Seabuckthorn (Hippophae Rhamnoides)
It is intriguing to wonder that the berries of Seabuckthorn (Hippophae Rhamnoides) are so rich in vitamins and nutrients some have speculated that the plant may have been cultivated by some ancient plant-breeder.
Seabuckthorn is the stuff of legends!
Legends about Seabuckthorn tell us how the ancient Greeks used it in a diet for race horses, hence it's botanical name "Hippophae" - shiny horse. According to another legend, Seabuckthorn leaves were the preferable food of flying horse - Pegasus. One of the most striking legends refers to the custom in some ancient kingdoms to execute convicts by dropping them into barrel of boiling oil. The legend tells that if the oil in the barrel was substituted by the Seabuckthorn oil, the convict had a chance to survive. That last characteristic of Seabuckthorn has not been recently tested, but clinical trials and scientific studies conducted during the 20th century in several countries confirm medicinal and nutritional value of Seabuckthorn. Sea Buckthorn was added to the Chinese Pharmacopoeia in 1977.
The references to medicinal use of Seabuckthorn were found in the Ancient Greek texts attributed to Theophrastus and Dioskorid and in classic Tibetan medicinal texts, including "the RGyud Bzi" (The Four Books of Pharmacopoeia) dated to the times of Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD). Herbal remedies made of Seabuckthorn are most frequently used for the treatment of diseases of skin and digestive system. Traditional use of Seabuckthorn oil to promote the recuperation of skin injuries and support the healing of skin diseases well agrees with the data of modern clinical studies.
Medicinal value of Seabuckthorn oil is associated with its apparent ability to promote the regeneration of the skin and mucous membranes. Seabuckthorn oil is widely used to promote the recovery of various skin conditions, including eczema, burns, bad healing wounds, skin damaging effects of sun, therapeutic radiation treatment and cosmetic laser surgery. The preparations from the berries are also utilized to prevent gum bleeding, to help recuperate mucous membranes of the stomach and other organs. Cosmetics and skin care products made of Seabuckthorn are valued for their rejuvenating, restorative and anti-aging action.
Seabuckthorn is a traditional medicinal plant in many European and Asian countries. It's popularity in America is somewhat delayed, due to the fact that Seabuckthorn is not native to this continent. Interestingly enough, many medicinal plants were brought over the centuries to the New World by the immigrants. Similarly, Seabuckthorn was, apparently, taken to America by Russian immigrants at the beginning of 20th century.
The Seabuckthorn industry has been thriving in Russia since the 1920's when scientists there began investigating the biologically active substances found in the fruit, leaves and bark. The first Russian factory for sea-buckthorn product development was located in Biysk. These products were utilized in the diet of Russian cosmonauts and as a cream for protection from cosmic radiation. The Chinese experience with sea-buckthorn fruit production is more recent, although traditional uses date back many centuries. Research and plantation establishment were initiated in the 1980's.
Sea buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides) is a very common shrub which is grown worldwide in temperate to cold climates. Its name literally translates to “shining horse”. Horses were fed sea buckthorn to improve the condition of their coats. It is often planted as an ornamental or as a wind break plant because it is very easy to cultivate and requires very little input.
Agricultural plantings are rare because of the difficulty of harvesting the berries. Although the berries persist on the plant over winter, the berries must be harvested by hand during a 2 week period for use in oil and juice production. The plant’s long thorns make harvest difficult accounting for almost 2/3 of the cost of the berries.
Expected yields are around 11 to 15 lb. per plant or 1.8 to 2.2 tons/acre. The bulk of agricultural production occurs in Eastern Europe, Northern Europe and China. Canada is attempting to emerge as a producer too because the plant is already widely distributed though out the Prairies.
The fruit of the sea buckthorn plant yields 60% to 85% juice. The juice is very high in organic acids and has a low pH (near 2.7). Protein levels are fairly high for a fruit juice High Vitamin C (0.6 %) and Vitamin E (0.16%) contents have been reported in the juice. Both the pulp and seeds contain triglyceride oils with important medicinal value.
There are two sources of oil in sea buckthorn fruit. The seeds contain 10%-15% oil and the pulpy fruit contains 29%-48% oil. The oils vary in vitamin E content depending upon how they are derived. The range is from 0.2 to 0.6 %. Carotenoid content also varies depending upon the source of the oil. The seed oils contain 73% or more of the unsaturated linoleic or linolenic fatty acids. Pulp oil contains more saturated fatty acids with about 38% palmitic acid and 14%-50% palmitoleic acid. The essential fatty acids in Sea Buckthorn oil are very rare, and are required for good health.
Phytosterols are the major constituents of the unsaponifiable fraction of sea buckthorn oils. The major phytosterol in sea buckthorn oil is sitosterol, with 5-avenasterol second in quantitative importance. Other phytosterols are present in relatively minor quantities. The phytosterol content is quite high in sea buckthorn oil and exceeds that of soybean oil by up to 20 times. Because of the unusual composition of Sea Buckthorn oil, it is often thought of as an essential oil rather than a fixed oil.