Seabuckthorn is a highly versatile plant with multiple uses --
- It's advanced root system binds the soil on fragile hill slopes. It is said that a natural seabuckthorn forest can decrease monsoon-related topsoil loss by 30%.
- Seabuckthorn berries are traditionally known for their medicinal properties as well as their high nutrition value. They contain vitamins C, E, beta-carotene and flavonoids, along with omega-3 fatty acids.
- Seabuckthorn berries can be crushed and made into a delicious, healthy juice that can be easily marketed to provide a sustainable livelihood to local farmers.
- It's berries also yield oils that are used in cosmetic preparations and for various skin conditions.
- The leaves of the plant are used in traditional medicines as well as for livestock fodder.
Did You Know?
- Seabuckthorn berries were used in ancient Greece as a fodder for horses to promote weight gain and a shiny coat. In fact, the generic Latin name "Hippophae" literally translates to "shiny horse".
- Russian cosmonauts used seabuckthorn cream for protection from cosmic radiation.
- Anecdotal evidence suggests that seabuckthorn was used in ancient times to alleviate fevers and inflammations; treat coughs and colds; clean the lungs and reduce tumours and abcesses, especially of the stomach and the oesophagus.
The ripe golden-orange berries of Seabuckthorn are a veritable treasure house of nutrients. They contain vitamin C, vitamin E, and other nutrients, flavonoids, oils rich in essential fatty acids, and other healthful components.
Seabuckthorn consumption results in potent antioxidant activity, mainly attributed to its flavonoids and vitamin C content. Both the flavonoids and the oils from seabuckthorn have several potential applications --
Cancer therapy: Most of the work done in this area has been with laboratory animals. The Department of Radiation Biology, Institute of Nuclear Medicine and Allied Sciences in Delhi) has published several reports on the potential of a seabuckthorn extract (an alcohol extract, which would mainly contain the flavonoids) to protect the bone marrow from damage due to radiation. A Chinese study reported faster recovery after high dose chemotherapy in mice who were administered seabuckthorn oil. The seed oil has been found to enhance non-specific immunity and to provide anti-tumor effects in preliminary laboratory studies.
Cardiovascular diseases: In a double-blind clinical trial in China, 128 patients with ischemic heart disease were given total flavonoids of seabuckthorn. Their cholesterol levels dropped and they reported improved cardiac function.
Gastric ulcers: Seabuckthorn is traditionally used to treat gastric ulcers, and laboratory studies confirm the efficacy of the seed oil for this application.
Liver cirrhosis: A clinical trial demonstrated that seabuckthorn extracts helped normalize liver enzymes, serum bile acids, and immune system markers involved in liver inflammation and degeneration. Seabuckthorn oil also protects the liver from damaging effects of toxic chemicals.
Skin: An ingredient of the oil, palmitoleic acid, is a component of skin. It is considered a valuable topical agent in treating burns and healing wounds. Sea buckthorn oil is already widely used alone or in various preparations topically applied for burns, scalds, ulcerations, and infections. It is an ingredient in sunblock, as it has UV-blocking as well as emollient properties.
The plant grows naturally in sandy soil at an altitude of 1,200-4,500 meters (4,000-14,000 feet) in cold climates, though it can be cultivated at lower altitudes and into temperate zones. Recently it has been extensively planted across much of northern China, and in other countries, to prevent soil erosion and to serve as an economic resource for food and medicine products. For example, Canada has invested in planting sea buckthorn, originally brought over from Siberia in the 1930s, hoping to develop a good agriculture market; Saskatchewan has ideal growing conditions, yielding a high quality product.