Health benefits from one of the ocean's most ancient creatures

Don’t be deceived—jellyfish are not fish. Made up of 95% water, these boneless, free-swimming creatures have no head, scales, brain, heart, eyes, or ears. Found in oceans across the world, experts predict that there are nearly 2,000 different known jellyfish species and more are being discovered with the exploration of deep-sea waters. Although there are thousands of different types, researchers are only familiar with around 200 species. It is estimated that these creatures have been drifting through our ocean waters for more than 500-650 million years, making them one of the oldest living organisms in the world!

In Hawaiian waters, the most common are box jellyfish, which pack a respectable sting that can be extremely painful and cause health complications in those who are allergic to their poisons. Other less threatening jellies are the moon jellyfish and lagoon jellyfish, commonly found after the full moon. These species are much smaller in size and have a harmless sting that is barely noticeable to most. Although conceiving ghastly reputations, there is much more to be discovered when it comes to these mysterious ocean creatures. Not only are many jellyfish harmless, science has also proved that they are more beneficial to humans than we would have ever thought possible. 

With no complex nervous, respiratory or digestive systems, most would consider jellyfish to be simple organisms—that is far from the truth. Anatomically speaking, jellyfish are quite complex. These creatures are classified as Cnidarians, their bodies made up of two cellular layers—the ectoderm and the endoderm.  Between these dermal layers is the mesoglea, a type of connective tissue composed of a gelatinous substance, more commonly referred to as the “jelly.” With no real brain or central nervous system, jellyfish contain a loose network of nerves located in the epidermis. This allows them to detect various stimuli, including the touch of other animals.

Most jellyfish feed on small marine life, such as plankton, by using stinging cells located on their tentacles.  Unleashing a venomous shock, they are able to either paralyze or kill their prey within seconds. Using the gastrodermal lining of its cavity, jellyfish absorb their hunted food and nutrients. Most jellyfish live for only a few weeks, although some are known to survive a year or longer. Scientists, however, have remained baffled by the fact that jellyfish, unlike other creatures both on land and in the sea, have no bones.  Instead, experts claim that jellyfish contain a special type of protein that when ingested by humans is able to reduce brain cell loss and damage, and helps to improve memory—an essential benefit for mankind.

As we age beyond 40, our bodies stop producing an important protein that binds with calcium to help regulate proper levels within our brain cells. Excessive or unbound brain calcium can eventually lead to destructive inflammation. According to Mark Underwood, neuroscience researcher and president of Quincy Bioscience, “We lose our intelligence and memory neuron-by-neuron.” Underwood is responsible for discovering an important key element in the fight against brain aging by using a natural protein source known as aequorin, a supplement found in jellyfish. This breakthrough discovery is, as Underwood likes to point out, a Gift from the Sea, which also happens to be the title of his book based on his extraordinary research.   

Quincy Bioscience has found that calcium imbalance in our brain cells and the loss of adequate protein levels contribute to many neurodegenerative diseases. Underwood’s innovative vision of using jellyfish protein to slow memory loss has made its way to health foods stores across the nation in a supplement that contains aequorin called Prevagen.   

While no one enjoys the thought of getting old, aging will often creep up like a thief in the night. You may know someone who has been afflicted with a devastating illness caused by old age or genetics, such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, or Lou Gehrig’s disease. Presently, Parkinson’s disease affects an estimated one to 1.5 million Americans, while patients with Lou Gehrig’s disease have a life expectancy of only two to five years from the point at which they are diagnosed. Calcium plays an important role in all of these diseases and if excessive levels build in brain tissue, damaging inflammation sets in. Brain inflammation is a brain cell destroyer and has been shown to be implicated in nearly all memory and cognitive decline challenges. The aequorin protein found in jellyfish is being further researched and developed to manage the most prevalent neurodegenerative disorders by treating and preventing many of these destructive components.

Before aging takes an irrevocable toll, there are certain telltale signs that either you, or someone else in your life, may notice: difficulty breathing after a little exercise, trembling of the hands, twitching, aches and pains, short and long-term memory loss, decrease in appetite, irregular sleeping habits, loss of libido, fatigue, and so on. Pay attention to these symptoms as we often excuse ourselves that the signs are normal or that we are simply just getting older. Before you spend a small fortune on camouflaging wrinkles, covering grays, or surgically replenishing your physical looks, recognize what’s going on within. Once we begin to experience subtle memory lapses or excessive forgetfulness, this may indicate excess or unbound brain calcium that is negatively impacting our ability to have healthy brain function, clear thinking and optimal memory. Although these are common occurrences with aging, be certain that it is nothing more.

Is a supplement right for you? Underwood says that when individuals are given supplements containing the calcium-binding protein in Prevagen, calcium levels in their brain cells normalize, memory returns, and they feel more alert and focused. The brain is the most complex and remarkable organ in the human body, and scientists believe it is often capable of self-repair depending on the extent to which injury has occurred.

So don’t fret about our ocean’s jellyfish that regularly visit the Hawaiian shores after a full moon. Always use caution and abide by jellyfish warnings, and remember that it is important to respect any unknown gelatinous creature. Seventy of the 200 species of jellyfish are known to sting and can even cause anaphylactic shock in some individuals. If a jellyfish does sting you, please seek medical attention and take the following precautions:


If a jellyfish stings you, please seek medical attention and take the following precautions:

Rinse away tentacles using hot water. Water should be as hot as you can stand, without burning yourself. If hot water is not available, use saltwater rather than fresh. Freshwater may worsen the stinging pain.

Peel off the tentacles. Remove any remaining tentacles with a gloved hand, or safe object, like tweezers. Be careful not to get the tentacles on yourself or on clothing.

Don’t believe the myth! You should not use urine on a jellyfish sting. Urine does not always have enough acid to neutralize the venom, and the response from using urine to ease the pain has the same results of rinsing with seawater or hot water. Use hot water whenever possible, or for box jellyfish stings, distilled white vinegar is recommended.

Watch for anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction that can result in itching, hives, shortness of breath, wheezing, tightening of throat, flushed skin, drop in blood pressure, weakness or dizziness. Call 911 immediately if you notice any of these signs. Anaphylactic shock is a dangerous rapid systemic allergic reaction and can be fatal.

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