Sea buckthorn, also known as Leh Berry or Ladakh gold, has been used for thousands of years against various ailments.
This hardy plant is tolerant of extreme temperatures and has an extensive root system that can fix atmospheric nitrogen and prevent soil erosion.
The oil of these orange berries has been used in Ayurvedic and traditional Chinese medicine for years to relieve coughs and improve digestion.
Let us learn more about this ancient oil and its numerous health benefits.
What is sea buckthorn oil?
Sea buckthorn oil is extracted from the nutrient-rich orange berries or the seeds of the sea buckthorn plant. Although both the oils contain similar nutrient profiles and health benefits, they differ in their appearance.
While the berry oil is dark red or orange-red, the seed oil is yellow.
The sea buckthorn oil has an impressive nutritional profile. It contains amino acids, plant sterols, tocopherols, carotenoids, phenols, terpenes, and glucosides. It is also rich in vitamins E, K, A, and many B vitamins, copper, iron, selenium, and manganese.
Sea buckthorn oil is the only plant that contains omega 3, 6, 7 and 9 fatty acids (1).
Most of the fat found in sea buckthorn oil is mono and polyunsaturated, which are considered to be healthy fats. (2)
History of sea buckthorn oil
Sea buckthorn has a history that goes back to thousands of years. Sea buckthorn originated in the Himalayas but was also used in the ancient Greek and European cultures.
There is a mention of sea buckthorn berry in ancient Tibetan texts and Greek mythology.
Hippophae rhamniodes, the botanical name of sea buckthorn, comes from the Greek words ‘hippos’ meaning horse and ‘phos’ meaning shine.
It was used by ancient Greeks to improve the health of the horses and make their hair shinier.
Sea buckthorn oil was also used in Ayurvedic and traditional Chinese medicines to cure various health problems like relieving cough, promoting blood circulation, aiding digestion and alleviating pain.
Health benefits of sea buckthorn oil
1. Improves heart health
Sea buckthorn oil promotes heart health in several different ways. It can prevent cardiovascular diseases like atherosclerosis and heart attacks when consumed daily. It can reduce blood clots, blood pressure, and blood cholesterol levels.
This oil is rich in vitamins and antioxidants. The vitamin C content of sea buckthorn berry is around 40 times higher than in oranges. The antioxidant properties of sea buckthorn can inhibit platelet aggregation, and it may reduce ischemia-reperfusion-induced damage.
According to research from the University of Turku, Finland, when 12 healthy men were given 5 grams of sea buckthorn berry oil per day for four weeks, they had significantly lower markers of blood clots (3).
According to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers gave 80 overweight women either dried sea buckthorn berries, sea buckthorn oil, sea buckthorn phenolics ethanol extract mixed with maltodextrin or frozen bilberries for 30 days.
The results showed that berry intake had overall metabolic effects, which depend on the cardiometabolic risk profile at baseline (4).
2. Boosts immunity
Sea buckthorn oil is an excellent source of flavonoids, which helps prevent infections by fighting free radicals. A study by the Kaunas University of Medicine, Lithuania, evaluated the antioxidant activity of sea buckthorn which was produced using different techniques.
The results showed that the extracted oil has 2.4 times more carotenoids than other oils (5). The high carotenoid levels in sea buckthorn help prevent infections in the body.
Some other studies have also shown that sea buckthorn can help prevent the growth of bacteria like E. coli.
3. Fights diabetes
Sea buckthorn oil contains palmitoleic acid which plays a positive role in reducing type 2 diabetes symptoms.
According to a study by the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, ten healthy volunteers ate four study breakfasts that contained one control and three sea buckthorn meals.
Their blood samples from the 6-hour study period showed that sea buckthorn oil minimizes spikes in blood sugar levels (6).
4. Fights cancer
Sea buckthorn oil has been found to have anticancer properties in both lab studies and animal-based studies.
The anticancerous properties of sea buckthorn are attributed to antioxidant compounds which protect the cells from damage that can cause mutation and lead to cancerous cells. For example, this oil is rich in quercetin, a flavonoid compound that kills cancer cells (9).
