Sea Buckthorn Berries

Sea Buckthorn: The Wonder Berry with Amazing Healing Properties

by Deep, Radi, and Mithu on October 25, 2010

in Natural Health Foods

AN INTRODUCTION TO SEA BUCKTHORN: A TRUE SUPER FOOD

In recent years, numerous products have appeared in the market clamoring for “super food status.” While some are undoubtedly worthy candidates, it is not always clear to what extent reported claims of their miraculous health benefits are based on rigorous research and scientific validation as opposed to skillful marketing. In some cases such as krill, which is a vital component of fragile marine ecosystems, there are also concerns as to whether or not they are harvested sustainably.

We would unhesitatingly place our bets on one small berry – Sea Buckthorn – which, we are convinced is truly deserving of the title “super food.” In this article, we hope to convince our readers why this is so by describing the long history of Sea Buckthorn and its medicinal use; the amazingly rich store of essential nutrients that it contains; and its many therapeutic properties backed by scientific research.

THE MEDICINAL USES OF SEA BUCKTHORN: A LOOK BACK THROUGH HISTORY

Sea Buckthorn (also spelled Seabuckthorn) occurs naturally in several parts of Eurasia and is known to exhibit tremendous ecological adaptability. It can withstand extreme temperatures (ranging between -43 degrees Celsius and 40 degrees Celsius), and other inhospitable conditions such as sandy and barren land and steep slopes.

Bushes of these luminous orange fruit are found naturally growing in high altitude areas as well as along sea coasts across many parts of Asia and Europe. These include the Himalayan range extending across Tibet, Nepal, India, Bhutan, and Pakistan, as well China, Mongolia, Central Asia and several European countries such as Russia, Britain, France, Spain, Netherlands, Germany, Poland, and Scandinavia.

Sea Buckthorn is believed to have originated in the temperate zone of ancient lands and may date back as early as 25 to 40 million years ago, evolving biologically alongside a long history of climactic and topographical changes, including the ice age and the rise of the Himalayas.

Not surprisingly, this ancient food has a far reaching history of use in traditional and folk systems of medicine. Its medicinal use in Central Asia probably originates from its role in Tibetan Medicine in which it is known as Star-Bu or D’har-Bu. Its medicinal use was in fact first recorded in a Tibetan Classic in the eighth century. It is also a medicinal component in Indian Ayurveda.

In Asia, there is a widespread tendency to imbue valuable plants and other material with sacred significance. It is not therefore surprising that the Sea Buckthorn berry, with its unique healing properties, is known as “the holy fruit of the Himalayas.” Traditionally it has been used by Tibetans and other Asian peoples throughout the ages to treat burns and wounds, numerous skin diseases and conditions, inflammation, colds and flu, altitude sickness, gastric disorders, and mucous membrane problems.

Records of its medicinal use in Europe date back to ancient Greece where the leaves and young branches of this plant were added to horses’ fodder resulting in weight gain and a healthy shine to their coats. This in fact is the origin of the plant’s botanical name, Hippophae: Hippo meaning “horse” in Latin and phaos meaning “to shine.”

In more recent times, some of the earliest scientific research on Sea Buckthorn was carried out in Russia where its biologically active compounds contributing to its nutritional and therapeutic properties have been studied since the 1940s. It has been a part of the diet of Russian cosmonauts and is used in Russian hospitals to treat eczema, bed sores, burns, and radiation injuries. In fact, it was used in Chernobyl in 1986 after the reactor accident.

In China too, there is a long history of medicinal use of Sea Buckthorn which has been commercialized since the 1980s with the establishment of plantations and processing units manufacturing Sea Buckthorn products.

Over the last decade, however, there has been a worldwide surge in interest in Sea Buckthorn amongst researchers interested in learning more about its nutritive and therapeutic properties. To date there have been over 120 specific studies on this plant as well as numerous studies on its biological properties. Some of the salient findings of recent research are described below.

ESSENTIAL NUTRIENTS CONTAINED IN SEA BUCKTHORN:

What then makes Sea Buckthorn a nutritional gem?  Research has revealed that over 190 biologically active compounds are found in Sea Buckthorn berries and 106 of these compounds are found in the oil.

