Infertility is common. In fact, in the United States, about 12 percentTrusted Source of women ages 15 to 44 have trouble getting or staying pregnant.
This isn’t a one-sided concern: In more than one-thirdTrusted Source of male-female couples, both partners have factors that contribute to difficulty having a biological child.
Looking at this data, it makes sense that infertility is a multibillion-dollar industry that includes expensive treatments like in vitro fertilization.
And there’s a constant search for the next big thing — a magic bullet of sorts — that will put an end to the struggle in both men and women, preferably for a reasonable price.
Enter sea moss. The internet is currently abuzz with claims that this red seaweed could be the answer, but does it live up to the hype?
The short answer is that this nutritionally beneficial sea vegetable has some promise but little evidence to back it up. Let’s take a closer look.
What is sea moss?
Like we mentioned, sea moss is a red seaweed/algae. It shares that classification with its more famous cousin, nori. Sea moss — scientifically known as Chondrus crispus — is also called Irish moss.
It’s found in the more northern areas of the Atlantic Ocean, which is why it’s been harvested primarily in the northeastern United States and in northern Europe.
It can also be found around the Caribbean Islands, where it’s touted as an aphrodisiac for men (more about that in a minute).
Outside of the Caribbean, it’s more often used for its carrageenan — which, in turn, is used to thicken foods and drinks.
What are the claims about sea moss and fertility?
The claims circulating around sea moss involve both male- and female-factor infertility. This certainly makes it sound appealing as a catch-all remedy if you’re having difficulty getting pregnant.
Because sea moss is commonly used in the Caribbean as a natural sexual enhancement product for men, many say it can increase testosterone levels and sperm count, giving fertility a boost.
For women, it’s claimed that the nutrients in sea moss — particularly iodine, B vitamins, calcium, and zinc — make it a fertility powerhouse that can speed up the process of getting pregnant if you’re having trouble.
What does the research say?
So, are the claims true? Let’s look at what we already know, as well as what the research says about sea moss specifically.
When it comes to sea moss being a male aphrodisiac, the evidence is mostly anecdotal — and that’s OK.
If those who are eating sea moss (or creating a gel from it) believe it enhances sexual desire or function, then it probably does for them. And as we learned in Sex Ed 101, having sex is one important way to become pregnant.
But does sea moss really increase testosterone, and does higher testosterone mean higher fertility? The short answer is a twofold disappointment: There’s no scientific research suggesting that sea moss increases testosterone, and higher testosterone doesn’t equate to being more fertile.
It’s true that the body needs testosterone in order to produce sperm, and sperm are needed to fertilize an egg and achieve pregnancy. But increasing the amount of testosterone circulating in the blood won’t lead to more or better sperm. Other hormones are responsible for that.
However, the nutrients in sea moss could contribute to a healthy diet, which can help ease issues that do contribute to infertility in men — such as metabolic syndrome and obesity.
There’s actually something to the claims that the nutrients in sea moss may help with babymaking.
Take folate, for example. A 100-gram portion of sea moss has 182 micrograms (mcg) of folate, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)Trusted Source. That’s nearly half of the 400 mcg daily recommendation.
Folate supplementation (synthetic form: folic acid) may be beneficial when you’re trying to conceive. That’s because this nutrient has been shown to improve pregnancy rates, according to a 2012 studyTrusted Source.
Sea moss also contains zinc (1.95 milligrams per 100 grams), which has been researched in animals for its effect on egg quality. It’s now commonly recommended that you make sure you’re getting enough zinc if you’re trying to conceive.
(Incidentally, folate and zinc supplementation may also improve sperm quality in some men, according to a 2013 studyTrusted Source.)
The USDA doesn’t record iodine data for sea moss. However, many sea plants do contain this nutrient. Iodine deficiency can lead to hypothyroidism, and hypothyroidism may impair fertility.
But on the other hand, too much iodine can create other thyroid problems, like goiter. And due to the creation of iodized salt, iodine deficiency is rarer than it used to be.
There is no research specific to consuming sea moss to improve fertility in women.
Recommendations regarding fertility
If you’re looking for supplements to take to improve your fertility, there are products that have far more research behind them — like co-enzyme Q10 — than sea moss.
A high-quality prenatal vitamin containing folate and B vitamins may be a good place to start. Perhaps most important for your overall health, be sure you’re consuming a diet rich in vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients.
Consult with a doctor before adding any supplements to your daily regimen. If you’ve been trying to get pregnant for more than a year — or more than 6 months if you’re over the age of 35 — ask for a referral to a reproductive endocrinologist or other fertility specialist.
There’s a lot of hype these days around sea moss as a natural remedy for infertility in both men and women.
But unfortunately, we’ve yet to find a magic bullet solution for this common issue. The old adage, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is” seems to apply here.
On the other hand, sea moss does have nutrients that are good for you.
However, be extremely cautious about eating it in large quantities or taking it in pill form. Supplements aren’t regulated in the same way as medications, and too much sea moss could put you at risk for certain health problems.
If you’re dealing with infertility, it can feel very lonely as you watch family and friends get pregnant around you. Rest assured, though: You’re not alone.
Your doctor can point you in the right direction for getting what you need to help you grow your family.