Sea Weed Therapy: Medicinal and Cosmeceutical Value, A Review


Kamble M.A.*, Dhabarde D.M., Sant A.P., Ingole A.R., Potnis V.V.

Kamla Nehru College of Pharmacy, Butibori, Nagpur -441108 (M.S.)




Seaweeds are marine algae having unique structure and biochemical composition. It can be used highly for its multi-functional properties in the form of food, energy, medicine and cosmetics. Many metabolites isolated from these marine algae have been shown to possess bioactive efforts. Among the different compounds with functional properties, antioxidants are the most widely studied. Moreover, the important role of antioxidants in human health has been demonstrated, thus increasing the interest in such products and their demand by consumers. Marine algae serve as important resources for bioactive natural products. Seaweeds are a good source of antimicrobial compounds, antioxidants and other bioactive compounds. There is an interest to utilize these products as nutraceuticals and in functional foods. Compounds with cytostatic, antiviral, anthelmintic, antifungal and antibacterial activities have been detected in green, brown and red algae. Considering their great taxonomic diversity, investigations related to the search of new biologically active compounds from algae can be seen as almost unlimited field. In the domain of beauty and cosmetology, surprisingly beneficial results have been seen in certain treatments with seaweed, in case of falling hair, dandruff, acne skin eruption, cellulitis, slimming and rejuvenation of skin. The beneficial properties in the sphere of modern medicinal culture, is not only in the achievement of cures, but also in the fact that, being a natural herbal therapy, the harmful effect of modern day drugs can be eliminated. Seaweed contains all the active elements found in the live cells, like nitrogen, phosphorus, sulphur, calcium, potassium, magnesium etc. Certain elements in seaweed allow the skin to assimilate phosphorus and calcium, which stimulate the skin cells. Seaweed is effectively used in the treatment of the rejuvenation of cells and tissue, broken nails, cellulitis, dermatosis, acne falling hairs, beauty mask etc.


KEYWORDS: Seaweeds, Thalassotherapy, Antioxidents, Nutraceuticals, Cosmetics.



Seaweeds constitute a source of non-phytoplankton production; provide energy for associated grazers and contribute remarkably to the benthic detritus food chains. From an ecological perspective, seaweeds are providers of the structural integrity of many biotopes especially low energy shores where they are predominant in terms of size and occupiers of space. Seaweed Therapy (or Thalassotherapy) is very popular with arthritis, osteo-arthritis and rheumatoid sufferers, people with Eczema and soriasis, hard working manual labors, gardeners, craftsmen and women, with stiff sore muscles and joints.



Recently the conventional cosmetic industry is shifting its focus from merely the beauty culture to the value addition of cosmetics. These newer cosmetics are better cosmaceuticals wherein a few claims are made regarding its health enhancing properties.


Marine macro algae, or seaweeds, are plant-like organisms that generally live attached to rock or other hard substrata in coastal areas. Macro algae can be classified as red algae (Rhodophyta), brown algae (Phaeophyta) or green algae (Chlorophyta) depending on their nutrient and chemical composition. Seaweeds serve as an important source of bioactive natural substances. Red and brown algae are almost exclusively marine, whilst green algae are also common in freshwater (rivers and lakes), and even in terrestrial (rocks, walls, houses, and tree bark in damp places) situations.


Examples of Phaeophyta (Brown Algae) are Laminaria and Saccharina, Fucus, Sargassum muticum, brown seaweeds etc. The brown colour of these algae results from the dominance of the xanthophyll pigment fucoxanthin, which masks the other pigments, Chlorophyll a and c (there is no Chlorophyll b), beta-carotene and other xanthophylls.


Examples of Rhodophyta (Red algae) are Palmaria, Delesseria, Chondrus, Coralline algae


The red color of these algae results from the pigments phycoerythrin and phycocyanin. This masks the other pigments, Chlorophyll a (no Chlorophyll b), beta-carotene and a number of unique xanthophylls.


