If you've never heard of sea buckthorn, you're not alone, but this berry has major health benefits that range from immunity to clear skin and may even treat cancer. In early studies, sea buckthorn helps the immune system take out cancer cells like they are garbage, and strengthens the recovery of patients on chemo. With more than 190 active plant-based vitamins, antioxidants, and minerals, in one tiny berry, sea buckthorn became a newly popular supplement to take, especially now in light of COVID-19. The more we learn, the more we think sea buckthorn should be on everyone's list of what to take daily.

The oil extracted from sea buckthorn's vibrant orange berries: supports immune function, helps clear skin, fights cellular aging, improves circulation, and lowers levels of LDL "bad" cholesterol. As one study showed sea buckthorn may "lower the risk of malignant cancers, [and] support regeneration of the body after chemotherapy," the berries are now tested as a treatment for cancer patients.

Where does sea buckthorn come from?

Sea buckthorn is a plant native to Europe and Asia, where it grows along riverbanks, seashores, sandy dunes, and mountain slopes from sea level up to 12,000 feet, according to One Green World. It's a tough plant to pick or harvest but the ancient Greeks and Chinese have used it since the beginning of medicine, initially to give horses their shiny coat and then to cure ailments such as colds, coughs, inflammation and infections. Its Latin name is Hippophae Rhamnoides L, which translates  into a "shiny horse." Sea buckthorn was used for centuries in Europe and Asia as a natural remedy to treat fevers, inflammation, congested lungs, colds, and coughs, and even to shrink tumor growth in the stomach and the esophagus, according to the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture Food and Rural Affairs. One reason: the berry is high in protein, vitamins C, A, K, and E, and powerful antioxidants–with an impressive 190 bio compounds in all.

It's one thing for a berry to be used in ancient medicine, but modern science is testing out the theories in the lab, and so far, the power of sea buckthorn as a natural healer has been proven, as scientists research exactly how much natural goodness one plant can deliver. So far their studies have shown that this exotic berry is as good for you as any other plant on the planet, but the question is: What will it do for you, who should eat more of it and how should you get it (in supplement form or fresh juice or oil)?

The answer seems to be that if getting more immune-boosting vitamin C, then we all should seek out sea buckthorn. It contains 400 to 900 mg of vitamin C in 100 grams (depending on where it's grown), whereas the same amount of orange juice contains approximately 50 mg. Since staying healthy is the short-term and long-term goal now, there is an understandable renewed interest in sea buckthorn as a health-boosting supplement.

Here are 7 health benefits of sea buckthorn and why you should get more of it.

1.  Sea buckthorn contains anti-aging factors that help clear skin and boost collagen

If you want soft, glowing, healthy-looking skin, sea buckthorn is one way to get it. The next time you buy skin-care products, check to see if sea buckthorn is one of the main ingredients. The oil is commonly used in cosmetics for treating and revitalizing dry, flaky, or rapidly aging skin, since the berries contain an abundance of vitamin A, (alpha- and beta-carotene) and other carotenoids as well as vitamin E, according to a research study.

Sea buckthorn oil contains powerful natural compounds that act as anti-aging agents. "It should be noted that this oil contains rare palmitoleic acid (omega-7) which is a component of skin lipids and stimulates regenerative processes in the epidermis and wound healing. Sea buckthorn oil activates physiological skin functions and reduces scars," according to the US National Library of Medicine.

The oil contains a high content of unique gamma-linolenic, which is "also a very important ingredient for skin because as a building material for components of intercellular cement it binds epidermis cells. It is also a component of phospholipids that build cell membranes," according to the study. "Gamma-linolenic acid improves blood circulation which positively affects the supply of nourishment and oxygen to the skin, and it removes excess toxins which as a result improves skin structure, appearance, and tone." In this case, "GLA effectively protects skin against infections... relieves inflammations, and slows down the aging process."

Sea buckthorn contains complex lipids that help to even out skin tone, hydrate skin, and give it a clear, healthy glow. The polar lipids (Phospholipids and glycolipids), improve "skin moisturizing and soften the epidermis, improve the elasticity of the skin, reduce inflammation, accelerate skin regeneration, and cell renewal," according to the study. No wonder the berries, which are hard to harvest and only allow for picking every 2 years, are worth the work.

Best way to take it for skin: Look for sea buckthorn oil as an ingredient in skincare products.

2. Sea buckthorn treats inflammation, infection, and a variety of conditions

In this one study, sea buckthorn was found to have 190 bioactive substances and touted as one of the most valuable plants for potential natural remedies. Extracts from the fruit, which create a powerful oil, can be used in the treatment of a variety of conditions all related to inflammation and infection. For digestive issues, the study found that "sea-buckthorn oil has a soothing effect in inflammation of the [digestive] system, duodenum or in treating diarrhea," according to the study. It has also been proven to work in the treatment of:

  • Chronic gastric ulcer disease
  • Rheumatoid arthritis, or to stop small bleeding and lower risk of thrombophlebitis
  • Fever caused by viruses and bacteria
  • Dermatoses and skin diseases, rashes, or small scrapes
  • Weak and damaged hair; it has been used as a remedy for hair loss or balding
  • Burns, frostbites, bedsores, and sunburn

Best way to take it for inflammation or infection: Sea buckthorn oil for topical irritations works best in creams or oil, lotion. For ingestion, look for it in the oil form.

