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Gamat, one of more than 1,200 species of sea cucumber, is a staple in traditional medicine in Malaysia, China, and Japan. It is valued for its ability to heal wounds by stimulating new cell growth. Gamat might also prove useful as an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant to lower blood pressure and control diabetes. Research shows gamat contains properties that might ease the pain of arthritis.
Also called golden sea cucumber or trepang, gamat is applied to stitches by Malaysian women after childbirth as a healing balm, a practice that goes back hundreds of years. They boil the slug with herbs to extract its juice before smearing it on external wounds. Malays also drink the mixture to heal internal ailments, such as ulcers.
The Chinese consider sea cucumber a delicacy that cures impotence. It is typically eaten raw as an appetizer or cooked into soups. Gamat is used as a tonic for overall good health in traditional Chinese medicine. It is sometimes prescribed to promote longevity and to treat frequent urination and weakness. Asians also use sea cucumber to relieve the pain of inflamed joints or tendons.
This species of marine life is high in protein, carbohydrates, and essential fatty acids. These animals are also rich in collagen, vitamin A, the B vitamins, and various trace minerals. Amino acids similar to fish oil might promote a healthy heart and brain. When used as a jelly or cream, sea cucumber extract may reduce scarring and moisturize the skin to reduce signs of aging.
A legend repeated by the Malays involves a Langkawi Beach fisherman hundreds of years ago who found these slimy creatures attached to his legs. He reportedly cut up all the trepang in the area, leaving them to die. Later in the day, the fisherman discovered that every gamat had healed itself and become whole.
Sea cucumbers are slimy, slug-like creatures related to the starfish and sea urchin and live on the ocean floor. They move slowly along the seabed, using tubular feet to scoop sand and nutrients into their mouths. These invertebrates emit a sticky substance from a specific gland as a defense mechanism to trap prey. This chemical paralyzes small sea life and has been under study in some regions.
The sea cucumber reproduces sexually or asexually. Sperm and eggs are released into the water, and fertilization occurs when they connect. The eggs and young gamat become prey for fish and other sea creatures.