· By Dr. Kaushal M. Kulkarni, M.D.
The Ultimate Guide To Sea Buckthorn
If you have only just learned of the existence of sea buckthorn, then you aren’t alone. This superfruit has been grown and used for its medicinal benefits for more than 2,000 years by some of the world’s most remote populations.
In recent years, it has become a common adaptogenic ingredient in various foods, drinks, and supplements offered here in the Western world. In this article, we talk about the known (and supposed) benefits of sea buckthorn, plus its uses and potential side effects.
What is Sea Buckthorn?
Despite its name, sea buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides) does not come from the ocean. Rather, it is a small shrubby plant native to the high altitudes of Asia, and parts of northern and eastern Europe. For thousands of years, the sea buckthorn’s bright orange berries, leaves, flowers, and seeds have been used for medicinal purposes. It is said that the oils and fruits of the sea buckthorn plant can positively affect aging, skin, hair, the heart, the eyes, and the digestive tract.
These days, 90% of the world’s sea buckthorn grows in China, Mongolia, India, Russia, Ukraine, and Canada (specifically, Saskatchewan). Though it is still cultivated for medicinal use and use in consumer products, its uses have expanded to include anti-desertification purposes and conservation of soil, water, and wildlife.
It should be noted that sea buckthorn is not the same as Cascara sagrada, European buckthorn, alder buckthorn, or other types of buckthorn plants.
The Benefits of Sea Buckthorn
The first people to ingest sea buckthorn all those centuries ago probably didn’t know the first thing about vitamins, minerals, or antioxidants, but they were able to recognize the various health benefits that came from eating the plant’s different parts. Today, we know that sea buckthorn plants are an excellent source of:
- vitamin A
- vitamins B1, B2, and B6
- vitamin C
- vitamin E
- quercetin, a flavonoid said to lower blood pressure
Fun fact: Sea buckthorn is one of the only known plant foods to provide all four omega fatty acids.
With such a long list of beneficial components, it’s no wonder sea buckthorn has come to be known colloquially as the “holy fruit of the Himalayas.”
Sea Buckthorn Uses
As mentioned above, sea buckthorn has been used for centuries as a natural remedy for various ailments. In Chinese and Ayurvedic medicines, it is traditionally used to slow down the aging process. Though much more scientific research is needed, it is currently believed that sea buckthorn can be effective for a wide variety of things, a few of which we describe below.
1. Anti-Aging, Skin Protection
Animal and test-tube studies suggest that the omega fatty acids present in sea buckthorn oil helps stimulate skin regeneration. Not only does this mean that regular ingestion of sea buckthorn oil could help slow down the aging process, but also that burns, wounds, ulcers, and skin conditions (including acne, eczema, and psoriasis) can heal more quickly.
The collection of omega fatty acids in sea buckthorn also helps to keep the skin pliant and moisturized. It has been observed that those who routinely ingest sea buckthorn products experience less dry skin and less inflammation after significant UV exposure.
2. Heart Health
Sea buckthorn seeds and leaves contain quercetin, a flavonoid that is said to lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart disease and blood clots. Sea buckthorn berries are also chock-full of antioxidants that can further protect against heat-related issues (as well as general illnesses and even some cancers).
In a small 2000 study, 12 healthy men were given five grams of either sea buckthorn oil or coconut oil every day for four weeks. At the end of the four weeks, the men who had taken the sea buckthorn oil were found to have significantly lower markers of blood clots than those who were given the coconut oil.
3. Diabetes Prevention
It is hypothesized that regular ingestion of sea buckthorn products may also help to prevent diabetes. More research is needed, but a recent animal study found a relationship between sea buckthorn and both reduced blood sugar levels and increased insulin secretion and sensitivity.
In a study conducted in China, a group of prediabetics were given sea buckthorn fruit purée each day for five weeks. By the end of the study, the participants were found to have decreased fasting plasma glucose levels.
4. Improving Dry Eyes
One of the biggest reasons people have for taking sea buckthorn supplements is to improve chronic dry eye. Sea buckthorn oil that is ingested through the mouth contains antioxidants, n-3 and n-7 fatty acids, and linoleic acid, all of which are known lubricants that can positively improve uncomfortable dry eyes.
Sea buckthorn is also thought to improve:
- high blood pressure
- symptoms of menopause
- symptoms of depression
Sea Buckthorn Side Effects
Studies still need to be done to find out the true extent of sea buckthorn’s benefits and limitations, but sea buckthorn products are almost certainly safe when consumed in foods, or when taken for medicinal purposes. Still, sea buckthorn has been found to have some side effects. Most notably, it might slow blood clotting.
For the same reason, if you are planning on having surgery, it would be best to stop taking sea buckthorn at least two weeks before. When used as a cream, sea buckthorn is safe to use for up to 13 consecutive days, though some users have reported experiencing red, itchy skin.
Sea Buckthorn Supplements & Other Products
Sea buckthorn fruit is often added to pies, jams, and similar foods. Some also recommend using sea buckthorn leaf or leaf extract in teas and other drinks.
However, sea buckthorn is most commonly taken as a supplement (or is added as an ingredient into other beneficial supplements).
A study published in 2016 attempted to better understand the benefits of incorporating sea buckthorn supplements into one’s diet. For 30 days, participants were given .75 mL of sea buckthorn oil. At the end of the month, it was found that said participants exhibited lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels and that those who had begun the study with high blood pressure had reduced blood pressure levels.
People Also Ask
1. What does sea buckthorn do for your skin?
The sea buckthorn plant is a fantastic source of Vitamin C, Vitamin E, essential fatty acids, and other healthy fats – all of which promote skin elasticity and hydration. Therefore, sea buckthorn can help slow down the aging process and prevent wrinkles, protect against dryness, and help your skin heal from burns, abrasions, acne, and eczema. Perhaps not surprisingly, sea buckthorn oil is a common ingredient in lotions and skincare products.
2. What are the benefits of sea buckthorn?
Though little has been scientifically proven, sea buckthorn has been used for thousands of years as an anti-inflammatory, and to slow down aging, hydrate skin, and promote the healing of burns, wounds, and blemishes. Recent studies also suggest that sea buckthorn incorporated into your diet as a supplement can also decrease the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and even certain cancers.
3. What are the benefits of sea buckthorn capsules?
For those unable to cultivate their own sea buckthorn plants (most of us!), sea buckthorn capsules – or supplements – offer a convenient way to incorporate sea buckthorn oil and its benefits into your daily routine. When purchased from a legitimate source, sea buckthorn capsules can hydrate skin, strengthen nails and hair, and prevent serious health conditions.
4. Who should not take sea buckthorn?
One of the benefits of sea buckthorn is its ability to decrease the risk of blood clots and heart disease. But because it can slow blood clotting, those with bleeding disorders should not consume sea buckthorn in any form.
Though communities in Asia and Eastern Europe have been reaping the benefits of the sea buckthorn plant for centuries, it is only more recently that the Western world has come to embrace this nutraceutical superfood. Packed with antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals, the “holy fruit of the Himalayas” has traditionally been used to slow down the aging process.
Other proclaimed benefits include heart health, diabetes prevention, wrinkle prevention, and hydration, to name but a few. Though more scientific research is certainly needed to learn the true extent and limitations of the plant’s berries, leaves, flowers, and seeds, sea buckthorn has become a common addition to skincare products, eye-health vitamins, and other dietary supplements.