Sea Cucumber

Sea Cucumber

Sea Cucumber

Common Names

  • Holothurian
  • Haishen

For Patients & Caregivers

Sea cucumber has not been shown to treat cancer in humans.

Sea cucumber is a marine invertebrate related to sea urchins and star fish. It is dried and used in soups and other dishes and is considered a delicacy in Asian countries. Sea cucumber is used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat fatigue, impotence, constipation, frequent urination, and joint pain. It is also a rich source of chondroitin sulfate, commonly used for arthritis. There are no reports of adverse effects from use of sea cucumber.

  • Cancer Treatment
    Laboratory experiments suggest a saponin component derived from sea cucumber may have antitumor effects by inhibiting formation of new blood vessels. This effect has not been studied in humans.
  • Longevity
    Sea cucumber is used in Chinese medicine to increase longevity, but there are no clinical data to support this use.
  • Impotence
    Although Sea cucumber in Chinese medicine used to treat impotence, there are no clinical data to back this use.
  • Joint Pain
    Sea cucumber is a rich source of chondroitin sulfate, shown to be effective for osteoarthritis.
  • Frequent Urination
    Sea cucumber is used in Chinese medicine to treat urinary problems. However, clinical data to support this use are lacking.
  • You are allergic to seafood.
  • You are taking anticoagulants: The polysaccharides present in sea cucumber may increase the effects of anticoagulants, increasing the risk of bleeding.
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For Healthcare Professionals

Staurocucumis liouvillei, Mensamaria intercedens Lampert, Cucumaria frondosa

Sea cucumber is a marine invertebrate found all over the world. It is used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat fatigue, impotence, constipation, frequent urination, and joint pain. It is also a rich source of mucopolysaccharides, especially chondroitin sulfate, commonly used for arthritis.

In vitro studies have shown that the saponins and fatty acids present in sea cucumber are responsible for its anti-angiogenic, anti-tumor (2), antiproliferative (1), and antiviral properties (4) (3).

One study suggests that sea cucumber extract is beneficial in treating chronic gingivitis (5).
No adverse effects have been reported from its use.

Sea cucumbers are considered a delicacy in Asian countries. They are cooked, dried and then used in soups and other dishes.

  • Antiaging
  • Arthritis
  • Cancer treatment
  • Frequent urination
  • Impotence

A branched-chain fatty acid known as 12-methyltetradecanoic acid, isolated from sea cucumber, is thought to inhibit prostate cancer cell proliferation by increasing caspase-3 activity (1). The proposed mechanism for the anti-angiogenic and antitumor effects of Philinopside A, a saponin derived from sea cucumber, is by inhibiting tyrosine kinase receptors (2). Frondoside A, a triterpenoid glycoside from Cucumaria frondosa, also has anti-angiogenic activity (9).

Sea cucumber may not be appropriate for individuals who are allergic to seafood.

Anticoagulants: The polysaccharides sulfated fucan and fucosylated chondroitin sulfate may potentiate the actions of anticoagulants (8).


  1. Attoub S, Arafat K, Ge´laude A, et al. Frondoside A Suppressive Effects on Lung Cancer Survival, Tumor Growth, Angiogenesis, Invasion, and Metastasis. PLoS ONE 2013; 8(1): e53087. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0053087

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