Ecklonia cava extract supplement benefit and side effects - Is the marketing ahead of the research? How much do we know about the benefits and risks of taking this dietary supplement?
June 22 2015 by
Ray Sahelian, M.D.

Ecklonia cava, an edible marine brown alga, has demonstrated in lab studies to have radical scavenging, bactericidal, tyrosinase inhibitory, anti-inflammatory and protease inhibitory activities. Aggressive promotion of this brown alga began in 2009 with some companies selling an extract of ecklonia cava with these promises:

Ecklonia cava extract is a standardized organic complex of unique aquatic molecules that come from a specific species of brown algae.
This new exotic plant extract provides powerful support for your heart and your cholesterol.
It helps boost alpha waves, which are associated with mental focus and acuity.
Soothes your stiff joint
Sends your energy soaring.
Ecklonia cava extract increases your blood flow and circulation. Why? Because it’s free radical scavenging ability is up to 100 times greater than any land-based antioxidant.

My comments: I think it is premature to make these statements in a conclusive manner since, as far as i know, as of 2014, there are very few human studies with this brown alga extract. By this I mean that I can only find one published trial where a group of human subjects have been given such supplements as a treatment for a medical condition or to find out about its benefits.

Blood sugar
Prev Nutr Food Sci. 2013. Alleviating Effects of Baechu Kimchi Added Ecklonia cava on Postprandial Hyperglycemia in Diabetic Mice.

Dieckol, isolated from the edible brown algae Ecklonia cava, induces apoptosis of ovarian cancer cells and inhibits tumor xenograft growth. J Cancer Res Clin Oncol. 2015

Cholesterol reduction
J Med Food. 2012. Effects of Ecklonia cava polyphenol in individuals with hypercholesterolemia: a pilot study. Division of Cardiology, Department of Internal Medicine, The Catholic University of Korea, Uijeongbu St. Mary's Hospital, Uijeongbu, Republic of Korea. We evaluated the efficacy and safety of Ecklonia cava polyphenol (Seapolynol, a polyphenol antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent purified from E. cava) during a 12-week treatment period (400 mg orally once daily) in individuals with high cholesterol levels.Although our results showed that Seapolynol treatment is effective and safe without significant adverse events or abnormal laboratory findings during a 12-week period in individuals with hypercholesterolemia, more research in a larger population with a longer-term follow-up period in a randomized placebo-controlled study is needed to confirm the results.

Endurance and exercise
Effect of supplementation with Ecklonia cava polyphenol on endurance performance of college students.
Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2010. School of Health and Life Science, Korea National Sport University, Seoul, Korea.
Ecklonia cava polyphenol (ECP) is a potent antioxidant and procirculatory agent that may contribute to improvement of endurance performance during highly intense exercise. This study evaluated the acute effect of an ECP-supplemented drink against a placebo on maximum endurance capacity and related physiological parameters. Twenty men 18-23 yr old volunteered as participants. Each performed 2 randomized trials with a 1-week interval between them. One trial was with ECP and the other with a placebo drink. Participants in this randomized, placebo-controlled, crossover design ingested either a placebo or ECP drink 30 min before each exercise trial. Time to exhaustion, VO(2max), and postexercise blood glucose and lactate levels were evaluated. ECP supplementation increased time to exhaustion (2.39 min) compared with placebo. This result was accompanied by a 6.5% higher mean VO(2max) in the ECP group, although the difference was not statistically significant. The blood glucose level in the ECP group at 3 min after exhaustive exercise was significantly higher than that of the placebo group. The postexercise blood lactate levels in the ECP group showed a decreasing trend compared with placebo, but it was nonsignificant. This study was not able to determine any physiological mechanisms behind the improved endurance performance, but, based on these results, it is speculated that the ECP supplementation may have contributed to enhanced oxidation of glucose and less production of lactate during intense exercise, possibly by its free-radical-scavenging and procirculatory activities. However, careful verification is required to elucidate the correct mechanism.

