Spotting something fake becomes really quite easy once you know how. Here I’ll walk you through how to spot fake Sea Moss with four simple tips which will help you with identifying where to buy real Sea Moss.
- Where did the Fake Sea Moss Story get it’s Momentum?
- How Much Sea Moss is Grown in Pools?
- Where does Most of the Sea Moss Come From?
- How do I Identify Fake Sea Moss?
- How Common is Fake Sea Moss?
- Where does the Confusion Come From?
- Why is most Sea Moss Golden or White?
The main things I look for on the surface is the presence of large grains of processed salt, a lack of imperfections that occur naturally, and signs of chemical interference.
I’ve been around the seaweed space for quite some time now, and often visit seaweed farms and engage with people in the industry.
With a trained eye it is easier to spot these things quickly. So I’m going to share with you what I have learned over the years. But before that, we need to look at some popular beliefs around our favourite seaweed and it being fake, or pool grown.
Where did the Fake Sea Moss Story get it’s Momentum?
As you read this, please keep in mind that this article is by no means intended to be derogatory in any sense. This is simply about considering information and doing your own research.
I would rather equip and empower you in sharing how I evaluate things rather than tell you that one Supplier is selling something counterfeit as a ‘true Sea Moss brand’, while another is selling the real deal.
So, going back to 2011, a figure that many of us trust and love took the stage and addressed an audience in the Bahamas which was waiting with bated breath .
He spoke of the challenges of fake Sea Moss, and how to spot fake Sea Moss. This was quite some time ago, and I want you to keep in mind that the world of marine biology doesn’t sleep.
For years now I have been immersed in the world of seaweed, and seaweed cultivation. Here, I’ll break down some of the things I know that you need to look for so you know you’re getting real thing.
One of the first points to consider is knowing what real Sea Moss is. To provide a valid example of concern, there is a lot of conjecture and mislabeling of products in the market.
What is sold as Chondrus Crispus on some packages is actually closer to Gracilaria or Kappaphycus Alvarezii. The seaweed that is well known and has it’s metaphorical roots in the Caribbean is not Chondrus Crispus. [2, 3, 4]
Note: the below is a snapshot of a handful of listings that are using the incorrect botanical name. Identifying features on these listing have been blurred out to protect the identity of the Sellers.
Dr. Sebi spoke about Sea Moss at length, and in the video below, he refers to it in the opening of the presentation as being scientifically known as Chondrus Crispus.
Pay particular attention to what you see at about 4:09 in on the video, and make your own judgement call.
In a previous article where we looked at what this amazing seaweed is good for, I wrote about the differences between these seaweeds, which is also worth researching for yourself.
A word of advice though, as great as a resource as Wikipedia is in the eyes of many, anyone without appropriate credentials can create an entry or edit an entry.
I prefer to look to the university studies and marine biology websites as resources for a true reference point.
How Much Sea Moss is Grown in Pools?
There is some truth about the quality of pool grown Sea Moss. When it is grown in pools it is not able to get the benefits of the natural ebb and flow of the Ocean.
Typically this is not grown as a primary crop source. It is more often used in fish farms as a way to help clean the water which is pumped from one pool to the next. This seaweed is not normally sold for human consumption. It is normally used as feed for the fish within the farm, and sometimes it is sold to feed livestock. 
This means that the exposure to naturally occurring minerals from the Ocean is more or less eliminated. The seaweed is restricted to whatever happens to be added to the tank or pool. These tend to be manufactured fertilizers in some cases, and often a lot of antibiotics.
Something to keep in mind is that this practice is not exclusively applied to what you know as Sea Moss. It is important to be aware of this in knowing how to spot fake Sea Moss, as it is an influential factor.
In some cases the type of seaweed being grown requires a mineral dense substrate to be added to the bottom of the pool.
Constraints to Pool Grown Sea Moss for Commercial Purposes
You may have read about seaweed farms replicating the motion of the Ocean with machinery. Sebi spoke of them being able to grow crops of Sea Moss faster in tanks in Boston than in the Ocean.
