Sea Buckthorn Stories

This vitamin-C rich plant is a natural beauty secret as well as potent herbal medicine.

Native to Europe and Asia, sea buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides) is a seashore plant that thrives in the windy northland. The 12-ft high bush is covered with large sharp spines (buckthorns), making harvesting difficult, but worth it: it is one of the most exciting natural remedies available today. Russian research started in the 1920s, and more than 70 scientific studies have appeared in the literature since 1956. Based on traditional use and recent scientific data, it has tremendous potential for treating a wide range of conditions, including acne, ulcers, heart disease and gingivitis.

Sea buckthorn has been used for centuries as food and medicine in Europe. Legends about sea buckthorn hold that the ancient Greeks used it in a diet for race horses. This would explain the botanical name Hippophae (“shiny horse”). Recently, this powerful remedy has made its way across the Atlantic to appear in health and beauty products. Oil extracted from the seed and fruit pulp are the main active ingredients. The tart fruit is also used for food and medicine. There are currently more than 200 products manufactured from sea buckthorn on the world market, including juice, jams, body oils, creams, soaps and shampoos. (Note: Do not confuse this remedy with buckthorn bark, which is from a tree that grows in Northern California.

Benefits to Skin

Sea buckthorn seed oil is a cosmetic and skin-care remedy with nourishing and restorative benefits. It is popular in Europe, and is an ingredient in high-end natural skin-care lines there. It has properties similar to evening primrose oil. It is rich in phytosterols (beta-sitosterol, beta-amirol and erithrodiol). Sea buckthorn oil contains 80 to 95% essential fatty acids (EFAs), including oleic and linoleic acids. Sea buckthorn has a high concentration of the rare palmitoleic acid (omega-7), a fatty acid found in skin fat.

Sea buckthorn seed oil is used to encourage the healing of skin conditions, including injuries, burns, sunburns, acne, wounds, eczema, hemorrhoids, ear infection and genital inflammation. Applying the oil is thought to combat wrinkles and dry skin.

Vitamin-Packed Fruit

Sea buckthorn, a bright orange fruit, is among the most nutritious fruits known. Intensely sour, it is a great source of vitamin C, with up to 16 times as much as kiwi fruit. The vitamin C content makes it suitable for treating bleeding gums. The fruit is also a rich natural source of vitamin A and several other carotenes. The fruit contains assorted flavonoids, and vitamins B1, B2, E and K. Its proanthocyanidins have antioxidant properties. The superoxide dismutase content of the fruit juice is higher than ginseng, making it a possible anti-inflammatory and anti-aging remedy.

Ulcer Treatment

The oil can be taken internally to improve the conditions of the mucous membranes of the gastrointestinal tract. A 2002 study found that extracted sea buckthorn seed and pulp oils have both preventive and curative effects against gastric ulcers in rats. Sitosterol and sitosterol glycoside are thought to be the major anti-ulcer components.

Other Benefits

Internally, extracts of the oil, juice, leaves and bark are used for treating heart disease, high blood pressure, gingivitis, eye diseases and tumors, and liver fibrosis.

Chinese scientists recently found that the seed oil prevents stroke in rats. In mice, the oil can stimulate the recovery of red-blood-cell production after chemotherapy. Some people apply the oil as eye drops to prevent cataracts.

Sea buckthorn may also increase the level of plasma HDL (“good”) cholesterol. Research at the University of Reading in England found a 20% increase in plasma HDL-C in human subjects given the juice, and another study found improved HDL levels with pulp oil.

Usage Guidelines

In Europe, sea buckthorn fruit juice is available and can be used in recipes instead of lemon juice. The oil is available as a liquid for internal or external use. Creams and lotions can be used on the skin.

Softgel capsules can be taken internally. Take 1,500 to 3,000 mg per day. Taking 50 to 100 gm of the fruit supplies about 500 mg of vitamin C. The leaves are used as a tea.