The properties of sea cucumber are as follows: sweet, salty, and warm in taste and can enter the meridians of the heart, lungs, spleen, and kidneys. It has the double effect of being nourishing to yin and yang. The 600 million-year-old mollusk living at the bottom of shallow/intermediate sea regenerates very strong. Class: Holothuroidea, Phylum: Echinodermata, Sea Cucumbers (Trepang) are soft-bodied, invertebrate relatives of the starfish and sea urchin. There are 1100 varieties, over 20 of which are edible. The sea cucumber inhabits both tropical and temperate oceans.

Animals, tube-shaped, they exist in a variety of colors and range from less than an inch to over six feet in length. Some forms resemble worms and burrow in ocean floor sediments, others filter feed using an array of retractable tentacles known as “flowers” to trap organic debris and tiny marine organisms. Of sorts, a sea cucumber is a dill pickle that is sprouting its own dill.

Tubular extensions or tube feet arranged in rows along the length of their bodies are what inspire their propulsion. These “feet” extend and contract by varying the internal fluid pressure. As an echinoderm, the cucumber of the sea has a unique type of connective tissue called catch connective tissue which can flow like a fluid but then stiffen quickly and reversibly under neural control.

Although an ancient invertebrate, the sea cucumber has a very sophisticated immune system whose elements closely resemble their more modern counterparts. These elements include cellular immunity (defender cells eating invading organisms), a complement-like system (a chain of biochemical events leading to the encapsulation or destruction of foreign objects), cytokines (chemical messengers such as interferon and interleukin which quarterback the immune response), and lectins (protein involved in the recognition of foreign invaders).

For instance, the cells of their immune system are housed in the hollow organelles contained in lymph node-like tissue lining the throat – the Polian vesicles. This tissue is postulated to be the forerunner of the tonsils, adenoids, and thymus.

Because of its age, there are many names and mysteries surrounding the sea cucumber. In Malaysia, it is referred to as “trepang.” The raw or pickled body and internal organs are called “konowata” by the Japanese. The salted, fire or sun dried body wall is known worldwide as “beche de mer,” literally translated as beast or spade of the sea. Interestingly, in China it is popularly referred to as “Haishen,” ginseng of the sea.

What I plan to focus on in this writing is the sea cucumber in nutritional and medicinal uses allowing you, the reader, to draw conclusions about medicine and diet sharing the same source. Stichopus Japonicus is the only kind of sea cucumber recorded into pharmacopoeia as well as being the most typical sea cucumber. Recorded in History of Medicine, “Sea cucumber growing around Beijing, Shenyang, etc. ranks first place, with black color, glutinous meat and prickly appearance. Named as Liao Sea Cucumber and Stichopus Japonicus, this kind of sea cucumber enriches the blood and moistens dryness, nourishes the kidney and strengthens the essence.” According to Theory of Material Medicine, a monumental medical work, “The sea cucumber growing in southeastern part of Liaoning Province is better, the prickly one is called Stichopus Japonicus, while the inermous one is called prickless sea cucumber.”

Why might a creature such as the sea cucumber be useful as a therapeutic food?  Since sea cucumbers have survived for over 500 million years and our immune systems have evolved from theirs, many of the molecules and strategies they have evolved should also work for us.


From a modern medical viewpoint, sea cucumber is a valuable source of several kinds of substances that can serve as natural health products and could, perhaps, be developed as drugs. Since sea cucumber is consumed as a food by a very small segment of the population outside East Asia, most people do not have access to its beneficial components. Thus, extracts of desired sea cucumber materials are put into easy-to-consume formats, such as capsules (hard and soft gelatin) and tablets.

The sea cucumber has a high protein content (over 55%), 18 amino acids (8 are essential amino acids which cannot be generated in the human body), P, Fe, Y, Zn, Se, Va, Mn, Vitamin B1, B2, E, K, PP, Condoloitin, Daltation, Stichopus Mucoitin, Taurine, Nicotinic acid, SOD, and others (more than 50 kinds).

Below is a list of nutritional elements associated with the sea cucumber and potential corresponding medicinal implications:

Amino acids: Stichopus Japonicus’s alginin is the main component of the masculine spermatozoon cell. It has the effect of regulating hormone balance. It also relieves brain fatigue and improves memorial potency.

Stichopus japonicus fat acid: The AA and EPA contained in stichopus japonicus regulates metabolic rate, decreasing significantly both absolute and relative fat rate. Consequently, it functions to lower blood sugar, blood fat, and cholesterol values.

