The aphrodisiac power of sea cucumber
A distant relative of sea urchin, sea cucumber is not a vegetable at all, but a strange little echinoderm with a phallic shape. It is found around the world. But it’s most popular in Asia where the Chinese, Malaysians, Koreans and Indonesians consider its flesh a delicacy.
The Chinese are among the world’s biggest consumers of sea cucumber and use it to treat high blood pressure and joint pain as well as low libido. (The Chinese name for sea cucumber is hai shen, translating roughly into “sea ginseng.”) Throughout Indonesia, sea cucumber is considered to have many healing uses. And thanks to some recent, scientific investigation, we can understand why.
Some surprising properties
Because it is one of the earth’s oldest living creatures (it has existed for over 500 million years), the slug of the sea has developed an extraordinary immune system–one that, surprisingly, resembles that of humans. Early studies in the 1980’s and 1990’s examined a potential for sea cucumber extracts to speed the healing of wounds and even reduce scarring. It was considered as a potential aid in the treatment of HIV. And it showed promise in slowing the growth of cancer. As a homeopathic treatment, this sea slug is often dried and sold in capsule form. In many parts of the world, these pills are marketed as a natural alternative to the drug Viagra.
Looking at sea cucumber from a nutritional perspective, it is easy to see where its Viagra-like reputation developed. (Of course, that’s also pretty obvious from the visual perspective.) Rich in vitamin C, it promotes prostate health by fighting free radicals. And it contains niacin, magnesium and zinc, which help reduce muscle tension, increase blood flow, build sex hormones and maintain a healthy sperm count.