Examples of Chlorophyta (Green Algae) are Chlorella, Chlamydomonas, Spirogyra, Ulva. Green seaweeds. Green color is due to chlorophyll a and b which are present in the same proportions, beta-carotene (a yellow pigment), as well as various characteristic xanthophylls (yellowish or brownish pigments).


Medicinal value of seaweed:

Brown seaweed: Brown algal preparations have been used as detoxifying agents.1,2 The iodine and other elements in the seaweeds inhibit absorption of similar radioactive elements by the body. In addition, there is some chelation of contaminants such as Strontium 90 by alginates in seaweeds. More recently, it has been demonstrated that Undaria ingestion assists in eliminating dioxins in rats.3


Antiviral Effects:

Brown seaweeds, including the commonly eaten Undaria, have inhibitory effects on herpes viruses. Herpes viruses are important human pathogens and include Herpes simplex (HSVI), genital herpes (HSVII), Varicella/chicken pox/shingles, cytomegalovirus, Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), herpes6,7 (Roseola, post-transplant infections), and herpes8 (associated with Kaposi’s sarcoma). In Japan, where ingestion of brown seaweed in the diet averages 2–3 g per day with a high of 12 g calculated as dry weight,4 there is a lower rate of reactivation of HSVI,5 and the lowest levels of HSVII compared to other countries.6


Anticancer Effects:

Researchers have found that dietary brown algae and their extracts inhibit carcinogen- induced breast cancers, lung metastases, and leukemia in animal models.6-12 Similarly, tests on the seaweed extracts in bacterial systems revealed that the extracts had a profound antimutagenic quality.13,14


Table 1. The seaweed: Classes of marine algae Examples of edible seaweed Latin binomials


of seaweed

Examples of

edible seaweed

Latin bionomials


Wakame; mekabu

kelp or kombu

Undaria pinnatifida

Laminaria species


Nori (Japan) or

Laver bread (Wales)

Porphyra species


Sea lettuce

Ulva and

Enteromorpha species


Effects on Immunity and Inflammation:

Stimulation of T-cell multiplication in-vitro by seaweed extracts15, 16 may account for in vivo observations by other researchers, including increased monocytes in cattle that were fed seaweed-extract sprayed grasses.17The extensive gut lymph tissue would contact seaweeds passing through the gut. Specialized T cells in gut lymphatic tissue are important in achieving a rapid response to pathogens, in particular, to viruses such as HSVI18,19 and may also modulate intestinal lipid metabolism.20 Inflammatory disorders, such as psoriasis and some types of colitis, are characterized by an excessive presence of leukocytes and may be ameliorated by seaweed ingestion. Algal-derived fucoidans inhibit the passage of leucocytes into tissues by receptor blocking. These fucoidans are being investigated clinically for their potential to prevent destruction of postischemic heart muscle by invading leucocytes.21


Effects on Plasma Cholesterol and Hypertension

Many foods are known to reduce cholesterol levels and brown algae fall into this category. Undaria ingestion results in lower cholesterol levels in rats.22This effect on lipid processing seems to be the result of stimulation of liver enzymes.23


Antioxidant activity:

Antioxidant compounds play an important role against various diseases (e.g., chronic inflammation, atherosclerosis, cancer and cardiovascular disorders) and ageing processes, which explains their considerable commercial potential in medicine, and the cosmetic industry. Moreover, interest in employing antioxidants from natural sources is considerably enhanced by consumer preference for natural products and concern about the potential toxic effects of synthetic antioxidants


Antimicrobial properties:

Seaweeds are considered a source of bioactive compounds as they are able to produce a great variety of secondary metabolites characterized by a broad spectrum of biological activities. Although seaweeds grow in a harsh environment, they seldom suffer any serious photodynamic damage during metabolism. This fact implies that seaweed cells have some protective compounds and mechanisms. Since seaweeds are a good source of antimicrobial compounds, ω3 fatty acids, antioxidants and other bioactive compounds, there is an interest to utilize these products as nutraceuticals and in functional foods. Compounds, such as polyphenols, flavonoids and polysaccharides, having antioxidant and antimicrobial activities have been detected in brown, red and green algae.24


Mineral Contents:

Seaweed contains all the active elements found in the live cells, like nitrogen, phosphorus, sulphur, calcium, potassium, magnesium etc. Certain elements in seaweed allow the skin to assimilate phosphorus and calcium, which stimulate the skin cells.


