All Hail the Sea Cucumber in its Fight Against Cancer and Arthritis!

Dried Sea Cucumbers
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Sea cucumber soft and squishy and looks very much like the cucumbers we love that are grown on land. These creatures, however, grow in the sea naturally. They are, in fact, animals; invertebrates, at that. Shocking! Imagine eating an animal shaped like a cucumber. Now imagine that animal in over a thousand different shapes and sizes and types and tastes. It’s enough to make your eyes grow wide in surprise and wonder. Adding to the shock factor is the fact that these animals can help fight cancer, not to mention arthritis and other diseases. It is, according to the American Cancer Society’s Cancer publication, quite effective.

One would assume there is some truth to the benefits of sea cucumbers if they have been a known remedy used in Asian countries for hundreds of years. From different accounts, it has been revealed that sea cucumbers were used in the treatment of joint pain and impotence, alongside helping heal wounds. In modern days, research shows a tendency to alleviate sports injuries, tendinitis, cancer, arthritis and other inflammatory diseases. Who would have thought? Then again, natural health is often the best road to travel down.

Since it’s a regular part of the Asian diet, sea cucumbers can be bought from Asian markets within North America. They can also be found in tablets that promote easing joint pain, though often mixed with so many chemicals, the actual compounds of the animal are lost in the mix. The tablets, however, are not recommended at the moment, as they do not pass the same safety tests as pharmaceutical medication.

We may not know much about the sea cucumber, but do know enough to assess its invaluable worth. We do know that sea cucumbers are comprised of many essential nutrients we should consume on a daily basis, including, but not restricted to:

• Vitamin A
• Vitamin B1 (thiamine)
• Vitamin B2 (riboflavin)
• Vitamin B3 (niacin)
• Calcium
• Magnesium
• Iron
• Zinc

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What does some of the evidence promoting sea cucumbers say?

• During laboratory studies, compounds called triterpenoids have shown some promise in slowing down the growth of cancer cells and blocking the growth of blood vessels tumours love to expand into.

• Research has also found that a fatty acid known as 12-MTA, which came from a sea cucumber, seems to slow the growth of prostate cancer cells in men, making it easier to treat effectively.

• According to the US National Library of Medicine’s Malaysian sponsored research, “A myriad of bioactives, isolated from sea cucumber such as chondroitin sulfate, triterpene glycosides (saponins), lectins, heparin, cerberosides, ganglosides, bioactive peptides, sterols and omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids, have shown multiple biological activities such as anti-angiogenic, anticancer, anticoagulant, anti-hypertension, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antifungal, antioxidant, antithrombotic and antitumor.”

There need to be more studies conducted, however, for the true effects of sea cucumbers to be discerned. The prospects may be great, but at the moment cancer research has discovered very few of its amazing properties and is conducting extensive experiments with the compounds extracted from different types of sea cucumbers in order to better understand this lovely gift bestowed upon us by the bounty of Mother Nature.

Sources: American Cancer Society, Marine Drugs. 2011; 9(10): 1761–1805.
Image source: Wikipedia

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