Kelp, Kombu, Laver…?

Seaweeds are traditionally eaten in both East and West. In Oriental seaweeds have been regular ingredients for cooking many dishes. Nowadays Westerners eat seaweeds more because excellent nutritional qualities about seaweeds have been spreading.

China, Korea, and Japan each have different name for same type of seaweeds. In addition to this, English name mixed together and often calls different types of seaweeds in same name. For example, kombu is also called kelp and seaweeds. Kelp is called sea tangle and seaweeds. Some types of laver can also be called sea tangle and seaweeds.

This can be very confusing for Westerners. This page sorts out all those confusing names.

Broadly, there are three different types of seaweeds Orientals use for cooking and eating. Laver, Kelp, and Combu.

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Laver – also widely known as Nori in US

This is seaweed used in making sushi. Sometimes called laver, this is similar to the Welsh-style laver. To read description of laver by Wikipedia, click here.

Laver in Different Names:

  • Scientific: Red Alga Porphyra
  • Common English: Laver
  • Chinese: Gānzǐcài (甘紫菜)
  • Korean: Gim (김)
  • Japanese: Nori (ほし-のり)

Laver Nutrition 1

Laver is source of vitamins, iodine, protein (1/5 of 100 ml milk, 1/5 of an egg), fiber (31.2 mg/100 g), and carotene. It also contains a great deal of calcium, iron, and other minerals. 100g of dry laver has 41.4g of protein, 3.7g of fat, 44.3g of carbohydrate, 280mg of calcium, 300mg of magnesium, 2.4mg of potassium, 3.6mg of zinc, and 11.4mg of iron.

For vitamin content, in 100g dry laver, there are 27μg of carotin, 4.6mg of vitamin E, 390μg of vitamin K, 0.69mg of vitamin B1, 2.33mg of vitamin B2, 11.7mg of niacin, 0.59mg of vitamin B6, 57.6μg of vitamin B12, 1.90μg of folic acid, 1.18mg of pantothenic acid, and 210mg of vitamin C.

1/3 bulk of dried laver and other seaweeds consists of dietary fiber. For 100g of dried laver, there are 41g of protein, 44g of carbohydrates, and 30g to 40g of dietary fiber.

The amount of contents differs slightly because of season, time of harvesting, temperature, and nutrients available in the sea water and also sea currents which transports nutrients.

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Green Alga, Ulva lactuca (Also known as Green laver, 파래: Paa-Lae, アオノリ: Hurigana, 石莼: shíchún)

This seaweed is used in Welsh cuisine to make Laverbread. Also used in Scotland to make soups and salads. In Orient, this is used to make a vegetable dish – usually with a little bit of sugar (I recommend using raw sugar), vinegar, and sesame oil.

Green Alga in Different Names:

  • Scientific: Ulva lactuca
  • Common English: Green Alga, Green laver
  • Chinese: 石莼 (Shíchún)
  • Korean: 파래 (Paa-Lae)
  • Japanese: アオノリ (Hurigana)

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It should be noted that "Kelp" is a generic name for wide variety of seaweeds. This is source of seaweed name confusion for many Westerners. It include giant bull kelp, other edible seaweeds such as wakame, kombu, alaria esculenta, and others.

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Western Kelp, Alaria Esculenta

Scientifically known as Alaria Esculenta, this is edible seaweed eaten traditionally in Greenland, Iceland, Scotland and Ireland. They are found along the coasts of the far North Atlantic Ocean. It is different from seaweed called bladder wreck (Fucus Vesiculosus) although they look similar. To read description of Alaria Esculenta by Wikipedia, click here.

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Oriental Kelp, Wakame

Oriental Kelp is commonly known as Wakame in US. It is called Wakame in Japan and Miyuk in Korea. It is widely used in many oriental dishes. To read description of wakame by Wikipedia, click here.

Different Names of Oriental Kelps:

  • Scientific: Undaria Pinnatifida
  • Chinese: Qundaicai (裙带菜)
  • French: Fougère des Mers
  • Japanese: Wakame (ワカメ)
  • Korean: Miyuk (미역)

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Oriental Kelp, Kombu

This is different type of kelp from wakame. This type of kelp is known Another edible kelp is Laminaria japonica, from the family Laminariaceae, which is also widely eaten in East Asia To read description of kombu by Wikipedia, click here.