Stichopus japonicus mucitin: Impedes growth and spread of tumors . Regulates immunity thereby improving lowered immune system caused by medicines. Effectively decreases blood viscosity impeding thrombus formation. Has protective effect against Co emanation, increasing hematogenesis function . Alleviates inflammation and has a significant effect on arthritis. Maintains water on skin, functioning for anti-aging.

Taurine: Promotes growth of important organs such as the brain. It has the effect of acuity protection and aids in the growth of child’s cerebrum. It impedes thrombocite association showing effect against high blood pressure and high blood fat. It also functions to impede cholelithiasis.

Chondroitin Sulfate: It has the effect of impeding blood coagulation functioning to improve the status of sclerosis of the coronary arteries, high blood pressure, angina pectoris, myocardial infarction, and disorders caused by streptomycin. Alleviates inflammation, functions against migraine, stiff shoulders, and lumbago by aging. It does not cause side effects after long-term usage.

Stichopus Japonicus Saponin: Impedes growth of tumor cells. Impedes aging of organ cells . Regulates immunity. Stimulates growth of marrow blood cells showing significant effect towards improving aplastic anaemia. Has anti-fatigue effect.

SOD (Super Oxide Dismutase): Removes unnecessary free radicals improving immunity. Effect for anti-aging. Significant effect towards improving diabetes. It regulates women’s menstrual cycle enabling them to retard menopause.

Nutritive Components of Stichopus Japonicus Intestine and Ovum: Stichopus japonicus’ intestine and ovum contain, same as its body, activate materials such as protein, vitamins, and minerals. The most considerable difference between them is the content rate of the nucleic acid and vanadium. The intestine and ovum contain more than 3 times as much as the body. Its strengthening, nourishing, and anti-aging effects cause it to be equated to “thousands of gold.”

However, these intestines and ovum can only be processed during spring spawning season. From a 120 kg stichopus japonicus, only 1 kg in intestines and ovum can be taken, making them valuable ingredients.

For centuries, humans have traded and subsequently eaten these animals. The people of China have been harvesting them from the waters of Malaysia and Australia for more than 1000 years.  They are eaten in soups, raw as sushi, and as appetizers and delicacies. 

As mentioned above, sea cucumber, having a cartilagenous body, serves as a rich source of mucopolysaccharides, mainly chondroitin sulfate which is well-known for its ability to reduce arthritis pain, especially that of osteoarthritis. As little as 3 grams per day of the dried sea cucumber has been helpful in significantly reducing arthralgia. Chondroitin’s action is similar to that of glucosamine sulfate, the main building block of chondroitin.

Long-chain sulfated polysaccharides, like chondroitin, also inhibit viruses; there is a Japanese patent for sea cucumber chondroitin sulfate for HIV therapy based on this action. Other sulfated polysaccharides from seaweeds have been patented as inhibitors of herpes viruses. These compounds are also found in deer antler. Moreover, Russian, Japanese, and Chinese studies reveal that sea cucumbers also have a structure similar to the active constituents of ginseng and other famous tonic herbs.

Recently, Western scientists have genetically engineered a mosquito to release a sea cucumber protein into its gut which impairs the development of malaria parasites. Researches say this development is a step towards developing a method of preventing the transmission of mature malaria.


The sea cucumber is a vital example of how medicine and diet share a similar source. Truly a ginseng of the sea, it also contains many basic nutritional elements necessary for survival. The organism is a living longevity tonic.

In conclusion, the spiked Stichopus Japonicus has self-regenerating properties — when the spiked Stichopus Japonicus is strongly stimulated, it will evacuate its complete viscera from its anus in order to escape danger. After a period of time for recovery, it can grow new viscera. In addition, if one sea cucumber is cut into two or three sections, each section will repair its wounds and grow into a new individual within three to seven months. These phenomena have proved that the sea cucumber has strong regenerative powers and rapid prosthetic properties. Experience has proved that it can also promote the prosthesis and regeneration of human wounds.

The sea cucumber has exceptional vitality — even in places where it lacks oxygen or is buried in the silt for several days, the sea cucumber can still survive. The sea cucumber’s ability to survive such conditions indicates that it has an extremely powerful ability to overcome oxygen deficiency and that it is immune to viruses. The reason why the spiked Stichopus Japonicus is so famous and valuable is due to its internal polysaccharide which makes it multi-functional. Contemporary medical science has stated that the polysaccharides of the spiked Stichopus Japonicus have played a definite role in strengthening immunity of organisms.

Moreover, the research has discovered that the sea cucumber is full of the same components found in human cartilage.

It is for these reasons and for its nutritional and medicinal elements that the sea cucumber is not a beast but rather truly a rich mystery of the sea.