- Side Effects
- Drug Interactions
- Pregnancy & Breastfeeding
- What Else to Know
Generic Name: sea cucumber
Other Names: beche-de-mer, haishen, holothurian, trepang
Drug Class: Herbals
What is sea cucumber, and what is it used for?
Sea cucumber is a cucumber-shaped invertebrate marine creature that inhabits the seabed and deep oceans. Sea cucumbers are eaten as a delicacy in China and other Asian countries, and sea cucumber and its extracts have long been used for medicinal purposes. Sea cucumbers belong to the class Holothuroidea, and Stichopus hermanni, Thelenota ananas, Thelenota anax, Holothuria fuccogilva and Actinopyga mauritiana are the most highly-valued species used for therapeutic purposes.
Sea cucumbers are a rich source of several important nutrients including protein, vitamins A, B1, and B2, and minerals calcium, magnesium, iron, and zinc. In addition, sea cucumber contains many bioactive compounds including triterpene glycosides (saponins), glycosaminoglycans, carotenoids, bioactive peptides, fatty acids, collagens, gelatins, chondroitin sulfates and amino acids. Sea cucumber’s therapeutic properties include prevention of new blood vessel formation (antiangiogenic), antitumor, antiproliferative, and antiviral effects.
Studies indicate that a fatty acid known as 12-methyltetradecanoic acid extracted from sea cucumber may inhibit the proliferation of prostate cancer cells by increasing the activity of caspase-3, an enzyme that plays a crucial role in programmed cell death (apoptosis). Chondroitin sulfates may be helpful in treating arthritis, and Philinopside A, a saponin extracted from sea cucumber may have antitumor and antiangiogenic effects.
Sea cucumber is purported to have many health benefits and is used to treat many conditions traditionally. Sea cucumber may have the potential for therapeutic use, however, very few human trials have been conducted to establish its efficacy for most of its uses. Suggested uses include:
What are the side effects of sea cucumber?
- Do not take sea cucumber if you are allergic to seafood.
- Do not take if you are taking blood-thinning medications. Sea cucumber may enhance their anticoagulant effects and increase the risk of bleeding.
There have been no reports of side effects from ingesting sea cucumber or its extracts. Processing sea cucumbers by hand can cause:
- Skin irritation
- Breathing irritation
- Eye irritation
Call your doctor immediately if you experience any of the following symptoms or serious side effects while using this drug:
- Serious heart symptoms include fast or pounding heartbeats, fluttering in your chest, shortness of breath, and sudden dizziness;
- Severe headache, confusion, slurred speech, severe weakness, vomiting, loss of coordination, feeling unsteady;
- Severe nervous system reaction with very stiff muscles, high fever, sweating, confusion, fast or uneven heartbeats, tremors, and feeling like you might pass out; or
- Serious eye symptoms include blurred vision, tunnel vision, eye pain or swelling, or seeing halos around lights.
This is not a complete list of all side effects or adverse reactions that may occur from the use of this drug. Call your doctor for medical advice about serious side effects or adverse reactions. You may also report side effects or health problems to the FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.
What are the dosages of sea cucumber?
There is no information available as to what might be an appropriate dosage of sea cucumber supplement. Follow the instructions on manufacturer’s label.
- There is no information available on sea cucumber overdose. In case of overdose, contact your healthcare provider or Poison Control and report your symptoms.
What drugs interact with sea cucumber?
Inform your doctor of all medications you are currently taking, who can advise you on any possible drug interactions. Never begin taking, suddenly discontinue, or change the dosage of any medication without your doctor’s recommendation.
- Sea cucumber has no known severe, serious, moderate, or mild interactions with other drugs.
The drug interactions listed above are not all of the possible interactions or adverse effects. For more information on drug interactions, visit the RxList Drug Interaction Checker.
It is important to always tell your doctor, pharmacist, or health care provider about all prescription and over-the-counter medications you use, as well as the dosage for each, and keep a list of the information. Check with your doctor or healthcare provider if you have any questions about the medication.
Pregnancy and breastfeeding
- A small amount of sea cucumber eaten as food is possibly safe during pregnancy and breastfeeding. There is no information available on the safety of taking sea cucumber supplements during pregnancy or breastfeeding. Consult with your physician.
- Never take any dietary supplement including sea cucumber without first checking with your healthcare provider, if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
What else should I know about sea cucumber?
- Sea cucumber eaten as food is likely safe for most people. Sea cucumber supplements appear to be generally well tolerated.
- Check with your healthcare provider before taking any dietary supplement, including sea cucumber.
- Take sea cucumber exactly as per label instructions.
- Dietary supplements often contain many ingredients. Check labels for the components in the sea cucumber product you choose.
- Sea cucumber supplements are marketed as dietary supplements and are not regulated by the FDA. Products may differ in formulations and strengths, and labels may not always match contents; exercise caution in choosing your product.
- Store safely out of reach of children.
Sea cucumbers are a rich source of several important nutrients including protein, vitamins A, B1, and B2, and minerals calcium, magnesium, iron, and zinc. Sea cucumber is purported to have many health benefits and is used to treat many conditions traditionally. Suggested uses include cancer, arthritis, joint pain, urinary frequency, impotence, and longevity. Do not take if you are taking blood-thinning medications. There have been no reports of side effects from ingesting sea cucumber or its extracts.
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