Researchers find powerful healing potential in seaweed and ocean fungi

The author Isak Dinesen, who traveled the world over and is perhaps best-known for her memoir Out of Africa, grew up in a small, seacoast town in Denmark on the Baltic Sea. And she once wrote that the cure for everything is salt water (blood, sweat, tears…and the sea).

I too grew up (and now spend summer months) on the seashore…albeit across the Atlantic…in Gloucester, Massachusetts, where they recently built a big, new research institute to study marine life. So I suppose it’s natural that I would closely follow research in marine science…especially as it pertains to health.

And recently, I actually came across a very interesting study conducted by a group of German researchers into the healing properties of seaweed and fungi that live in the Baltic Sea. It turns out, they could one day serve as useful tools in treating life-threatening, antibiotic-resistant infections—and even cancer!

I’ll tell you more about their promising line of research in a moment. But first, let’s back up to consider why the ocean produces so many healing gifts…

Healing treasures by the seashore

In my view, it makes perfect sense that the ocean would hold so many promising medicinal remedies, as land animals arose out of it about 300 million years ago. In fact, land animals carry the salt water (saline) in their blood that matches the salinity of the ocean all those millions of years ago. (Since then, the ocean’s salinity has increased, as more minerals continue to wash into it.)

In addition, we now know that many of the most nutritious foods on the planet come out of the ocean—including fish and seafood. These foods give us important omega-3 fatty acids, which protect against a whole host of chronic diseases, like heart disease, cancer, and dementia.

The ocean also contains many healing plants and organisms. For example, I often report on new research into the marine carotenoid astaxanthin. I recommend taking it daily, together with liquid vitamin D, as some evidence suggests it “activates” your longevity gene. It seems to work by neutralizing harmful free radicals. In fact, some research suggest it’s 6,000 times more powerful than vitamin C and 550 times more powerful than vitamin E!

Now, let’s return to the new research into marine plants and fungi that I mentioned a moment ago…

Seaweed and ocean fungi make potent partners

Researchers with the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research in Kiel, Germany, on the Baltic Sea, recently began studying a type of edible, brown seaweed commonly known as “bladder wrack” (fucus vesiculosus). It has been used in traditional medicine for centuries to treat a variety of health problems, including joint pain, digestive issues, urinary tract infection, and thyroid dysfunction.

The German scientists used high-tech tools to isolate powerful compounds that bladder wrack makes to protect itself against predators. (Plants that grow on land use similar mechanisms to protect themselves from predators. For example, the penicillium fungi naturally produces penicillin as a protective measure against predators.)

It turns out, some of the powerful compounds in bladder wrack can actually inhibit methicillin-resistant staph aureus (MRSA), the deadly, antibiotic-resistant bacteria that causes serious skin infections and even death.

It used to be that we only saw MRSA in hospitals and long-term care centers. But now, we often see it in ordinary places such as indoor gyms and schools.

Bladder wrack shows promise in another way too…

Many fungi live in a harmonious, mutually beneficial relationship called “symbiosis” with bladder wrack. In fact, more than 120 symbiotic fungi find homes on and inside bladder wrack leaves.

So, in the second leg of the study, the German scientists focused on one type of fungus, called Pyrenochaetopsis sp., which grows on bladder wrack.

Previous studies had already shown that Pyrenochaetopsis can kill malignant melanoma skin cancer cells. But the German researchers went one step further, isolating key molecules in the fungi that attack cancer cells.

In an interview following publication of their study, the researchers said they’re hopeful that one day they can develop the compounds in bladder wrack and the molecules in the fungus to create a pharmaceutical drugs.

But how about we just continue to explore ways to naturally harness the potential of the bladder wrack and the fungus…without turning them into synthetic drugs?!

After all, bladder wrack and the fungus are both edible.

Plus, unlike conventional chemotherapy, the fungus has low cytotoxicity for normal cells. So, adding it to your regimen would not cause the side effects typically associated with cancer treatment.

Indeed, more than half the modern medicines used today derive from the natural world. And, in my view, we already have everything we need to live long, healthy lives right here in the world around us. So it will be especially exciting to see what other healing treasures we find hidden in the oceans.

I’ll be sure to report any important findings right here in my Daily Dispatch and in my monthly newsletter, Insiders’ Cures. So, as always, stay tuned.

Sources:

“Bioactive Molecular Networking for Mapping the Antimicrobial Constituents of the Baltic Brown Alga Fucus vesiculosus.” Marine Drugs, 2020; 18 (6): 311. doi.org/10.3390/md18060311

“Bladderwrack: Benefits, Uses, and Side Effects.” Healthline, accessed 10/1/20. (healthline.com/nutrition/bladderwrack-benefits)


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