Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute
Marine Botany

Human Use of Egregia menziesii

Besides the beautiful accessorizing potential of the "feather boa," humans have figured out many uses of Egregia menziesii and its products.   

Mvc-018s.closestipe.jpg (20344 bytes) With greater nitrogen and phosphate content than Macrocystis, the Giant Kelp, Egregia makes a valuable fertilizer.  Potassium content of Egregia is 10-13%, and iodine content (.08%) is very low. Extracts from E. menziesii have also been shown to have antibiotic activities.  

The most commonly used product of Egregia, though, is alginic acid .  Alginic acid is a membrane mucilage typically found in brown algae.  It is the base product of many commonly used alginates (salts of alginic acid) and alginic acid derivatives.  As long as the alginic acid content of an algal species is high, and there is sufficient size and density of a crop of it, the product can be quite profitable. Alginic acid makes up about 3% of a fresh E. menziesii plant, and about 18-20% of the plant when dried.  
Alginic acid and its derivatives are used in the textile printing and detergent industries, and in pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, food and ice cream, denture moldings and much much more.  For a more complete listing, refer to Levring, Hoppe, and Schmid*. Alginic acid is actually a family of polysaccharides with varying compositions of guluronic and mannuronic acid. For example:  

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*  Reference for this page:  Levring, Tore, Heinz A. Hoppe, and Otto H. Schmid.  Marine Algae - a Survey of Research and Utilization.  Cram, de Gruyter and Co.   Hamburg, 1969.

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© 1999 Sarah Present. Contact spresent@stanfordalumni.org for any non-educational use.
Last updated: Feb. 05, 2009