Used in: Cleanse, Hydrate, Nourish and Enrich Why? Wakame seaweed is a superior edible marine algae extract, which in human trials has shown to reduce wrinkle depth and improve hydration. The extract increases moisture retention and reduces redness following UV exposure and activates key genes associated with wound healing. It was also confirmed to inhibit glycation (skin degradation) and the activity of radical-producing enzymes, which damage the skin.
Anti-oxidant popular in anti-ageing skincare and is also the basis for its anti-cancer activity through reduction of oxidative stress in tissues. Anti-inflammatory an increased intake of seaweed has been linked to lower incidences of chronic inflammatory diseases. Anti-microbial and anti-bacterial activity against food-borne pathogenic bacteria. Anti-cancer active against many types of cancer and carcinoma. Research suggests that an increase in the incidences of adult diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, hyperlipidemia correlates with a decrease in the dietary intake of fish, shellfish and sea vegetables such as seaweed.9The nutritional and medicinal properties of wakame and other types of brown kelp seaweeds are related to their rich mineral content with high levels of iodine, amino acids, alginate and mannitol (the sugar that gives wakame its ‘sweetness’). Its ability to store water also makes it an excellent source of hydration. 10 Scientists have also discovered that sea vegetables have antibiotic and anti-tumour properties, with lower risks of colon and rectal cancer reported. A reduction in blood pressure and cholesterol are also reported. As a result of discovering the wide-ranging and significant medicinal properties of seaweeds, new medicines have been developed for example laminin which is now prescribed to reduce blood pressure.6 Scientists continue to research the potential applications of seaweed extract in different therapeutic and commercial areas such as use as an anti-inflammatory medicine or a food and cosmetic preservative. Botany and grow it yourself A brown kelp, Undaria pinnatifida can grow up to a mature length of 2-3 metres in a year with a growth rate of 1 cm a day.11 The arrangement of feather-like fronds, typically in pairs opposite each other on the central midrib, is known as pinnation.12 The latin name Undaria pinnatifida actually translates as ‘pinnated cleft’ describing the alternating, almost symmetric feathered algal fingers found on this seaweed. Another excellent example of pinnation can be found in the common fern. This is in contrast to palmation where the leaves radiate out from a common point. U. pinnatifida can be found in the intertidal and subtidal zones on the coast in native saltwater habitats, mostly in sheltered reef areas, away from tidal activity. Wakame can also be farmed or cultivated on ropes and rocks in non-native habitats such as the sea fields off the coast of France. The algae is harvested using long hooks in spring and early summer (February-June) before washing in fresh water and either shipping fresh or the thalli (leaf-like fronds) removed from the central midrib, cut into small pieces for freeze-drying and transportation to specialist food suppliers. A highly invasive species, wakame has potential to overgrow and exclude native seaweeds in local ecosystems and so poses problems for marine farms due to contamination of other farmed algal pecies. Cook your own kelp In Korea wakame is known as miyeok with a traditional soup prepared with the dried seaweed known as miyeok guk. In Korean culture miyeok guk is served on birthdays to give thanks to their mothers for nourishing them through pregnancy with the iodine and calcium nutrients miyeok provides and in symbolism of motherhood.13 Ensuring you get adequate levels of trace metals in your diet is important for everyone at any time, though especially during pregnancy! Wakame became a popular addition to the Western diet in the 1960s as the dried seaweed became available in Asian-American food stores due to the popularisation of the macrobiotic diet, and spreading even more widely with the introduction of Japanese cuisine to the USA and Europe. The easiest way to incorporate seaweed into your diet is to seek inspiration from Asian dishes like seaweed salads and soups, or incorporate into stir frys or sushi. With the average wakame seaweed serving size of 8g providing the same amount of fibre as brown rice and exceeding the recommended nutrient intake of vitamins A and B9 at over 150%,14 it’s a nutritious and smart health choice! Bioactivity and associated components of the plant The use of marine algae in development of naturally effective cosmetic skin care is rapidly advancing, with France the largest consumer using 5,000 tons of wet algae to meet demand. The use of marine algae in the cosmetics industry becomes an even higher potential industry with a growing body of research available highlighting the effects of topically applied products on ageing and sun-damaged skin thanks to its significant anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Seaweeds have great efficacy as naturally effective skincare products thanks to their high mineral content and diverse profile of vitamins, lipids, minerals, amino acids and other biologically active ingredients. Until