Different Names Oriental Kelp, Kombu:

  • Scientific: Laminaria Japonica (also known as Saccharina Japonica).
  • Chinese: Haidai (simplified Chinese: 海带; traditional Chinese: 海帶; pinyin: Hǎidài)
  • Korean: Dashima (다시마)
  • Japanese: Kombu or konbu (昆布)

Kombu can be used to soften beans during cooking, and also help to convert indigestible sugars thus reduce flatulence.

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Kelp Nutrition

Kelp is rich in vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients such as potassium, iron, calcium, fiber, and etc. It is rich in iodine thus increases metabolism, which help to loose weight. Because of this, it is called a "miracle plant" and has huge therapeutic properties. Kelp is the best natural source of trace minerals.

Seaweed, including kelp, draws an extraordinary wealth of mineral elements from the sea that can account for up to 36% of its dry mass. The minerals include sodium, calcium, magnesium, potassium, chlorine, sulfur, and phosphorus; the micronutrients (= trace minerals required for human body) include iodine, iron, zinc, copper, selenium, molybdenum, fluoride, manganese, boron, nickel, and cobalt.

In oriental medicine, it cures blocked Chi flow, get rid of stuffy chest, and good for urinary organs. It was also used for taking care of woman after birth, constipation, and prevent obesity.

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Kombu and U-Fucoidan: the Anti-Cancer Substance

Oriental Kelp, Kombu (=Konbu =Dashima) According to Vladimir P. Shurlan, M.D.
U-Fucoidan: Anti-Cancer Substance

Konbu (Laminaria ssp.) contains a substance that causes cancer cells to self-destruct. It has only been recently discovered in Japan that this substance is U-fucoidan, a complex polysaccharide, one among many polysaccharides found in konbu.

Research in Japan, U-fucoidan administered to cancer cells in a laboratory dish were virtually wiped out within 72 hours. The process by which these cells withered away was self-induced, in that the DNA within each of the cancer cells was broken down by digestive enzymes contained in the cells themselves. This process is known by the technical term "apoptosis."

Although U-fucoidan is found in other seaweeds and plants, konbu is particularly rich in this substance.

And, very importantly, in order to consume fucoidan in its pure and effective form, one has to eat konbu raw or dried without heating. It is interesting to note that Okinawa, Japan has the lowest cancer mortality rate in Japan where the people eat their konbu mostly, versus other parts of Japan where it is used mostly in cooking.

Alginates are heteropolysaccharides made up of mannuronic and guluronic acids. It is widely known that alginates from brown seaweed offer the best protection from radiation and environmental pollutants.

Alginates bind with heavy metals such as lead, mercury and other; radioactive elements: strontium, barium, cesium etc. and are then excreted from the body. Alginates are non-toxic and are not reabsorbed into the rest of the body from the gastrointestinal tract. Alginates do not adversely effect the body_s ability to absorb calcium and other natural minerals.

This seaweed is gathered in the clean waters of the northwestern Pacific Ocean. Forty pounds of raw Laminaria japonica is needed to make just one pound of concentrated supplement. This unique patented technology “semidigests” the tough outerlayer of seaweed fibers exposing, concentrating and making much more bio-available the macro-and micronutrient-dense central vein of the Laminaria.

Although the nutritional and medicinal powers of seaweeds have been known for thousands of years the scientific basis of their health benefits has been established only recently.

The ongoing research into fucoidan has conclusively demonstrated its ability to induce cancer cell apoptosis (programmed cell death) in leukemia, breast, stomach and colon cancer cell lines. This biological data support epidemiological observations that Laminaria is an important factor contributing to the relatively low breast cancer rates reported in Japan.

The technology involved in processing Laminaria japonica preserves and at the same time concentrates this vulnerable thermolabile substance thus making it one of the richest sources of cancer-fighting fucoidan.

