The main differences between sea moss and irish moss

By Wilson Peng on Thu, Jan 28, 21

Sea moss has recently managed to become an increasingly popular topic amongst many people around the world. Thanks to recent social media posts and articles, sea moss has garnered the attention of many people around the world. The interest in this marine vegetable grows by the day, especially once people learn about the excellent benefits it has to offer to a person's overall health. A superfood capable of giving a person all sorts of nutritional value while combined with some of your favorite recipes would make it on anyone's point of interest.


However, whenever people talk about sea moss, they are specifically talking about a single type of moss. The moss that everyone is talking about is the Chondrus crispus or better known as Irish moss. This particular moss has managed to grow in popularity recently, and plenty of people have jumped on the Irish moss bandwagon. Irish moss has a fascinating history of being used as both a food source and a means of cure for various respiratory illnesses. 


Irish moss continues to grow in the spotlight. Not too long ago, Irish moss was being used only by small groups of people or as a specialty ingredient for several food stocks. Around three years ago, Irish moss exploded in popularity on the internet due to endorsements it managed to receive from people like Kim Kardashian and others. Tons of articles have appeared about Irish moss and all sorts of useful information surrounding it. 


When someone is trying to purchase Irish moss, they want to make sure they are getting the real stuff from a trusted source. Doing so can be quite challenging with the variety of choices on the market. Some vendors may label their product as sea moss, while some are selling Irish moss. Figuring out which of these is the one to pick can be troublesome, especially with warnings being spread around about fake moss and conflicting information. 


That is why for this post, we have decided to go over the main differences between sea moss and Irish moss. 


An overview on sea moss and Irish moss

Sea moss is a blanket term that is used to describe various species of seaweed or algae. In truth, sea moss and Irish moss are not moss, but those are the terms that are commonly used to describe them. There are several sea moss species found in the ocean, however, there are two main ones that have become popular; Chondrus Crispus and Genus Gracilaria. These two species are the most commonly used when it comes to sea moss nutrition, so we will mostly focus on them. 


The majority of sea mosses are types of red seaweed known as Rhodophytes, and it’s one of the largest groups of algae. Most sea mosses will have a frilly appearance and a habit of covering rocks with a carpet growth of a couple of inches high, which is why it’s named moss. However, it should be noted that they are not related to actual moss, which are land plants known as Bryophyta. 


Some people have even questioned if sea moss is similar to kelp. Kelp is quite often used as a generic term applied for many different seaweeds. Authentic kelp is, in reality, brown seaweeds classified as Phaephytes, and it may come as a shock to find out that sea moss is not even distantly related to kelp, even if both of them fall under the group known as seaweed. 



Irish Moss (Chondrus crispus)

Chondrus crispus or, Irish moss as it is better known, is grown in limited places with most of them being in the North Atlantic coastlines. Irish moss requires cooler water to develop and is known to be especially abundant in the British Isles. While it's better known for being found in Ireland, it does grow plentiful in places like Canada, Maine, and any other location with cool water. Chondrus crispus has numerous cousins that are also sold, as Irish moss or sea moss. 


Sea moss sourced from Jamaica or any tropical location may be labeled Irish moss, but in reality, they are not Chondrus and most likely are related to Gracilaria, which is the most distributed sea moss around the world. There are an estimated 150 Gracilaria species, but only two dozen of them are used by humans for medicinal purposes or food. 


During the Irish Potato Famine of 1845-1849, the Irish had to cultivate the most to survive. It was a time where food was scarce in Ireland, with millions of people dying due to malnourishment related issues. In desperation, the Irish people turned to the sea for their food source, which led them to discover Condrush Crispus. That led to the birthing name of Irish moss for this particular sea vegetable. Unlike sea moss, which is more accessible and abundant, Irish moss is far harder to come by. It’s considered quite rare to find a vendor who has authentic Irish moss. Due to conflicting information, searching up Irish moss will usually result in sea moss appearing in search engine results. 


What does Irish moss look like?

It can be quite perplexing to differentiate between various sea moss species apart once they’ve been dried up and packaged. That is especially true if the package has labeled the wrong sort of moss. Dr.Sebi, the leading scientist behind Chondrus, may have inadvertently caused this confusion by mislabeling a Jamaican sea moss as Irish moss in his presentation


Irish moss has flat fan-like wide shape tops that are similar to flowers or leaves. The color is usually dark purple, however, they can vary. It should be noted that Chondrus crispus has been confused with another variety of Gracilaria. Some vendors will sell Jamaican Purple Sea moss, which is not Chondrus crispus, but in reality, it’s purple genus Gracilaria. Some people will mistake it for Irish moss because they typically come purple. Always remember that color does not denote a species, but it’s biological makeup does. 