Hair growth
Clin Exp Dermatol. 2013 December. Ecklonia cava promotes hair growth. Marine Bioprocess Research Center, Pukyong National University, Busan, Korea. Previous studies have reported the protective effects on skin elasticity of the edible marine seaweed Ecklonia cava, which acts through regulation of both antioxidative and anti-inflammatory responses. We evaluated the effect of E. cava and one of its components, dioxinodehydroeckol, on hair-shaft growth in cultured human hair follicles and on hair growth in mice. Treatment resulted in elongation of the hair shaft in cultured human hair follicles, and promoted transition of the hair cycle from the telogen to the anagen phase in the dorsal skin of C57BL/6 mice. Our results suggest that E. cava containing dioxinodehydroeckol promotes hair growth through stimulation of DPCs and ORS cells.
   Note: This is not a human study and no human volunteers took such pills. This is an interesting but quite limited trial and we don't know the effect of taking this seaweed extract as a pill on human hair growth.

Weight loss
Phytother Res. 2012. Effects of 12-week oral supplementation of Ecklonia cava polyphenols on anthropometric and blood lipid parameters in overweight Korean individuals: a double-blind randomized clinical trial. Botamedi Research Center, Bellevue, , WA, USA. The effects of 12-week supplementation with a polyphenol extract from Ecklonia cava (ECP) on anthropometry, serum biochemistry and hematology have been investigated. Ninety-seven overweight male and female adults were enrolled in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial with parallel-group design. Subjects were randomly allocated into three groups designated as PC (placebo), LD (low-dose, 72 mg-ECP/day) and HD (high-dose, 144 mg-ECP/day). Both LD and HD groups showed significant decreases in BMI, body fat ratio, waist circumference, waist/hip ratio, total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, total cholesterol/high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol and atherogenic index (AI) after 12 weeks, as compared with the placebo group.

Side effects of ecklonia cava
I have not seen any such information reported in the medical journals because limited human studies. I have personally not taken an ecklonia cava supplement.

Q. Ecklonia cava: Can you please let me know what are the positives and negatives of this supplement? And what would be the normal dosage?

Q. I've seen ecklonia cava extract touted as twice the free radical fighting power of green tea and a good blood pressure solution. Unique 'sea extract' can improve your cholesterol, keep your mind alert, and comfort your joints. Please comment.
   A. I have not seen enough human studies to know whether this marine algae supplement offers any specific health benefits. There are thousands of beneficial herbs and natural supplements that have been studied more thoroughly.

Q. Dr. Sahelian, You're my hero!!! What do you know about Seanol (Fibroboost in particular)? It says on a website: FibroBoost contains SEANOL-F, a patent-pending powerful extract from brown algae, rich in polyphenol / phlorotannin that have uniquely strong antioxidant properties. Phlorotannins support the cardiovascular system, brain, metabolism and general condition."

Q. I have heard of a supplement called "Seanol" made from ecklonia cava, a seaweed found off the coast of Korea and Japan. It is supposed to have excellent anti-oxidant properties, help to normalize blood pressure, repair joint tissue, &cetera.Have you any knowledge of this remarkable substance? I am interested in buying a sample bottle and seeing how it improves my 66-year old body.

Q. Can you comment on this I came across on a website: "Why should I take Seanol? What are it's benefits? Because Seanol provides you with a multitude of proven benefits for your body and mind. Seanol has a many great benefits, including the following....*Antioxidants: With the earth's most powerful Antioxidants you Improve short-term Memory and overall memory function. Increase Mental Focus & Acuity by boosting alpha waves and inhibiting the formation of beta- amyloid brain plaque. Lower your Cholesterol levels. LDL by as much as 29 pts. and Triglycerides by as much as 18 pts. in as little as 8 weeks. Improve the Blood Flow & Circulation to your Brain and Hear to Lower your Blood Pressure. Reduce Vasculitis based Neuropathy. Lower the risk of Stroke and Cardiovascular events such as Hypertension or Vascular Disease. Seanol is also beneficial in helping with....* Joint stiffness, aches, pains and discomforts (compare to COX-2 inhibitors for Analgesia).* Osteoarthritis sufferers, Seanol and has shown Anti-Inflammatory and Cartilage Protection benefits.*Fibromyalgia sufferers, because of the multi-symptom management Seanol provides for the reduction of pain, help with sleep and fatigue."
   A. As of December, 2013, I have seen few human studies with Seanol, Firbroboost, or other similar products, an none that are long term. At this point the use of this supplement is still in the experimental phase. Many more studies are needed with this botanical herbal supplement to know its full benefits and shortcomings.

