin’s Hair, Skin, and Nails Formula. I wrote about this formula and the benefits of silicon in the article I wrote on horsetail a few weeks ago, but as a quick review, silicon makes for strong, but flexible tissues like fingernails, skin, hair, joints, bones, and other structures. It's also important for the nervous system and pineal function. 

Dulse has a slightly salty flavor, due to its mineral content, but it’s lower in sodium and higher in potassium, an electrolyte many people don’t get enough of in their diets. It’s also a good source of glutamic acid or l-glutamine, the amino acid found in monosodium glutamate (MSG), which is used as a flavoring agent. Unlike MSG which tends to overstimulate the brain, natural sources of glutamine, like dulse, act as flavor enhancers in food without causing this excess stimulation. 

Natural glutamine also helps to heal leaky gut and the powdered dulse (rather than the liquid) is a healing food for the gut. Iodine helps gut health, and along with the natural mucilaginous fibers found in dulse helps to heal the intestinal membranes and balance the intestinal flora.

Dried seaweeds can be added to foods like soups and stews as a natural seasoning and flavor enhancer, which also adds extra nutrients to the dish. In fact, dulse is used around the world in stir-fry, soups, and salads. There is evidence of Irish monks harvesting it for food as early as 1400 years ago. Dulse is actually quite high in protein, too, something which applies to the fresh or dried plant, but not the liquid.

Other Uses for Dulse

In Chinese medicine, seaweeds are used to soften hardened masses such as swollen lymph nodes or cysts and to help reduce swelling. The mineral electrolytes in dulse help to move stuck fluids and promote urinary health. Iodine also helps prevent tumors of the uterus, ovaries, and breasts.

Topically, dulse can be used to exfoliate the skin, removing impurities and dead skin cells. It can also be applied in poultices to help reduce swelling and aid wound healing. It can be used in baths or soaks for dry, itchy skin.

Much of what I’ve said about dulse can apply to other seaweeds, but I’ve never seen a glycerin extract of kelp, Irish moss, or other sea vegetables. I’d guess that’s because dulse has less mucilaginous fiber than some other seaweeds, which would make it easier to extract. 

The bottom line is that if you want a pleasant-tasting way to increase your iodine, silicon, and electrolyte intake, liquid dulse is a great supplement. And, if you want to get these same benefits and improve your gut health, dried or fresh dulse can be a healthy addition to your diet. Just make sure the seaweeds you get are sourced from clean ocean waters and not from heavily polluted areas because seaweeds are also cleaners of the ocean, absorbing heavy metals like mercury. 

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