Sea kelp or simply "kelp" is the common name for what Phyllis Balch describes in her book "Prescription for Dietary Wellness" as flat brown or red algae, leaf-like in appearance. Kelp belongs to the family Laminariaceae and comes in several varieties, all edible, sometimes known as kombu, konbu, wakame, haidai or qundaicai. Kelp is available in a variety of forms, including cooked or raw as food, in capsules, powder or tablets. Tablets are a particularly suitable way of taking kelp if you do not like the taste of it as food. No matter how you consume kelp, it has numerous benefits.
Kelp is rich in vitamins A, B, C, D, E and K. Its Vitamin C content is particularly high. All of these are necessary to bolster the human immune system, which is one of kelp's noted benefits. Kelp is also high in magnesium. If you are on blood thinning medications do not add kelp to your diet without speaking to your physician, as kelp contains vitamin K, the clotting vitamin, which may affect the dosage of your medication.
Kelp is rich in minerals including iodine, potassium, magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, zinc, silicon, chromium, selenium, barium and iron. Kelp's high iodine assists in making thyroid hormones, which may boost low thyroid function or remedy goiter and cretinism. It also presents its only well-known side effect--too much iodine may interfere with a normally functioning thyroid gland.
Alginate, agar and carrageenan are gels contained in kelp, purported to help stimulate gastrointestinal health and aid digestion. Agar and carrageenan, in particular, may be familiar as common ingredients in foods. According to Balch's "Prescription for Dietary Wellness," kelp is demulcent. That means it soothes and relieves irritated and inflamed mucous membranes and may help ease herpes outbreaks.
Other health benefits of kelp include helping to loosen extra mucous in the body, lowering blood pressure, treating arthritis and rheumatism and stimulating powerful skin healing thanks to its germanium content, which boosts immune function and combats cancer. Kelp may also be used to help reduce the effects of radiation and chemotherapy on the body.
One of the biggest benefits of kelp in tablet form is its portability and convenience. No need to flavor or cook the kelp when it is in tablet form or to worry about how you store it. Just keep the bottle of kelp tablets in an opaque, airtight bottle.