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Gamat - the Ginseng of the Sea

In Malaysia, sea cucumbers are called gamat, ibu gamat, bat or balat. The name gamatapplies to the Stichopus species of sea cucumber, which is known to contain bio-active substances that destroy micro-organisms, especially fungi. Among the Chinese, it is known as hai shen or "ginseng of the sea"?

Sea cucumbers are eaten as delicacies and are an excellent source of protein. It is prepared in soups and used in medicinal preparations. It is traditionally used by the Chinese to treat high blood pressure, asthma, internal bleeding, muscle weakness, and to enhance vitality and sexual function. In promoting healing after surgery, its effectiveness is considered to be even better than haruan fish (Channa striata).

Coastal inhabitants in Sabah (East Malaysia) bathe in water soaked with sea cucumbers, and eat them to treat epilepsy, to heal wounds, relieve constipation, and remove dead cells from the skin. It is also rubbed on the skin infected by ringworms.

Protein makes up about 44% of the dry weight of a sea cucumber, carbohydrates between 1 and 5%, and fats generally about 1%. Sea cucumbers also possess Saponin. Collagen from the body wall of sea cucumber is rich in protein and certain essential amino acids. Purified sea cucumber extract (air gamat) comes from the internal part of the body, and sea cucumber oil (minyak gamat) is processed from the tissues. They are used as remedies for wounds, lung ailments, parasitic skin infections, backaches, joint/rheumatic pains, heartburn/gastritis, allergies, stomach and mouth ulcers, and for promoting womb healing after delivery.

Sea cucumbers are also rich in minerals that vary among species. They contain antioxidants including vitamin E, essential fatty acids including eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and decosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Vitamin E is an antioxidant, essential for fertility, which slows down the degeneration process of cells and hence delays aging. EPA is crucial for healing wounds and restoring cells. By reducing blood clots in the large and small blood vessels, EPA is anti-thrombotic and lowers the risk of stroke.

Gamat is much more than a delicacy - it is a safe and nutritious form of food, and also has a wide range of medicinal properties.

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