Irish Moss vs. Sea Moss: What is the Difference and Does it Matter?

Nov 25, 2023

4 min 3 sec

K. Browne- by K. Browne

So Irish moss vs. sea moss.

Both sea vegetables and have have gained in popularity, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

While the names are often used interchangeably, they are not the same.

They do share some similarities in nutritional benefits, but they also have distinct differences.

In this article, we will explore the differences between Irish moss and sea moss, their nutritional and health benefits, where they come from, and how Irish moss got its name.

But first, what is Irish sea moss?

Irish moss vs. sea moss.

What is Irish Sea Moss?

Irish moss (Chondrus crispus) is a type of red algae that is native to the rocky coasts of the North Atlantic Ocean.

The name "Irish moss" originated because it was used in Ireland during the 19th century as a food source during the Irish Potato Famine.

It has been used for centuries as a traditional medicine and food source, particularly in Ireland and Scotland.

Naturally, its color ranges from a greenish yellow to a dark purple as you can see above.


What is Sea Moss?

Sea moss (Gracilaria gracilis) is a type of seaweed that is found in warmer oceans around the world. 

It is also a red alga but it is more commonly found in tropical climates like the Caribbean islands, Asia, South America, and Africa. 

Sea moss comes naturally in different colors, like purple, green, and gold.

People also use sea moss as a food source and natural medicine in many cultures. And it is often referred to as a superfood due to its high nutritional content.

The difference between Irish moss and sea moss.

What is the difference between Irish moss and sea moss?

Here are some of the key differences between Irish moss and sea moss:


One of the most significant differences is the species.

Irish moss or Chondrus crispus, is a red alga found in colder waters along the coasts of North America, Europe, and the British Isles.

Sea moss or Gracilaria gracilis, is found in tropical climates like the Caribbean islands, South America, Asia, and Africa. 

Physical appearance

Irish moss (Chondrus crispus):

Irish moss is a red algae species with a flattened, fan-shaped frond with a smooth texture and distinct lobes.

It is usually reddish-brown or dark purple.

Sea moss (Gracilaria gracilis):

Sea moss has a cylindrical or branching structure with a more delicate and feathery appearance.

It is typically bright red but also comes in green and gold.

Nutritional differences

Irish moss and sea moss contain a range of nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, and various polysaccharides.

However, they differ in their nutritional composition and potential health benefits.

Irish moss is primarily used for the production of carrageenan.

Carrageenan is a polysaccharide used as a food additive in various industrial applications.

It is rich in iodine, which is essential for thyroid function.

It is not commonly eaten as a food source but has been used historically as a source of nutrition during the Irish Potato Famine.

Sea moss is also a source of carrageenan, but is also used as a food in various cuisines. It is considered a good source of nutrients like vitamins, minerals and dietary fiber.

Purple sea moss, is exceptionally high in antioxidants and may have anti-inflammatory properties.


Irish moss grows along the coasts and colder waters of the North Atlantic, the British Isles, continental Europe, and North America.

Irish moss grows along the coasts and colder waters of the North Atlantic, the British Isles, continental Europe, and North America.


Sea moss is found in warmer waters, including the Caribbean, the Americas, Asia, and Africa.

Irish potato famine, 1845 – 1852.


How Irish moss got its name?

The name "Irish moss" originated during the Irish Potato Famine in Ireland in the mid-19th century. 

The Irish Potato Famine, also known as the Great Hunger, was a period of mass starvation, disease, and emigration in Ireland from 1845 to 1849. 

The famine was caused by potato blight, a fungal disease that destroyed the potato crop, the Irish population's staple food. 

The blight caused a widespread failure of the potato crop for several years in a row, leading to a severe food shortage that affected the entire country.

As a result of the famine, over a million people died from starvation and disease, and another million emigrated from Ireland to escape the dire conditions.

The famine significantly impacted Irish society and culture and the political and economic relations between Ireland and Great Britain.

At that time, the Irish turned to the red algae growing off their coasts, for a source of food and nutrition.

It was used as a thickening agent. 

It was boiled with milk and sugar to make a thick, nourishing pudding known as carrageen.

The pudding often served as a remedy for coughs and colds and other health benefits, such as improving digestion and strengthening the immune system.

Why is Sea Moss called Irish moss?

My theory is this.

The Irish arrived in Jamaica during the 17th century when the island was under British rule. 

Many came as merchants and traders and others came as indentured servants and prisoners.

When they came, they also brought their Irish traditions.

They discovered Jamaican sea moss (Gracilaria gracilis) not Irish moss (Chondrus crispus) growing off the coast of the island and adopted it as their new Irish moss.

FAQs about Irish moss and sea moss

What is better Irish moss or sea moss?

There is no straightforward answer to which is better; Irish sea moss and sea moss offer their unique nutritional profiles and health benefits.

The best option between sea moss and Irish moss will depend on your individual needs and preferences.

Both are highly nutritious and offer a wide range of health benefits. Choosing a high-quality, organic product is critical to getting the full range of nutrients and benefits these seaweeds offer.

What is the healthiest type of sea moss?

The most common types of sea moss on the western hemisphere are Irish moss (Chondrus Crispus), and Jamaican / St. Lucian sea moss (Gracilaria gracilis).

While each variety offers its benefits, they are highly nutritious and can be used in various culinary and medicinal applications.

How can you tell if sea moss is natural?

To identify if sea moss is natural, look for the scientific name Gracilaria gracilis on the packaging, as this is the scientific name for organic sea moss.

Natural sea moss should have a dark, purple-brown color, a slightly rubbery texture when soaked, and a slight oceanic smell.

Check the packaging for additives or preservatives, as natural sea moss should not have any.

It is essential to buy from a reputable source that offers organic, sustainably sourced sea moss to ensure that you get natural sea moss that is pure and free from contaminants or additives.

Final Thoughts about Irish Moss vs. Sea Moss

In conclusion, sea moss and Irish moss are both nutrient-dense algae that offer a wide range of health benefits and culinary applications. 

While they share some similarities, they also have distinct differences in species, nutrient content, appearance, and geography. 

Understanding the differences between Irish moss and sea moss can help you choose the best option for your health and needs. 

If you're buying Irish moss or sea moss, buy from a reputable source to ensure that you get real natural sea moss that is pure and free from contaminants or additives. Incorporating sea moss or Irish moss into your diet and wellness routine can help improve your overall health and well-being.

K. Browne

About the author

Kester is a husband, a father, and a sea moss enthusiast. He created this blog to help people concerned about their health to learn about the wonderful benefits of sea moss.

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