Treatments & therapies
SEAWEED & SPA TREATMENTS
by Diane Bernard, the Seaweed Lady
There are thousands of varieties of seaweeds in the oceans – on Canada’s west coast alone there are an estimated 600 species. But like skin care products, not all seaweeds are equally beneficial.
Some seaweeds, such as Alaria, Egregia, Ulva lactuca, Iridaea, Rockweed, Porphyra, Nereocystis Hedophylum and other west coast Canadian seaweeds, have been scientifically proven to be rich in vitamins A1, B1, B2, B6, B12, C, E, K, pantothenic acid, folic acid, and niacin. They are an important supply of 60 trace elements and an excellent source of over 12 minerals, especially potassium, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, zinc and manganese.
Nutritional studies have isolated components of some seaweeds which lower blood pressure, prevent arteriosclerosis, and combat tumors. Other seaweeds are known for their anti-inflammatory effects and are reported to be beneficial in the treatment of high blood pressure and aid in the treatment of such skin conditions as eczema and psoriasis.
As a food, seaweeds are recognized in many cultures as a highly nutritious food that promotes health and longevity. Seaweeds are low-in fat and have little or no caloric energy. And, just as eating fresh fruits and vegetables results in maximum nutritional value, so does eating fresh seaweed.
But what about seaweed skin care and seaweed spa treatments? When determining the quality or authenticity of a marine-based treatment or seaweed product at your spa, ask yourself: Does it smell like seaweed? Seaweed can have a strong ocean smell, but NOT a fishy smell. If it doesn’t smell or feel like seaweed – perhaps it’s not true seaweed? Seaweeds, after all, are not white, sterile or perfumed. You need to look for the wholesomeness, the depth, colour and texture that makes seaweed such an extraordinary nutritional plant. There are marine/algae spa products out there that use industrially dried, bleached kelp with the nutrients stripped out. And some products are made with spiralina or blue/green algae which are not seaweeds at all, but fresh water plants grown in tanks or lakes. Because they are grown in an entirely different environment, these fresh water alga do not have the same trace mineral elements and other nutrients of those seaweeds that grow in an ocean garden.
Despite scientific research, there are still barriers to the acceptance of seaweed as a nutritious food and skin care ingredient. North Americans’ general perception is that seaweeds are strong smelling and oozy. But keep in mind that the tangle of kelp you find washed up on shore is the ocean's compost and NOT the seaweeds to be eaten or applied to our bodies. Just as we wouldn’t judge a vegetable or flower garden by the look, smell or texture of a compost pile, we shouldn’t judge the ocean garden by the composted dead seaweed on the shore.
Check list for consumers:
• What’s on the ingredient list? Make certain that seaweed is one of the first 3 ingredients, otherwise it’s too miniscule of an amount to notice.
• If the product has a quasi fishy smell, it has probably been harvested from the shore which is not good – that’s the compost pile of ocean garden. It should be harvested direct from the ocean in low tide, via boats during peak growing season or through diving to the ocean floor. Some seaweeds can have a strong smell; but it’s not fishy, it’s more ocean. And the west coast Canadian coastline is known for low pollution, clean coastline and pristine surroundings. All of this contributes to a high quality seaweed.
• If the label on a product says “seaweed extract” you have to ask yourself - how many steps were in the extraction process and did that strip-out all the nutrients? Some extractions use nine steps, including bleaching the seaweed and oven drying. The fewer processing steps, the better. There should be two steps in processing – the harvesting (or gathering of the seaweed), followed by grinding and mixing it with other ingredients to make the seaweed product.
Known as Canada’s “Seaweed Lady”, Diane Bernard is president of Outer Coast Seaweeds. Most of her seaweeds are harvested for high-end dining-rooms across Canada and are served within 24 hours. She also supplies seaweeds and professional seaweed skin care products to spas throughout North America. For more information: