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Sea Buckthorn

What You Need to Know About Sea Buckthorn

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Updated June 26, 2013

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Sea buckthorn (Hipphophae rhamnoides) is a medicinal plant long used in herbal medicine. Available in supplement form, sea buckthorn extract contains a variety of essential fatty acids and antioxidants (including vitamin C, vitamin E and anthocyanins). Proponents claim that sea buckthorn offers a wide range of health benefits.

Uses for Sea Buckthorn

In herbal medicine, sea buckthorn has long been used to stimulate the digestive system, enhance heart and liver health, and treat skin disorders. Today, sea buckthorn is touted as a natural remedy for the following health problems:

Sea Buckthorn for Skin

In recent years, sea buckthorn oil has gained popularity as an ingredient in skin-care products. When applied topically, sea buckthorn oil is thought to moisturize the skin, ease irritation, treat acne and heal aging-related damage.

Benefits of Sea Buckthorn

There is currently a lack of clinical trials testing the effects of sea buckthorn. However, preliminary research suggests that sea buckthorn may offer a number of health benefits. Here's a look at several key study findings:

1) Eczema

Sea buckthorn supplements may help treat atopic dermatitis (a type of eczema), according to a 1999 study in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry. In tests on 49 people with atopic dermatitis, researchers observed significant improvement among those who took supplements containing sea buckthorn pulp oil every day for four months.

2) Wound Healing

Findings from animal-based research suggest that sea buckthorn may promote wound healing when applied topically. In a 2009 study in Food and Chemical Toxicology, scientists discovered that topically applied sea buckthorn seed oil helped speed up the healing of burn wounds in rats.

3) Diabetes

In a small 2010 study in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers found that sea buckthorn may help keep blood sugar in check and protect against type 2 diabetes. In an experiment involving 10 healthy, normal-weight volunteers, the study's authors discovered that adding sea buckthorn berries to meals helped prevent a post-meal spike in blood sugar.

Safety

Since little is known about the safety of consuming sea buckthorn extract, it's important to consult your physician if you're considering the use of sea buckthorn supplements.

Sea buckthorn oil is not known to produce any adverse effects when applied to the skin.

Where to Find Sea Buckthorn

Available online, sea buckthorn supplements are sold in some natural-food stores. In addition, skin-care products containing sea buckthorn can be found in many specialty beauty shops.

Using Sea Buckthorn for Health

Given the lack of supporting research, it's too soon to recommend sea buckthorn for any health condition. It's important to note that self-treating a chronic condition with sea buckthorn and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious health consequences.

Sources

Gupta A, Kumar R, Pal K, Singh V, Banerjee PK, Sawhney RC. "Influence of sea buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides L.) flavone on dermal wound healing in rats." Mol Cell Biochem. 2006 Oct;290(1-2):193-8.

Lehtonen HM, Järvinen R, Linderborg K, Viitanen M, Venojärvi M, Alanko H, Kallio H. "Postprandial hyperglycemia and insulin response are affected by sea buckthorn (Hippophaë rhamnoides ssp. turkestanica) berry and its ethanol-soluble metabolites." Eur J Clin Nutr. 2010 Dec;64(12):1465-71.

Sabir SM, Maqsood H, Hayat I, Khan MQ, Khaliq A. "Elemental and nutritional analysis of sea buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides ssp. turkestanica) Berries of Pakistani origin." J Med Food. 2005 Winter;8(4):518-22.

Suryakumar G, Gupta A. "Medicinal and therapeutic potential of Sea buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides L.)." J Ethnopharmacol. 2011 Nov 18;138(2):268-78.

Upadhyay NK, Kumar MS, Gupta A. "Antioxidant, cytoprotective and antibacterial effects of Sea buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides L.) leaves." Food Chem Toxicol. 2010 Dec;48(12):3443-8.

Upadhyay NK, Kumar R, Mandotra SK, Meena RN, Siddiqui MS, Sawhney RC, Gupta A. "Safety and healing efficacy of Sea buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides L.) seed oil on burn wounds in rats." Food Chem Toxicol. 2009 Jun;47(6):1146-53.

Yang B, Kalimo KO, Mattila LM, Kallio SE, Katajisto JK, Peltola OJ, Kallio HP. "Effects of dietary supplementation with sea buckthorn (Hippophaë rhamnoides) seed and pulp oils on atopic dermatitis." J Nutr Biochem. 1999 Nov;10(11):622-30.

Yang B, Kallio HP. "Fatty acid composition of lipids in sea buckthorn (Hippophaë rhamnoides L.) berries of different origins." J Agric Food Chem. 2001 Apr;49(4):1939-47.

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