Green Lipped Mussel

Green Lipped Mussel: tasty, traditional “kai” since time immemorial

Green Lipped Mussels (scientific name: Perna canaliculus) have been on the menu for coastal dwelling Maori for centuries. Archaeological digs show evidence  of this in the form of shells buried in middens (rubbish heaps) that were created by the earliest New Zealanders.

Ancient Maori cooked these tasty shellfish in umus (earth ovens) or with hot stones, dried them to preserve them, or simply ate them raw. So for hundreds of years, Green Lipped Mussels were nothing more than a nutritious, protein-rich delicacy.

Then, in the early 1970s, NASA scientists started taking an interest

In 1973, scientists from NASA were scouring the world, searching for natural ingredients that might help in the battle against cancer.  They didn’t find any kind of anti-cancer properties when they studied the Green Lipped Mussel, but they did find something interesting.

Raw Green Lipped Mussels appeared to have impressive anti-inflammatory properties – far stronger than those of other shellfish (and even other mussels).  Over the next 40 years, further studies identified many of the nutrients that were responsible for this anti-inflammatory effect, and confirmed their benefits for joint health.

What’s in Green Lipped Mussels, and why do they work?

The joint-supporting nutrients in raw Green Lipped Mussels include:

  • Anti-inflammatory compounds like minerals, complex sugars and polyunsaturated fatty acids
  • Pain-relieving polyunsaturated fatty acids
  • Lipids (fats) that assist in protecting the stomach lining
  • Glycosaminoglycans (GAGs), which are complex sugar-amino acid compounds that help to lubricate joints and maintain healthy joint cartilage

Protein compounds that seem to inhibit some of the enzymes that cause joint cartilage to break down.

Where do the mussels come from?

Green Lipped Mussels grow wild all over New Zealand, but need to be farmed if they are to be used commercially without harming the environment.

Farmed mussels grow on hanging ropes in shallow coastal waters, which partially mimics the mussels’ natural environment.  New Zealand mussel farms use no feeds, fertilisers, herbicides or pesticides at any point.

Some of the best mussel farms are in the Coromandel, Hauraki Gulf and Marlborough regions. Farms in these regions are independently monitored and strictly controlled to ensure they meet international water purity standards.  The mussels themselves are also monitored and tested for heavy metals and other contaminants.

Why the harvesting and processing methods matter

If you want to use Green Lipped Mussels therapeutically, you need to know more than just where they were sourced. You also need to check how they were harvested and processed.

Many of the nutrients in Green Lipped Mussels are only present when the mussels are raw.  As soon as you cook mussel flesh, its consistency changes; and the all-important lipids, fatty acids and GAGs break down.

This means that Green Lipped Mussel extract manufacturers must use a cold extraction process to create a therapeutic extract.  Cold extraction – where the raw meat is mechanically removed from the shell, and then dried in tightly controlled conditions – is a complex and expensive process.  So if a manufacturer uses cold extraction rather than simply cooking and grinding the mussel flesh, they’ll probably tell you about it.

How to use Green Lipped Mussel extract

Directions for Green Lipped Mussel products vary, so always read the label to ensure you’re taking the right amount.   You’ll probably need to take at least 1000-1500mg of an extract for a minimum of 4-8 weeks (although some people do get quicker results).

Green Lipped Mussel Cautions

A couple of words of warning.

  • First, Green Lipped Mussel is a shellfish. So of course, if you’re allergic to seafood, it’s not going to be a good option for you.

Second, some people find their joint pain gets slightly worse when they first start taking Green Lipped Mussel.  Scientists aren’t sure what causes this, but the people who experience it are often the ones who go on to get the most benefit.

Of course, if you’re concerned about a reaction, stop taking the product and speak to your healthcare professional.

So there you have it: traditional food to researched remedy… if you have any questions, please let us know in the comments.

By Ingrid Pilz, ND, Dip Med Herb

Vitaco Naturopath

Nutra-Life Seatone provides 500mg of Biolane Active Green Lipped Mussel Extract per capsule. It is available for secure order from our online shop.

We'd Love Your Feedback

What are your experiences with Green Lipped Mussels?