Another polysaccharide inherent in fucoidan that may have anti-cancer properties is laminarin. It is known that tumor formation and growth require a highly charged extra-cellular matrix. Solid tumors provoke ongoing high-level fibrin leakage from surrounding capillaries.

This fibrin clot gets invaded by various cells recruited by solid tumors including fibroblasts and endothelial cells. The former cells lay down a heavily charged matrix throughout the tumor and the later cells participate in tumor angiogenesis (vascularization).

Angiogenesis is a prerequisite for tumor expansion and metastasis. It has been shown that laminarin sulfate and fucoidan inhibit the binding of basic fibroblast growth factor (BFGF) to an extra-cellular matrix leading to inhibition of fibrin clot invasion by tumor- recruited fibroblasts and endothelial cells suggesting a novel approach to tumor therapy based on blocking angiogenesis.

Cancer metastasis involves the tumor cell adhesion to host tissue basement membrane followed by tissue invasion facilitated by tumor cell surface and PA (urokinaze-type plasminogen activator) associated plasminogen activation.

Fucoidan interferes with cancer cells metastasis (anti-metastatic activity) by inhibition of physical interaction between the tumor cells and basement membrane as well as suppression of the proteolytic cascade of plasminogen activation.

Interaction and organization of cells and tissue in general and tumor and host cells in particular may be mediated by the interactions between cell membrane polysaccharides and the corresponding protein receptor.

Fucoidan, a sulfated fucopolysaccharide, inhibits the adhesion process (cell-cell interaction) by blocking lectin-like adhesion molecules (glycoproteins) on cell surfaces and therefore interfering with tumor cell colonization (metastasis).

Another mechanism of antiproliferative (anti-tumor) properties of fucoidan was shown in vitro and in vivo on a cell line derived from a nonsmall-cell human bronchopulmonary carcinoma (particularly chemoresistant tumor). Fucoidan exerted antiproliferative activity with a block observed in the G1 phase of the cell cycle.

It has also been demonstrated that fucoidan acts as a so-called activator of the reticulo-endothelial system, specifically as an enhancer of phagocytosis.This suggests another aspect of antitumor activity of fucoidan related to the activation of macrophage-mediated tumor cell killing.

There are also non-polysaccharide fractions from Laminaria that have been found to have a significant cancer-preventative anti-mutagenic (anti-DNA damage) activity against typical genotoxic substances.

Another promising use of the sulfated polysaccharides fucoidan and laminarin is in the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease. Several mechanisms are involved: the inhibition of smooth muscle cell proliferation (monoclonal hyperplasia) which is an important step in atherogeneses; activation of enzymes involved in the beta-oxidation of fatty acids which can be useful in the prevention and treatment of hyperlipedemia. Laminarin has been shown to have a hypotensive effect. It also exhibits 30% of the anticoagulant activity of heparin.

All of these properties of sulfated polysaccharides make Lamonica clinically applicable in the prevention and treatment of coronary heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, atherosclerosis, carcinogenesis and cancer metastasis.

Another extremely important area of application is in environmental medicine. Polysaccharide laminarin has been shown in four animal species (mice, guineapigs, dogs, and monkeys) to prevent acute radiation sickness and death (about LD90) when administered within 24 hours after radiation exposure.

This research suggests that the brown seaweed Laminaria can be clinically useful in the treatment and prevention of the adverse effects of ionizing radiation.

The non-digestible polysaccharide alginate has the unique ability of binding heavy metals and radioactive substances to its own molecules. As the alginate is non-digestible it is excreted from the body together with toxic compounds. This is particularly important for cadmium and mercury, as these metals are found at dangerously high levels in air, water and food.

Alginate can also remove isotopes that have previously been absorbed by the human body from the environment. Even small amounts of radioactive pollution will expose surrounding cells to harmful radioactive emission. The way alginate facilitates the excretion of toxic substances that find their way into the body from the environment can be shown using, as an example, the elimination of radioactive strontium:

Sr 2+ (food)
Sr 2+ (in GI tract) + alginate = strontium alginate
elimination through feces
Sr 2+ (blood)
Sr 2+ (bones)

A percentage of Strontium molecules stored in the bone structure (or any other toxic substance stored in the tissue) is constantly released and is traveling with the blood stream. As the blood feeds the saliva and bile, part of the released strontium or other toxic metal ends up in the large intestine.

