Sea buckthorn (Hipphophae rhamnoides) is a medicinal plant long used in herbal medicine. Sea buckthorn fruit is sometimes used in sweet treats including jams, pies, and drinks.
Available in supplement form, sea buckthorn extract contains a variety of essential fatty acids and antioxidants (including vitamin C, vitamin E, and anthocyanins).1 Proponents claim that sea buckthorn offers a wide range of health benefits.
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:
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.1
Sea buckthorn supplements may help treat atopic dermatitis (a type of eczema), according to a 1999 study in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry.2 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. However, more recent research suggests that supplements like sea buckthorn provide no benefit.3
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.4
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.5 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.
Possible Side Effects
Sea buckthorn fruit is likely safe when consumed in amounts typically found in food. The fruit is also likely safe when taken by mouth for medicinal purposes.
But little is known about the safety of consuming sea buckthorn extract. Therefore, it’s important to consult your physician if you’re considering the use of sea buckthorn supplements. Patients with low blood pressure, bleeding disorders, or those about to undergo surgery should be especially careful to get medical advice before using sea buckthorn.
It’s important to keep in mind that supplements haven’t been tested for safety and dietary supplements are largely unregulated. In some cases, the product may deliver doses that differ from the specified amount for each herb. In other cases, the product may be contaminated with other substances such as metals.
Also, the safety of supplements in pregnant women, nursing mothers, children, and those with medical conditions or who are taking medications has not been established. You can get further tips on using supplements.
Dosage and Preparation
There is not enough scientific evidence about sea buckthorn to determine a safe or effective dose. The right dose for you will depend on a variety of factors including your age, gender, and medical health.
What to Look For
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.
Sea buckthorn may be sold as an oil, in capsule form, or as a capsule combined with other herbal remedies. The National Institutes of Health advises all supplement users to examine Supplement Facts label on any product that you consider using. This label will contain vital information including the amount of active ingredients per serving, and if other ingredients have been added.
In addition, it is helpful to look for a third-party seal of approval by an independent organization. Groups like the U.S. Pharmacopeia, ConsumerLab.com, and NSF International help provide verification that the product was properly manufactured, contains the ingredients listed on the label, and does not contain harmful levels of contaminants a seal of approval from one of these organizations does not guarantee the product’s safety or effectiveness.
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 condition with sea buckthorn and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious health consequences.
Top 12 Health Benefits of Sea Buckthorn Oil
Sea buckthorn oil has been used for thousands of years as a natural remedy against various ailments.
It is extracted from the berries, leaves and seeds of the sea buckthorn plant (Hippophae rhamnoides), which is a small shrub that grows at high altitudes in the northwest Himalayan region (1Trusted Source).
Sometimes referred to as the holy fruit of the Himalayas, sea buckthorn can be applied to the skin or ingested.
A popular remedy in Ayurvedic and traditional Chinese medicines, it may provide health benefits ranging from supporting your heart to protecting against diabetes, stomach ulcers and skin damage.
Here are 12 science-backed benefits of sea buckthorn oil.
For instance, it is naturally full of antioxidants, which help protect your body against aging and illnesses like cancer and heart disease (4).
The seeds and leaves are also particularly rich in quercetin, a flavonoid linked to lower blood pressure and a reduced risk of heart disease (5Trusted Source, 6Trusted Source, 7Trusted Source, 8Trusted Source).
What’s more, its berries boast potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron and phosphorus. They also contain good amounts of folate, biotin and vitamins B1, B2, B6, C and E (9Trusted Source, 10Trusted Source, 11).
Interestingly, sea buckthorn oil may also be one of the only plant foods known to provide all four omega fatty acids — omega-3, omega-6, omega-7 and omega-9 (13Trusted Source).
SUMMARYSea buckthorn oil is rich in various vitamins and minerals, as well as antioxidants and other plant compounds potentially beneficial to your health.
Sea buckthorn oil may benefit heart health in several different ways.
For starters, its antioxidants may help reduce risk factors of heart disease, including blood clots, blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels.
In one small study, 12 healthy men were given either 5 grams of sea buckthorn oil or coconut oil per day. After four weeks, the men in the sea buckthorn group had significantly lower markers of blood clots (14Trusted Source).
In another study, taking 0.75 ml of sea buckthorn oil daily for 30 days helped reduce blood pressure levels in people with high blood pressure. Levels of triglycerides, as well as total and “bad” LDL cholesterol, also dropped in those who had high cholesterol.
