The Turkish Towel  
  FHL Marine Botany  ::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::   Taxonomy | Habitat | Morphology | Life History | Ecology | Carrageenan


Martha loves the gelling properties of carrageenan

used in many of her favorite snacks!

Nothing gives Martha smoother skin than her

exfoliating "Turkish Towel"


Chondracanthus exasperatus is important economically as an exfoliating cloth and as a source of carrageenan, which is often used as a thickener in pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and in the food industry as both a food substitute and a food stabilizer. It is used in many dairy products such as milk and ice cream, and also in many other products that need to maintain a gel-like consistency (Lee, 1980) . Carrageenan was estimated to have generated $100 million dollars in 1991, making it a fairly profitable industry (Lobban and Harrison, 1997). .Chondracanthus exasperatus was an ideal candidate for carrageenan aquaculture due to its large size, abundance and high carrageenan concentrations, compared to some other potential algae sources.

A Wikipedia Search revels that carrageenan is used in:

  • Desserts, ice cream, milk shakes, sweetened condensed milks, sauces — gel to increase viscosity
  • Beer — clarifier to remove haze-causing proteins
  • Pâtés and processed meat — Substitute fat to increase water retention and increase volume
  • Toothpaste — stabilizer to prevent constituents separating
  • Fire fighting foam — thickener to cause foam to become sticky
  • Shampoo and cosmetic creams — thickener
  • Air freshener gels
  • Marbling -- the ancient art of paper and fabric marbling uses a carrageenan mixuture to float paints or inks upon; the paper or fabric is then laid on it, absorbing the colors.
  • Shoe polish — gel to increase viscosity
  • Biotechnology — gel to immobilize cells/enzymes
  • Pharmaceuticals — used as an inactive excipient in pills/tablet


To extract carrageenan, the source algae must first be dried and washed with fresh water. It is then boiled and the carrageenan dissolves into the water, and must be seprated out via centrifuge. The remaining material is then filtered and sent to a proccessor where it is converted to a powder form.


Lee, Richard Edward. Phycology. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1980.

Lobban, Christopher S. and Harrison, Paul J. Seaweed Ecology and Physiology. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1997.