Jamaican Sea Moss vs. Irish Moss

Written by Larissa Smith
Updated: August 3, 2023
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Do you want to cultivate Jamaican sea moss or Irish sea moss? Jamaican sea moss and Irish moss are algae in high demand due to their medicinal uses and vibrant range of colors.

Although commonly mistaken for Irish moss, Jamaican sea moss contains many properties that make them unique, including having a wide range of seaweed species that change their colors. Jamaican sea moss is not your typical moss seaweed found in warmer climates and is unique in many different ways. From the color-changing ability to being rich in nutrients and vitamins, it is easy to see why moss has been in such high demand in the last decade.

Irish moss is the cousin of the Jamaican sea moss and is wildly known for its vibrant red color and branches, giving it a tree-like appearance and making this sea moss a unique sight to behold. Not to mention the additional benefits you get from harvesting these intriguing algae.

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Let’s explore the differences between Jamaican sea moss and Irish moss!

Comparing Jamaican Sea Moss and Irish Moss

Jamaican Sea MossIrish Sea Moss
ClassificationGenus: GracilariaGenus: Chondrus
OriginFound along the coastlines of every continent except AntarcticaFound along the coastlines of Europe and North America
Common NamesJamaican Sea Moss, Purple Sea MossIrish Moss, Carrageen Moss
Description– Grows in clumps that are between 10 and 11 inches wide and 18 inches long
– Consists of a flat frond
– Long, slender branches
– Comes in purple, red, and greenish-yellow hues
– Grows 7-8 inches long
– Grows individual branches that are less than half an inch wide
– Firm texture
– Green color when close to the ocean’s surface and dark red when growing deeper in the ocean
– Branches in a fan-like manner
Uses– Help prevent respiratory ailments
– Relieve sunburn and hydrate skin
– Relieve congestion
– Soothes sore throat
– Immune support
– It can help lower cholesterol
– Lowers inflammation
– Immune support
– Nourish your skin

Jamaican Sea Moss vs. Irish Moss: Classification and Origin

Jamaican sea moss, also known as purple sea moss, comes from the Gracilariaceae family under the genus Gracilaria. They are native to all oceans except Antarctica because it thrives best in warmer water and climate conditions. It is part of the Gracilaria family, containing over 200 species, many of which are native to the Caribbean. The Gracilaria species prefer to grow in warm waters across the globe.

Jamaican sea moss became popular amongst the Caribean Islands, and its inhabitants have used it for centuries. You can find Jamaican moss in food products, hair products, supplements, and more. It is easy to see why because they are rich in minerals and vitamins. As a result, Jamaican sea moss has become a must-have ingredient for home remedies among the Caribean.

You can find Irish sea moss along the Atlantic coast of North America and Europe. These soft red algae get seen along most Irish coastlines, Iceland, and the United States and Canada coasts. They survive with minimal sunlight. Therefore, Irish moss can grow on the ocean floor, middle intertidal, and subtidal zones.

Macro closeup of fresh clear Irish moss seaweed in blender.

Irish moss (pictured) and Jamaican sea moss get harvested by hand.


Jamaican Sea Moss vs. Irish Moss: Description

Jamaican sea moss comes in red, purple, and greenish-yellow hues. This sea moss has fronds with long, flat branches extending from them. It typically grows in clumps, and because it uses a holdfast root system, the moss usually grows well in shallow waters such as estuaries.

Jamaican sea moss is more commonly known as purple sea moss and is widely known for its use in the creation of agar. It gets harvested to create all sorts of products, from vitamins, supplements, and superfoods. It is now even being used to create makeup products.

Irish sea moss is a small sea alga that typically has a red or dark appearance and is between 7-8 inches long. It has a firm texture and is green when found closer to the ocean’s surface while getting dark red when it grows on the ocean floor. The moss has individual branches that look similar to a fan and are about half an inch or less wide.

Jamaican Sea Moss vs. Irish Moss: Uses

Sea moss is like the jack of all trades regarding everything you can use for them. Jamaican sea moss, in particular, is a significant source of agar which has thickening and preserving properties, and you may see them in food products such as jelly and soup. It is also a source of protein and vitamins with the following health benefits:

  • Prevent respiratory ailments such as colds, flu, and pneumonia
  • Hydrate the skin and relieve sunburn
  • Relieve congestion and soothe a sore throat
  • It contains vitamin C and boosts the immune system

Irish sea moss, like its cousin, contains thickening and preserving properties in the carrageenan it produces. In addition, research suggests that carrageenan can lower cholesterol levels and inflammation. However, it is important to note that consuming too much Irish sea moss can increase your iodine intake, which has side effects, including vomiting and diarrhea.

Sea moss and ingredients for skin care, including soap, and lotion.

Sea moss (pictured) has immune-boosting properties and hydrates the skin.

©iStock.com/Алексей Филатов

Jamaican Sea Moss vs. Irish Moss: How to Grow

Growing or propagating Jamaican sea moss and Irish sea moss grow with a holdfast. These plants absorb nutrients throughout their entire body and attach themselves to rocks in conditions that are preferable for their growth. Consider the following tips on harvesting sea moss.

Jamaican sea moss:

  • The moss will grow best in water with temperatures between 75-85 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Jamaican sea moss will adapt to many water conditions so long as the salinity of the water is correct
  • Harvest by hand
  • Harvest the alga in estuaries, tidal pools, and along coastlines

Irish sea moss:

  • Irish sea moss grows best in 68 degrees Fahrenheit water temperature
  • These plants are usually found in rock pools and on rocks
  • Irish sea moss is sensitive to light and will appear paler in the sunlight
  • Harvest by hand

To harvest these two sea moss, you should take a seaweed harvesting class before going out and doing so yourself. There are more than 12,000 species of moss, and it is easy to confuse them.

Final Thoughts

Jamaican sea moss and Irish sea moss are intriguing plants. Although they are cousins that belong to the same family and are often mistaken for one another, they are distinct and unique. From making medicinal substances to being the missing ingredient in a great pot of food, these plants’ use is seemingly endless.

Not to mention the aesthetic appeal each plant holds! Whether you want to add boldness and elegance to your garden or hope to use these plants to create new recipes, the possibilities are endless.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © iStock.com/Voren1

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About the Author

Larissa Smith is a writer for A-Z Animals with years of experience in plant care and wildlife. After years spent in the South African bush while studying Nature Conservation, she found her way to writing about animals and plants in her work. She hopes to inspire others to appreciate and care for the precious world around them. Larissa lives in Florida with her two sons, a miniature golden retriever named Pupples, and a colorful succulent garden. In her spare time, she is tending to her garden, adventuring with her kids, and hosting “Real Housewives” watch parties with her friends.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

What is Jamaican sea moss good for?

Jamaican sea moss can help lower cholesterol and prevent respiratory ailments like pneumonia and flu.

Can you take sea moss every day?

Taking sea moss daily is not recommended because of the high iodine content. In addition, it can cause diarrhea, vomiting, and nausea.

Who shouldn't take sea moss?

People with thyroid problems should avoid consuming sea moss because of its high iodine content.

Does sea moss detox the body?

Sea moss can help boost the immune system and detox the body from waste.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.

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  2. Eat Algae, Available here: https://eatalgae.org/jamaican-sea-moss/#:~:text=Jamaican%20Sea%20Moss%20is%20a%20species%20of%20red,include%20selenium%2C%20calcium%2C%20potassium%2C%20magnesium%20and%20many%20more.
  3. National Library of Medicine, Available here: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12810413/
  4. National Library of Medicine, Available here: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32809605/
  5. Wikipedia, Available here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moss