Kelp (Laminaria digitata) is one of the most nutrient-dense foods in existence.

Kelp is a highly nutritious underwater plant. Although kelp is often referred to as "seaweed" it actually belongs to a different classification of plant.

Kelp is a sea vegetable of sorts that is a concentrated source of minerals, including iodine, potassium, magnesium, calcium, and iron. The iodine found in this sea vegetable is a mineral that assists in making thyroid hormones, which are necessary for maintaining normal metabolism (or functioning) in all cells of the body. Kelp also includes vitamins C, B1, B2, and B12. The entire kelp plant should be consumed, although it usually comes in powdered or granular form (sometimes with a blend with other herbs, such as in essiac). Kelp is one of the ingredients in eight herb essiac tea. Kelp is generally available in the forms of a tea, tincture, or capsules.

Due to the high iodine content (which helps promote healthy thyroid function) kelp is used as a treatment for hyperthyroidism. Preliminary tests show that kelp may be effective in the supplemental treatment of various tumors, although these claims have yet to be substantiated.

Past cultural studies of diets that include kelp have determined a link between intake of kelp and: a lower breast cancer rate; less obesity, heart disease, rheumatism, arthritis; lower blood pressure; less thyroid disease; less constipation and gastro-intestinal ailments and less infectious disease. Kelp provides these benefits because it offers nutritional support to the nervous system and heart in the form of iodine, vitamins, minerals and cell salts.

Kelp is also known for the following properties: it's antibacterial, an antioxidant, a diuretic, an emollient, an endocrine tonic, and an expectorant. Thyroid health, which improves when kelp is taken, is an important component of bodyweight regulation. Kelp, therefore, may help reduce one major possible cause of obesity.

Iodine is essential for the proper regulation of energy through its effect on metabolism. Kelp not only absorbs iodine from seawater, it also absorbs a wide variety of essential nutrients. These nutrients include protein, essential fatty acid, carbohydrates, fiber, trace elements, sodium and potassium salts, and a variety of other chemicals, such as alginic acid. The trace mineral content of kelp is among the highest of any known single source, which means that kelp is a highly nutrient-dense food. By adding kelp to the diet, the diet becomes significantly more nutritious.

Now that you've learned about kelp, click here to read about the other essiac tea ingredients.