Could you check out research done the last few years on this herbal subject by Dr Haengwoo Lee M.D. Korean Biochemist? Also, I came across this email that was sent to me by a doctor who writes a newsletter, his name is Robert J Rowan, M.D. of Second Opinion. He says, "The super-antioxidant found under the sea. This astonishing healing discovery is up to 100 times more potent than blueberries, pomegranates, and even green tea catechins. If you want to improve your cholesterol, boost circulation, enhance memory and mental sharpness, and even sleep better, I have great news for you! Scientists have discovered a powerful healing nutrient under the sea. This little-known antioxidant is an extract of compounds found in red and brown sea algae called Ecklonia which grows in the ocean at a depth of 100 feet. Researchers have named this brown seaweed extract Seanol. And my friends at Advanced Bionutritionals have found a way to offer this powerful extract in a new formula called Alginol. And the best news is that they can offer Alginol to you at an incredible new price that saves you over 50% from the old retail price. I saw the research from Dr. Haengwoo Lee, a Korean biochemist now living near Seattle, Washington, and my jaw nearly dropped to the floor. Dr. Haengwoo Lee has made a startling discovery that few people, even many alternative health doctors, know about. He and his team have found an antioxidant that's up to 100 times stronger than the familiar antioxidants vitamins C and E, antioxidant-rich fruits like blueberries, pomegranates and even green tea catechins."
    In my opinion it is too soon to make such claims.

Can you tell me whether Alginol contains any Iodine. I would like to try it but am allergic to Iodine.
   Since this is not a product I have formulated, it would be best to ask Advanced Bionutritionals directly since they would know.

Q. I checked your web site to see what you had to say about Ecklonia Cava for cardiovascular and anti-inflammatory effects. Your response to most of the questions is "I am unaware of human studies done at this time." Please check out springboard4health dot com where they site human studies throughout their discussion of this herb. It looks promising. When a study says that such and such a compound from ecklonia cava has a certain effect on human breast cancer cells, you do not see this as a human study. Is this correct? You'll only say that ecklonia has been tested on humans when it is taken systemically for a certain medical condition and has successfully passed through FDA trials?
   A. What a particular substance, herb, molecule, supplement, medication, etc., does in a Petri dish in a lab does not necessarily reflect what it would do when taken as a supplement. For instance, an herb in a Petri dish may kill breast cancer cells and thus appear to be a good supplement to take, but, it could also kill brain cells or cells in the eye, and thus be a toxic substance. I prefer relying on actual human oral studies rather than the results of in vitro lab studies.

I was surprised to read your article in which you said there were few human studies which have been done on this product as of 2013. I did a google advanced search for: human studies "ecklavia cava" and came up with over 32 thousand hits.
   Google hits are not the same as actual studies since using the word human or studies leads the search engine to find pages that have these words that have nothing to do with the actual algae.

I received this promotional material, can you comment on it? "Mazu Gold Handcrafted Nutrition. The highlight of Mazu Gold is Absorbanol, an exclusive, proprietary process and custom blend of organic minerals and nutrients from the depth of the ocean to the core of the earth. Infused with Absorbanol - the potent effects of the main active ingredients, Ecklonia Cava Sea Kelp, Humic Nutrients and organic hand filleted Aloe Vera, are maximized to their fullest potential. By combining ancient wisdom with modern day science Mazu Gold™ represents not only the most unique health product, but one with which a whole new category of natural health and wellness is created."
   I have not seen any research on this product.

We are a company in the midst of evaluating few anti-oxidant ingredients for anti-aging products. We had came across two ingredients which are Ecklonia cava and Rhodophyta.I have been reading your article on “Ecklonia cava extract supplement benefit and side effects - Is the marketing ahead of the research? How much do we know about the benefits and risks of taking this dietary supplement? and I’m very interested to know more about Ecklonia cava (and also Rodophyta) especially on the clinical trials data. I have been searching for the published clinical and pre-clinical data and wondering if you have found any of them. It would be great if you willing to share the data with me and share your inputs whether these ingredients are safe and efficacious to develop into finished product.
   A. I have not seen, as of January 2015, enough studies to have a good understanding of all the benefits or risks these two herbs provide.