Wake Up, Philippines!

Medicinal properties of seaweeds cited By Rudy A. Fernandez

Posted in Agriculture, Alternative Medicines, Medicine by Erineus on February 24, 2009

By Rudy A. Fernandez
Updated November 23, 2008 12:00 AM

Seaweeds, aside from their commercial value, have health and wellness properties.

This explains why people who regularly consume these so-called “ocean herbs”, notably the Japanese, have longer life span and are healthier.

Scientific studies have shown that seaweeds have more protein than meat, more calcium than milk, and higher fiber than vegetables, according to the University of the Philippines Diliman-College of Science-Marine Science Institute (UPD-CS-MSI).

Dr. Marco Nemesio Montaño of the UPD-CS-MSI said that the many beneficial properties of these dietary algae include being anti-oxidant, anti-viral, anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, anti-tumor, and anti-wrinkle.

Moreover, seaweed lowers blood pressure, glucose, and cholesterol, and inhibits cell-cell adhesion, he said at the 2008 Agriculture and Fisheries Technology Commercialization Forum organized recently by the Bureau of Agricultural Research (DA-BAR).

Reporting on the strides achieved in seaweed research, Dr. Montaño said that there are some phytochemicals (plant chemicals) unique to seaweed. These include carotenoids (seaweed pigments) such as fucoxanthin, seaweed sterols, fibers, seaweed anti-herbivore chemical defenses, and acidic polyssacharides (carrageenan, fucoidan).

Fucoxanthin is a pharmacologically active caretenoid commonly distributed in brown algae. It acts as an anti-oxidant (“sweeper” of the body’s toxins or “radicals,”, among other things) and inhibits colon cancer cells and cells of neuroblastema (malignant tumor).

“It has been found that fucoxanthin reduces the viability of prostate cancer cells by inducing apoptosis (natural cell death) to a greater extent than the other carotenoids. Moreover, it can induce apoptosis in human leukemia cells,” said Montaño, as reported by BAR’s Christmas de Guzman.

In terms of wellness, a new product line developed by UPD-CS-MSI from seaweed extracts is the Seamoy (with approved patent and trademark).

This is a seaweed-based, low-cost air freshener gel that uses floral scents to give rooms, cabinets, lockers, and cars a clean, fresh smell. The gel can be easily handled and packed in many ways.

The use of seaweeds as a base ingredient for air fresheners has improved the quality of those existing in the market today, said Montaño.

Air freshener gels usually last only for two to three weeks whereas some soft gels, which may contain soft paraffin, can cause clogging in air-conditioning units.

Such gels also are expensive owing to the high production cost of its base ingredient, carrageenan, an algal polysaccharide used to give the air freshener gel a clear appearance. Carrageenan is extracted from certain types of seaweeds.

Summing up, Dr. Montaño encouraged people interested in venturing into seaweed business to initiate R&D activities that would facilitate funding and improve the seaweed industry.

View previous articles from this author.

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