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Limu is the Hawaiian word for algae. There are approximately one hundred Hawaiian names for kinds of limu, sixty of which can be matched with scientific names. Limu played an important part in the ancient Hawaiian diet. It was used to add flavor to an otherwise particularly bland diet of kalo (taro), 'uala (sweet potato), and 'ulu (breadfruit). Limu, together with sea salt and mashed kukui nuts were the ingredients of 'inamona, a seasoning mixture much enjoyed by early Hawaiians. 'Inamona was used to season many dishes. It was the responsibility of women to gather limu in the tidepools while men would gather those kinds of limu that grew in areas of rough surf in the outer reefs. Limu is still enjoyed by Modern Hawaiians but has become increasingly difficult to find because of over-picking, pollution, and construction in watersheds. Many important kinds of limu grow best in brackish water where fresh water empties into the sea. Another threat to native Limu in Hawaii is the increasing spread of marine alien invasive species. Limu has been used traditionally in Hawaii as a food additive and condiment.
Limu extracts are marketed as health supplements, the health benefits being attributed to the compound fucoidan which is found in them.
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