Cosmeceutical use of seaweed.

·             Magnesium - works with calcium and potassium to balance cells, metabolises Vitamin C and calcium, soothes nerves, helps to convert blood sugar into energy, is essential for nerve and muscle function.

·             Potassium - regulates fluid in the body, maintains alkalinity and correct mineral balance and composition of cell fluid, converts glucose to muscle energy, active in enzyme reactions and formation of protein, and essential for nerve and    muscle function.

·             Iodine - boosts metabolism and an essential ingredient of hormones, particularly in the thyroid.

·             Sulphur - an essential component of protein, Vitamin B1 and biotin, required for healthy nails, hair and skin.

·             Bromine - passes into the bloodstream through the skin, and works on the nervous system, calming and relaxing nerves.


Table 2: Nutritive values of some seaweed species (in %)

Class of seaweeds









































The skin which has been well nourished, free of toxins, well balanced and well mineralized, does not suffer any problem and is in a good condition to resist elements which could not attack it. The action of seaweed on certain bacterial diseases (acne) is spectacular. On the other hand the chlorophyll contains helps photosynthesis, which helps to nourish the cell. This advantage can be seen in the effect of seaweed beauty masks25.



·        Achieves the skin balance by rehydrating the epidermis.

·        Provides the necessary minerals salts, amino acids, vitamins A B C D and E.

·        Penetrate the skin by osmosis.

·        Makes the skin supple, soft, smooth, and firm.

·        Suits all types of skins.

·        Closes open pores.

·        Tone up the flabby tissues and has a remarkable on wrinkles of the neck and under eye bags.

·        Clear up dark spots by achieving an equilibrium in the oily skin and other problems. And has an effect on the life of epidermis and helps to conserve it.


Acne usually appears when there is a change in hormonal activity, usually occurs on seborrhic skin, because the sebaceous glands are stimulated by male hormones. Blackheads forms due to grease accumulating in a pores and oxidation of the head. To cure acne the hyperactivity of sebaceous glands should be controlled with seaweed.


Seaweed bath:

Seaweed bath has certain advantages, body relaxes and rids of itself of toxic matter and allows the elements in seaweed to penetrate the skin. Certain oils can be combined with seaweed to increases the properties of the bath. Seaweed baths were a common feature of seaside resorts offering seaweed baths in seawater using steamed serrated wrack - Fucus serratus - freshly collected from the shore nearby. Seaweed and seaweed extracts are good for the skin is beyond dispute according to cosmeticians and beauticians. Again, one can only assume that alginates, carrageenans and agars, found in large quantities in many seaweeds, have a beneficial effect in combination with warm seawater; however, it is probable that there are other constituents of seaweeds that have restorative powers.



Seaweed as either food or in supplement form or ingredient form may provide useful additional therapy for treating many infections and some cancers. The seaweed contains some important contents like proteins, lipids, minerals, polysaccharides, enzymes and vitamins so it can be use for ingredients in beauty treatments and also as neutraceuticals. The present limited use needs to be diversified into other contemporary areas of application. Other benefits include mild antihypertensive- and cholesterol-reducing effects. These seaweed also provide valuable mineral supplementation. The seaweeds are one of the important marine living resources could be termed as the futuristically promising plants. Being a plant of unique structure and biochemical composition, seaweed could be exploited for its multi-functional properties in the form of dietary, medicinal and cosmetics applications.



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Received on 09.05.2013

Modified on 05.06.2012

Accepted on 12.06.2013

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Research Journal of Pharmacognosy and Phytochemistry. 5(4): July- August 2013, 208-212