The Kelp Highway: From Past to Present

A THM Feature Article

It has long been known that kelp sea forests helped sustain human life for thousands of years. Ancient humans settled along seacoasts all over the world where the kelp water forests were home to sea otters, seals and hundreds of species of fish, sea urchins and abalone.


Now it is believed that the nutrition-packed kelp (seaweed) and the aquatic life it supported provided a ‘kelp highway’ followed by the early humans that were thought to have migrated into North America about 16,000 years ago. Even before that, people may have island-hopped along kelp forests on their way to Australia 50,000 or 60,000 years ago.

In research presented at the annual American Association for the Advancement of Science by anthropologist Jon Erlandson of the University of Oregon, he proposed that early humans from Asia entered the Americas following an ocean highway of kelp, one of the world’s richest ecosystems.

Continue reading to learn about the endless nutrients in this powerhouse food…

This unique highway stretches from Japan, up along Siberia, across the Bering Strait to Alaska and down along the California coastline. Erlandson’s finding lends strength to the long held coastal migration theory.

It is known that seafaring peoples lived in the Ryukyu Islands near Japan about 35,000 to 15,000 years ago. Scientists have discovered settlements 11,500 to 9,000 years old containing kelp resources along the coasts of some of the Pacific islands. The remains of kelp were also discovered in a settlement in Daisy Cave in the Channel Islands off southern California. This ancient settlement dates back 9,800 years (Bjorn Carey,

According to Wikipedia, kelp forests are recognized as one of the most productive and dynamic ecosystems on earth. “Physically formed by brown microalgae of the order Laminariales, kelp forests provide a unique three-dimensional habitat for marine organisms and are a source for understanding many ecological processes,” Wikipedia states.

Over the last century those seaweed forests have been the focus of extensive research about the influence they have on such things as oceanographic conditions and storm patterns.

So now we know that kelp forests are a vital, living ecosystem for sea creatures and that that the dynamics of the ocean forests also affect the weather of the world. But what is it about weeds that grow in the sea that make them so valuable for human health?

According to Dr. Gillian McKeith, author of Living Food for Health, sea vegetables contain key minerals and micronutrients not found anywhere else in plant form. Kelp is rich in more than 70 minerals and also contains enzymes, vitamins, trace elements and more than 21 amino acids. That’s why kelp is an important ingredient in high quality multivitamins.

One of kelp’s key minerals is iodine, which is essential for glandular health. For example, your thyroid gland is responsible for regulating metabolism, and when it is deficient in iodine the thyroid cannot function efficiently, is forced to work too hard and will become enlarged, often resulting in the condition of goiter syndrome. In addition, a sluggish metabolism is a prime factor in weight gain. This was confirmed recently by the World Health Organization (WHO), which stated that iodine deficiency is instrumental in the worldwide obesity epidemic and other modern “lifestyle diseases.”

Iodine, of course, is also a natural antibiotic which wards off harmful bacteria and helps heal infections. Remember the days when mom used to put iodine on a scraped knee or elbow?

Another key mineral in kelp is alkali. Our bodies must maintain a proper alkaline/acid pH balance in order to function properly. When our bodies become acidic (which is the condition of those eating a typical Western diet), we are much more susceptible to illness. Alkali is what brings our bodies back into balance when they get too acidic.

Here are other ways kelp has a positive effect on the human body:

  • Kelp is rich in calcium, which strengthens the teeth and bones.
  • Kelp’s calcium and vitamin C also aid in gum health.
  • Overflowing with B vitamins, C and other antioxidants, as well as a huge array of minerals and amino acids, kelp protects against infections, allergies and ‘roaming’ free radicals.
  • Among the vitamins, minerals and trace minerals contained in kelp are two substances important for brain function. You may never have heard of them, but they are Asparagine, which energizes the brain, and boron which improves mental clarity while assisting to unclog arteries.
  • And kelp helps protect against cancer. Iodine and amino acids combine to reduce breast and uterine fibroids and prevent cysts from forming, while powerful antioxidants help inhibit abnormal cell growth.
  • Sea vegetables help preserve eyesight. They are the leading source of natural carotenes (vitamin A) and bioflavonoids, antioxidants that help prevent ‘dry eye’ syndrome and clear cellular debris that accumulate in the eyes.
  • Kelp promotes liver health with minerals, amino acids and enzymes which protect against fatty liver build-up, toxin accumulation and related ailments.
  • Polysaccharides (a form of soluble fiber) in kelp aid in digestion and waste function.
  • The high content of magnesium in kelp may help reduce high blood pressure and reduce the possibility of strokes.
  • Essential fatty acids (EFAs), plant fibers and algin in kelp help in weight maintenance or loss. Researchers have found that a fibrous material called alginate in sea kelp was better at preventing fat absorption than most over-the-counter slimming treatments.

Alginate from kelp is also used for many commercial purposes, such as a thickener in such products as ice cream, jelly, salad dressings and toothpaste.

Many people refer to kelp as a “miracle food,” or “superfood,” but it cannot give you optimal health all by itself. It is just one of many nutritional wonders provided by nature. It’s up to us to make the decision to choose the nutrients and lifestyle that make it easiest for our bodies to work in our best interests.

Remember to always look for kelp in your daily multivitamins, available at high quality health food stores and supplement companies. Avoid California kelp because it has been found to be endangered by excessive pollution.


Other sources for this article include, and Alison Briggs of

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