Claims of beneficial effects of bladder wrack have not been confirmed in clinical studies.
Bladder wrack extract is rich in iodine and is claimed to stimulate thyroid activity to treat obesity. There is no evidence to support this. Women who took bladder wrack showed improvement in their menstrual symptoms. Topical application of a bladder wrack extract showed benefits for skin. Further studies are needed to confirm these effects.
In a small study, women who took bladder wrack reported improvement in menstrual symptoms.
Results of a clinical trial showed that topical bladder wrack extract can improve the skin.
This use is not supported by scientific evidence.
Bladder wrack is rich in iodine and has been used as a supplement for patients with hypothyroidism caused by iodine deficiency. However, this has not been studied in clinical trials and the dosage used is unclear.
There are no clinical data to support this use.
Patients with thyroid disorder or hormonal-sensitive cancers should talk to their doctors before using bladder wrack.
Consumption of a slimming product containing 20 different herbs, bladder wrack being one of them, resulted in hemorrhagic cystitis (inflammation of the urinary bladder) in a 33-year-old woman. Symptoms resolved after discontinuing the product.
Bladder wrack is often referred to as brown kelp but it should not be confused with “kelp,” which is another species of seaweed.
Bladder wrack is a seaweed prevalent on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts from Europe to Asia. It is often referred to as brown kelp but it should not be confused with “kelp,” another species of seaweed. Bladder wrack is consumed as food and medicine and is a rich source of iodine. It is used in traditional medicine to treat hypothyroidism due to iodine deficiency and has been proposed as a weight loss supplement. No clinical studies have verified this effect. Bladder wrack is believed to be responsible for the reduced risk of estrogen-related cancers in Asian populations (1) and may improve menstrual symptoms (1). Further studies are needed to clarify such effects.
Bladder wrack extract also demonstrated chemopreventive (7), anti-collagenase and antioxidant properties (6); topical application of bladder wrack extract may help improve skin (2).
However, bladder wrack should be used with caution in patients with hormonal-sensitive cancers.
Atlantic sea kelp, seaweed
Mechanism of Action
Bladder wrack extract is rich in iodine and has been used as a natural supplement for thyroid disorder and for obesity. It has been shown to lower plasma cholesterol levels by competitive inhibition via fucosterols. As cholesterol is a precursor for the biosynthesis of steroid hormones, a reduction in cholesterol bioavailability may lower circulating estradiol levels thereby altering menstrual cycling patterns (1). An extract of bladder wrack reduced 17,beta-estradiol levels and also acted as a competitive inhibitor of estradiol binding to alpha- and beta- estrogen receptors in vitro (3). In rats, treatment with bladder wrack lengthened overall estrous cycles and reduced circulating 17,beta-estradiol levels (4).
Bladder wrack and related seaweed species have been shown to exhibit anti-hypertensive effects via angiotensin-I-converting enzyme inhibition. The antibacterial and antioxidant properties are thought to be due to its polyphenolic contents (1). Topical bladder wrack extract reduced skin thickness and improved the mechanical/elastic properties (2).
A bladder wrack extract inhibited the cell cyle of proliferating pancreatic cancer cells due to the up-regulation of cell cycle inhibitors, independent of caspases. Also, it showed low cytotoxic activity against non-malignant resting T cells and erythrocytes. Accelerated killing was observed in combination with inhibitors of autophagy (11).
Consumption of bladder wrack harvested from polluted waters may cause nephrotoxicity due to the presence of heavy metals such as arsenic, cadmium and mercury (5).
Bladder wrack acts as an estrogenic receptor modulator and should be used with caution in patients with hormonal-sensitive cancers.
Consumption of a slimming product containing 20 different herbs, bladder wrack being one of them, resulted in hemorrhagic cystitis in a 33-year-old woman. Symptoms resolved after discontinuing the product (8).
Cholesterol-lowering and antihypertensive medications: Theoretically, bladder wrack may have an additive effects (1).
Cytochrome P450 substrates: Bladder wrack inhibits cytochrome P450 enzymes, thereby affecting the cellular concentration of drugs that are metabolized by these enzymes (7).
Amiodarone: Bladder wrack decreased the bioavailability of amiodarone (used to treat arrhythmia) in a study of rats (10).