MARINE ESSENCE BIOSCIENCES / SEPTEMBER 2,2020
Sea cucumbers might not be the first thing that springs to mind when you think of healing ingredients, but it should. Sometimes referred to as “pickles,” sea cucumbers have many healing properties that contribute to a healthier lifestyle and improved well-being. Why? Because they’re packed with bioactive compounds that boast body-wide benefits, from antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial to antidiabetic, as well as anti-obesity.
Indeed, the sea cucumber is part of the methods and philosophies attributed to Eastern Medicine. Considering these benefits and healing properties, they are making a comeback among the Chinese seeking a holistic path to health.
Could this be the key ingredient for leading a healthier modern life? Evidence shows that sea cucumbers have considerable potential for various applications in all aspects of life - health care, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, nutraceuticals, and most recently medical devices. But first, let’s take a closer look at sea cucumbers and what makes them so coveted.
What Are Sea Cucumbers?
Before diving into what sea cucumbers are, let’s first establish what they are not. Sea cucumbers are not vegetables. They are invertebrate marine animals found on ocean floors worldwide. However, their denomination is not coincidental - they have an elongated shape that resembles cucumbers.
Sea cucumbers are echinoderms but their appearance sets them apart from the rest of this group. Unlike starfish or sea urchins, sea cucumbers have a tubular body that bears no trace of skeleton or hard appendix.
Currently, there are around 1400 identified species of sea cucumbers, with Asia Pacific region exhibiting the most biodiversity. They are largely divided into three categories: the prickly sea cucumber, the bald sea cucumber, and the white teat sea cucumber. They live in extreme conditions characteristic to the ocean floor at depths deeper than 8.9 km (5.5 mi). As a result, their adaptive mechanism allows them to produce secondary biologically active metabolites that cannot be found in other organisms. C. frondosa, for example, can regenerate or renew itself very quickly.
The sea cucumber is low in fat but has high amounts of protein (mainly collagen) and B vitamins. Moreover, it is also a good source of antioxidants. Reports from the Ming dynasty in China (1368-1644) attest that it was once called “haishen,” meaning “ocean ginseng,” because its medicinal properties resemble that of the ginseng herb.
Nowadays, sea cucumber can be eaten either raw, fried, pickled, and most commonly - dried. The latter variety is usually added to dishes and left to rehydrate in order to regain its characteristic slimy texture. In terms of taste, it is rather bland and soaks up the flavor of the meal it is cooked with.
However, not all sea cucumbers are created equal, and each type brings different ranges of nutrients and benefits. C. frondosa, for instance, is an ideal tonic food because it is rich in minerals, carbohydrates, amino acids, and fatty acids.
Traditional Chinese Medicine has been a long-time advocate for the benefits of sea cucumber to support health, prevent disease, and enhance well-being.
For this purpose, the most-valued species include C. frondosa, S. hermanni, T. ananas, T. anax, H. fuccogilva, and A. mauritiana. What makes them sought-after is their value-added compounds that have various therapeutic and healing properties. These compounds are triterpene glycosides, carotenoids, bioactive peptides, vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, collagens, gelatins, chondroitin sulfates, and amino acids.
This composition has endowed sea cucumbers with medical properties for various use cases, including healing, neuroprotective, antitumor, anticoagulant, antimicrobial, and antioxidant. Moreover, it also has a high number of functional ingredients that can be developed further into new foods or biomedicine products.
The Benefits of Sea Cucumber
Given their medical and nutritional properties, sea cucumbers could also become the next staple ingredient in one’s beauty routine. With natural beauty trends on the rise, the latest wonder ingredient being lauded by skincare experts is the sea cucumber. What led to this development? The sheer amount of functional substances contained in the sea cucumber. Its body wall represents 50% of the body weight and contains 70% insoluble collagen fibrils.
At this point, perhaps you’re wondering: how does this help my skin? Our skin contains around 75-80% collagen, but this substance degrades with age. This loss affects the overall well-being of the skin, mainly taking its toll on the structure and appearance. So, collagen is necessary to retain the skin’s elasticity, hydration, and youthfulness.
Marine collagen is the go-to ingredient for the skin-aging problem because, compared to mammalian collagen, it’s more convenient to obtain and there is no inherent risk of transmitted diseases or infections (such as BSE). Moreover, research shows that sea-cucumber collagen is more mechanically resistant, making it less likely to deteriorate when added to cosmetics. Skincare, however, is not the only way to reap the benefits of marine collagen. It also speeds up healing in the body, helps strengthen hair, and stimulates nail growth.
Insomnia might steal hours of sleep every day, even if we are extremely tired as we go to bed. For the most part, the causes are out of our control — stress, health issues, or poor diets. Yet when we do not sleep, we are subject to mood swings, lack of motivation and energy, and we are more prone to grow irritable.
Falling asleep is crucial for our health and well-being. Luckily, sea cucumbers have anti-fatigue properties warranted by their unique composition of polypeptides, amino acids, and mucopolysaccharides. This helps you regain energy and vitality while beating insomnia.
Our immune system is our best bet against infectious organisms and other invaders. It destroys bacteria and viruses to help our bodies function at optimal levels. However, we might affect our immune system’s performance without even realizing it through our lifestyle — sleep, diet, stress, and hygiene.
When we offset any of these patterns, our immune system suffers. Sea cucumber contains high arginine levels that boost cell immunity by stimulating the production of T-cells. Moreover, it is rich in amino acids, saponins, and mucopolysaccharide that contribute to a better immune regulation.
Ingesting sea cucumber capsules supports your body’s natural defenses and improves overall immune health.*
People from Malaysia have long used sea cucumber skin extracts in order to heal wounds, cuts, and burns. Indeed, sea cucumbers appear to have high regenerative powers.
They are rich in unique bioactive, such as amino acids and collagen, which speed up the recovery process of wounds after injuries and surgeries. The body of C. frondosa contains both amino acids and collagen, and its tentacles and viscera contain an additional source of amino acids.
How we look and feel depends largely on our lifestyle choices. For some, building up a barrier strength to keep external aggressors from affecting our health and well-being could be a starting point towards better lifestyle changes.
Sea cucumber is that barrier strength — it has a variety of nutrients and compounds that are reflected in our health, skin, and overall well-being.
That’s why Marine Essence Biosciences is committed to research and develop marine biotechnology to reach the purest sea cucumber collagen. All in the name of human wellness and healthy living.
Contact us today to learn more about how Marine Essence Biosciences harnesses the power of sea cucumber to provide superior active ingredients, healthcare products, and medical devices. ____________________________________________________________________________ *Based on ME-Bio Echinoderm Collagen 2019 Study.