Growing primarily on the Pacific Coast from the waters off the shores of California all the way up to the waters off the coast of Alaska and Canada, Kelp is found in tiered forest-like developments. Featuring canopies and several under layers, quite similarly to rainforests, Kelp forests contain two main species Nereocystis leutkeana (bull kelp) and Macrocystis pyrifera (Giant Kelp). Found largely near the southern portions, Macrocystis pyrifera is brown in color, as is Nereocystis leutkeana, which is found primarily in the northern kelp forests.
Growing along rocky coastlines, Kelp forests prefer cool water located in areas where the sun's rays can readily reach them. Warmer water contains greater supplies of dissolved inorganic nitrogen, leading to significantly slower growth for Kelp forests. This is evidenced during the summer months when marine water turns seasonably warmer. Survival for Kelp is linked to how strongly each plant is anchored to the rock on which it is formed. Rather than a root system, Kelp using holdfasts called anchors to keep them in place. Furthermore, Kelp growth and survival is determined in part by salinity, the motion of the waves, and presence of predatory urchins.
Beginning as spores from the parent Kelp, both types grow into mature plants known as sporophytes. Giant Kelp features pneumatocysts, or small gas bladders, that act as floatation devices to keep the upper regions of Kelp floating freely. The smaller of these two brown Kelps, the bull Kelp, has only a single pneumatocyst that it shares with several blades. A perennial type of algae, Giant Kelp can live for as many as seven years, whereas its smaller counterpart, bull Kelp, can only survive a single year as it is an annual algae type.
Not only does Kelp support its own ecosystem, but it has been discovered to be useful for a variety of purposes. Kelp has been used traditionally in cooking either as an ingredient or as a side dish by the Chinese, Korean, and Japanese. Today, it is eaten in other countries as an ingredient found in salads, soups, stews, and more.
Due to its environment, Kelp has a high mineral content that includes calcium, copper, iodine, magnesium, iron, zinc, manganese, chlorine, potassium, and selenium. Since Kelp is rich in iodine, it makes it an excellent choice for individuals looking to balance their metabolism. Iodine is essential in the proper functioning of the thyroid gland, and Kelp can help to produce important thyroid hormones. Also as a rich source of calcium, Kelp can help to maintain healthy bones and teeth. Due to such high levels of these minerals, Kelp is commonly utilized in beauty care formulas for the hair, including conditioners, shampoos and treatments. In particular, both calcium and magnesium promote hair growth as they help to maintain healthy hair follicles.
Kelp is also rich in Omega-3, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, and the B-complex vitamins (thiamine, pantothenic acid, riboflavin, and folate). Due to its supplies of Omega-3, Kelp is noted for supporting the human circulatory system.
Kelp has been used in the process of making soap since the late 1880s when it was discovered that Kelp ash is a useful ingredient for soap making. Not only does Kelp ash offer excellent cleansing capabilities, but it also delivers exfoliating and moisturizing functionality. Therefore, Kelp is commonly found in body washes and salt scrubs as one of the primary ingredients. It also functions as a detoxifying element in cleansing products since it draws toxins produced by the body to itself.
Marine Kelp contains a fibrous material known as alginate. This substance is used to help eliminate fat in the human body due to its fat-absorbing capabilities. Weight-loss supplements have been made using Marine Kelp to help people who are actively trying to manage their weight. Kelp supplements have grown in popularity, along with an increase in the production of tea made from this particular type of algae.
Also containing high levels of amino acids, Brown Kelp delivers the ability to stimulate collagen levels within the human skin, enhancing the skin's natural elasticity. Due to this rejuvenating capability, Brown Kelp gleaned from the sea is often used as an ingredient in modern cleansing formulas, toners, facial masks, and moisturizing creams and lotions.