Oriental medicine has traditionally used Wakame for blood purification, intestinal strength, skin, hair, reproductive organs and menstrual regularity. It was also given to people recovering from disease.
In Korea, the wakame soup (miyeokguk) is popularly consumed by women after giving birth because the seaweed contains high levels of calcium and iodine, nutrients that are important for nursing mothers. Many women consume it during pregnancy as well. It is also traditionally eaten on birthdays as a reminder of the first food that the mother has eaten and passed on to her newborn through her milk, thus bringing good fortune for the rest of the year.
Wakame (Undaria pinnatifida) - a brown seaweed - has grown mostly on rocky shores and bays in the temperate zones of Japan, the Republic of Korea and China initially and has been spread, probably via ship ballast water, to many countries around the world, including New Zealand and Australia. Undaria has been nominated as among 100 of the world's worst invasive species according to the Global Invasive Species Database. Nevertheless, the sea plant is delicious & nutritionally dense and consuming it regularly can have many positive health effects.
Although 'Wakame' has been enjoyed for centuries in Asia, it's not until the 1960s, that it started to be known in the West, and become available (then imported from Japan) from natural food stores and Asian grocery stores. The influence of the macrobiotic movement, and the growing number of Japanese restaurants and sushi bars have done a lot to raise awareness. Miso Soup & a seaweed salad called "Goma wakame", have introduced many to this seaweed variety and have become popular side dishes at Western sushi restaurants.
Wakame fronds have an appealing green colour , a pleasing sweet flavour and satiny texture that lend them to many applications. Although they are most often been served in soups & salads, there is plenty more to their culinary versatility.
New research is raising wakame's profile beyond that of the Asian culinary delights & good nutrition. Bio-active compounds found in Wakame are offering hope for conditions like obesity, diabeties & cancer.