What is fucoidan?


Fucoidans occur naturally in the cell walls of brown seaweeds. They function to protect the seaweed from water-borne pathogens and other environmental challenges. Fucoidans are long chain polysaccharides characterised by a complex molecular structure and varying degrees of sulfation and acetylation.

Are all fucoidans the same?

Not all fucoidans are the same. They are a class of natural compound that has been widely researched and shown to exert beneficial bioactivities in a range of human health settings. Research conducted by Marinova has confirmed that the bioactivity of fucoidan extracts is dependent largely upon two key factors:

  • The method of extraction; and
  • The seaweed species from which the fucoidan has been derived.

These two factors are the critical determinants of efficacy. Traditional methods of extraction can compromise the integrity and functionality of the resulting fucoidans. In contrast, the solvent-free Maritech® process yields natural extracts of superior quality with enhanced bioactivity.

What is fucoidan used for?

Studies undertaken by Marinova, and by other independent research groups around the world, have investigated the efficacy of fucoidan extracts in a diverse range of indications and clinical settings. Maritech® organic fucoidan extracts are in high demand as innovative ingredients for inclusion in market-leading healthcare products. They are utilised for a range of applications to support human health, skincare and dermatology, animal health and for advanced research purposes.

Which species of seaweed are used?

Maritech® organic fucoidans are derived from two species of brown seaweed, Undaria pinnatifida and Fucus vesiculosus. Fucoidans derived from both Undaria and Fucus seaweeds have been extensively researched and clinically tested. 

Underwater Undaria pinnatifida

Undaria pinnatifida
Undaria pinnatifida, commonly known as wakame, is a brown seaweed that inhabits the intertidal zone down to depths of approximately 20 metres. It is typically found in sheltered reef areas with conditions such as temperature, available nutrients, light and depth all being important variables in the life cycle of the seaweed. Sporophylls produce up to 100 million spores which then settle and grow into new individuals. Undaria can reach approximately 2m in length in just nine months and growth rates often exceed 1cm per day – making the species a rapidly renewable marine resource.

Undaria is hand-harvested by Marinova’s team of professional divers when the seaweed reaches the peak of its growth cycle, usually during springtime. Each seaweed is then inspected for any foreign objects such as shells and crustaceans, and the Undaria sporophyll (known as mekabu) is separated from the blade (known as wakame). The fresh seaweed is hung on racks and sun-dried to preserve the bioactive compounds, such as fucoidan.

Fucus vesiculosus floating on ocean surface

Fucus vesiculosus
Fucus vesiculosus is a brown seaweed typically found along sheltered coastlines of the Northern Hemisphere. Commonly known as bladderwrack, Fucus vesiculosus plants are known for their branching fronds with prominent midrib and conspicuous bladder-like floats. These almost-spherical air sacs support the plant to float high in the water, ensuring access to ample sunlight for photosynthesis. When conditions are favourable, Fucus can occur in high densities, forming a dense carpet on the shoreline. Blades of Fucus plants can grow over 0.5cm each week, eventually reaching sizes of up to 2m over their five year life span.

Marinova sources wild grown Fucus vesiculosus, carefully hand-harvested from the clean ocean waters of Nova Scotia. All harvesting occurs on an environmentally sustainable basis enabling the robust regrowth of this rapidly renewable marine resource. 

The potential health benefits of Fucus vesiculosus are well reported in scientific literature. Professor Harald Kylin, the Swedish chemist who first isolated and described fucoidan in 1913, focused many of his early studies on Fucus. The very first commercial fucoidan extracts available on the Western market were also derived from this species.