What Are the Medical Uses of Cuttlefish Ink?

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  • Written By: Maggie J. Hall
  • Edited By: Susan Barwick
  • Last Modified Date: 28 October 2019
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Homeopaths have used cuttlefish ink for over 100 years to treat depression, menstrual problems, and menopause. Some believe the substance also effectively treats skin conditions. Research indicates that the ink exhibits cell-protective properties when test subjects receive chemotherapy or radiation treatments. Cuttlefish commonly eject the ink when threatened by predatory species.

Physicians might prescribe the substance, usually combined with other ingredients, for depression associated with premenstrual symptoms and postpartum melancholy. Women experiencing difficulty bonding with a newborn may also receive recommendations for cuttlefish ink. Some believe the chemical not only improves overall mood but also eliminates irritability. Practitioners may use the tincture for infertility associated with libido loss, exhaustion, and other seemingly emotional symptoms.

Cuttlefish ink reportedly alleviates the abdominal discomfort, backaches, and headaches that frequently accompany menstruation. The ink also supposedly regulates menstrual flow, whether scantier or heavier than normal. Some believe that the substance alleviates the hot flashes commonly associated with menopause. Constipation and indigestion are other maladies treated with the ink. Homeopathic physicians have also used this natural remedy for treating bedwetting and stress incontinence.

Patients experiencing skin redness, itching, and hives have used preparations containing cuttlefish ink. Homeopaths might prescribe the concoction for eczema or for both external and internal fungal and yeast infections.


Cancer patients often require chemotherapy or radiation as treatment. One of the adverse effects of this type of therapy is anemia that occurs as red and white blood cells undergo destruction or become unable to reproduce. Hemoglobin levels also drop because of a lack of red blood cells.

Researchers discovered that mice given oral doses of cuttlefish ink experienced less damage to bone marrow and spleen tissue when receiving chemotherapy or radiation therapy. Blood cell and hemoglobin levels remained closer to normal levels. The substance had no effect on healthy mice.

Cuttlefish belong to the mollusk family and have a special gland that manufactures and retains the brownish or sepia-colored ink until needed. The ink generally contains melanin and mucus. It also contains varying amounts of glycosaminoglycans, lipids, and proteins which some believe form into amino acids and the neurotransmitters dopamine and levadopa.

Laboratories generally remove the cuttlefish ink from the internal gland, eliminating the mucus. Technicians dilute it with sugar water, forming a tincture. Frequently this tincture combined with other plant ingredients form a homeopathic remedy. The amount of dilution and the additional ingredients used depends on the particular malady requiring treatment. Cuttlefish ink or sepia is generally available, in combination with other ingredients, in pill or tablet form.


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Post 10

@ceilingcat - I've known a few people who tried alternative methods for bad periods, but none of the alternatives worked for anyone! So it might be better that you just went on the pill.

Although I'm skeptical that this stuff could actually help with menstrual issues, I'm very interested in its uses for cancer patients. I know chemotherapy can be a horrible experience for many people. In fact, some people have said that the chemo is worse than the actual cancer!

I think anything that can possibly alleviate the symptoms from chemo should be studied further.

Post 9

@sunnySkys - It's so interesting that this stuff has medicinal uses but was also used in the past as a pigment! It just goes to show how many different uses there are for natural substances.

Anyway, I'm a big fan of alternative medicine, but I've never heard of this stuff. It probably would have come in handy for me in the past too! I have horrible periods, so I finally went on birth control pills so that I can function during "that time of the month." I tried some natural alternatives before I went on the pill, and none of them worked. I would have been willing to try one more though.

Post 8

@sunshined - You could always mention something to your son, and maybe he can bring it up to her? I do agree that you're right not to say anything unless you two are very close. I imagine lack of bonding with your baby is probably a very sensitive issue.

Anyway, I put two and two together when I read the last paragraph of this article. It seem like cuttlefish ink is the inspiration behind sepia toned photography! I remember learning about it in school.

Most sepia tones aren't made from cuttlefish ink these days, but they used to be!

Post 7

I am wondering if this is something my daughter-in-law would be open to. When she had her first baby, she had a hard time bonding with the baby.

At first we all thought it was because she was young and didn't have any siblings. She hadn't spent much time around babies, so we just thought it would take some time.

