I just reformulated my facial serum to include meadowfoam seed oil and Sea Buckthorn, so I thought we'd review the benefits of sea buckthorn oil in today's Teaching Tuesday post. To view more information about Meadowfoam seed oil, see this previous post.
Sea Buckthorn's botanical name is Hippophae rhamnoides. It is a shrub that grows anywhere from one and a half feet tall to twenty feet tall, but some of the plants in central Asia have been known to reach as high as thirty-three feet. While the plant is native to Russia, Mongolia and China, over ninety percent of the world's sea buckthorn plantations are located in China, where the plant is used for soil and water conservation, as much as its fruit. In the last twenty years experimental crops of sea buckthorn have been grown in Canada and a few US states, thanks to the efforts of Russian and East German horticulturists who worked to develop new varieties of sea buckthorn. These new cultivars have different ripening months, larger berries, more nutritional value, and branches that make harvesting easier.
Sea buckthorn oil is extracted by cold pressing the entire fruiting body, the seeds and the berries of this shrub. Getting to the fruit to harvest it though, is fairly difficult because there is a pretty dense arrangement of thorns all around the berries on each branch. One harvesting technique is to remove the entire branch and freeze it, making it easy to then shake off the berries. This does help to avoid the thorns while getting at the berries, but it is destructive to the shrub, and it reduces future harvests as well.
It takes about ten pounds of the thorn surrounded berries to produce just one pound of oil. Because of the labor intensive harvest, as well as the amount of berries needed to produce a small amount of oil, this cost of this oil is on the pricey side. Most would say though, its benefits are worth the cost.
The oil itself is fairly viscous, a syrupy consistency. It comes in a deep amber to a nice red color palate. It is liquid at room temperature, but when it gets cold it tends to solidify. When properly stored, at room temperature and out of direct sunlight, it generally has a shelf life of about two years. This oil is one that must be used diluted though, as it will stain clothing, counter tops and even your skin when undiluted.
Sea buckthorn oil contains about fifteen times more vitamin C than an orange, a very high amount of vitamin E, beta carotene, anti-oxidants, carotenoid, and contains many other vitamins, minerals and fatty acids. The fruit of the sea buckthorn, the berries, are edible, but are pretty acidy and oily, so they aren't very tasty. But since they are ultra high in nutrients, they make a super food, and used in many foods. In fact, the fruit is quite popular overseas, where you will find it in jellies, jams, pies, liquors, even baby food, as well as lotions and other skin care products. By using just one part sea buckthorn to five parts water and sweetening to taste, you can blend it, strain it, and have an orange or peach tasting juice, with more vitamins than the other fruits would provide. When you allow the berries to frost (called bletting) before gathering them, the cold helps to decrease the tartness enough that they can be eaten raw, however most people still think they are better when mixed into a juice, with other juices, or made into other products.
The sea buckthorn has long been recognized as a wonderful skin repairing, skin regenerating and skin conditioning oil. It has been used to heal wounds, burns, lesions, eczema, abrasions, wounds, and to repair sun damage and other skin injuries for centuries. In fact, its amazing skin healing properties have led to (further) studies which support the use of this oil internally for healthful purposes. Generally speaking the recommendation is to take 2000-2500 mg daily (in capsules), or one tablespoon of raw oil daily in order to promote healthy blood circulation, as a soothing agent for the gastro- intestinal tract, or to treat colitis, stomach ulcers. More studies are needed, but they are currently exploring the benefits of this oil for treating inflammatory disorders, certain cancers, and even for improving the health of bone marrow after chemotherapy.
For centuries, this shrub has been used to relieve coughs, aide digestion, alleviate pain, and invigorate blood circulation. It has been used to treat diarrhea and dermal disorders. It has been taken orally and applied topically. It has also been added to medications for pulmonary, gastrointestinal, cardiac, blood and metabolic disorders in Indian, Chinese and Tibetan medicines. So, while we may use it primarily for its skin benefiting properties, the other implications certainly bare more investigation.