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The Medical Secrets of the Sea


According to existing testimonies the physician-priests of Mesopotamia and Egypt used different marine species: algae, fish and mollusc to cure several ailments.

Hipócrates also said that the sea was able to heal the man's illnesses. From then on the print of this knowledge got lost, probably due to the many difficulties implied regarding the ocean bottom exploration at that time. 

The progresses reached by the techniques in the prospection of the seas, the proliferation of studies on the interrelations among the beings that populate thee sea and the discovery of its pharmacological potential has caused the appearance of a new branch of the Science: the Marine Biomedicine. 
The holotúridos, the anemones, the sea urchins, the starfishes, the corals and some classes of fish have been the chosen ones due to the variety of applications of the substances that they contain. The eptatretina, for example, powerful agent cardio-stimulant, is extracted from the four hearts of the fish mixina.


A small dose increases abruptly the quantity of blood propelled by the heart to the blood vessels. What is most important is the fact that the frequency of the contractions of the heart muscle doesn't accelerate, but rather on the contrary it decreases. 

But not all are cardiologics remedies. It has been found a product that could solve one of the most serious problems the current science confronts: the growing resistance offered by the pathogenic germs to the known antibiotics, due to the abuse that has been made of them. 

It is in the most common parasites of the algae, the cefalosporinos (species of marine mushroom), and it allows the sintetización of new antibiotics of immediate effects. From another alga gender, the laminaria, regulating as well of the digestive apparatus, we get the laminina, a good remedy against the hypertension. 

The lack of documentary references on the existence of healing substances in the sea, has caused that the investigators have had to walk blindly in the laboratory through the 500.000 known species and of the other so many still to know. 


Everything began during the Second World War, when thousands of soldiers went to fight in tropical areas of the Pacific Ocean. There, the large number of losses suffered by the poisonings (through the food, stings or wounds) caused by the marine species, forced the authorities to undertake a meticulous investigation. 

Thence were discovered and they isolated several chemical substances, contained in the poisons segregated by countless organisms of the sea in theirs attacks and defenses. 

Then began to be known the properties that contained the fish, sea urchins, corals, sponges, etc. And many projects of all type were started. To this is devoted at the present time the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, of La Jolla, California, among other investigation organisms.


In 1961 several investigators of the University of Hawaii decided to follow in the traces of a legendary moss, known as the alga of Hana by the hawaian indigenous. In theirs legends they made sure that in a pond close to the Ocean, a poisoned moss grew, used by the ancestors to anoint the tip of its arrows getting it lethal. 

After many difficulties to find the place, considered taboo by the inhabitants of the islands who affirmed that gods would punish those daring to penetrate in the forbidden territory to pull up the moss, the expedition was finally able to find it. Surprisingly that same day, a fire of unknown origin destroyed the laboratory of the Institute of Marine Biology of Hawaii.

When analyzing the product, the scientists checked that it was not any moss, but an antozoario (organism of corallíferous type of the same family that the jellyfishes) of the gender Palythoa P. toxic, whose secretion is a such virulent toxin that scarcely 15 milligrams would be enough to kill a man, due to its potent vessels-constricting effect. 

Later it was discovered that it also possessed anti-tumour properties. Twenty years of investigations have been necessary to establish the complete structure of the palitoxina, as it has been called, due to the complex of their molecular structure and to the special technics that must be used. 

Now is studied the possibility of using those same vessel-constricting properties as a medicine to treat the ailments of the heart. 

What is most important is that thanks to the alga of Hana it was possible to reproduce for the first time, in a laboratory, the coronary spasms of an animal. The experiment, one of the most interesting of those carried out in this field that has allowed to know better the phsiopatology of the coronary arteries b, was carried out by a north american scientific team, directed by the Dr. Pushkar N. Kaul of the Oklahoma University. 

Another group of the same university, directed by Weinheimer and Spraggins, discovered that some marine organisms of the Caribbean Sea contained some hormonal substances known as prostaglandinas, very important in the regulation of several vital biochemical proceses. To the extet of having deserved their study the Nobel Prize of Medicine, in the year 1982. 

Some years ago the industry of marine medicaments has arisen. North America, Japan, Belgium and Australia are carrying out programs to make aware the public opinion about the importance of the substances coming from the sea. 

Possible remedies are studied for the arthritis illnesses, multiple sclerosis, liver and aging processes. It is probable that in the midium term, we may have effective medications whose origin we will have to look for it in the sea, source of life.

Recommended websites:

Mayte Suárez Santos. Journalist specialized in Medicine and Termalism. Member of the French Society of Thermalism and Thalassotherapy for the Buco-dental Health.


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