There are some members who refuse to use Sleep Essence because of the carrageenan in the formulation. I freely admit that I am not one of those people, and I do choose to use Sleep Essence.

What is carrageenan?

Carrageenan is a food stabilizer extracted from red algae. Red algae and red algae extracts have been used in food preparation since the 1500s. I have used it in my kitchen as well.  Irish Moss is an ingredient in my favorite vegan cheesecake recipes, and Irish Moss is nothing if not a donor of carrageenan that helps to hold soft vegetable ingredients in a solid state in this recipe. It basically takes what would be a pudding, and turns it into cheesecake form. The form of carrageenan in Sleep Essence is extracted from red algae using alkaline materials, and then dried and formulated into gel capsules.

Carrageenan comes in two forms: food grade and degraded. Foods and supplements only contain food grade.

Why is it in Sleep Essence?

When formulating supplements that are very highly concentrated in essential oils inside a gel capsule, you have to use something to strengthen the capsule. Think about the logic you use when prepping capsules of Vitality oils. You don’t make them well in advance because of the risk of the capsules disintegrating.  This is because many of the vegetable cellulose capsules lack any kind of stabilizer.

Carageenan is one option to stabilize; it is not always well liked by members because of some scathing reviews online about it. However, the other option is not ideal for everyone either. Inner Defense was recently reformulated to remove the porcine ingredients, bees wax, and carrageenan. But it still had to have a stabilizer to prevent the gel capsule from disintegrating, so Young Living choose fish gelatin from tilapia. This too prevents some members from using Inner Defense, but without it there would be no Inner Defense that would be stable enough to stay on the shelf.

What are the concerns?

The concerns for the use of carrageenan in foods and supplements stems from the work of Dr. Joanna Tobacman who published ‘Review of harmful gastrointestinal effects of carrageenan in animal experiments’. In this review article, she references several papers that are related to the use of poligeenan (aka degraded carrageenan).  She claims that it is valid to consider poligeenan data in the discussion of carrageenan, as acids in the stomach may break down carrageenan into poligeenan.  However, poligeenan has none of the function of carageenan, and Tobacman has been criticized for her suggestion that a chemically broken down carrageenan to poligeenan is the same as digested carrageenan.

She additionally references data states that it can drive the production of colon tumor in rodents. However, in referenced works, the dose of carrageenan was between 2.5% and 15% of the animal’s total diet. Carrageenan in foods and supplements is strikingly less than that 0.1% to 0.01%. Additional research has suggested that carrageenan might actually be a therapeutic agent for certain types of cancers, as it has the potential to affect cell cycling, apoptosis, and immune function.

Other studies have shown that carrageenan can cause inflammation.  The biggest issue I have with this conclusion is that in these studies, the inflammation was documented following injection of carrageenan either into a muscle, paw, or belly. The good news is that carrageenan’s molecular weight is far to large to cross the gut-blood barrier. There is some data to suggest that carrageenan can cause inflammation in the gut, even in small amounts.  Monitor your reaction to carrageenan to see how this affects you.

Bottom Line

In my opinion, carrageenan is a classic example of one thing: you can find a study to defend any point of view you want. Does it cause cancer? You can find a study that says that about just about anything. Can it cause harm in high doses? So can water when you get right down to it.

I suggest limiting the amount of carrageenan in the diet if you are concerned. More important than that: I want each and everyone one reading this to listen to your body.  As one of my favorite authors Geneen Roth puts it, the first step to healing is to land in your body. Throw the data aside: if you take carrageenan and it upsets your stomach or worsens autoimmunity, that is your truth and you have every right to stand in that truth. When I take carrageenan, I don’t experience changes in my body. That is mine and many other people’s truth.  Both are right, both are valid, and both are acceptable.

If you choose to avoid Sleep Essence, you may want to check out ImmuPro or Life 9 and see if this syncs up better with your needs. Both are excellent products for the evening hours. ImmuPro can help with optimal sleep and support immunity, and Life 9 can support optimal digestion and immunity while you sleep.