However, the effects on people with normal blood pressure and cholesterol levels were less pronounced (15Trusted Source).
A recent review also determined that sea buckthorn extracts may reduce cholesterol levels in people with poor heart health — but not in healthy participants (16).
SUMMARYSea buckthorn oil may aid your heart by reducing blood pressure, improving blood cholesterol levels and protecting against blood clots. That said, effects may be strongest in people with poor heart health.
Sea buckthorn oil may also help prevent diabetes.
One small human study notes that sea buckthorn oil may help minimize blood sugar spikes after a carb-rich meal (19Trusted Source).
Because frequent, long-term blood sugar spikes can increase your risk of type 2 diabetes, preventing them is expected to reduce your risk.
However, more studies are needed before strong conclusions can be made.
SUMMARYSea buckthorn may help improve insulin secretion and insulin sensitivity, both of which could protect against type 2 diabetes — though more research is needed.
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Compounds in sea buckthorn oil may boost your skin health when applied directly.
Similarly, animal studies reveal that sea buckthorn oil may also help reduce inflammation following UV exposure, protecting skin against sun damage (22Trusted Source).
In a seven-week study in 11 young men, a mix of sea buckthorn oil and water applied directly to the skin promoted skin elasticity better than a placebo (24).
Keep in mind that more human studies are needed.
SUMMARYSea buckthorn oil may help your skin heal from wounds, sunburns, frostbite and bedsores. It may also promote elasticity and protect against dryness.
Sea buckthorn oil may help protect your body against infections.
Experts attribute this effect, in large part, to the high flavonoid content of the oil.
In one test-tube study, sea buckthorn oil prevented the growth of bacteria such as E. coli (12).
In others, sea buckthorn oil offered protection against influenza, herpes and HIV viruses (4).
That said, research in humans is lacking.
SUMMARYSea buckthorn oil is rich in beneficial plant compounds such as flavonoids and antioxidants, which may help your body fight infections.
Sea buckthorn oil may also contribute to a healthy liver.
That’s because it contains healthy fats, vitamin E and carotenoids, all of which may safeguard liver cells from damage (29).
In one study, sea buckthorn oil significantly improved markers of liver function in rats with liver damage (30Trusted Source).
In another study, people with cirrhosis — an advanced form of liver disease — were given 15 grams of sea buckthorn extract or a placebo three times per day for six months.
Those in the sea buckthorn group increased their blood markers of liver function significantly more than those given a placebo (31Trusted Source).
In two other studies, people with non-alcoholic liver disease given either 0.5 or 1.5 grams of sea buckthorn 1–3 times daily saw blood cholesterol, triglyceride and liver enzyme levels improve significantly more than those given a placebo (32, 33).
Although these effects seem promising, more studies are necessary to make firm conclusions.
SUMMARYCompounds in sea buckthorn may aid liver function, though more studies are needed.
Compounds present in sea buckthorn oil may help fight cancer. These protective effects may be caused by the flavonoids and antioxidants in the oil.
For instance, sea buckthorn is rich in quercetin, a flavonoid which appears to help kill cancer cells (8Trusted Source).
However, the reported cancer-fighting effects of sea buckthorn oil are much milder than those of chemotherapy drugs (38).
Keep in mind that these effects have not yet been tested in humans, so more studies are needed.
SUMMARYSea buckthorn oil provides certain beneficial plant compounds which may offer some protection against cancer. However, its effects are likely mild — and human research is lacking.
Sea buckthorn oil is said to give additional health benefits. However, not all claims are supported by sound science. Those with the most evidence include:
- May improve digestion: Animal studies indicate that sea buckthorn oil may help prevent and treat stomach ulcers (39, 40).
- May reduce symptoms of menopause: Sea buckthorn may reduce vaginal drying and act as an effective alternative treatment for postmenopausal women who cannot take estrogen (41Trusted Source).
- May treat dry eyes: In one study, daily sea buckthorn intake was linked to reduced eye redness and burning (42Trusted Source).
- May lower inflammation: Research in animals indicates that sea buckthorn leaf extracts helped reduce joint inflammation (43Trusted Source).
- May reduce symptoms of depression: Animal studies report that sea buckthorn may have antidepressant effects. However, this hasn’t been studied in humans (44).
It’s important to note that most of these studies are small and very few involve humans. Therefore, more research is needed before strong conclusions can be made.
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