Considered by many to be the bane of a fisherman's or a boater's existence, seaweed comes in more than 1,000 species, 75 or more of which can be found locally. "In the summer we'd see 75 or more varieties of seaweed washed up on the beach here," Brookings, Ore., resident Dan Sawyer explained. "Because it is winter and the dormant season, we see only one andndash; the bull kelp andndash; but it's all out there just waiting for the season to start."
Sawyer, a self-proclaimed survivalist and local seaweed expert, harvests a number of varieties, including bladder wrack, kombu, wakame and nori.
"I've been eating seaweed since I was a child," he explained, "but it wasn't until about nine months - maybe closer to a year - that I started taking it daily.
Sawyer collects the seaweed from local beaches, takes it home and dries it. Once dried, he grinds it, and encapsulates it, making it easier to ingest.
"It's really easy to harvest and best of all, it's free," he joyfully exclaimed.
The health benefits from eating seaweed and taking kelp or seaweed supplements range from clearer thinking, to joint pain reduction, to bowel regularity, and Sawyer has experienced all of them.
"I've been working on my house and being 60, all the physical labor has trashed my body," he said. "It used to be that I could hardly get in my car.
"Since I've been taking seaweed, I've not had those problems."
While harvesting seaweed can be very easy, Sawyer advises would-be seaweeders to exercise care when collecting their seaweed.
"You can't just pull it in bunches off the rocks," he explained. "I like to leave a frond attached to the holdfast so that the plant can continue to grow and keep providing.
"If you don't harvest it properly, it's like slitting your own throat."
Millions of Japanese and Koreans have been eating seaweed as a regular part of their diet for generations, but most Americans have foregone the benefits of regular seaweed consumption, Sawyer said.
"It's a free resource and it's easy with just a little effort," he said. "The reward is 100-fold. People just don't do it because it is too easy."
Sawyer regularly takes what he calls "seaweed walks" and is willing to walk with others and teach them harvesting techniques and how to identify the seaweed. Anyone interested in learning should call him at 541-469-4874.
According to Valerie Gennari Cooksley, author of "Seaweed: Nature's Secret to Balancing Your Metabolism, Fighting Disease, and Revitalizing Body and Soul," seaweed is known to heal wounds andndash; both internally and externally andndash; reduce blood pressure, reduce the chance of stroke and combat degenerative diseases.
She also claims that it can help in weight loss and prevent buildup that leads to clogged arteries.
Her book and others about seaweed can be purchased online and at local bookstores.