Seahorses in Traditional Medicines: A Global Overview

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Abstract

Seahorses (Hippocampus spp.) are under threat worldwide because of the global demand for them and products arising from them, and by destruction of their habitats. A landmark report published in 1996 exposed the massive trade in seahorses, involving at least 32 countries, and established that the market for these fishes was threatening their wild populations. A subsequent set of surveys identified a much larger number of countries (nearly 80) involved in the seahorse trade, thus furthering concern over its sustainability. As a means of ensuring that trade is not detrimental to the survival of wild populations, all species of Hippocampus were added to Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), effective May 2004. Given that traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and its derivatives account for the largest consumption of seahorses, further understanding of traditional medicinal uses of seahorses is central to conservation efforts, both on national and international levels. This chapter summarizes knowledge about the medicinal uses of seahorses, focusing on the species used, illnesses and ailments to which species are prescribed, and implications for conservation.