Botanical: Staurocucumis liouvillei
Other common names: Bêche de Mer, Holothurian, Trepang, Gamat, Hai Shen, Sea Ginseng,
For thousands of years, Sea Cucumber has been used to ease inflammatory conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, spondylitis and other musculo-skeletal diseases, as well as fatigue, impotence and urinary problems. Preliminary research promises interesting developments in the area of prostate cancer. And guess what? Sea Cucumber is not a Cucumber at all; it is a marine animal that is rich in protein, vitamins and minerals and yet another gift to our good health from the sea.
The information presented herein by Herbal Extracts Plus is intended for educational purposes only. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent disease. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.
Sea Cucumber is an oblong-shaped, gelatinous, invertebrate marine animal that, as an echinoderm, is distantly related to starfishes and sea urchins. It is aptly named, because it is shaped like a cucumber, and has also been thought to have a distinctly phallic appearance, which may account for its reputation as an aphrodisiac. Like all echinoderms, Sea Cucumbers have an endoskeleton just below the skin, but this can actually be absent in some species. The diet consists of plankton and decaying organic matter found in the sea. One way they might get a supply of food is to position themselves in a current where they can catch foods that flow by with their tentacles when they open. Another way is to sift through the bottom sediments using their tentacles. They can be found in great numbers beneath fish farms. In China, Sea Cucumber is called Hai Shen, which translates roughly into Sea Ginseng, and it is unclear whether this refers to its aphrodisiacal qualities or healthful properties as a nutritious herbal tonic for the kidneys and blood. It has been used in China for thousands of years as a treatment for arthritis, fatigue, impotence, constipation, frequent urination and joint pain, and the herb was listed as a medicinal agent in the Bencao Congxin of 1757. Sea Cucumber is a great delicacy in Chinese and other Asian cuisines, such as Malaysia (Gamat), Singapore, Japan, Korea and Indonesia (Trepang), and often eaten at feasts and on holiday celebrations. Sea Cucumber is also considered a delicacy in certain Mediterranean countries such as Spain. It is also highly valued for its supposed medicinal properties. Cooking it is very complicated and takes place over several days, requiring careful cleaning, gutting, soaking and boiling (several times). The food item is often purchased dried and then rehydrated before use. The product is used in soups, stews and braised dishes due to its gelatinous texture. Like tofu, it is flavorless but will absorb the flavors of its surrounding seasonings and foods and is highly nutritious - an ideal tonic food - providing more protein than most foods and less fat than most foods. It is frequently included in stir-fries. Sea Cucumber is said to have excellent healing properties, and there are pharmaceutical companies being built based on this product. Extracts are prepared and made into oil, cream or cosmetics. Sea Cucumber is rich in mucopolysaccharides (mainly chondroitin sulfate) and provides protein, branched chain fatty acids, saponins (triterpene glycosides, philonopside A, intercedensides), vitamins A, C, B-1 (thiamine), B-2 (riboflavin), B-3 (niacin), calcium, iron, magnesium and zinc.
Sea Cumber is rich in mucopolysaccharides (mainly chondroitin sulfate), which is a cartilage builder and often lacking in people with arthritis and connective tissue disorders; and, consequently, it has been used to ease joint pains and arthritic conditions.
As a means to provide help for inflammatory conditions, modern researchers believe that Sea Cucumbers improve the balance of prostaglandins (hormone-like substances that act as chemical messengers in many bodily functions), which regulate the inflammatory process and are beneficial for musculo-skeletal inflammatory diseases, especially rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis and ankylosing spondylitis (a rheumatic disease that affects the spine).
Sea Cucumber is considered a fine health tonic, especially for the kidneys and has been used to nourish the kidneys and treat cases of frequent urination.
Promising new research indicates that the saponin content (triterpene glycosides) and fatty acids in Sea Cucumber may possibly be useful as an agent to treat malignant growths and diseases, as well as an anti-proliferative agent. A branched-chain fatty acid isolated from Sea Cucumber, 12-methyltetradecanoic acid, is thought to inhibit malignant prostate cell proliferation by increasing caspase-3 activity.
The proposed mechanism for the anti-angiogenic and anti-tumor effects of Philinopside A, a saponin derived from Sea Cucumber, is by inhibiting tyrosine kinase receptors; however,clinical trials have not yet been conducted. Moreover, those same constituents may also be responsible for antiviral activities in vitro that have shown promise in inhibiting herpes viruses.
Some of the historical benefits attributed to Sea Cucumber are its nutritive tonic qualities that ease fatigue, cleanse the blood, relieve constipation, and act as an aphrodisiac to help impotence.
One clinical study suggests that Sea Cucumber extract is beneficial in treating chronic gingivitis.
Do not take Sea Cucumber without talking to your doctor first if you are taking digoxin (Lanoxin(R). Sea Cucumber may potentiate anticoagulant medication.