Let’s take a look at some of these compounds which play such an important role in safeguarding our health:

Lipids: There are 42 varieties of lipids present in Sea Buckthorn. They fulfill vital functions in our bodies such as storing energy and are also structural components of cell membranes.

Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs): Sea Buckthorn contains 22 varieties of fatty acids including the “Big Four” Omegas. Of these, Omega 3 is abundant in fatty cold fish while Omega 6 is abundant in plants. Sea Buckthorn is the only plant in the world known to contain Omegas 3 and 6 as well as the less well known but also important Omegas 7 and 9. These four Omegas are essential for our wellbeing as they support healthy cardiovascular, digestive, brain, and nervous system functions; promote healthy skin, hair, and bones; and help maintain healthy urogenital lining and the integrity of mucous membranes.

Antioxidants: Sea Buckthorn is rich in two crucial varieties of antioxidant compounds: flavonoids and carotenoids. The health benefits of flavonoids include helping to fight cell-damaging free radicals and assisting in the process of cellular rejuvenation as well as promoting healthy immune system function. They can help with a number of serious health conditions, including cancer and heart disease. Some of these vital compounds found in Sea Buckthorn, especially in the leaves, include: leucoanthocyanidins, quercetin, isorhamnetin, epicatchin, kaemferol, and flavonols.

Turning to the second category of antioxidant compounds, Sea Buckthorn is remarkable in that it contains 39 out of the 50 carotenoids obtainable from our diet. The most abundant of these is beta-carotene, which is converted in our bodies to Vitamin A. Sea Buckthorn is in fact one of the richest sources of beta-carotene, in addition to containing significant levels of other important carotenoids such as lutein and zeaxanthin (both very important for the eyes), and lycopene (a rising star!) Studies have shown that apart from its valuable conversion into Vitamin A, beta-carotene, a well known immune system booster, can help fight and prevent cancer as well as many other serious health conditions.

Lycopene, another power-packed carotenoid, may help in the prevention and treatment of male infertility and prostate cancer, and possibly osteoporosis, while zeaxanthin is known to support eye health.

Amino Acids: Sea Buckthorn berries contain 18 out of 22 known amino acids, half of which are essential since they play a critical role in various processes within our bodies such as energy production, building cells and muscles, fat loss, and mood and brain functions.

Organic Acids: the ripe berries of Sea Buckthorn contain malic and oxalic acid, which perform important physiological functions such as reducing the toxic effects of certain medicines, including antibiotics and barbitals and preventing teratogenesis (prenatal toxicity), damage from X-rays, and the side effects of oxygen therapy. Malic acid also supports muscle health.

Vitamins and Minerals: Given its extremely high beta-carotene content, Sea Buckthorn is also one of the richest sources of Vitamin A. Vitamin C levels in its berries (3600 ppm) are about ten times higher than that of oranges. Sea Buckthorn is also an excellent source of Vitamin E (second only to wheat germ), which supports cardiovascular health, optimal prostate function, and immune function.

Other important vitamins found in this super food are: all of the key B Vitamins – B1, B2, B9 (folic acid), and B12 (as high in content as liver); Vitamin D (increasingly recognized as an essential vitamin); Vitamin K (important for blood coagulation and for metabolic pathways in bone and other tissue); and Vitamin P (bioflavonoids, which are important for capillary health and function).

Apart from being a rich repository of these vital vitamins, Sea Buckthorn contains eleven of the fourteen important trace minerals. It is especially high in iron, selenium, potassium, sodium, calcium, magnesium, copper, and manganese.

Phytosterols: found in the seeds, pulp, peel, and whole berries of Sea Buckthorn, these important nutrients have cholesterol-reducing properties and are therefore particularly helpful for maintaining cardiovascular health. Research has found that because phytosterols produce the prohormones DHEA and progesterone, they can help to address a broad spectrum of hormone-related health conditions. Beta sitosterol, the main phytosterol found in Sea Buckthorn, has also been found to be a strong anti-inflammatory and supports prostate health.

