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What is Bladderwrack?

Michael Pollick
Updated Feb 27, 2024
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The form of seaweed known as bladderwrack (Fucus vesiculosus) is an edible brown plant that grows primarily in the upper coastal regions of the United States and the Atlantic and Baltic regions of Europe. Many sources refer to it as a type of kelp, but this is not entirely accurate. Bladderwrack often grows alongside other seaweeds, including kelp, but it is its own species. The plant derives its name from the sets of air-filled sacs or bladders which run along its center and help keep it afloat in ocean waters. Only the center stalk of the plant is generally used for medicinal purposes.

Because bladderwrack grows in the sea, it accumulates and concentrates various minerals and nutrients not readily found in earthbound plants. One of the most important elements found in it is iodine, a chemical compound prized for its antiseptic properties and its effect on the human thyroid. As early as 1811, bladderwrack became a popular source of medicinal iodine. Eventually, it became known as a miracle plant, used to cure or treat diseases such as coughs, asthma, hemorrhoids, boils, goiters, stomach ailments, urinary infections and headaches. Not all of the treatments using this seaweed proved to be effective, however.

The high concentration of iodine does make bladderwrack a useful plant for legitimate medical purposes, primarily in the treatment of thyroid conditions which trigger metabolism problems. Since the extract improves thyroid function, a person's metabolism may also be expected to improve. A higher metabolism rate generally leads to improved weight loss, so by extension, bladderwrack extract could be considered a weight-loss aid. A number of people take diet supplements containing this extract as a way to increase their metabolic rate and digest food more efficiently.

Other products such as cosmetics and skin creams may include bladderwrack extract because of its effect on human skin. Many people have reported noticeable improvements to skin conditions such as eczema and acne after applying ointments containing this plant. Some cosmetic companies even claim that regular use of its extract can help tighten skin and reduce the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines. There appears to be some scientific evidence to back up many of these claims, although bladderwrack by itself is not considered to be a miracle plant.

Bladderwrack extract can be ordered through many natural health food and herbal medicine outlets, although it may be marketed under numerous names, including black-tang, bladder, bladder fucus, Blasen-tang, brown algae, common seawrack, cut weed, Dyers fucus, edible seaweed, fucoidan, fucoxantin, Fucus, green algae, Hai-ts'ao, kelp, kelpware, knotted wrack, Meereiche, Quercus marina, popping wrack, red algae, red fucus, rockrack, rockweed, schweintang, sea kelp, sea oak, seetang, seaware, seaweed, sea wrack, swine tang, tang, Varech vesiculeux, vraic, and wrack.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Michael Pollick
By Michael Pollick
As a frequent contributor to WiseGeek, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to cover a wide range of topics. His curiosity drives him to study subjects in-depth, resulting in informative and engaging articles. Prior to becoming a professional writer, Michael honed his skills as an English tutor, poet, voice-over artist, and DJ.

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Discussion Comments
By anon252987 — On Mar 07, 2012

I am taking bladderwrack at the moment for weight loss. I am not overweight, but I have been asked to try it out to see if it works and I'm always up for trying these kinds of things as I have a very healthy diet and I don't eat anything really other than salads and meats in portioned sizes. but If it makes a difference then I shall post back to let you know. --kat

By anon72269 — On Mar 22, 2010

I have a problem with bladder control. Is there a remedy for it or better yet, a cure? That would be really great. I await your reply. Thank you.

By pollick — On Sep 22, 2009

Bladderwrack itself is not usually marketed as a weight loss drug, but it is often used as a metabolism booster in a larger blend of herbal diet aids. In that sense, moderate levels of bladderwrack are just as safe as any other natural health food supplement. Many commercial weight loss tablets use ingredients which stimulate bowel movements and/or increase urine output. This can have some benefits for people who have trouble losing water weight or have gastrointestinal problems, but dieters should try to avoid taking diet pills which have strong side effects like nervousness, frequent bowel movements or increased urination.

By anon45425 — On Sep 16, 2009

is it safe to use to help lose weight? i've heard of people taking commercial weight loss tablets suffering with chronic, uncontrollable bowel movements.

By phampton — On Jun 24, 2009

I have frequent urination.........do you think making tea with bladderwrack would be helpful?

Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick
As a frequent contributor to WiseGeek, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to cover a wide range...
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