The mystery of the sea
A natural sea sponge is a superior quality sponge mainly used in pharmaceuticals, household and personal hygiene. Natural sea sponges are porous solid masses, mainly sea zoophytes, which after the necessary process of cleaning become very soft and light and they are adequate for a variety of everyday uses.
The Greeks have been using sea sponges both for their personal hygiene and for cleaning their houses since the antiquity. The use of sponges is first attested in the 8th century B.C. by the epic poet Homer. In his Iliad, the god Hephaestus cleans his face, his hands and his chest with a sponge, whereas in the Odyssey, the servants in the palace of Odysseus clean the tables after the meals of the Suitors of Penelope with sponges. Sponges were also used in writing, painting, medicine, pharmaceuticals, and army, protecting the soldiers from the friction between the armour and the body, during the Roman and the Byzantine period. There is also a reference to the sponges in the Bible, in the New Testament, when a Roman soldier offers Jesus a sponge soaked in vinegar wine at the Crucifixion. After the final end of Venetocracy in Greece (14th-16th century A.D.) the Western crusaders introduced the use of sponges in Central and Western Europe and made Venice a major sponge trading center.
It is easily deduced from the above mentioned historical facts that sea sponges had been mainly harvested in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea. After the use of sponges had been introduced and popularized in the Western world, the demand for sea sponges was consequently raised, and divers searched for them in other seas of the world. As of today, sponges are harvested in the Caribbean Sea, mainly on the seaboard of Florida and Cuba. Their quality is though lower than the quality of the Mediterranean sponges, since the texture of these sponges is loose. Sponges are also harvested on the seaboard of Madagascar, in the Bay of Bengal, and on the seaboard of the Philippines, but their quality is even lower than the quality of the Caribbean ones. These are actually the commercial sponges, since their production is high and their price is much lower than the price of the Greek quality sponges harvested on the Greek island of Kalymnos. Kalymnos is an island in the southeastern Aegean Sea that because of historical and geopolitical reasons remained the main producer and trader of quality sponges in Greece and one of the main sponge producers in the Mediterranean Sea.
Use of a natural sea sponge
But why should I use a natural sea sponge today, when there are so many inexpensive and beautiful industrial sponges? Just because it is the only product that will not damage your skin or any surface it is used on. When using a natural sea sponge for your personal hygiene, the pores of the skin are opened allowing the skin to breathe and facilitating the blood circulation. Cosmeticians universally agree that sea sponges are the most appropriate sponges for facial and infant care, since they do not retain any bacteria. These sponges are the perfect instruments for cleaning or peeling your face, for applying or taking off cosmetics and above all for applying face creams. You will enjoy the benefits of such a quality sponge for a long time, since a natural sea sponge, if properly rinsed after every use, will last for years. What is important is not using chlorine on the sponges, since it weakens their fibers and shortens their life.
But what is that that makes natural sea sponges the best products for your household or your personal hygiene? It’s their morphology, which is a little bit complicated, though.
Aristotle was the first to observe that although sea sponges look like plants, they have senses, and he placed them therefore into the animal kingdom, in the category of “Dualizers”, species that act both like plants and animals. Many other scientists, like Rondelet, Lamark, Cuvier, Hyman and others, have studied the morphology of the sponges since then. In 1967 Brien assigned the sponges finally to the subkingdom Metazoa.
Sea sponges are classified in the phylum Porifera, since their surface is full of pores and channels allowing water to circulate through them. Their main function is pumping big amounts of water, which can reach a volume three times bigger than the volume of the sponge. The skeleton of the sponge disappeared throughout the ages and the spongin fibers, what we see when we have a sea sponge in our hands, now play its role.
Sea sponges are divided into “wild” and “tame”, or better into commercial and non-commercial. The commercial types of sponges, i.e. sponges that are more harvested, are the following five:
- Hippospongia communis or Kapadiko, as it is known among the Greek divers,
- Spongia officinalis adriatica or Matapas in Greek,
- Spongia officinalis mollissima or Turkish cup as the Greek divers call it,
- Spongia agaricina or Spongia officinalis lamella, also known as the Elephant’s Ear, and it is called psathouri, lafina or lagofyto by the Greeks,
- Spongia zimoca, also known as Tsimouha.
“The land of Corfu NATURAL PRODUCTS” offers high quality Hippospongia communis and Spongia officinalis adriatica sponges from the Greek island of Kalymnos. You can find them in our shops in Corfu, or you can order them online under the tab “Sponges”.
“The land of Corfu NATURAL PRODUCTS” besides the Sea Sponges offers you also Loofah, a fruit used as a bath or kitchen sponge. The Loofah, or Luffa as it is also spelled, is the perfect scrubbing sponge. You can also find it under the tab “Sponges”.