The extent of evolution of the sea cucumbers is so small that researchers are yet to ascertain whether they should be categorized under flora or fauna. Notwithstanding their name that resembles a fruit and their façade resembling plants, sea cucumbers are basically living and breathing organisms that are found at different depths of all the oceans on the planet. Some of these living creatures move on the sea bed gulping down sand and mud, while there are others of this variety that seize and ingest smaller organisms. In fact, most of the sea cucumbers are usually found close to rocks, sea weeds or corals. Again, though most creatures of this variety are found surviving among the grasses found on the sea bed, there are some that thrive in the mud or sand in the sea.
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The reproductive method of the sea cucumbers too is quite unique. These creatures propagate with organs comprising of a solitary branch known as 'gonad' that opens out to the exterior of the paddle like surface of the creature contained by the sphere of their oral wisps or tendrils. It is believed that the gonad has the same origin as the axial organ of other invertebrate ocean animals (echinoderms), but function differently. Usually, the sea cucumbers have separate sexes, but some times you may find a few of these creatures having both the sexes (hermaphrodites). There are many types of sea cucumbers that carry the eggs as well as their young ones in pouches in their body. Similar to all other invertebrate ocean animals or echinoderms, the sea cucumbers too possess powers to renew or regenerate themselves. In fact, the sea cucumbers have the capability to repair as well as restore lost organs. Surprisingly enough, there are some species of sea cucumbers that possess the capability to divide themselves into two halves through transfer division and each half grows and survives as an altogether new creature. In most types of sea cucumber the eggs are hatched in a cavity situated in the animal's body. These eggs develop into young sea cucumbers and when they are formed completely, they create a rupture in the host's body wall to go into the outside world.
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The sea cucumbers play a vital role in the oceanic food chain. As is known to every one, the ocean forms an intensive food chain and the sea cucumbers play the role of predators as well as preys in this milieu. The most common killers for the sea cucumbers are fishes and the sea stars. In fact, different animals have their individual and unique methods to protect themselves from their marauders. And the fascinating aspect about the sea cucumbers is the fact that whenever they are under attack, they protect themselves by eviscerating or expelling some of their less important organs. This method sidetracks their predators as many of them rush towards the discarded organs and the sea cucumber swims to safety. In addition to expelling their organs in extreme cases of danger, the sea cucumbers also ensure their safety by coiling up their body or gently rolling away from the threat. At the same time, it needs to be mentioned that the sea cucumbers live in a colony keeping in view their safety aspect. Although it may appear to be a foolish idea, living in groups, the sea cucumbers believe that in the even of any attack, their neighbor will be devoured first, while they would manage to protect themselves by hiding. In addition, a species of sea cucumber found in tropical regions throw out muggy small tubular objects to fend off their marauders.
Over the ages people in Asia have used the sea cucumbers both as food and medications. While its use has been neglected in other parts of the world, recently a dietary enhancement prepared from home-grown sea cucumber that was originally seized off the shores of Maine has been well accepted among the people as a cure for arthritis. It has been found that the wall of the sea cucumber's body resembles the cartilages found in the human body. Furthermore, it has been discovered that the sea cucumber is an outstanding resource of glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate that plays a vital role in constructing lumps of cartilage - the connective tissue that acts as a shock absorber to take care of the bones. It may be mentioned here that the corrosion of the cartilage is primarily responsible for causing friction among the bones resulting into pain and inflammation or swelling of the joints that are characteristic symptoms of arthritis.
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According to recent laboratory findings, apart from possessing glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate, the sea cucumber also encloses another vital substance that is being considered as more effective and stronger than hydrocortisone in curing arthritis. Hydrocortisone has been accepted as an outstanding anti-inflammatory agent as well as a comforter from pain, but it also causes some harmful side effects. For instance, use of hydrocortisone is likely to raise blood pressure, increase cholesterol, make the bones feeble, make the skin slimmer as well as slow down the performance of the immune system in the body. Most athletes employ sea cucumber to support curing of cartilage damages that may happen as part of the regular deterioration in an individual owing to his or her active lifestyle.
It is interesting to note that it is not only the humans who suffer from arthritis, but it causes problems for aged animals too. And the sea cucumber is an effectual and potent therapy of animals troubled by pains and aches resulting from arthritis.
Sea cucumbers provide us with numerous health benefits and they are reputed for possessing anti-aging attributes.
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In China, people believe that the sea cucumber is a cure for all health conditions and they, therefore, use it to treat a number of conditions, including constipation, problems related to the kidneys, reproductive disorders, counting impotency.
In Malaysia, sea cucumber is very popular in the local traditional medicine and used by women in the region it to treat wounds and injuries due to episiotomy (surgical incision into the vagina to facilitate child birth). Several communities in Peninsular Malaysia use sea cucumber to prepare ointments that are used to treat joint and back pains.
Sea cucumbers are beneficial for people suffering from sprains, tendonitis, persistent joint pains, strained ligaments and even arthritis. In addition, they are also believed to work as a general tonic to promote our health. They are considered to boost our energy levels instantly. Generally, sea cucumbers are employed to treat weakness among elderly people, disorders of the intestinal tract lining as well as frequent urination.
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As sea cucumbers enclose fatty acids like DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), they are very helpful in providing nourishments to the heart and brain. Extracts from sea cucumbers are blended with well-known herbs to prepare salves that are useful for promoting our health and enhancing our beauty. These ointments may be applied to the face, gum, mouth, hands, feet, hair, scalp, joints and in different sensitive areas of the body.
When ointments prepared with sea cucumber are applied externally, they work like sun protectors, moisturizers for dehydrated and cracked skin and even as night cream. These ointments are also effective in bringing back the softness and suppleness of the skin and give it a pleasant feeling.
Currently, scientists from many countries, such as the United States, Japan, China and Russia, are exploring the sea cucumber extracts to determine its other potential health benefits. These scientists have reported that sea cucumber also possesses the aptitude to thwart cancer cell growth.
Moreover, sea cucumber ointments can also be used externally in the form of a moisturizer and facial cream. As of now, there are no reports of any adverse effects of using sea cucumber. Nevertheless, as in the case of any other supplement, it is advisable that you consult your physician before you start taking products containing sea cucumber.