Most of the liquid in the large intestine is reabsorbed by the body including the radioactive isotopes and heavy metals which are re-deposited back into the tissue. Alginate can break this process, as toxic substances are bound to the alginate molecules and released from the body with feces. Alginate binds to all heavy metals including lead, mercury, cadmium, cobalt, copper and radium.

The product should be consumed over at least a four-month period to expedite removal of toxic substances stored in the body as a result of previous cumulative exposure. It is an excellent bio-available source of organic iodine which is extremely helpful in treating thyroid disorders.

Also in bio-available forms are the B vitamins, calcium, selenium, chromium, amino acids and many more trace elements. Clinical studies also show it can be effective in lowering cholesterol, triglyceride levels and high blood sugar, aiding digestion and elimination, strengthening hair and nails (including hair re-growth after radiation), and increasing energy.

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Seaweed has such a large proportion of iodine compared to dietary minimum requirements, that it is primarily known as a source of this nutrient. Dry kelp has highest iodine content ranging from 1500-8000ppm (parts per million) and dry rockweed (Fucus) from 500-1000ppm.

In most instances, red and green algae have lower contents, about 100-300ppm in dried seaweeds, but remain high in comparison to any land plants. Daily adult requirements, currently recommended at 150 µg/day, could be covered by very small quantities of seaweed.

Just one gram of dried brown algae provides from 500-8,000 µg of iodine and even the green and red algae (such as the purple nori that is used in Japanese cuisine) provides 100-300µg in a single gram.

Huge portions of the world population get insufficient iodine because the land, plants, and animals that serve as common dietary sources are very low in iodine. The amounts of seaweed eaten as food in Japan, or in supplements, are often considerably more than 1 gram a day.

Studies show that the human body adapts readily to higher iodine intake, where the thyroid gland is the main tissue involved in use of iodine (it is a component of thyroid hormones). No wonder why Orientals are thinner then westerners on average.

Iodine is important for thyroid hormone, which absorbs iodide ions from your blood to make and release hormones back into the blood. Without these iodide ions, thyroid hormone deficiency can reduce your metabolic rate as much as 50%. When body’s metabolism slows down, it burns fat and calories slower, leading to obesity.

Iodine is essential to your body as it helps the thyroid properly function. Thyroid also controls growth, energy, and metabolism in your body. Since kelp is a natural source of iodine, it's absorbed by your body more slowly and safely than chemical iodine is. Also more iodine into blood stream kills infections.

Many people, who are allergic to chemical iodine, have no problems eating moderate amounts of kelp every day.

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Seaweed is one of the richest plant sources of calcium. In kelp, calcium content relative to dietary requirements is so much more then compared to the iodine. The calcium content of seaweeds is about 4 to 7% of dry matter. At 7% calcium, one gram of dried seaweed provides 70 mg of calcium. Daily dietary requirement of calcium is about 1,000 mg. So mere 15gram (= 0.53 ounce) of seaweeds would meet the daily calcium requirement for an adult.

Kelp has high calcium and alkali in terms of pH level. When you go vegan, this is one of the best calcium source you can get your hand on. A human body must maintain pH level of weak alkali. Otherwise calcium intake is meaningless because even if calcium intake is high, if blood pH is acidic calcium would be drained from body. This is why milk does not give you calcium.

Most processed foods are acidic and also when we become ill is that our bodies become acidic. When body become acidic, certain enzymes that is vital to our body's function stops. Then body takes out calcium from bone and releases it into blood. When you are really sick, the reason why your bone aches is this.

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Protein content in seaweed varies somewhat. It is low in brown algae; 5-11% of dry matter. In some species of red algae, it is 30-40% of dry matter, which is same as legumes and beans. Green algae, which are not harvested much, also have a significant protein content, which is up to 20% of dry matter. Spirulina, a micro-alga, is known for its very high protein content, which is 70% of dry matter.

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List of Kelp Benefits

Kelp is particularly great for women's health because it is high in iron, calcium, and potassium – all of which tend to be essential for women during menstruation, while pregnant, or nursing.