5-Hydroxytryptamine (5-HTP): the bark and pulp of Sea Buckthorn contain 5-HTP, which is a precursor to the neurotransmitter serotonin, popularly known as the “happy molecule.” Studies have shown that serotonin can be helpful as a nutrient therapy in schizophrenia.

Superoxide Dismutase (SOD): Sea Buckthorn is an excellent source of SOD, which is considered to be the most important enzyme for protecting the body’s cells and tissues from damage by free radicals. It has been shown to support healthy joints, help counteract the side effects of cancer treatments, and support prostrate health.

THERAPEUTIC PROPERTIES OF SEA BUCKTHORN:

There is a large body of research on the therapeutic properties of Sea Buckthorn. We highlight some of these findings below:

Anti-inflammation and pain relief: Scientific studies have shown that Sea Buckthorn leaf extract demonstrates significant anti-inflammatory activity and holds promise for the treatment of arthritis (L. Ganju et al. 2005; Varshney and Tyagi. 2004). Recent research at the University of Turku in Finland revealed that regular consumption of Sea Buckthorn berries reduced levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), a protein associated with inflammation, diabetes, and heart disease.

Burns, wounds, and gastric ulcer repair: Sea Buckthorn oil has tissue regenerating properties and can be used to treat burns, skin radiation lesions, cervical erosions, wounds, skin damage, and gastric and duodenal ulcers. It can also help with vaginal mucositis and other disorders of the mucous membranes (Varshney et al. 2003; Xiao et al. 1992)

Improved skin complexion and acne and Rosacea treatment: the increasing popularity and use of Sea Buckthorn products within the natural cosmetic and skincare industries attests to its value as a beauty food. Specifically, Sea Buckthorn directly impacts skin conditions in the following ways: as an anti-inflammatory (reduces swelling, flushing and irritation); auto-immune moderator (discourages immune system attack on healthy tissue); antimicrobial (protects against bacteria, microbes, and parasites); a hormone regulator (soothes overactive hormone production); and as a skin conditioner (nourishes healthy young cells and softens scars and other fibrous and abnormal tissue) (McLaughlin n.d.)

Improved cardiovascular health and treatment of coronary heart disease: Due to its ability to lower total cholesterol levels as well as harmful LDL cholesterol, while appearing to have no effect on heart-friendly HDL cholesterol levels, Sea Buckthorn benefits the entire cardiovascular system. Studies have also shown that treatment of coronary heart disease with TFH (total flavonoids from Sea Buckthorn) could lead to a remission of angina and improve cardiogram results (Zhang et al. 1989).  Sea Buckthorn has also been found to help with cardiac arrythmia (Fengming. 1989)

Anti-cancer properties and tumor inhibition: Li and Liu (1991) have found that Sea Buckthorn demonstrates anticancer activity. Laboratory tests involving the intraperitoneal injection of Sea Buckthorn oil, along with oral administration, inhibited tumors (sarcoma and lymphatic leukemia) in mice (Zhang et al. 1989).

Senile dementia and other age-related problems: Sea Buckthorn has been found to significantly arrest the loss of acetylcholine levels in studies of elderly people. It has been found to be effective in preventing and managing age-related problems, especially senile dementia (Varshney n.d.).

Schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders: The pulp and oils from Sea Buckthorn seeds and berries have traditionally been used in the treatment of various psychotic disorders. As we mentioned earlier, recent research has demonstrated promising results regarding the use of Sea Buckthorn as a nutritive therapy for schizophrenia treatment (Batool et al. 2009). More generally, Sea Buckthorn appears to support improved brain and nervous system function.

Antiviral and antibacterial properties: Studies indicate that Sea Buckthorn is effective against adenoviruses, paramixoviruses, Herpes, and influenza. It is also effective against many strains of bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus, diphtheria, E-Coli and others (Varshney n.d.), as well as various kinds of fungus and parasites.