According to a 2009 study, sea buckthorn extracts have antiproliferative effects on colon and liver cancer cell lines (10).
Sea buckthorn oil can also help to counteract the side effects of cancer treatment, increase appetite, restore liver and kidney function and keep the patients in good health.
5. Improves skin health
Sea buckthorn oil can improve skin health and treat skin ailments when applied directly on the skin. It can prevent sunburn, heal cuts and wounds, and treat bedsores. It can also prevent acne, dermatitis, eczema, and reduce stretch marks.
During a 2006 study, when researchers applied sea buckthorn oil on the wound of rats, it improved the rate of wound contraction and decreased the time for wound healing (11).
Another study showed that sea buckthorn oil could prevent damage to the skin caused by UV rays like wrinkling, laxity, roughness, and pigmentation. The research suggests that sea buckthorn can be a therapeutic drug against skin aging as it regulates skin moisture (12).
The unsaturated fatty acids in sea buckthorn oil, such as palmitoleic acid (omega-7) and gamma-linolenic acid (omega-6), give this oil skin regeneration and repair properties (13).
6. Prevents liver damage
Sea buckthorn oil can also protect against liver damage. The unsaturated fatty acids, a-tocopherol, and b-carotene content of sea buckthorn oil provide it with hepatoprotective properties (14).
During one study, mice with hepatic damage were given sea buckthorn seed oil at doses of 0.26, 1.30 and 2.60 mg per kilogram for eight weeks. The results showed that sea buckthorn improved the markers of liver function in these rats (15).
During another study, 50 patients with cirrhosis were given sea buckthorn extract or a placebo for six months. The results showed that the group that took sea buckthorn oil showed a higher increase in their blood markers of liver function as compared to the placebo group (16).
7. Improves digestive health
Sea buckthorn oil improves digestion is several different ways. It enhances the speed of digestion, protects the mucous lining of the stomach and heals ulcers in the stomach.
According to a study when sea buckthorn oil was orally administered to rats with gastric ulcer, it significantly improved the condition. The study concluded that sea buckthorn oil has preventive and curative effects against experimental gastric ulcer (17).
8. May reduce dry eyes
Sea buckthorn oil contains omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which can reduce the symptoms of dry eye syndrome.
During a study from the University of Turku, Finland, 20 to 75-year-old men and women consumed 2 grams of sea buckthorn oil or a placebo for three months.
After three months, when clinical dry eye test and symptoms follow up were performed, the researchers concluded that sea buckthorn oil attenuated the increase in tear film osmolarity during the cold season and positively affected the dry eye symptoms (18).
9. Reduces menopause symptoms
Vaginal atrophy, a condition that causes the thinning and drying of the vaginal mucosa, is a common symptom of menopause. While the standard treatment for this condition is estrogen treatment, it is not suitable for all women.
During a 2014 study, 98 women consumed either 3 grams of sea buckthorn oil or a placebo for three months. Compared to the placebo, the women who took sea buckthorn oil showed a better rate of improvement in the integrity of the vaginal epithelium (19).
10. Reduces inflammation
Side effects of sea buckthorn oil
Sea buckthorn oil is safe when taken in the correct form. However, you must ensure that you purchase a pure product with clear labels. If the label is unclear, there are chances that it may contain other ingredients.
Pregnant and breastfeeding women, people on medication and children should avoid taking this essential oil.
If you are taking insulin or any other diabetes medications, avoid using this oil.
When taken along with aspirin, anticoagulants, antiplatelet medicines or NSAIDs, it can increase the risk of bleeding.
Sea buckthorn oil can also reduce the effectiveness of cyclophosphamide, epirubicin and other immunosuppressant and chemotherapy medication.
Sea buckthorn oil is taken from the seeds or the berries of the sea buckthorn plant. It is an excellent source of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. Sea buckthorn oil is the only plant source that contains omega 3, 6, 7 and 9 fatty acids.
It helps improve heart health, prevents diabetes, treats skin conditions, prevents liver damage, and fights diabetes and cancer.
It has been used in the Ayurvedic and ancient Chinese medicine for centuries, and now modern research has also shown how beneficial this oil is. So, go on give this oil a try and improve your health.