recently the highly beneficial properties were only anecdotal as the chemical constituents of U. pinnatifida essential oil (UPEO) weren’t fully described until 2016.15 This research shed some light on the biochemical origins of seaweed extract bioactivity, demonstrating we are yet to see seaweed realise its full bioactive potential. Let’s take a closer look at some of the compounds identified as responsible for the impressive array of wakame’s natural bioactivity: Fatty acids Making up 59% of UPEO oil extracted from wakame, a number of fatty acids contribute to the anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties of U. pinnatifida. The main fatty acid myristic acid (31% of UPEO) is a known anti-microbial and takes its name from another species in which it is also the main component, Myrisitica fragrans or nutmeg. As well as being a major component in the essential oil of nutmeg, myristic acid can be found in coconut oil, palm kernel oil, butter fat and in smaller amounts in animal fats. The ester of myristic acid- isopropyl myristate- is commonly used in topical cosmetic and medical creams to enhance the products’ absorption properties. The anti-inflammatory activity of UPEO can be attributed to palmitic acid, the second most abundant compound in UPEO. The most common saturated fatty acid found in animals, plants and microorganisms, palmitic acid is best known as the major constituent of palm oil. The science linking fatty acids and inflammation isn’t yet fully understood but once scientists confirm the role of fatty acids in reducing inflammatory response this may prove groundbreaking in understanding how dietary fats may help reduce the risk or symptoms of a whole range of inflammatory diseases. Some components of algal extracts work with proteins in the stratum corneum to form a protective barrier on the skins’ surface to assist in retaining moisture.16 Kelp contains fatty acids like omega 3 and 6 oils that are known to promote cell regeneration and improve overall skin health. Kelp extract is also used as a thickener in cosmetics and hair conditioner. Proteins Most brown seaweeds contain between 3-15% of their dry weight as proteins, compared with that of green and red seaweeds which contain between 10-47%. At 11-24% protein, U. pinnatifida has exceptionally high protein levels for a brown seaweed and makes it a product of interest in developing ‘functional foods’- foods that aside from nutrition also provide additional benefits to the consumer. Seaweeds are usually marketed based on their mineral content or other benefits but rarely for their protein content, and this could prove a low-calorific alternative in increasing protein in the human diet. 17 For most seaweed species, a large percentage algal protein is made up of the amino acids aspartic acid and glutamic acid. These two acids give seaweed their flavour with glutamic acid isolated from Kombu seaweed (Laminaria digitata) being the original source of flavour enhancer monosodium glutamate (MSG). Ionic salts of glutamic acid are the basis of the fifth distinct taste umami (together with sweet, salty, bitter and sour). Some seaweed proteins are more digestible than others, meaning varying levels of the proteins are free to be absorbed by the body to impart their therapeutic benefits. The level of bioavailability of these proteins seems to be linked to the amount of soluble fibre in the marine algae, with higher levels preventing absorption of the proteins.14 Polysaccharides Polysaccharides are the name given to carbohydrates, or long chain molecules made up of many single sugar units (poly= many, saccharide sugar). Some examples of these are starch or cellulose which is the main component in paper and cotton. There two main types of polysaccharide in seaweeds. Structural polysaccharides like celluloses and xylans help to maintain the cellular structure of the seaweed. More interesting are the storage polysaccharides like carageenans, alginates and agar which are specific to marine algal species and represent the most commercially useful seaweed components. Carageenan and alginates impart textural and stabilising properties on food products, and agar is used as a medium for growing cells in biology labs so much of the kelp harvested is processed to isolate these commercially valuable components. Research suggests that increasing your intake of alginate– present in both wakame and kobu seaweeds- leads to a decrease in cholesterol levels, has an anti-hypertensive effect and plays a major role as a dietary fibre. Alginate also functions as an anti-cancer active preventing the formation of cancer cells, and acidic polysaccharides also exhibit anti-tumour properties, ensuring cancer cells are unable to aggregate.18 Carageenan, alginate and agar are also used in cosmetic formulations as emulsifiers, thickeners and gelling agents. Alginates make up to 32% of the dry weight of brown seaweeds which makes them excellent ingredients in shampoos, soaps, creams, powders and other formulations. Two of the most common marine algae-derived skincare ingredients are polysaccharides fucoidan and fucoxanthin. Brown seaweeds get their characteristic colour from pigment fucoxanthin and studies report that fucoidans have significant effects as an anti-coagulant and anti-cancer agent.
