They say a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, but what about a spoonful of sea moss gel? If you’ve been on social media over the last few months, chances are, you’ve probably encountered conflicting answers. Creators all over TikTok are devouring the high-end superfood, a trend that purportedly boosts immunity, supports thyroid function, and promotes skin health. Still, consumers don’t appear to enjoy eating the gel, and at $39.99 per jar from upscale supermarket Erewhon, it can come at a hefty expense. Spoon University chatted with registered dietitian Shyla Cadogan, licensed esthetician Kiana Ramirez, and lifestyle content creator Gracie Watters to find out just why sea moss is so alluring and whether the potential nutritional benefits are worth the price. Read on to explore TikTok’s latest wellness fad.

What is sea moss?

Sea moss, as the name implies, is an algae frequently found growing along the coasts of the Atlantic Ocean. Also referred to as Irish moss, sea moss is rich in iron, iodine, copper, magnesium, and zinc.

While perhaps best known for its viral gelatinous form, sea moss can also be found in gummies, vitamins, and powders. It is composed of carrageenan, a sulfated polysaccharide extracted and used as a thickening agent in products like ice cream and toothpaste.

Although humans have harvested sea moss for thousands of years, the superfood recently exploded in popularity. Supermodel Bella Hadid shared the product as part of her morning wellness routine in March, sparking renewed online interest in the trend.

What are the purported benefits of sea moss?

Avid sea moss consumers credit the algae with a wide range of benefits.

“It has cleared my hormonal acne. It has got rid of my anxiety. It has gotten rid of my brain fog. It has given me that glow from within,” one TikTok content creator gushed.

Lifestyle content creator Gracie Watters came across sea moss online and was initially drawn to the product as a way to improve her gut health.

“I started taking it probably about six months ago,” Watters told Spoon University. “I’ve noticed a huge improvement with my skin.”

In addition to vibrant skin, Watters has noted improvements in her digestion and energy levels.

“I usually have two tablespoons every morning, and I feel like that’s where I’ve seen the most benefits,” she said.

Licensed esthetician Kiana Ramirez also experienced increases in energy after taking sea moss as a supplement. She shared that the gel allowed her to increase her iron levels postpartum and helped ease nursing. However, instead of consuming gel from the store, Ramirez started creating her own in 2020 by blending sea moss from a supplier in Maine with limes soaked in spring water.

“When my kids are sick, or anybody is getting sick and they have a really stuffy nose,” Ramirez said. “It really helps to decongest and it helps shorten their colds.”

Social media users often assert that sea moss gel contains 92 out of 102 essential minerals for the human body and is an effective way to ensure vital nutrient intake in just a few spoonfuls. Registered dietitian Shyla Cadogan expressed concern about these claims.

“It’s kind of a huge marketing tactic because you don’t even need 92 essential minerals to survive,” she said. “You need significantly less.”

Are there studies that support sea moss’s efficacy?

With all of the hype surrounding sea moss, it can be difficult to discern fact from fiction. According to Cadogan, studies on sea moss are limited, and most scientific research is related to essential minerals themselves.

Cadogan also said that while some studies demonstrate sea moss’s ability to improve blood sugar regulation and reduce low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, this research is “quite sparse, which is why the claims are honestly a little bit insane.”

“Most of these studies that I’ve been telling you of were either conducted on animals or in test tubes — which we’re neither,” Cadogan chuckled.

Although studies on sea moss are limited, scientists have looked into the benefits of other types of seaweed. One study, for example, examined seaweed’s potential to protect against COVID-19 and found it to include a plethora of anti-inflammatory properties. In another study, worms that received sea moss extract exhibited enhanced immune responses. However, many of these benefits still appear anecdotal, and current scientific investigation lacks robust empirical evidence from human test subjects.

What does sea moss taste like?

Consumers have compared sea moss gel’s taste to seaweed, ocean water, and bad tap water.

“It’s not the most pleasant thing in the world to eat, but it’s not as horrible as people make it seem to be,” one TikTok content creator said in a video.

The flavor ultimately depends on which brand consumers purchase, as some types of sea moss taste neutral.

“I have tried a couple brands, and the Natures Farmer Sea sea moss is an East Australian brand,” Watters said. “That’s my all-time favorite.”

As far as consistency, Watters likened the gel’s texture to a “thick apple sauce.”

Are there other ways to incorporate sea moss into my wellness routine?

Viral videos of content creators gagging on sea moss prompt the question of whether there are alternatives to ingesting the gel.

“You’ll probably get your best bang for your buck with gel because when you go and do sea moss gummies and stuff like that,” said Cadogan, “It’s really hard to concentrate sufficient amounts of vitamins and minerals just because it is a gummy.”

Ramirez agreed, mentioning that she makes sea moss gel, “because you get the most nutritional value out of it.”

Some consumers have blended the gel into smoothies or even applied it directly on their skin as a face mask. Ramirez said this is safe to do with plain sea moss.

“It actually helps with tightening the skin, helps with fine lines and wrinkles, and helps with evening skin tone,” she said. “Also, since there are enzymes, it will eat away at dead skin cells, so it’s just a mild exfoliant. It’ll help to reveal brighter skin. Just make sure to wear SPF when you go outside.”

Why is sea moss consumption controversial?

Skeptics have pointed out that consuming sea moss sometimes comes with the risk of metal contamination. Cadogan echoed this sentiment and urged buyers to be cognizant of where their product comes from.

“Whatever supplement you’re looking for, third-party testing would be great, specifically USP certification or NSF certification, which are just two big types of reputable certification sources that you can do for supplements,” Cadogan said. “If you find one that meets that criteria, then you may know that it’s better quality.”

Unfortunately, many supplements lack these certifications, making it difficult for consumers to be aware of possible contaminants. In addition, high levels of iodine may make sea moss a risk to the thyroid. As with other supplements, it’s important to ensure that sea moss is taken in moderation, and consumers should avoid exceeding recommended serving sizes — especially if they have pre-existing conditions.

Is sea moss worth the price?

Cadogan shared that the recent proliferation of lifestyle trends such as sea moss, snail mucin, and bee pollen “speaks to our greater cultural vibe” of wanting quick improvements rather than the slow and natural progression of results.

“People in wellness industries know that if you put flashing messaging out there and promote this ‘Hey, this is your fit!’ people will buy into it. And it just creates this continuous cycle,” said Cadogan.

Evidently, the benefits of sea moss are enticing, even if the science behind the product is still a little fishy. If you’re willing to splurge, go ahead and try the viral trend. Just don’t expect to wave goodbye to all of your health concerns at once.