Health Benefits of Sea Buckthorn

Sea buckthorn, Hippophae rhamnoides, is a hardy shrub with thorny branches, delicate and willowy leaves, and bright orange-yellow berries. This shrub is also known as seaberry, Siberian pineapple, sandthorn, and sallowthorn. It likes to grow in rugged coastal regions or drier sub-alpine locations.

Native to northern and central Europe, the Caucasus region, and western Asia, this shrub has a long history of use for its berries and seed oil. 

Sea buckthorn berries are rich in vitamins, carotenoids (plant pigments), and fatty acids, while the seeds offer a rich oil high in fatty acids. Both the fruit pulp and the seed yield a nutritious oil.

Health Benefits

Sea buckthorn has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties along with a variety of nutrients shown to have human health benefits. Most of the benefits you receive from sea buckthorn come from using the fruit and its oil. 

Although the majority of clinical studies focus on sea buckthorn oil as health supplements and cosmetic ingredients, traditional medicine has often used the entire berry. 

The health benefits of sea buckthorn are varied, and it has been shown to:

Increase Cardiovascular Health

Sea buckthorn is rich in flavonoids and omega-3, 6, 7, and 9 fatty acids, which have a strong effect on your cardiovascular system. Palmitoleic acid is an omega-7 fatty acid rarely found in plant food sources, but sea buckthorn oil is one of the only plant-based sources of this unsaturated fatty acid. 

Palmitoleic acid, along with other fatty acids, can help to lower cholesterol, reduce inflammation, and improve overall cardiac function.

Support Cancer Therapy

Clinical studies have shown some support for using sea buckthorn oils and juices in cancer therapy. Several flavonoids in sea buckthorn, especially quercetin, kaempferol, and isorhamnetin, create cytotoxic responses with cancer cells and help to stop them from multiplying. 

Improve Skin Health 

Sea buckthorn is widely used in skin and hair products due to the rich array of vitamins and fatty acids it contains. Apart from vitamins C, A, and E, the oil is rich in gamma-linolenic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid that helps blood circulation and reduces signs of aging. 

Sea buckthorn oil also contains plant sterols like beta-sitosterol and campesterol that add hydration, smooth skin texture, and boost skin elasticity.

Disease Prevention

Sea buckthorn contains antioxidants which help protect your cells from damage caused by free radicals. This damage can lead to serious diseases such as cancer, stroke, and cardiovascular diseases. Eating antioxidants can help reduce your risk of potentially life threatening diseases. 

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Health Risks

Sea buckthorn is generally considered safe for external and internal use and has minimal side effects. That said, a small percentage of people may experience side effects when taking sea buckthorn. 

Medication Interactions

This supplement may interact with certain medications, especially blood pressure and blood clotting medications. Using sea buckthorn regularly could thin your blood and make you more prone to bleeding or clotting issues.

Allergy Sensitivity

If you are sensitive to the sea buckthorn plant, you may experience adverse side effects from using this supplement. Known allergies to the Elaeagnaceae plant family may make you allergic to sea buckthorn as well. It's best to avoid the fruit, oil, juice, or other component of this species if you have similar plant allergies.

Pregnancy and Lactation

It is unknown whether pregnant or lactating women may experience adverse reactions to themselves or their developing child. Avoid using this supplement until you speak to your doctor. 

Amounts and Dosage

There is no established recommended dosage for sea buckthorn oil or a recommended amount for the fruit. Supplements are not standardized and may range from 350 mg to 1,000 mg of sea buckthorn, typically in capsule form. 

Sea buckthorn berries are difficult to find in food stores but are likely available for online purchase. Talk to your doctor about whether sea buckthorn fruit and oil is right for you and what amount they recommend you take.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on November 20, 2020

Sources

SOURCES:

Annual Review of Nutrition: “Antioxidants in Human Health and Disease.”

Cogent Food & Agriculture: “Bioactive profile, health benefits and safety evaluation of sea buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides L.): A review.”

Cosmetics: “Sea Buckthorn Oil—A Valuable Source for Cosmeceuticals.”

Frontiers in Pharmacology: “The Anticancer Activity of Sea Buckthorn [Elaeagnus rhamnoides (L.) A. Nelson].”

Current Research in Nutrition and Food Science: “Hippophae rhamnoides: safety and nutrition.”

Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: “What Are n-7 Fatty Acids and Are There Health Benefits Associated with Them?”

Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry: “Changes in Antioxidant Effects and Their Relationship to Phytonutrients in Fruits of Sea Buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides L.) during Maturation

Lipids in Health and Disease: “Abundance of active ingredients in sea-buckthorn oil.”

Lipids in Health and Disease: “The impact of sea buckthorn oil fatty acids on human health.”

Panossian, P.; Wagner, H. Evidence and Rational Based Research on Chinese Drugs, Springer, 2012. “From Traditional to Evidence-Based Use of Hippophae rhamnoides L.: Chemical Composition, Experimental, and Clinical Pharmacology of Sea Buckthorn Berries and Leaves Extracts.”

The Pharma Innovation Journal: “Pharmacological and nutritional importance of sea buckthorn (Hippophae).”

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