Fucoidans: a spotlight on a highly bioactive polysaccharide Fucoidan’s primary function in algae is to reinforce cell wall structures and protect the seaweed from drying out when exposed at low tide, and its this same property that provides hydrating benefits in topical skincare as it’s great at locking in moisture. Fucoidans have also shown promise in a number of research studies as an anti-cancer agent that also plays a role in preventing tumour proliferation.19 It does this through multiple pathways including cancer cell apoptosis (cell death), inhibiting cancer cell invasion and metastasis (the secondary spread of cancer). It also interferes with angiogenesis which is the growth of new blood vessels required to ‘feed’ tumours’ growth in addition to disrupting cancer growth signal mechanisms. An all-rounder, fucoidan derived from wakame seaweed was used in a study to prove fucoidan operates by enhancing the immune system.20 Studies on the anti-tumour activity of fucoidan from wakame sources show it to be highly potent against prostate and cervical cancers and lung and liver carcinomas.21
griffin+row starter kitEach griffin+row product has a particular role and prepares the skin for the next skincare step. Products work best when used together. The griffin+row starter kit includes the complete system, with everything you need packed in a convenient bonus bag.
References and sourcesFor further reading on the wonders of wakame, check out some of the Undaria pinnatifida literature at the links below.
- Fujiwara-Araskai, T et al, The protein value in human nutrition of edible marine algae in Japan, Hydrobiologia, 116/117, 513-516.
- Suringar, WFR, Illustrationes des algues du Japon, Musée Botanique de Leide 1, 77-90, pls 26-33.
- Joint Nature Conservation Committee http://jncc.defra.gov.uk/page-1676
- AlgaeBase Database http://www.algaebase.org/search/species/detail/?species_id=350
- Arasaki, M. & Arasaki, T., Kaisou no Hansai (A Story of Marine Algae), Tokai kagau sennsyo, Tokyo 1978, pp 228. In Japanese.
- Mitoku Natural Products Sea Vegetable Database http://www.mitoku.com/products/seavegetables/Seavege_health.html
- Doosan (Korean) Encyclopedia http://terms.naver.com/entry.nhn?docId=1096499&cid=40942&categoryId=3213
- Bharathiraja, B et al, Environmental Eco-friendly marine resource macro algae (seaweeds): an omnipotent source for value added products and its applications, Int. J. Curr. Microbiol. App. Sci., 5, 7, 19-47, 2016.
- Murata, M & Nakazoe, J, Production and use of algae in Japan, JARQ, 35, 4, 281-290, 2001.
- Skriptskova, A et al, Seasonal Changes in growth rate, morphology and alginate content of Undaria pinnatifida at the northern limit in the sea of Japan (Russia), Journal of Applied Phycology, 16, 17-21, 2004.
- Undaria pinnatifida (Harvey) Suringar 1873 Species Fact Sheet, Fisheries and Aquaculture Department, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nationshttp://www.fao.org/fishery/species/2777/en
- Pinnation definition, Oxford Dictionary https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/pinnate
- Institute of Traditional Medicine http://www.itmonline.org/arts/seaweed.htm
- MacArtain, P et al, Nutritional value of edible seaweeds, Nut. Res., 65, 12, 535-543, 2007.
- Patra, JK et al, Antioxidant and antibacterial properties of essential oil extracted from an edible seaweed Undaria pinnatifia, J. Food Biochem., 41, 1, 2016.
- Kim, S-K, Marine Cosmoceuticals: Trends and Prospects, CRC Press, Florida 2012.
- Fluerence, J, Seaweed proteins: biochemical, nutritional aspects and potential uses, Trends Food Sci. Technol., 10, 25-28, 1999.
- Zhuang, C et al, Antitumour active fucoidan from the brown seaweed umitoranoo (Sargassum thunbergii), Biosci. Biotechnol. Biochem., 59, 4, 563-567, 1995.
- Senthilkumar, K et al, Brown seaweed fucoidan: Biological activity and apoptosis, growth signaling mechanism in cancer, Int. J. Bio. Macromolec., 60, 366-374, 2013.
- Maruyama, H et al, The role of NK cells in anti-tumor activity of dietary fucoidan, Planta Med. 72, 15, 1415-1417, 2006.
- Synytsya, A et al, Structure and anti-tumour activity of fucoidan isolated from sporophyll of Korean brown seaweed Undaria pinnatifida, Carbohydr. Polym., 81, 41-48, 2010.
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