Sea Buckthorn ~ The Sea Berry

sea buckthorn
Common Name: Common Sea Buckthorn
Scientific Name: Hippophae rhamnoides
Family: Elaeagnaceae


Distinguishing features:

The common sea buckthorn is a hearty little shrub that can surprisingly grow up to 20ft tall in ideal conditions. They typically have dense and stiff branches that are littered with sharp thorns. Their leaves are a distinct pale silvery-green with a long narrow taper.

The male produces brownish flowers which produce wind-distributed pollen. The female plants produce small orange berries that are soft, juicy, and rich in oils. The female flowers are yellow-green in the spring, turning bright yellow before fruiting.The roots grow far and wide in a short time, aiding the plant in its nitrogen fixing properties and preventing soil erosion. 


Sea buckthorn tends to grow in dry, sandy areas and can be found above the tree line in the sub-alpine plains of the Caucus and Himalayan mountain ranges down to the salt sprayed coasts of Western Europe.  


They are hearty little shrubs that can tolerate salty, sandy extremes that not many other plants can, yet it does demand full sunlight and therefore tends to grow away from large trees. Sea buckthorn is able to resist frost and high desert temperatures, this tenacity is reflected in its rich content of powerful healing compounds.


Ethical Harvest Practices


Always ask permission & clear dead brush around the plants when harvesting.


Only pick sea buckthorn berries in the fall when fully ripened during late summer or during winter when frozen hard. 


Spread the berries on a sheet or tray, in a single layer, and allow to dry for 1 week in a well sunlight, slightly warm, and dry space. Thaw frozen berries and pat with a paper towel before laying out to dry. 


Rinse and repeat for all the berries you can find throughout winter!


Store in a sealed jar, away from sunlight, in a dark and dry space until ready for use.




As with most beautiful berries, sea buckthorn has uses that date back thousands of years with medicinal use in Mongolia, China, and Tibet. It has been thought to expel phlegm and stagnation from the body, strengthen digestion, and invigorate the blood as a means to improve overall health. 


Throughout Europe it was fed to horses who were noted to have gained healthy weight and had a noticeable shine to their coat. Russians were the first to begin scrutinizing this plant and were interested in the compounds found throughout the plant. During the space race of the 1960’s, Russian cosmonauts used sea buckthorn fruit juice and oil as a way to protect them from the harmful radiation that they were exposed to during a mission.


Clinical uses: 


Clinically sea buckthorn can be employed for healing a number of different skin affiliations from sunburns and eczema to psoriasis and depigmentation. Its most common use is for treating radiation damage from x-rays and sunburns. Along with that comes a number of beneficial effects for wound healing, dry skin, ulcers, and repairing old scars.


It is thought to replenish and restore youth to the skin by deeply nourishing the skin and promoting natural healing activity. 


Remember its actions are slow and gentle but long lasting. Consistent use will lead to gradual, yet lasting positive change.


Primary actions:


Vulnerary; Inflammation modulator; Radioprotective; Antioxidant; Antispasmodic;  Anti-inflammatory; Antiplatelet; Anticancer.


Secondary actions:


Antiulcerogenic; Anti-microbial; Antispasmodic.




The sea buckthorn plant is rich in healing compounds but the fruit is the real star of the show. They are found to be high in vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin B1, B2, B6, protein, fatty acids,carotene, and vitamin E. 


Its minor active compounds include: sitosterol, kaempferol, quercetin, isorhamnetin, and flavonoids and other phenolics. It also contains carotenoids including beta-carotene, gamma-carotene, and lycopene.


Mechanism of Action/How it works.


Several pharmacological actions have been documented for sea buckthorn, based primarily on in vitro and animal studies. Such actions include 



The fruit is rich in proanthocyanidins which have been shown to mobilize stem cells involved in regeneration, including certain progenitor, endothelial, and lymphocytoid mesenchymal stem cells (1). This keeps skin looking healthy, young, glowing, and hydrated.


Skin Pigmentation

Sea buckthorn oil has shown to be successful in treating skin pigmentation disorders and prematurely aging skin, as well as in removing freckles (2). This comes as an added benefit of it’s anti-aging and antioxidant effects that allow local skin cells to clear out metabolic waste and return back to a normal state.



Buckthorn fruit juice reduces the incidence and growth of experimentally-induced tumors. Antitumor effects might occur due to sea buckthorn's antioxidant properties. In rats fed aminopyrine plus nitrite, sea buckthorn juice increased life span and prevented tumor production by blocking the formation of N-nitroso compounds (3).


Blood sugar balancing

Sea buckthorn fruit, when ingested orally, reduces blood glucose by 24% when compared to eating strawberries or no berries at all. The time to the peak glucose level is also prolonged, although the peak level is not lowered significantly. These effects may be due to an acute improvement in insulin sensitivity following consumption of sea buckthorn berries (4).



