Sea Cucumber: Learn What This Phallic Delicacy Can Do for Your Health

The sea cucumber is known for its medicinal benefits, including treating impotence and improving heart health. Learn how to prepare this ingredient so you can extract its best qualities

A red-coloured sea cucumber lying on a rock underwater

Typically found in benthic areas and deep seas, the sea cucumber is a highly sought-after marine animal. This phallic creature — consisting of more than 1,700 species — is regarded as a culinary delicacy and has many uses in traditional medicine. For instance, the golden sea cucumber, pineapple sea cucumber and white teatfish are several edible sea cucumber species with medicinal effects and low toxicity. Some also consider these echinoderms as an aphrodisiac.

How to Preserve the Amino Acids in Sea Cucumbers

Sea cucumber harvesting uses the pen culture method. The process includes removing the sea cucumber’s entrails and skewering them from the bottom-up before boiling them with papaya leaves. Harvesters also wash and sun-dry them for up to three days.

To maintain the amino acids in dried sea cucumbers, it’s important to ensure that the temperature of papaya leave slices and water used for boiling is between 550-650° C.

Alternatively, you can soak sea cucumbers in the water for at least two days. Change the water that you use for soaking at least once a day. After you have soaked the sea cucumbers, boil them for half an hour. If necessary, add more water to cover them completely. Next, wash and remove the internal organs. Once the sea cucumbers are clean, you can slice and pair them with other ingredients.

Sea Cucumber Benefits for Health 

Find out how the tube-shaped sea creature can benefit your physical and physiological well-being. 

1. Consumption of Sea Cucumbers to Boost Sexual Health

A dish that includes sea cucumber in a white bowl 
Sea cucumbers contain amino acids that are important for promoting testosterone production. 

Sea cucumber health benefits are that it’s rich in protein and provide essential amino acids (cannot be made by the body) like arginine, threonine, phenylalanine, isoleucine, and tyrosine. Non-essential amino acids (can be made by the body) include glycine, alanine, proline, and tyrosine. These amino acids are essential for synthesising protein in the muscle and promoting the formation of androgen hormones like testosterone.

Androgen plays a crucial role in developing male reproductive organs and regulating male fertility. Likewise, two sea cucumber species’ — H. fuscogilva and A. mauritiana — are highly valued for their perceived benefits as an aphrodisiac.

TCM believes that a low sex drive comes from numerous factors. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Physician Lim Sock Ling, “Psychological stressors like anxiety, depression, fear and stress, Liver Qi (vital life force) Stagnation due to anger, or Heart and Spleen deficiencies due to over-worrying can impair a person’s desire for sexual intimacy.”  

“A build-up of phlegm and Dampness can also cause Qi Stagnation and a blockage of the reproductive meridians,” she notes, adding that they could be a result of a sedentary lifestyle or unhealthy eating habits.  

Apart from these, one of the most prominent reasons a person suffers a low libido is because they have Kidney jing (essence) and yang (fire) Deficiencies. The Kidneys store jing, which is responsible for reproductive functions. However, a person’s libido reduces without yang (active) energy or sufficient jing in the chong and ren meridians.  

“Low sex drive and impotence contribute to Kidney deficiencies. As sea cucumber benefits include strengthening Kidneys and nourishing vital essence and blood, this would directly help in boosting stamina and sex drive,” Physician Lim explains. 

2. Promotes wound healing  

Another of the many sea cucumber benefits is that its fatty acid composition may help to promote optimal wound healing. This is evident from the findings of a study on the fatty acid profile of crude sea cucumber extracts. Researchers prepared extracts in four different substances in this study — ethanol, methanol, distilled water, and phosphate buffer saline. The percentage of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) — a polyunsaturated fatty acid related to wound healing activity — was higher in phosphate buffer saline than the other substances. Although extracting fatty acids were different in all four solvents, they preserved the component responsible for tissue repair. 

This research points to the fact that consuming a herbal tonic like sea cucumber essence may be beneficial. For instance, it helps to reduce fatigue and strengthen a person’s body after illness or surgery.

3. Supports the Management of Various Cancers

Dried sea cucumbers in a basket displayed on a wooden table
Enhance sea cucumber health benefits by pairing it with certain ingredients to treat different problems.

Certain natural compounds from sea cucumbers help inhibit cancer progression through apoptosis — programmed cell death due to cell shrinkage and morphological changes. One example is Frondoside A, an organic chemical, which can induce cell death pathways in breast cancer cells. It also demonstrates strong anti-tumour activity against pancreatic cancer cells.

In addition, sea cucumbers also demonstrate anti-metastatic and anti-angiogenic effects. Specifically, an isolated sea cucumber compound called Ds-echinoside A causes a reduction in cell adhesion, migration, and invasion in human liver cancer cell lines. Studies also show that Ds-echinoside A effectively exhibited anti-angiogenic effects in a series of in vitro and in vivo tumour models.

4. Potentially Reduces the Risk of Heart Disease

The consumption of sea cucumbers provides an intake of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), lowering a person’s risk of cancer and heart disease while promoting better wound healing. It also contains lysine and arginine, which play crucial roles in decreasing cholesterol concentration in the serum and aorta.

In the same way, multiple sea cucumber species — Thelenota ananas, T. anax, H. fuscogilva, H. fuscopunctata, A. caerulea, B. argus and Stichopus hermanni — contain glycine, which can lower total serum cholesterol levels. However, people on medications like warfarin should avoid consuming substantial amounts of this delicacy as it has blood-thinning properties.

There are many ways to cook and consume sea cucumber. Ideally, people who have internal Heat and lumps can pair the ingredient with black fungus. People with symptoms of Kidney and Liver yin (passive energy) Deficiencies — giddiness, tinnitus, dry throat, and hard stools — can combine sea cucumber with rock sugar. Rest assured that this seafood won’t just fulfil your cravings but also boost your health in different ways.

References

  1. Journal of Physics. 2019. The Amino Acid of Sandfish Sea Cucumber (Holothuria scabra): Dry Method with Various Feeding Enzyme. [Accessed 12 October 2021]
  2. ScienceDirect. 2018. Medicinal and health benefit effects of functional sea cucumbers. [Accessed 5 September 2022]
  3. National Library of Medicine. 1999. Fatty acid compositions in local sea cucumber, Stichopus chloronotus, for wound healing. [Accessed 12 October 2021]
  4. ScienceDirect. 2016. Nutritional Value of Sea Cucumber [Paracaudina Australis (Semper, 1868)] [Accessed 12 October 2021]
  5. ResearchGate. 2017. Mechanisms of cancer cell killing by sea cucumber-derived compounds. [Accessed 12 October 2021]
  6. National Centre for Biotechnology Information, 2011, High-Value Components and Bioactives from Sea Cucumbers for Functional Foods—A Review [Accessed 5 September 2022]

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