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Sea Buckthorn: The Super Superfruit
Sea Buckthorn: The Super Superfruit
Tibetan healers knew about sea buckthorn’s myriad therapeutic properties more than 1,000 years ago. But ever since celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz called it a “miracle berry” on his daytime TV show last June, millions of Americans are discovering this superfruit’s wonders.
Containing at least 190 identified nutrients, including key antioxidants and fatty acids, sea buckthorn has been shown in hundreds of studies to aid digestion, thwart weight gain, support cardiovascular health, slow skin aging and more when taken internally in various doses or applied topically as an oil or cream.
A berry-bearing shrub that grows along seas and rivers and in dry, mountainous regions spanning from western Europe to northwestern China, sea buckthorn also provides ecological benefits. According to the American Society for Horticultural Science, the hardy plant helps curb soil erosion, and its roots fix nitrogen and nourish nutrient-depleted earth.
Plus, sea buckthorn delivers a wealth of benefits because its nutrients are spread throughout its berries, bark, leaves and seeds, all of which are used to make supplements, cosmetics, oils, juices and pharmaceuticals.
Here’s a look at sea buckthorn’s key constituents and health benefits.
Novel nutrient blend
Sea buckthorn’s most shining attribute, and what makes it stand out among superfruits, is its heavy load of palmitoleic acid, an omega-7 fatty acid. Unlike the more common omega-3s and -6s, omega-7s aren’t essential—but they can be quite beneficial for maintaining healthy heart, weight and skin. Other than macadamia nuts and whole-fat dairy, few foods offer omega-7s. Sea buckthorn is by far one of the best botanical sources.
The plant also boasts a high dose of antioxidant vitamin E, which research shows helps to regulate cholesterol, promote blood flow and stymie cell damage. Sea buckthorn outranks oranges and tomatoes in vitamin C, another potent antioxidant, and supplies ample flavonoids, protein, B vitamins and omega-3, -6 and -9 fatty acids. It’s also rich in carotenoids such as lycopene and beta-carotene, which the body converts to vitamin A.
Miracle berry in action
Dr. Oz may have been hyperbolizing when he called sea buckthorn a “miracle berry,” but research shows it packs a remarkable health punch for a single plant. One perk Oz highlighted was weight management. He referenced a study published in the June 2011 issue of the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture in which researchers fed two groups of mice identical, high-fat diets but gave one group sea buckthorn supplements each day. After 12 weeks, the sea buckthorn group weighed significantly less and had much lower lipid and cholesterol levels. Although the exact mechanism hasn’t been identified, experts think the plant’s unique fatty acid-nutrient package signals the body to stop storing fat.
The experiment also revealed that sea buckthorn suppressed the blood glucose spikes triggered by the mice’s unhealthy diet, while a separate study, published in the journal Lipids in Health and Disease in July 2011, found that sea buckthorn improved insulin sensitivity in mice. Both trials suggest the superfruit may be beneficial for diabetes management.
There’s more. According to a research review published in the Journal of Biological Sciences in 2004, sea buckthorn has been shown to lower cholesterol and improve cardiac function in people with heart disease. It also coats intestinal and stomach linings to aid digestion and relieves gastric ulcers by normalizing gastric acid output and taming inflammation. And because sea buckthorn contains four times the recommended daily allowance of vitamin B12—a nutrient shown to slow cognitive decline and memory loss—researchers believe it may help ward off dementia.
Sea buckthorn’s skin benefits are also well documented, both when applied topically and taken internally. Fatty acids lock moisture into cells to keep skin supple, while the arsenal of antioxidants zaps free radicals that contribute to wrinkles and age spots. Sea buckthorn also sparks cell and tissue regeneration and has been shown to help clear eczema, burns, sores and dermatitis.
By: Melaina Juntti
Melaina is a freelance writer and editor in Madison, Wis., who focuses on natural health and wellness. Her work has appeared in Men's Journal, Delicious Living, Natural Foods Merchandiser, Natural Solutions, Inside Triathlon and Triathlete magazines.
April 19th, 2012