Growing Sea Moss this way is possible to do, and in a sense it is roughly applied in some areas. But when compared to traditional open Ocean seaweed farming it is a comparatively unsustainable and often prohibitively expensive process.
The cost of running a system like is typically not profitable when compared to what Mother Nature can do. The practice of pool growing of sea moss that is intended for human consumption is not as widely applied as many of us would be led to believe. Most is for animal consumption.
It is also worth keeping in mind that increasing challenges related to land area, quality, and suitability are seeing this practice lose considerable ground when compared to sustainable open Ocean farming practices.
At the end of the day, the people in the seaweed industry are subject to the same principles of business as the rest of us. Operations at scale are more efficient when conducted in the open Ocean with Mother Nature working her magic.
Low or no profit means the flow of dollars (or pesos, rupiah, dong, or yen, whatever the currency may be) is acutely felt by the business, and the doors soon close when cashflow stops.
Where does Most of the Sea Moss Come From?
The vast majority of Sea Moss commercially available on the market nowadays is grown in the open Ocean. You can see this in some areas if you use Google Earth. Seaweed farms are quite easy to spot.
Seaweed farming techniques in the past 20 years have improved dramatically.
The application of more advanced engineering has allowed for the development of floating farms that are equipped with features that allow for the reduction in crop loss, while still getting the full benefit of being Ocean harvested. 
Imagine huge pontoons floating out in deep ocean waters where seaweed is able to grow on substrates while marine life in the waters benefit from it too. If you ever get the chance to see these first hand, take my word for it, they are a mind blowing innovation!
Technological developments like this have resulted in a natural attrition in the percentage of tank or pool grown seaweed But it is still out there, which is why it’s important to know how to spot fake sea moss.
How do I Identify Fake Sea Moss?
Here are some easy ways to spot fake sea moss that we’ve used over the years. These are based on what we have learned from visiting and working with Seaweed Farmers in many countries.
Tip 1 – The Perfect Look
Does your Sea Moss have that picture perfect look? Meaning, is it all roughly the same size and thickness?
All seaweeds grow in distinct ways. You’ll know pool grown compared to Ocean harvested based on the look.
It’s a bit like being able to tell the difference between home grown or organic vegetables and the commercially grown vegetables you buy at the store.
Real Sea Moss that is grown in the open Ocean will be thicker in some parts than others. It will also have some variations on the length and density of the thallus.
These variations can come about as a result of many different things. Keep in mind that this seaweed is not just a food source for you. It’s primarily, and originally a food source for marine life.
You may see little nobbly bits on your Sea Moss from time to time, particularly at the ends. This is a sign that crustaceans, fish, and possibly even sea turtles have been nibbling the tender young shoots while it has been growing.
Tip 2 – The Salt Grains
There will be surface salt that naturally occurs, but it’s the size of the salt grains, their formation and appearance, along with the taste that really gives this away.
To say that real Sea Moss has no salt on it is either a indication that it has been grown in fresh water, or washed to the point that all salt water that was trapped inside it has leached out.
Here’s a question for you to ponder; if there is no salt on it (at all), keeping in mind that salt is a crystalline mineral, what other minerals have been eliminated if the resulting ‘salt free’ look of your seaweed? Have they been washed out, or is what you’ve got really from fresh or brackish waters? If it is not from the open ocean, is it then still real?
This might sound a bit like a lightbulb moment for some of you, while others will choose to hold on to their received opinions. As seaweed grows in the open Ocean, it soaks up some of the salt water it grows in. And as a result, when it dries the salt leaches out. This shows up on the surface as salt crystals.
Consider this; is your Sea Moss lightly dusted with salt that is as fine as icing sugar and not all the same shape and colour? Naturally formed salt will often look like there are shards, plates (or flakes), and fine dust.
