Seaweeds have been known to have pharmacological benefits since ancient times and “Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing (The Divine Farmer's Herb-Root Classic),” believed to be the oldest book on medicinal substances in China, mentions the ability of a seaweed, probably brown alga hondawara, to heal tumor.
Fucoidan, present in brown algae just like hondawara, was discovered in 1913 by Professor Kylin of Uppsala University in Sweden as a source of sliminess of kombu. Initially named “fucoijin,” the substance subsequently became known as “fucoidan” based on the international naming convention on sugars.
Fucoidan is a specific source of sliminess only found in brown algae such as kombu, wakame (mekabu) and mozuku, and a type of water-soluble dietary fiber. Chemically, fucoidan is a high-molecular polysaccharide whose main constituent is sulfated fucose. In addition to fucose, the saccharide chain that constitutes fucoidan also includes galactose, mannose, xylose and uronic acid. The name “fucoidan” does not represent substances of a given structure, but it is a general term that refers to high-molecular polysaccharides whose main constituent is fucose.
Today, active research is conducted on fucoidan and various bioactive functions of fucoidan, such as “anti-cancer action,” “cholesterol-lowering action,” “blood-pressure lowering action” and “anti-virus action,” have been revealed.