  • Helps regulate both the thyroid and pituitary glands
  • Good for growing nails and prevent hair loss
  • Help with chronic low body temperature
  • Beneficial to the pancreas and the prostrate
  • Helps building new cell membranes
  • Helps the digestive system
  • Helps to prevent cancer growth
  • Cleanse radiation in body – Sodium alginate, in kelp binds with radioactive strontium-90 in the intestines and carries it out of the body.
  • Balance glands and hormones
  • Dietary consumption of kelp has shown it to lower the rate of breast cancer, heart disease, rheumatism, arthritis and infectious diseases
  • Provides nutritional support to the nervous system and heart
  • Kelp absorbs waste from the body fluids, binds with poison, and carries them off
  • Correct mineral deficiencies
  • Valuable in overcoming poor digestion
  • Preventing and overcoming goiter (because it is the richest source of iodine)
  • Rebuilding and maintaining the proper function of all glands
  • Reported to aid in brain development
  • Offsets deficiencies of nutritionally poor diet
  • Beneficial for those suffering from impotence, anemia and emaciation
  • Seaweed bath helps maintain hormone balance for a more youthful body
  • For sour throat, the kelp coats the throat as it goes down, and the iodine kills the strep bacteria. It also relieves pain almost immediately.

Traditional people in Okinawa use kelp as tea. These people are known for their health and longevity.

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Kelp Nutrition Profile – Nutritive Value of Kelp : Per 100 gm.

  • Vitamin A : 2 I.U.
  • Niacin : 5.7 mg.
  • Calcium : 1,093 mg.
  • Iron : 100 mg.
  • Phosphorus : 240 gm.
  • Fat : 1.1 gm.
  • Carbohydrates : 40.2 gm.
  • Protein : 7.5 gm.
  • Many minerals

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Kombu Use in Oriental Medicine

According to Oriental medicine, Kombu plant's energy enters liver, lung, and kidney meridians. It can disperse phlegm and goiter (thyroid swelling that indicates severe iodine deficiency). It can also clear heat, soften hardness, and dissipate nodules. It can also promote urination and reduce edema.

Seaweed contains several vitamins. Red and brown algae are rich in carotenes (Vitamin A) and are used as a source of natural mixed carotenes for dietary supplements. The content ranges from 20-170 ppm (parts per million). Vitamin C in red and brown algae is also notable, with contents ranging from 500-3000 ppm. Other vitamins are also present, including B12, which is not found in most land plants.

Seaweeds have very little fat, ranging from 1-5% of dry matter, although seaweed lipids have a higher proportion of EPA (Essential Fatty Acids) than land plants. Green algae have a much higher oleic and alpha-linoleic acid content. Red algae also have high EPA content.

Seaweeds have high fiber content, making up from 32% to 50% of dry matter. The soluble fiber accounts for 51-56% of total fibers in green (ulvans) and red algae (agars, carrageenans and xylans) and 67-87% in brown algae (laminaria, fucus, and others). Soluble fibers are generally associated with having cholesterol-lowering and hypoglycemic effects.

Red aglae's Chinese name is Zicai, which means purple vegetable. It is classified among the red algae, due to red to purple pigments. Nori is a type of red algae and red pigments are lost and changed to a dark greenish color when it is roasted. Nori is used to wrap sushi and for making numerous snacks.

Raw nori is not common, but I recommend that you get raw nori instead of roasted one because heat almost always destroys nutrition of some types in some ways, at least to a degree. H-Mart always sells raw nori sheets although it sells a whole lot more of roasted nori sheets. You need to look carefully and may need to ask to a person who works there, who is also Korean/Oriental (because they can tell for sure whether it is cooked or raw).

Kombu is usually sold in 5 to 6 inch dried pieces and can be found in health food stores and Oriental supermarkets. Dried kombu needs to be simmered for 15-20 minutes in low medium heat to soften and flavor the liquid. Often times in Oriental cooking, the kombu itself is removed from the liquid at the end of cooking and discarded. However, I recommend you eat it, because it is still rich with soluble fibers and other minerals.

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