3. Sea buckthorn contains antioxidants that promote heart health

Sea buckthorn is known to improve circulation and heart function, according to several studies. The plant contains a high percentage of vitamin K, which helps to normalize blood clotting. In a study, men were divided into two groups and one ate 5 grams of sea buckthorn oil and the second group took coconut oil every day for four weeks. The group that took the   sea buckthorn had significantly lower markers for dangerous dangerous blood clots, suggesting that there are "beneficial effects of sea buckthorn oil on [healthy] blood clotting."

In another review study, researchers found that there are "potential cardiovascular implications of sea buckthorn berry consumption in humans," due to the fact that "berry consumption has been associated with reductions in cardiovascular risk," but more research needs to be done.

 Best way to take it for heart health: The sea buckthorn oil (recommended amounts range from 5 to 20 grams so check with your doctor before you start any new supplement).

4. Sea buckthorn helps reduce levels of LDL or "bad" cholesterol

Sea buckthorn raises HDL (good) cholesterol and lowers the level of LDL (bad) cholesterol in the blood due to its high concentrations of antioxidants, especially how the oil boosts the bioavailability of flavonoids. "After taxonomic, chemical and sensory tests of common sea-buckthorn fruit carried out at a university in Finland, it was proved that the fruit of Hippophaes rhamnoides significantly increases the level of beneficial high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol fraction." After consumption of the sea buckthorn berry juice, there was an "indicated increase of the ratio of HDL cholesterol to LDL cholesterol and elongation of the lag phase of LDL cholesterol oxidation," according to the study.

Best way to take it for cholesterol health: The juice of the berry appears to work best for cholesterol.

5. Sea buckthorn helps boosts immune function, with more vitamin C than an orange

Sea Buckthorn berries contain mainly vitamin C (approximately 400 to 900 mg of C per 100 grams of oil, which is roughly half a cup, depending on the variety and where it's grown), while one orange contains 50 mg of vitamin C for the same amount of juice. Right now as the number of COVID-19 cases is on the rise in America, consumers are seeking ways to load up on vitamin C for its immune-boosting power.

"As a natural source of well-absorbed vitamin C, this oil is used as an adjunctive treatment in a number of conditions which require an increased amount of ascorbic acid and as an agent supporting the function of the immune system," according to the study.

The content of vitamin C in sea buckthorn depends on where it's grown. In case you're wondering how much C in is your oil or fruit, check the labels: "Sea-buckthorn growing in Europe in coastal dunes contains 120 to 315 mg of vitamin C in fresh fruit, and the species growing in the Alps contains much more, between 405 and 1,100 mg of vitamin C for 100 grams of oil). Chinese sea buckthorn fruits are the richest in vitamin C, with up to 2500 mg in some batches, the study example

Best way to take it for immune function: Taking sea buckthorn oil is the best way to support immune function.

6. Sea buckthorn is loaded with your essential vitamins and minerals

Sea buckthorn berries boast potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron, and phosphorus, as well as folate, biotin, and vitamins B1, B2, B6, C, and E. More than half of the oil in sea buckthorn oil is mono and polyunsaturated fats, which are high sources of Omega 9s and Omega 6s, the good kinds of fat. In addition, "Sea buckthorn oil contains linolic acid (LA) and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) from this group which cannot be produced by a human body due to a lack of certain enzymes. Interestingly enough, "Linolic acid is considered to be the most important of all Omega-6 acids as other acids in this group," according to the study.

Here's a fun fact worth repeating: Sea buckthorn oil might just be the only plant food known to scientists that provide all the four omega fatty acids: Omega-3, Omega-6, Omega-7, and omega-9, according to the study.

Best way to get it for essential vitamins and minerals: Take sea buckthorn oil daily to absorb essential vitamins and minerals.

7. Sea buckthorn is currently being tested for cancer medicines

Sea buckthorn may help fight cancer cells in the lab, early studies show, but there needs to be more research to confirm the plant's anti-cancer properties, according to scientists. "Sea buckthorn lowers the risk of malignant cancers, supports regeneration of the body after the chemotherapy and serious diseases," the study authors wrote, since it "re-energizes and revitalizes, positively affects mood, and has an antidepressant effect."

More specifically, sea buckthorn appears to help in the aftercare of chemotherapy when patients need energy: "Currently, the highly nutritious ingredients of common sea-buckthorn berries are tested for their application in medicine, i.e. in treatment of inflammations, cancers, and as an adjunctive treatment after chemotherapy," according to the study.

In a separate study, the anti-cancer activities of sea buckthorn were examined and it was effective against breast cancer cells, carcinoma of the liver and kidneys as well as colorectal cancer, but the researchers said more study needs to be done.

In that study on human breast cancer cells, the authors reported that "cell growth was suppressed by treatment with sea buckthorn procyanidins at concentrations between 10 and 60 μg/ml. In addition, the tested procyanidins were found to induce cell apoptosis [whereby the body takes out the cancer cells as if they were garbage, eliminated by the immune system] in a dose-dependent manner,"

Best way to get sea-buckthorn for cancer patients: berries are currently being tested as medicine.

At The Beet, we're always uncovering plant-based foods that have health benefits and are emerging foods to support a healthy heart, strong immune system, due to their high levels of essential vitamins, and nutrients. Previously, we spotlighted soursop, a tropical fruit that helps people get better sleep, lower inflammation, fight infection, and has the potential to one day treat cancer cells, according to emerging studies. If you have a food that you're curious to know more about, contact us and we will break down the health benefits.