Common sea buckthorn, Hippophae rhamnoides, is a fantastic medicinal herb for the skin and digestive system. The botanic name stems from the Greek “hippo” (horse) plus “phaes, phao” (to shine) because the ancient Greeks used sea buckthorn as horse fodder to make the coats of theirs horses shine. The species name can be misleading; “rhamnoides” means similar to rhamnus. However, sea buckthorn does not belong to the genus rhamnus in the buckthorn (rhamnaceae) family, but to the oleaster (elaeagnaceae) family.
Fruit, seed and leaves
Native to parts of the cold-temperate Europe and Asia (the Baltic coasts of Finland, Germany and Poland, the Gulf of Bothnis in Sweden, the coastal areas of the United Kingdom, the northern regions of China, most the Himalayan region and the northern regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan), sea buckthorn has been planted in Canada, USA, Bolivia, Chile, South Korea and Japan.
Sea buckthorn is a deciduous and hardy shrub with sharp thorns.
Height: 2-4 m (7-13 ft)
Width: 3-4 m (10-13 ft)
Flowers: Greenish-yellow, in clusters.
Leaves: Alternate, narrow, lanceolate and silvery green on the top side
Blooms: March and April
Space: 3-4 m (10-13 ft)
Soil: Sandy and poor
Exposure: Full sun only! It can not tolerate shade but it tolerates maritime exposure and high levels of soil salinity.
Propagation: Cuttings (hardwood, softwood, root cuttings), layering and suckers. Seed propagation is also possible but since sea buckthorn is a dioecious plant, you’ll need a female and a male plant if seeds are desired. You can only determine the sex of a seedling by looking at the flowers and it usually takes three years for a seedling to first bloom.
Harvest time: Early fall
Garden Design: Place sea buckthorn in a well lit place in the back of the border.
Companion planting: Sea buckthorn can fix nitrogen in the soil which helps neighboring plants which are nitrogen hungry such as nettles, ground cover roses, miniature roses, any member of the cabbage family, etc..
Note: Cross-pollination by wind only, so make sure the male and female plants are properly placed in the wind path. The wind has to blow from the male towards the female plants.
Not an easy task! The shrubs are thorny and the juicy fruits easy to squish. Moreover, the fruits don’t separate easily from the stems, unless they are frozen. A neat solution is to harvest the frozen fruits in the winter. Alternatively, you can cut the fruit bearing stems and place them in the freezer for a few hours. The frozen fruits separate easily from the stems.
Before harvesting, taste the fruits. If they taste rancid, they are over ripe and should be left for wildlife. However, if they taste fresh and sour, they are ready.
Sea buckthorn fruits should be consumed fresh. You can freeze them in portions for later use. The leaves, however, can be air dried without significant loss of bio-active substances and added to infusions.
Fruit pulp: B1, B2, B6, B9, B12, C, flavonoids, anthocyanin, plant sterols, choline, fruit acids, sugars, minerals, trace elements.
Fruit oil: Vitamins A (as beta-carotene), K and E, fatty acids (palmitic acid, palmitoleic acid).
Seed oil: Omega 3, iso-linoleic acid, linoleic acid, stearic acid
Anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, antioxidant, demulcent, emollient, expectorant, rubefacient, vulnerary
MEDICINAL USE OF SEA BUCKTHORN
There are different ways to use sea buckthorn: fruit pulp, fruit oil, seed oil and leaves.
The pulp can be made into jams and jelly. However, the fruit oil is the part most often used medicinally in Europe. It is extracted through cold pressing or by putting the fruit juice into a centrifuge. The seed oil is cold pressed. The leaves are used in traditional medicine in Asia and as animal fodder.
The fruit pulp contains more vitamin C (60 mg/2 tbsp fruit juice) than lemons and oranges and, therefore, supports the immune system and enhances mental and physical performance. Its vitamin C content is second only to rose hips and acerola cherries. Containing beta carotene, vitamins B1, B2, B6, B9, B12, C, E and K, each fruit is truly a “vitamin pill”, particularly during periods of exhaustion, seasonal depression and while recovering from diseases. It is also used to expel persistent and recurring phlegm.
The fruit oil is a vitamin rich, antioxidant healing oil which is excellent for skin care. It is dark amber, almost reddish in color. It has antiseptic, anti-inflammatory and vulnerary properties. It tightens the skin, prevents wrinkles and skin discoloration, and nurtures and soothes irritated and damaged skin. The fruit oil accelerates the healing process of the skin while supporting a complete and natural healing without the formation of unsightly scars.
The high vitamin E content of the fruit oil plays an important role in protecting and regenerating mature skin. It may slow down the aging process allowing the skin to visibly regenerate itself.
According to German herbalist Ursel Bühring, patients undergoing radiation therapy for larynx cancer may benefit from taking three drops of fruit oil several times per day as an adjuvant therapy.
Sea buckthorn seeds contain an oil rich in omega 3 fatty acid which regulates metabolism and cellular respiration. Therefore, the seed oil is used to prevent heart and circulatory system diseases.
Take fruit oil internally for:
- inflammation and ulceration of the digestive mucosa
- external application of fruit oil for:
- eczema, neurodermatitis, psoriasis
- allergies to the sun
- genital skin and mucosa ailments
Recommended daily dosage:
3 drops of fruit oil 6 times per day
- body and facial lotions
- massage oil
- juice, jams and jelly
Sea buckthorn can be made into jams, jellies, juice, puree and sauces.
People with inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis), acute liver or gallbladder inflammation, gallbladder stones, chronic diarrhea and sensitivity/intolerance to fat should avoid taking sea buckthorn.
Many cosmetics contain sea buckthorn fruit oil. You can upgrade your facial cream and body lotion by adding a few drops of the fruit oil. What a difference this can make!
Bühring, U. 2015. Alles über Heilpflanzen. 3rd ed. Stuttgart: Ulmer.
Bühring, U. Girsch, M. 2016. Praxis Heilpflanzenkunde. Stuttgart: Haug.