The Wonderful Health Benefits of Seaweed
Passionate about the power of seaweed, Dr Craig Rose launched Doctor Seaweed's Weed & Wonderful - a Whitley Bay-based nutritional supplement company aimed at making more people aware of the plant's many health benefits
‘Marine biology is something I’ve studied for a long time and I think seaweed is a resource that’s massively under-utilised,’ says Dr Rose. ‘We all know what it is, we live on an island and we’re surrounded by it, but it’s often called a ‘forgotten food’ because despite almost every culture around the world having used seaweed to eat, feed their animals, or put on land as fertiliser, we’ve sort of forgotten it over the last few hundred years here in the West.’
‘There are many nutrients in seaweed, but the key one it gives you is iodine and that’s a nutrient which is massively lacking in the British diet. Depending on demographic and age range, anywhere between 60–80 percent of women in the UK are not getting enough iodine in their diet. Iodine is essential, it effects your thyroid, metabolism, energy, brain function, skin, and nervous system. It’s also essential during pregnancy. The World Health Organisation actually said you need even more during pregnancy, yet most of us are not even getting enough to start with.’
To combat this, Dr Rose has created Doctor Seaweed’s Weed & Wonderful, a supplement business aimed at making seaweed more accessible and hence more common in everyday diets. ‘I started the business in 2018 with the idea of bringing seaweed to people sustainably and in ways they could really engage with, benefit from, and feel wonderful because of,’ he tells us.
‘I saw the opportunity when I was working on a commercial research project based up in Aberdeen looking at turning seaweed into biofuel. The idea was great and could potentially be really big, but for a start-up company it was too much work. Instead, there was also this big opportunity for food and nutrition because seaweed fills a big gap nutritionally in our diets, so we launched our brand of nutritional supplements called Doctor Seaweed’s Weed & Wonderful.’
Research shows we know seaweed’s good for us but we’re just not quite sure how to engage with it. ‘People still think seaweed is a bit weird – hence the brand name – so that’s why we made them in capsules format which are really easy to take, while still getting all the benefits.
‘The Doctor Seaweed part of the name is to link back to my background as a doctor and give people who are engaging with it that element of trust and understanding that there’s expertise behind it. Our range is all totally natural and absolutely backed by science. Everything we talk about are proven health claims and that is what underpins our promise that you will look and feel wonderful.’
The Weed & Wonderful range is made up of five different plant-based supplement capsules, each made to be taken once a day. Dr Rose says these can be taken alone or as a combination. ‘We started with our Pure Seaweed which is 100 percent organic Scottish seaweed and addresses the massive nutritional deficiency I’ve mentioned,’ he explains. ‘Then in the range we’ve launched an Immunity+ one which has got all those benefits of the seaweed plus we’ve got added B12 and B3 vitamins to boost your immune system and energy.
‘We then launched Menopause+ which is a totally natural menopause product based around the seaweed, but with other key vitamins and minerals to support typical symptoms of menopause like brain fog, energy, reduced tiredness, skin health, bone and muscle function, and hormonal balance. Next we launched a Focus+ product, again all based around the seaweed but we’ve added nutrients and algal oils such as Omega 3s and fatty acids, and that’s all about brain health, brain function, energy and eye health.’
He continues: ‘The most recent one is a Beauty+ product because we were getting such great feedback from people who were taking our supplements, seeing improvements in their hair, skin and nails. So we developed this product by blending the seaweed with zinc, selenium, biotin and other key vitamins to support healthy skin, hair and nails, but also collagen formation and protection against oxidative stress. So it’s just to offer all that natural wonder of seaweed but tailoring it for people to help them benefit other aspects of their life as well. They need to just choose what’s right for them and their stage of life.’
Despite there being 10,000 different types of seaweed in the world, with 650 types around the UK, Weed & Wonderful use one specific species which they source from the Isle of Lewis in Scotland. ‘We focus on just one type of seaweed because of the nutrition and sustainability of it. Our company itself is based in Whitley Bay but while the species does grow here, it’s not in any great volume. So you couldn’t really get it from our coast because there’s just not enough and obviously you have to go where the seaweed is.
‘The west coast of Scotland, especially the outer Hebrides where we do get it from, is a huge coastline with pristine grade A waters, so there’s masses and masses of seaweed there. Equally, on the Isle of Lewis there’s no significant agriculture or industry so the waters are really some of the cleanest in the UK.’
Dr Rose is keen to emphasise that the way they source their seaweed is sustainable and always will be. ‘Seaweed inherently is sustainable in the sense that it doesn’t need land, it doesn’t need fresh water and it doesn’t need fertiliser to grow, which are some of the key challenges in terms of sustainability for land-based plants and farming,’ he explains. ‘Then the guys we work with who do the harvesting use these special boats – we describe them like floating lawn mowers. It’s all wild harvested and the boats literally just trim the very tops of the seaweed. By just trimming the top and leaving the majority of the plant in place it encourages further growth.
‘It’s also very carefully regulated by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency and Scottish Natural Heritage who monitor how much is taken and how it’s taken to ensure it grows back and it’s sustainable. This is an industry that's been going on for hundreds and hundreds of years so if it wasn’t sustainable it would be problematic not just on the environmental side but the commercial side. You need to be able to get the resource, so it’s in everyone’s interest to make sure it’s as sustainable as possible.’
Dr Rose’s plans for the future are all about getting as many people as possible to understand the benefits of seaweed. ‘The key thing for us is it’s all about education,’ he says. ‘We actually have a 10 second quiz which people can do to find out if they’re deficient in the essential nutrient iodine and hopefully help them realise this is something they need.
‘We’re in Boots and Holland & Barratt, we’re on QVC and you can buy from our website so the availability of Weed & Wonderful is growing and growing, but the thing we need to see is people understanding it more, understanding why they need it and then seeing the benefits of it as well. Education is key and just getting the word out there. It would obviously be great to see our business grow but also we’ll see a sustainable British resource used in a way to benefit people’s health and wellness.’