I should have known there was more to it than that, because as most mothers know, you bond with your babies the first instant you lay eyes on them.

She did not have a severe postpartum depression, but was really melancholy about everything. My son is the one who gets up in the middle of the night

and does most of the work.

If she has any more babies, it would be interesting to see if she would consider something like cuttlefish ink. She is interested in natural products and alternatives.

It is a hard thing for her to talk about though, so it would probably have to come from someone other than her mother-in-law.

Post 6

My experience with cuttlefish ink was in making my own cuttlefish ink pasta. I had seen squid ink pasta on the menu at one of our favorite Italian restaurants and was curious about it.

Both of them are a dark ink and will make the pasta look almost black. You can make your own pasta noodles, or buy pre-packaged pasta and add the cuttlefish ink to it.

I like to try new and different foods, but this isn't one I will try again. It has too much of a slightly fishy, briny taste that I didn't care for. I also had a hard time getting down black pasta no matter how much I tried to convince myself it

was OK.

Because this is a dark ink, it will also stain your hands and can leave stains on your counter if you are not careful.

I can understand why they use cuttlefish ink for medicinal purposes. From now on, I would much rather try it in a pill or capsule form than in my food.

Post 5

@SarahSon - I have never heard of a traditional doctor prescribing cuttlefish ink, but some might, depending on how they view natural remedies.

I am fortunate enough to have a great homeopathic doctor who has helped my family in a lot of ways. He recommended I try sepia for my son who had trouble wetting the bed.

As with most homeopathic remedies, there are differing opinions on the effectiveness of them. I always do my research before trying out anything for myself or my kids.

Most of them don't have side effects, so I always think it is the best place to start. Most of the time we get good results and I am happy I don't have to rely on a medication.

This has worked well for my son. Sometimes I do wonder if it was a case of just outgrowing it, or it was the sepia, but either way, I was happy to give it a try.

Post 4

Is cuttlefish ink something that has to be prescribed or can you find it at a health food store?

I would like to find something to help me with my menstrual symptoms. I am getting closer to menopause, but have very heavy periods. I have also always had a lot of cramping and bloating.

The last time I mentioned this to my doctor he wanted to put me on birth control pills to help with my symptoms. I didn't want to do this, so declined and said I would just deal with it.

I have never heard of cuttlefish ink being used before, but would love to see if it would help. Is this something a traditional doctor would prescribe or would I need to find a homeopathic doctor?

Post 3

@burcinc-- I've been taking a sepia tincture for more than three months now. I suffer from intense periods with excessive bleeding and pain. Sepia has been helping a lot and I'm almost cured according to my homeopathic doctor.

I agree with you that most homeopathic treatments only require several doses. However, sepia is not one of them. My doctor said that sepia is a long-term treatment, not a quick fix. Plus, the dose I'm on is so low that it has no side effects.

I think you should visit your doctor again and restart the sepia treatment. Or visit another homeopathy doctor for consensus. My experience with sepia has been really well so far.

Post 2

Hi, I lost a parent last year and developed depression and anxiety immediately after. I was reluctant to take anti-depressives and visited a homeopathy doctor instead.

I have not had too many experiences with homeopathy nor cuttlefish ink remedies, however, I knew that homeopathic treatments usually last a very short time. This was what my brief homeopathic doctor had told me about ten years ago.

This doctor whom I visited listened to my symptoms for several hours and prescribed sepia cuttlefish ink. However, she said that I would be taking it for at least a month or even more depending on how I was doing.

This seemed very odd to me and I quit taking it after only one week. My symptoms have not resolved since then. I wonder if I did the wrong thing. Has anyone else taken sepia homeopathic treatments? How long did you use it for and did you get results?

Post 1

This is really amazing. I know many cuisines like to cook with cuttlefish and cuttlefish ink. I've had an Italian meal before called "Farro". It's made with cuttlefish meat, corn and the ink as sauce. It was a really interesting dish. Cooks who can't get a hold of squid ink also sometimes replace it with cuttlefish ink.

I had no idea however that cuttlefish ink has health benefits as well. Do you think that cuttlefish ink consumed as foods is just as beneficial as the homeopathic remedies? Or does it need to be made into a tincture and mixed with other herbs?

One of my great uncles is dealing with a cancerous tumor right now. I wonder if it would help him to eat some cuttlefish along with the ink?

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