Bladderwrack (Fucus vesiculosus)

Traditional Indications

Bladderwrack is antihypothyroid and antirheumatic. The main use of bladder wrack in herbal medicine is as a source of iodine, an essential nutrient for the thyroid gland. Bladderwrack is useful in the treatment of underactive thyroid glands (hypothyroidism) and goitre. It helps relieve rheumatoid arthritis and rheumatic conditions such as gout. Bladderwrack should not be used in cases of hyperthyroidism or cardiac problems, during pregnancy and lactation or acne.


A chemical constituent of bladder wrack called alginic acid swells upon contact with water, forms a type of "seal" at the top of the stomach, and for this reason is used in several over-the-counter preparations for heartburn. (1)

Bladderwrack active constituents include sulfated polysaccharide fucoidans, phlorotannins and fucoxanthin, which have been repeatedly shown to possess important therapeutic properties.

Fucoidan administration of F-fucoidan from Saccharina japonica possessed anti-allergic effects using the passive cutaneous anaphylaxis reaction. (2)

Fucoidan significantly stimulates fibroblast proliferation to promote reconstruction of the skin (3) and displays anti-photoaging qualities. (3)

Topical application of fucoidan improves atopic dermatitis symptoms. (4)

Fucoidan retards tumour development, eradicates tumour cells and synergizes with anti-cancer chemotherapeutic agents. (5)

Fucoidan has displayed anti-inflammatory effects in advanced cancer patients. (6)
Bladderwrack has a high content in iodine making Bladderwrack therapeutic for treating goiter, i.e., the swelling of thyroid and thyroid-related complications, and obesity. (7)
Bladderwrack lowers thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) (8) and is prescribed for all sorts of thyroid problems. (9)

Fucus vesiculosus extract mediates cell cycle inhibition and cell death in pancreatic cancer cells (10) and inhibits oestrogen receptor activation and induces cell death in female cancer cell lines. (11)

1. Mandel, Daggy, Brodie, Jacoby. Review article: alginate-raft formulations in the treatment of heartburn and acid reflux. 2000;14(6):669-90.
2. Tanino Y, Hashimoto T, Ojima T, Mizuno M. F-fucoidan from Saccharina japonica is a novel inducer of galectin-9 and exhibits anti-allergic activity. Journal of clinical biochemistry and nutrition. 2016;59(1):25-30.
3. Song YS, Li H, Balcos MC, Yun H-Y, Baek KJ, Kwon NS, et al. Fucoidan promotes the reconstruction of skin equivalents. The Korean journal of physiology & pharmacology : official journal of the Korean Physiological Society and the Korean Society of Pharmacology. 2014;18(4):327-31.
4. Yang J-H. Topical Application of Fucoidan Improves Atopic Dermatitis Symptoms in NC/Nga Mice. 2012;26(12):1898-903.
5. Atashrazm F, Lowenthal MR, Woods MG, Holloway FA, Dickinson LJ. Fucoidan and Cancer: A Multifunctional Molecule with Anti-Tumor Potential. Marine Drugs. 2015;13(4).
6. Takahashi H, Kawaguchi M, Kitamura K, Narumiya S, Kawamura M, Tengan I, et al. An Exploratory Study on the Anti-inflammatory Effects of Fucoidan in Relation to Quality of Life in Advanced Cancer Patients. Integrative cancer therapies. 2017;17(2):282-91.
7. Kupper FC, Feiters MC, Olofsson B, Kaiho T, Yanagida S, Zimmermann MB, et al. Commemorating two centuries of iodine research: an interdisciplinary overview of current research. Angewandte Chemie (International ed in English). 2011;50(49):11598-620.
8. Clark CD, Bassett B, Burge MR. Effects of kelp supplementation on thyroid function in euthyroid subjects. Endocrine practice : official journal of the American College of Endocrinology and the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists. 2003;9(5):363-9.
9. Niazi AK, Kalra S, Irfan A, Islam A. Thyroidology over the ages. Indian journal of endocrinology and metabolism. 2011;15(Suppl 2):S121-S6.
10. Geisen U, Zenthoefer M, Peipp M, Kerber J, Plenge J, Managò A, et al. Molecular Mechanisms by Which a Fucus vesiculosus Extract Mediates Cell Cycle Inhibition and Cell Death in Pancreatic Cancer Cells. Marine drugs. 2015;13(7):4470-91.
11. Zhang J, Riby JE, Conde L, Grizzle WE, Cui X, Skibola CF. A Fucus vesiculosus extract inhibits estrogen receptor activation and induces cell death in female cancer cell lines. BMC complementary and alternative medicine. 2016;16:151-.


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