If it is packaged with grains of salt that look more like rock salt, or table salt, chances are it’s fake.
There’s also a very distinct difference in the taste of natural sea salt and processed table (iodized) salt. Try them and see for yourself.
Tip 3 – Other Seaweed with it
Real Sea Moss that is grown in the open Ocean will occasionally have a stray piece of another type of seaweed with it. Our Quality Control Team work very hard to make sure that this is kept to the lowest possible level. Often we get the vast majority of these, but occasionally very small pieces are missed.
After harvesting, any other seaweed that has been caught up in the Sea Moss crop are picked out. Sometimes a few little whispy bits can still be found, but this is rare.
In pools and tanks there are often no other species of seaweed, just the targeted type the Farmer is seeking to grow. Pools also lack sand and the occasional, what we call ‘sea dirt’, which can also be found on some parts of Sea Moss.
Think of sea dirt as the very light silt that can be kicked up in the Ocean during rough waves, storms or surface activity. This can settle on the seaweed. During the growing stages, the Seaweed Farmers tend to the crops in shallow Ocean waters by washing as much of this off as they can.
A heavy build up of this sea dirt sediment can cause the seaweed to suffer. Think of it this way, it blocks the sun and inhibits photosynthesis, which can be thought of as like a type of suffocation.
This can then lead to other complications and the introduction of disease to the crop.
Example: Ice Ice
Again, after harvesting, our Team diligently check for seaweed that has too much sand or sea dirt on it. This is set aside and used to give back to the environment. More about that later.
Other than these tips, most Consumers won’t be able really spot fake Sea Moss from the real thing. Not unless they have the seaweed assessed in a laboratory for things like vitamins, minerals and other things.
That’s not even taking into account knowing the species you are working with when considering how to spot fake Sea Moss.
Tip 4 – Differences in Colour or Tone
Authentic open Ocean grown Sea Moss is likely to have some colour variations, or slight differences in tones. Knowing how to spot fake Sea Moss is really easy with this tip.
If you’ve got a batch that is all the same colour, it may be fake, or worse still, bleached. Sea Moss naturally comes in a few different colours.
This is a result of where it is grown, and some slight species variations in the seaweed family. This means that for it to be golden white it has required some processing.
This processing is typically a simple application of exposure to sunlight. Depending on the colour of the seaweed, it can often have some tonal variations even after the sun drying stage.
How is the Sea Moss Colour Changed?
It’s a simple process to take Sea Moss from being olive green, purple, brown, red, yellow or a warm orange to the golden white colour you’re more familiar with.
This requires no chemicals when done properly, just controlled exposure to the direct sunlight to sweat out the colour.
Where bleaching has been applied there’s a consistent white look to the Sea Moss. No little darker patches or spots, no pieces that are more fawn than golden white. It looks very processed.
These colour variations after sun drying come from the Sea Moss growing in natural conditions where it is exposed to slight variations in light, temperature and water movements. The retention of these tones are a result of natural sun bleaching, and not the use of chemicals to strip the colour out.
Tank farmed seaweeds will typically not have these variables as they are grown in an extremely controlled conditions. There’s no room for Mother Nature to create such noticeable differences.
How Common is Fake Sea Moss?
As touched upon before, fake Sea Moss isn’t as common as you might be led to believe. Globally, the rise of seaweed farming in the Ocean is on the increase.
Pool grown Sea Moss, in the laboratory, like conditions that Sebi cautioned us about is simply not able to compete with the awesome power and efficiency of Mother Nature and the Ocean.
What is more common is the lower grade quality of seaweed that is intended for animal consumption or industrial application being sold as food grade for human consumption by unscrupulous Sellers out to make a quick buck.
This is the present threat that if faced today in by companies sourcing high quality Sea Moss.
Another thing to consider is that there are lower grades of Sea Moss is grown in the Ocean, but not the quality of waters that you would be happy to have your Sea Moss grown in.
