If you’re tuned in to the health and wellness space, you’ve probably heard the buzz about sea cucumber. This luxury food has been long appreciated in Chinese medicine and cuisine for its nourishing properties. More recently, sea cucumber is gaining popularity as a supplement thanks to new scientific research showing antioxidant effects and possible immune-boosting benefits.
But sea cucumber comes premium price tag – in fact, as a food it is so pricey that it’s typically only accessible to the wealthy!
How expensive is sea cucumber? A quick internet search of Chinese e-commerce websites like tmall.com shows the price of sea cucumber ranging between 10,000 to 20,000 Yuan per 500 g. That’s equivalent to about $2000 to $4000 Canadian dollars! And the price continues to increase. Between 2011 and 2016 alone, the average market price for sea cucumber in China grew by 16.6%.
For context, sea cucumber fetches a higher price per weight than other expensive foods like caviar, saffron, and truffles!
In this post we explore the history of sea cucumber, discuss why it is so expensive, and why it’s worth considering as a supplement.
A Brief History of Sea Cucumber
If you’ve ever observed a sea cucumber in its natural habitat, you might have noticed it looks more like a mobile plant than animal. But they are animals. Sea cucumbers belong to a group called echinoderms, marine invertebrates related to starfish and sand dollars. They have a unique tube-like shape that allows them to move along the sea floor.
Why sea cucumbers are a luxury today can be traced back as early as 1800 years ago in China. Records show they were eaten as a delicacy since the Ming Dynasty. It was believed that sea cucumber could treat many ailments from arthritis to cancer and help with overall health maintenance.
For these reasons, sea cucumber was long prescribed to help with everything from wound healing to illness recovery. It was noted that sea cucumber contained many of the same healing properties as the coveted ginseng plant, leading it to be called “ginseng of the sea.”
Sea Cucumber: A Delicacy for the Rich
Sea cucumber quickly became a symbol of affluence and luxury typically reserved for celebrations like weddings and Chinese New Year.
During the Qing dynasty, it was prominently featured in one of the grandest meals ever documented in Chinese cuisine. The Manchu Han Imperial Feast, lasting three days across six banquets, consisted of at least 108 unique sea cucumber dishes intended for the elite.
Now that’s a meal fit for an emperor!
Modern Consumption & Health Benefits of Sea Cucumber
Today, sea cucumber is still enjoyed by the wealthy in many Asian cultures as a nourishing source of protein and protective nutrients. It is even packaged in luxurious boxes and gifted on the most special occasions.
Sea cucumbers are still consumed in the traditional dried method as well as more recent preparations such as freeze-dried, salted, canned, high pressure processing, braised, stewed, and friend, to name a few.
Recipes include stir-fries, soups, salads, and more. Many enjoy sea cucumber daily during winter months as protective nourishment.
Sea Cucumber Harvesting & Market Price
Sea cucumbers can be found deep or shallow waters. For centuries, Indigenous peoples and ancient Chinese cultures have harvested them by traditional means. Today, sea cucumber can be farmed or wild-caught, with wild being preferable for both sustainability and quality reasons.
One sea cucumber species, Atlantic sea cucumber (Cucumaria frondosa), is wild-caught from the deep, ice-cold Atlantic waters where it is slower to develop compared to farmed species from around the globe. This allows the animal to grow more slowly and accumulate nutrients in their body walls, making them the ideal premium supplement ingredient.
Farmed sea cucumber is raised in shallow water, with a less diverse food source which depletes some nutrients. This makes a difference when evaluating the size and quality of the animal at harvest.
Along with its “rich” history, two other factors contribute to the high price tag:
Their slow growth and length of time to reach maturation
Difficult means of harvest, making it a premium ingredient rather than a commodity.
For these reasons, sea cucumber has preserved its luxury status.
Sea Cucumber Supplements
Now, it’s savvy shoppers looking for a wellness boost who are eagerly seeking high-quality sea cucumber supplements.
What was once reserved for the elite is now available in capsule form for convenient daily intake.
The top reasons for taking a sea cucumber supplement include:
Strong antioxidant properties for cell repair and support
Anti-cancer and anti-tumor activities
Source of essential amino acids glycine, glutamic acid and arginine
Energize and boost immune function
Concentrated vitamins, minerals, collagen and nutrients
Is Sea Cucumber Worth It?
Given its longstanding medicinal use, status as a luxury food, and coveted health benefits, sea cucumber’s top-tier price tag is not unfounded. Plus, modern scientific research now supports its efficacy.
If you’re looking for a new way to boost your health, consider adding sea cucumber supplements to your daily routine.
Be sure to look for only the highest quality product, ideally 100% Canadian wild-caught Atlantic sea cucumber. This is essential to ensuring top nutritional benefit.
Learn more about sea cucumber supplements and shop today.