Irish moss is usually reddish/purple and darker than its tropical counterpart, which is often pale or straw-colored due to being exposed to very intense sunlight while growing. Although, powdered Irish moss can be quite pale because of the finer milling. The color variations sometimes make people think the product was bleached when in fact, it was not. Once the moss has been milled or processed into a formulation, it’s pretty much impossible to confirm the species by eyesight only without sending it to some lab. 


Pros

The advantage behind Irish moss would be its rarity. Irish moss is not available all year round because it grows on rocks and is only harvested during the summer. Because of this, it's hard to duplicate, making it hard to get a fake or pool-grown Chondrus crispus. 


Cons

Because of its rarity, it’s considerably challenging to acquire and limits how much you can get a hold of. Most people will merely get enough during the harvest season and use it throughout the entire year until the next season. Buying it in bulk isn’t recommended anyway since Irish moss is potent stuff, and you won’t need too much for serving anyway. 


Due to its rarity, the moss is quite expensive. Half a pound of Irish moss can cost a person at least $50 easily. However, as mentioned before, there are tons of Irish moss to go around, and the specified amount should last at least six months, if not more. Furthermore, Irish moss also has a powerful smell than Genus Gracilaria. Gracilaria does have a smell, but it's pretty mild compared to Chondrus crispus, which could turn people off. 


Sea moss (Genus Gracilaria)

Genus Gracilaria is one of the most commonly recognized sea moss out there. However, some people tend to confuse it with Irish moss, when in fact, it does not grow anywhere near Ireland. The reason behind this confusion can be due to a small technical error and miseducation of the botanical names from both species. Some places have called it Irish moss when in reality it's known as Genus Gracilaria, but these could be just honest mistakes on their part. 


One reason why this confusion has spread is that people from warmer climates have also called the sea moss that grows in their location Irish moss. While sea moss from Jamaica and other tropical climates may be called Irish moss, they are not Chondrus crispus. Genus Gracilaria is known for providing over 80% of the world's agar supply, which is a gel-forming polysaccharide used in cosmetics, foods, and also to make agar places for developing bacteria in laboratories. 



Because it’s necessary to have a considerable amount of expertise to tell the difference between each species apart, they are usually referred to by the name of Gracilaria. Irish Immigrants who settled in Jamaica adopted the native sea moss species as their new Irish moss, where it’s still called by that name today. Unlike Irish moss, Genus Gracilaria is capable of growing on both rocks and ropes. It’s usually grown on ropes if ocean grown or pool farmed. 


What does sea moss look like?

Sea moss can appear as a thin string of fingers. The color will be somewhat yellow or goldish, but they can vary. Sometimes they will appear purple as well, which has led to much confusion between Jamaican sea moss and Irish moss among many people. The purple sea moss is known as the Jamaican Purple Sea moss and is the most popular variety on the market. Keep in mind that just because Genus Gracilaria comes colored purple, this does not make it a Chondrus crispus. Both of these species of moss can come in a variety of colors. 


Pros

A tremendous advantage of utilizing this species of sea moss, besides its massive nutrient content, is that it's capable of growing all year round. Meaning you have a more readily available source of superfood at any time. Due to the abundance of sea moss available in the market, the cost of purchase is not very expensive. 


Because it’s been trending in all sorts of social media platforms, several companies are starting to take advantage of this and are increasing prices. Since its status as a superfood has been revealed, the supply and demand have also increased. So the reason for the price increase can be attributed to this. The excitement around moss could lower and lead to a middle ground in prices. 


Cons

Due to how easily accessible sea moss has become, some companies have been selling what is known as farmed pool grown sea moss. Pool-grown sea moss is not considered ideal because of how rushed the moss is similarly, to inorganically grown produce. As mentioned in a presentation by Dr.Sebi, sea moss is not capable of growing where the sea stands still, it has to be in motion, and sea moss grows. 


That means you will not be receiving the same nutrients and benefits because it’s not being grown in the ocean. Furthermore, you are subjected to ingesting whatever the business decides to include in the pool to speed the product, which further depletes the nutrients. Pool grown sea moss is typically grown on ropes in unnatural waters and is devoid of nutrients. Ocean-farmed sea moss also grows on ropes, but they grow in natural seawater and are not tampered with until harvest time. That allows them to retain the required nutrients you’ll want to receive when consuming sea moss. 


Conclusion

As you can see, both sea moss and Irish moss are different in their own way. Choosing one over the other can be hard to answer. They both provide you with some great benefits, however, one of them is more easily accessible compared to the other. It all comes down to trying them both and seeing which of them makes you feel best. Hopefully informative enough to give you a clearer picture of the variety of sea moss out there. 






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