Often, it is in areas that are close to commercial ports and harbors, or waters that are polluted by various types of run off including domestic waste water, agricultural, commercial, and industrial, or in the line of currents from Ocean dead zones. 
Knowing more about the conditions of the waters, and the currents is vital so that you know you are getting a clean, and mineral dense supply of Sea Moss. 
There is almost heated debate about the merits of various types of Sea Moss, with a strong cohort beating the drum for wildcrafted Sea Moss; but at what cost?
Where does the Confusion Come From?
With people moving around the planet for generations there have been multiple cases of terminologies being transported with them. Languages have constantly been in a state of flux, and we tend to have slightly different names for the same thing from one culture or language to the next.
For example, cilantro is the same thing as coriander, garbanzo beans are the same thing as chick peas, and amaranth is the same thing as callaloo.
As mentioned in the opening, the name Sea Moss has been applied to different types of seaweed. Through marketing and advertising we have lost a dimension of the truth in this matter. What is known as Sea Moss is actually a completely different thing to Chondrus Crispus.
With Sea Moss being a generic term, what Dr. Sebi was talking about as a species was not Chondrus Crispus. Did you take a look at the video above?
What were your conclusions when you compared this to what you see in the phycology journals?
Why is most Sea Moss Golden or White?
Due to a range of factors (too many to go into here), Seaweed Farmers and companies involved in the harvesting and processing of Sea Moss opted to treat their crops before putting them on the market.
The golden or whiteish colour of the commercially available seaweed is what people have come to know and expect.
As touched upon earlier, this is able to be achieved in most cases during the drying process without the need for any bleaches or other harmful chemicals. It’s typically a simple process of sweating the colour out with the aid of the sun.
This can be done through a number of methods, but typically the use of plastic sheeting is applied. The seaweed is left to sit in the full heat of the sun while covered by clear plastic, and what takes place is it changes from the original colour to a translucent white.
Sun Bleaching Sea Moss
Take a look at this on our Instagram before it was exposed to the sun and the colour had dropped out.
Once the cover is removed, it then dries further, which locks in any tonal or colour variations.
A solid colour that runs through your Sea Moss isn’t a bad thing. It may have been a consistently sun-bleached plant. If it is very white, like cotton wool or paper, then it’s probably been chemically bleached.
Even though this isn’t necessarily key to knowing how to spot fake Sea Moss, it will help you.
Something else to keep in mind, if you buy Sea Moss Gel, it is much easier for someone to sell you fake Sea Moss Gel because it has much less distinguishable characteristics compared to whole leaf Sea Moss.
- “Bahamians flock to see herbalist ‘Dr Sebi'” – J. Gibson, 26 September 2011 [Bahamas Local] [Archive]
- “Carrageen (Chondrus crispus)” – W. Rayment, P. Pizzola, 22 May 2008 [MarLIN] [Archive]
- “Biology of Gracilaria” – Regional Seafarming Development and Demonstration Project, Zhanjiang Fisheries College, August 1990 [FOA] [Archive]
- “Kappaphycus alvarezii (Doty) Doty ex P.C.Silva, 1996” – M. D. Guiry, 26 June 2016 [WoRMS] [Archive]
- “Seaweed Potential in the Animal Feed: A Review” – T. Morais, A. Inácio, T. Coutinho, M. Ministro, J. Cotas, L. Pereira, K. Bahcevandziev, 30 June 2020 [MDPI] [Archive]
- “The Application of Integrated Multi Trophic Aquaculture (IMTA) Using Stratified Double Net Rounded Cage (SDFNC) for Aquaculture Sustainability” – S. P. Putroa, Widowatib, Suhartanac, F. Muhammad, October 2015 [International Journal of Science and Engineering] [Archive]
- “What is a dead zone?” – National Ocean Service, 8 March 2021 [NOAA] [Archive]
- “Ocean Currents” – National Geographic Society, 20 May 2022 [National Geographic Society] [Archive]
Last Updated on 2 days by D&C Editorial Team