Tannins isolated from sea buckthorn leaves have shown to inhibit release of tumor necrosis factor (an inflammatory compound) by blocking nuclear factor-kappaB (NF-kappaB) and p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase (p38 MAPK) activation (5). In healthy subjects and obese patients, sea buckthorn berries and oil have been shown to reduce C-reactive protein concentrations (6).



Sea buckthorn has been used to reduce systolic and diastolic blood pressure. These effects seem to be similar to calcium channel blockers and ACE inhibitors (7) Flavonoids from the sea buckthorn fruit are thought to reduce cardiovascular disease by lowering cholesterol, reducing inflammation, and decreasing platelet aggregation. Preliminary research in animal models and in vitro shows that sea buckthorn berry oil and extracts can inhibit platelet aggregation, platelet adhesion to collagen and fibrinogen, and thrombogenesis. These effects are thought to be due to phenolic compounds, including flavones (8).


Immune Function

Various animal and laboratory studies have found sea buckthorn to exert immunomodulatory activity. According to animal research, sea buckthorn may increase macrophage counts (9). In hens (a non mammalian model), sea buckthorn (50mcg/mL) enhanced macrophage membrane function, and at higher dosages (400mcg/mL), it inhibited leukocyte proliferation (10).


Wound Healing

There is data that suggests that sea buckthorn extract might protect cells against lipid (fat) peroxidation injury and might increase the rate and extent of wound tissue epithelialization and granulation. In animal research, sea buckthorn increased wound healing and increased blood flow to the wound area (11).




  1. Drapeau C, Benson KF, Jensen GS. Rapid and selective mobilization of specific stem cell types after consumption of a polyphenol-rich extract from sea buckthorn berries (Hippophae) in healthy human subjects. Clin Interv Aging. 2019;14:253-263
  2. ​​ Zhong F. Study on the immunopharmacology of the components extracted from Hippophae rhamnoides L. In: Proceedings of the First Symposium on Sea Buckthorn, October 19-23, 1989, Xi’an, China; 1989:368-370
  3. Li Y, Liu H. Prevention of tumour production in rats fed aminopyrine plus nitrite by sea buckthorn juice. IARC Sci Publ 1991;105:568-70.
  4. Mortensen MW, Spagner C, Cuparencu C, et al. Sea buckthorn decreases and delays insulin response and improves glycaemic profile following a sucrose-containing berry meal: a randomised, controlled, crossover study of Danish sea buckthorn and strawberries in overweight and obese male subjects. Eur J Nutr. 2017 Oct 11. doi: 10.1007/s00394-017-1550-8.
  5. Kwon, D. J., Bae, Y. S., Ju, S. M., Goh, A. R., Choi, S. Y., and Park, J. Casuarinin suppresses TNF-alpha-induced ICAM-1 expression via blockade of NF-kappaB activation in HaCaT cells. Biochem.Biophys.Res.Commun. 6-17-2011;409(4):780-785.
  6. Larmo P, Alin J, Salminen E, et al. Effects of sea buckthorn berries on infections and inflammation: a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial. Eur J Clin Nutr 2008;62:1123-30
  7. Chang BB, Wang F Xu TY Zhang QQ He J Zhang XJ Li J. Total flavones of Hippophae rhamnoides L. for essential hypertension: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Chinese Journal of Evidence-Based Medicine. 2009;9(11):1207-1213.
  8. Cheng, J., Kondo, K., Suzuki, Y., Ikeda, Y., Meng, X., and Umemura, K. Inhibitory effects of total flavones of Hippophae Rhamnoides L on thrombosis in mouse femoral artery and in vitro platelet aggregation. Life Sci. 4-4-2003;72(20):2263-2271.
  9. Cheng, J., Kondo, K., Suzuki, Y., Ikeda, Y., Meng, X., and Umemura, K. Inhibitory effects of total flavones of Hippophae Rhamnoides L on thrombosis in mouse femoral artery and in vitro platelet aggregation. Life Sci. 4-4-2003;72(20):2263-2271.
  10. Dorhoi, A., Dobrean, V., Zahan, M., and Virag, P. Modulatory effects of several herbal extracts on avian peripheral blood cell immune responses. Phytother.Res. 2006;20(5):352-358.
  11. Ianev E, Radev S, Balutsov M, et al. [The effect of an extract of sea buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides L.) on the healing of experimental skin wounds in rats]. Khirurgiia (Sofiia) 1995;48:30-3
  12. Ianev E, Radev S, Balutsov M, et al. [The effect of an extract of sea buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides L.) on the healing of experimental skin wounds in rats]. Khirurgiia (Sofiia) 1995;48:30-3