Found only in salty waters, sea cucumbers are sausage-shaped animals with a warty and leathery skin. They are widely used as food and folk medicine in many cultures in the Middle East and Asia. Sea cucumbers, though flavorless, readily absorb the flavors of seasonings and foods they are cooked with. However, don’t let the bland taste mislead you; these animals have several notable benefits, even cancer prevention.
Cancer Prevention Potential
Eating sea cucumber may help prevent the growth and spread of cancer cells. This is because sea cucumbers contain high amounts of compounds known as triterpene glycosides, which have antitumor activity. According to a study by Chinese scientists published in August 2005 in “Cancer Biology & Therapy,” sea cucumbers also contain a compound known as philinopside E, or PE. PE inhibits the formation of blood vessels that supply nutrients to tumors. This suppresses the growth and proliferation of such tumors in your body.
Blood clotting helps prevent excessive bleeding when you are injured. However, clots can also form inside your blood vessels even when you have no obvious physical injury. This can lead to potentially fatal conditions such as pulmonary embolism – – where the blood clots accumulate in lungs – – and restrict the flow of blood. Sea cucumbers contain a compound known as chondroitin sulfate. A study by Brazilian scientists published in September 1996 in the “Journal of Biological Chemistry” found that chondroitin sulfate has anticoagulant activity.
Sea cucumbers have potent anti-inflammatory effects, which may help alleviate pain in patients with conditions such as arthritis. A study by Malaysian scientists that was published in October 2011 in “Marine Drugs” found that sea cucumber supplements reduced inflammation in both male and female rats. This sea animal contains compounds such as mucopolysaccharides, chondroitin and glucosamine, which can help relieve arthritis disorders. Such compounds help in the regulation of the balance of certain lipids known as prostaglandins. Patients with rheumatoid arthritis usually have high concentrations of certain prostaglandins, according to a study published in 2008 in the “American College of Rheumatology.”
Eating sea cucumber or its extracts may have therapeutic effects such as speeding up wound healing. It does so by facilitating the formation of new tissues within a short time — a property that is believed to stem from the ability of a sea cucumber to regenerate its own body tissues quickly when it is injured. According to the October 2011 “Marine Drugs” study, this is believed to be facilitated by certain fatty acids, such as arachidonic acid, present in sea cucumber.