Brown Algae (Phaeophyceae) - Facts, Uses, and Health Benefits

They develop on the elements of decor or the aquarium glass in a thin layer, indicating a lack of light or an excess of silicates. Cystoseira, Egregia, Macrocystis, Pelvetia, Postelsia, and Sargassum are just a few examples of species in this class of algae.

Facts

The 1,500 species of brown seaweeds can be found exclusively in marine environments. They are most abundant in polar and temperate waters, however, there are a few which live in the tropics. They include the largest species of seaweed: Durvillea and Kelp, that grow in cold waters.

Kelp shows the most complex anatomy of all algae with trumpet hyphae and sieve cells that contribute to the movement. They contain a and c chlorophyll, as well as carotenes and xanthophylls. Some of them revealed tocopherol (2.5-3.5 mg% dry matter). Cell walls are composed of cellulose layers separated by polysaccharide – such as the precious alginic acid.

Species color varies from olive green to dark brown, depending upon the proportion of fucoxanthin (brown pigment) to chlorophyll (green pigment). They are classified as heterokont protists due to the fact that they are neither animal nor plant.

Brown seaweeds cells have one single nucleus, and thylakoids from chloroplasma appear in bands of three. Some species of this type of algae have structures named ”holdfasts” which keep the algae to submerged rocks. Most of them produce a sexual cell (zoospores or gametes, or both).

Most of them are brought by the tide, except the giant kelp, and are perennial. All brown seaweeds are multicellular, with filamentous tall and most cells are uninucleate. They reproduce by all the three methods – asexual, vegetative, and sexual.

Uses

Brown seaweeds, besides their medicinal value, have other qualities, most important being that they are feeding many aquatic animals. With certain processing methods, they can become appreciable forage and even precious food (the Far East cultivates them intensively).

In addition, they are used to manufacture alginates, that are used as food additives and in other industries.

For phytotherapeutic purposes, the entire plant is used. It has the following properties: anti-hypothyroidism, antirheumatic, antibacterial, anticoagulant, and antioxidant. Since they are odorless and tasteless they can be added to foods without changing the flavor. Furthermore, they have environmental importance too through сarbon assimilation.

These algae contain vitamin C, B1, B2, B6, B12, minerals such as iron, calcium and magnesium, trace elements – chromium, zinc, selenium, iodine, oils, cellulose, mucilage, bitter tonic substances.

Two of the most popular edible brown seaweeds are Arame (used liberally in Japanese cuisine) and Kombu (better known as referred to as the King of Seaweed).

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Health benefits of brown algae (Phaeophyceae)

Reproductive system

Iodine is a trace element, that means that we don’t need much of it in order to function optimally, however, we still need it. This seaweed is rich in iodine and 1 gram has 50 times the recommended daily intake. Iodine is an essential nutrient which is found in every tissue and organ and many people (if not most) are deficient in this trace element. A deficiency in iodine may lead to cause goiter, hypothyroidism, cretinism, mental retardation, and some types forms of cancer. Furthermore, iodine helps in the normal growth and maturity of reproductive organs.

Good for your digestive health

Fiber is only found in foods from plants, such as grains, legumes, fruits, seeds, nuts, vegetables, plus, seaweeds. Fiber is an important part of a healthy balanced diet and it can help prevent type 2 diabetes, heart disease, some cancers, and weight gain. Moreover, dietary fiber is good for your digestive system, specifically prebiotic fiber, due to the fact that it feeds the good bacteria that live in there.

A source of folate (vitamin B9)

Folate, also known as vitamin B9, is one of the B vitamins found in foods such as fruits, leafy green vegetables, legumes, nuts, and seeds. In addition, it is found in these seaweeds. Emerging research concluded that folate may help to reduce the risk of birth defects of the face (cleft palate, cleft lip), heart, limbs, and urinary tract. More importantly, vitamin B9 is vital for proper brain function and plays an essential role in emotional and mental health. Lastly, folate helps your physical body to maintain and produce new cells and prevents changes to DNA which may lead to some forms of cancer.

Medicinal internal use:

Obesity control, adjuvant in hypothyroidism, blood sugar control, to enhance overall metabolism and increase basal metabolic rate, to reduce cholesterol levels – as an infusion.

External use:

  • adenitis, lymphatic obstruction, hypothyroidism, nodular goiter, rheumatism and rheumatoid arthritis – as poultices;
  • reduction of body fat, circulatory disorders, cellulite, arthrosis, fatigue, endocrine disorders- as baths;
  • scars – as a powder.

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