Marine species in traditional medicine

I was glad t o read Chuck Birkeland’s article on disposable income in Asia and its effects on coral reef resources (Reef Encounte r No. 22: 9-13). I would certainly agree that economic growth in China (and previously in Asia in general) is putting new pressures on marine resources, and thank
him for raising the issue. My activities in seahorse conservation make it appropriate for me t o respond specifically t o Birkeland’s comment
about Asian use of seahorses, as this was somewhat provocative and could be counterproductive in conservation terms. Contrar y t o his implication, seahorses are not used solely as aphrodisiacs. In Hong Kong
SAR and mainland China, they are primarily used in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) to treat asthma and other respirator y disorders. There and elsewhere, seahorses are also incorporated into remedies for arteriosclerosis, impotence, thyroid disorders, skin ailments, heart disease, and incontinence. And yes, they are also used as aphrodisiacs. But we would be ill-advised to dismiss this range of medical conditions as mere “frivolities” or to imply that seahorses were somehow used in “hoax ” treatments.

Vincent, A.C.J. (1998). Reef Encounters 23:14.