From the Biochemist

These stunning images capture the beauty of Tasmania's vast underwater seaweed forests.

 

These versatile, abundant marine plants have been harvested for thousands of years and valued as both a food and a medicine. There is a long history of seaweed consumption in Asia, and the earliest mention of the use of seaweed in traditional Chinese medicine appeared in the 6th century AD.

 

Today, the harvesting and cultivation of seaweed has become a major industry. Surprisingly, it remains one of the less recognised sources of food and medicine in our society. The swaying brown kelp species illustrated in these photographs are sources of alginate - a thickening agent used not only in foods but also in wound dressings and digestive medicines. Most of us will come across seaweed on a daily basis in our yoghurt, ice-cream, toothpaste, nutritional supplements, health beverages and cosmetic creams. Seaweed is also widely used as a bioactive ingredient in agriculture and aquaculture feeds and fertilizers.

 

Marinova specialises in producing pure, high quality extracts from the seaweed species growing in Tasmanian waters. The scientists at Marinova concentrate on an especially bioactive ingredient found in kelp, called fucoidan. This important component of the kelp plant helps to protect it from disease and, when extracted, has been found to inhibit viruses such as Herpes and Influenza. These fucoidan extracts have also been shown to reduce the symptoms of osteoarthritis, stimulate immunity and help to reduce the recurrence of cold sores. Fucoidan is safe and non-toxic, making it an excellent natural choice for a range of ailments and conditions.

 

Seaweed is a natural gift from the sea and must be harvested sustainably to ensure it is available for future generations. In coming years, it might be possible to grow seaweed in tanks on land, reducing the need for wild harvest and increasing the availability of these extraordinary plants for our needs.

 

With advancing technology and new research projects, scientists hope to continue investigating the potential of seaweed so that its ecological, medicinal and nutritional importance can be fully discovered.

 

Dr J.Helen Fitton

Senior Scientist, Marinova Pty Ltd