Liver protection: Studies indicate that Sea Buckthorn and Sea Buckthorn oil appear to have hepatoprotective properties and may help halt the progression of hepatitis while aiding in the recovery of hepatic cells (Lipkin and Oliinyk. 2000).

CONCLUDING REMARKS:

Hopefully, our readers will now agree with us that this miracle-working little berry deserves to be categorized as a true super food and that it can play a very important role in safeguarding our health and protecting us from the many serious diseases that plague us today.

While there are a number of Sea Buckthorn products available in the market today, we would recommend one source in particular Sibu:The Sea Buckthorn Company . This online store carries an excellent range of health and beauty products as well as liquid supplements made from pure wild organic Sea Buckthorn sourced from the Tibetan and Indian Himalayas. To learn more about this company and its products, please visit our page: Sea Buckthorn: A True Super Food for Health and Beauty.

References Cited:

Batool, Farhat, Asad Hussain Shah, Syed Dilnawaz Ahmed, and Darakhshan Jabeen Haleem. 2009.  Oral Supplementation of Sea Buckthorn (Hippophae Rhamnoides L. Spp. Turkestanica) Fruit Extract Modifies Haloperidol Induced Behavioral Deficits and Increases Brain Serotonin  Metabolism. Journal of Food and Drug Analysis. 17(4):  257-63.

Daniells, Stephen. 2007. Seabuckthorn may cut Inflammation CVD. NutraIngredients.com

Fengming. Z. 1989. Antiarrythmic Effect of THF on the Extracorporeal Cors. J. Chinese Pharmacology. 5.1: 44-47.

Ganju, L., Y. Padwad, R. Singh, D. Karan, S. Chanda, M.K. Chopra, P. Bhatnagar, R. Kashyap and R.C. Sawhney. 2005. Anti-Inflammatory Activity of Seabuckthorn (Hippophae Rhamnoides) Leaves. Int. Immunopharmacol. 2005. 5(12): 1675-84.

Lipkan, G.M. and O.A. Oliinyk. 2000. Hepatoprotective Effect of the Sea Buckthorn-and-Pinks-Oil. Lik Sprava 2000 (6): 96-9.

McLaughlin, Susan. Seabuckthorn…Synonymous with Beautiful Skin: An Internal and Topical Approach. Seabuckthorn International Inc.

MDidea (n.d.) What is Sea Buckthorn, Hippophae rhamnoides L, Sea Buckthorn Berry…Sea Buckthorn and its History? (http://www.mdidea.com).

Sibu. The Seabuckthorn Company. Seabuckthorn Nutritional Properties. (http://www.sibu.com).

Varshney, A.C. (n.d.). Seabuckthorn (Hippophae sp.) for Soft Tissue Repair in Animals. (Accessed online)

Varshney, A.C., and Tyagi, S.P. 2004. Studies on Anti-Inflammatory Activities of Seabuckthorn (Hippophae sp.) in Canine. Asian Congress of Zoo and Wildlife Veterinarians. Feb. 4-5. Lucknow, India.

Varshney, A.C., A. Kumar, S.P. Tyagi, and V. Singh. 2003. Therapeutic Evaluation of Seabuckthorn Oil in Cutaneous Burn Wound Healing in Bovine: A Clinico-Haematological Study. 1st Congress of the International Seabuckthorn Association. 14-19 Sept. Berlin, Germany.

Xiao, M., Z. Yaang, M. Jiu, and R. Xiao. 1992. The Antigastroulcerative Activity of Beta-Sitosterol, Beta-D-Glucoside and its Aglycone in Rats. Journal of West China. University of Medical Sciences 23(1): 98-101.

Zhang, P., X. Ding, L. Mao, D. Li, and L. Li. 1989. Anticancer Activities of Seabuckthorn Seed Oil and its Effect on the Weight of Immune Organs. Seabuckthorn 2(3): 31-34.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this website is only intended to educate and inform our readers. It is in no way intended to provide medical advice or to diagnose or treat any disease. If you have a health problem, you should consult a healthcare practitioner before taking any substances for medicinal purposes.

No Comments

(Required)
(Required, will not be published)

Previous post:

Next post: