Irish moss

Botanical Name :Chondrus crispus
Family: Gigartinaceae
Genus:     Chondrus
Species: C. crispus
Domain: Eukaryota
Class:     Rhodophyceae
Order:     Gigartinales

Synonyms: Carrageen. Chondrus. Carrahan.
Common Names : Irish moss or carrageen moss

Habitat: Irish moss is a species of red algae which grows abundantly along the rocky parts of the Atlantic coast of Europe and North America.

It is common all around the shores of Ireland and Great Britain and can also be found along the coast of Europe including Iceland, the Faroe Islands  western Baltic Sea to southern Spain. It is found on the Atlantic coasts of Canada and recorded from California in the United States to Japan.However, any distribution outside the Northern Atlantic needs to be verified. There are also other species of the same genus in the Pacific Ocean, for example, C. ocellatus Holmes, C. nipponicus Yendo, C. yendoi Yamada et Mikami, C. pinnulatus (Harvey) Okamura and C. armatus (Harvey) Yamada et Mikami

Description:
Irish moss is a small perennial thallophyte, reaching up to a little over than 20 cm in length. It grows from a discoid holdfast and branches four or five times in a dichotomous, fan-like manner. The morphology is highly variable, especially the broadness of the thalli. The branches are 2–15 mm broad, firm in texture and dark reddish brown in color bleaching to yellowish in sunlight. The gametophytes (see below) often show a blue iridescence and fertile sporophytes show a spotty pattern. Mastocarpus stellatus (Stackhouse) Guiry is a similar species which can be readily distinguished by its strongly channelled and often somewhat twisted thallus. The cystocarpic plants of Mastocarpus show reproductive papillae[clarification needed] quite distinctively different from Chondrus. When washed and sun-dried for preservation, it has a yellowish, translucent, horn-like aspect and consistency.

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Medicinal Uses:

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Part Used: Plant, dried.

Constituents: It contains a large amount of mucilage with the presence of a big percentage of sulphur compounds.

Demulcent, emollient, nutritive. A popular remedy made into a jelly for pulmonary complaints and kidney and bladder affections. Can be combined with cocoa. The decoction is made by steeping 1/2 OZ. of the Moss in cold water for 15 minutes and then boiling it in 3 pints of milk or water for 10 or 15 minutes, after which it is strained and seasoned with liquorice, lemon or cinnamon and sweetened to taste. It can be taken freely.

Other Uses:
Chondrus crispus is an industrial source of carrageenan, which is commonly used as a thickener and stabilizer in milk products such as ice cream and processed foods, including lunch meat. In Europe, it is indicated as E407 or E407b. It may also be used as a thickener in calico-printing and for fining beer or wine. Irish moss is frequently mixed with Mastocarpus stellatus (Gigartina mammillosa), Chondracanthus acicularis (G. acicularis) and other seaweeds with which it is associated in growth. Carrageenan and agar-agar are also used in Asia for gelatin-like desserts, such as almond jelly. Presently, the major source of carrageenan is tropical seaweeds of the genera Kappaphycus and Eucheuma.

In parts of Scotland (where it is known as (An) Cairgean in Scottish Gaelic) and Ireland, it is boiled in milk and strained, before sugar and other flavourings such as vanilla, cinnamon, brandy or whisky are added. The end-product is a kind of jelly similar to pannacotta, tapioca, or blancmange.  Similarly, in Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago Gracilaria spp is boiled with cinnamon and milk to make a thick drink called Irish Moss that is believed to be an aphrodisiac. In Venezuela it has been used for generations as a home remedy for sore throat and chest congestion, boiled in milk and served with honey before bed.

Irish moss is commonly used as a clarifying agent in the process of brewing (beer), particularly in homebrewing. A small amount is boiled with the wort, attracting proteins and other solids, which is then removed from the mixture after cooling.

Disclaimer:
The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.

Resources:
http://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/m/mosiri53.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chondrus_crispus

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