Sea buckthorn - a local superfood and natural preservative

What will you learn in this guide?

1. What is sea buckthorn and where is it from?
2. Why is sea buckthorn so healthy?
3. Does sea buckthorn contain vitamin B12?
4. Sea buckthorn as a natural preservative
5. Atopic dermatitis and sea buckthorn
6. How to make sea buckthorn juice 

1. What is sea buckthorn and where is it from?

Sea buckthorn (lat. Hippophae, german Sanddorn) is an oil plant with orange berries, silvery narrow leaves and long thorns. The sea buckthorn originates from the Himalayan region.

It is assumed that the shrubs are native to Nepal and have spread west via several routes - as far as Northern and Western Europe (coastal regions) thousands of years ago[1][2].

Sea buckthorn grows wild in many areas, such as the Baltic and North Sea Region. However, in some European countries (Germany, Poland, etc.) there is also sea buckthorn cultivation.

Due to the very sour taste of the berries, the fruit is mainly used for the production of jam, oils, liqueurs, as juice or cream additive but is not normally eaten raw.

The sea buckthorn berry is particularly popular because of its high vitamin C content. Various sources state that most variations contain between 200 and 900 mg per 100 g[3][4]. Lemons average at 53 mg per 100 g[5].

Can the whole fruit be used?

Usually the flesh of the fruit is further processed, but the oil of the seeds has equally valuable nutritional components.

2. Why is sea buckthorn so healthy?

In addition to the high vitamin C content (50 g can theoretically cover your daily requirement), the whole berries have a tocopherol content (vitamin E) of between 100 and 130 mg per 100 g of oil[6], mostly alpha-tocopherol.

Further fat-soluble components are[7]:

  • Palmitoleic acid, the most common fatty acid (monounsaturated)
  • Palmitic acid
  • Oleic acid
  • Linoleic acid
  • Alpha-linolenic acid

The seed oil contains 33-36% linoleic acid (omega-6) and 30-36% alpha-linolenic acid (omega-3). The pulp contains 32-42% of unsaturated palmitoleic acid (omega-7)[8]. Many of those fatty acids are associated with positive health effects.

In addition, the coloured pulp contains a high proportion of the pigment beta-carotene[9][10], which as a precursor to vitamin A has a health-promoting effect.

But this is not enough for sea buckthorn, because it also contains a lot of potassium, sodium, calcium, magnesium, iron and phosphorus[11].

3. Does sea buckthorn contain vitamin B12?

There is a common claim that sea buckthorn is a natural, vegetable source of B12, similar to sauerkraut, tempeh or microalgae. The actually proven cobalamin form in sea buckthorn, however, has no vitamin effect according to the German Association for Nutrition[12].

The B12 content of some plant species, such as sea buckthorn, usually depends on the soil quality and the type of fertilizer, even in organic farming these values are subject to strong fluctuations[13]. Therefore, not even every sea buckthorn plant contains this inactive B12 form.

4. Sea buckthorn as a natural preservative

Several components of  the berry extract enable it to absorb UV rays[14]. In particular, UV-B radiation is absorbed, which is why it can also be used as a vegetable sunscreen.

Because of the high antioxidant concentration, the extract can be used as a substitute for ascorbates or benzoates – as a natural preservative. Tocoperol (vitamin E) is also commonly used as a preservative, which is also found in sea buckthorn, as well as sorbic acid. Vitamin E generally protects fatty acids from oxidation. Sorbic Acid prevents microoganisms from growing.

For the preservation of liposomal products this would mean a longer shelf life but also greater stability against oxidative influences. The liposomes thus remain functional for longer.

5. Atopic dermatitis and sea buckthorn

A placebo-controlled double-blind study from 1999, provided by EFSA, investigated the influence of sea buckthorn on this skin condition[15].

Oils from the pulp or seeds were compared with a placebo. The seed oil mainly contained linoleic acid (34%), alpha-linolenic acid (25%) and oleic acid (19%), the fruit oil mainly contained palmitic acid (33%), oleic acid and palmitolenic acid.

5 g of fruit pulp oil taken daily over four months were found to significantly improve the condition.

6. How to make sea buckthorn juice 

The berries are usually ripe at the beginning of September. The best indicator for this is their bright orange colour. But careful: Do not confuse them with the poisonous red rowan berries.

When harvesting, it is best to have gloves with you - against the long thorns.

After washing, seeds and flesh can be separated by pureeing. The pure juice is obtained by pressing through a sieve. It is best to combine the juice with other, sweeter fruit juices (e.g. apple) or add honey.

[6] Zadernowski, R., Naczk, M. & Amarowicz, R. J Amer Oil Chem Soc (2003) 80: 55.
[7] Ranjith, A., Kumar, K.S., Venugopalan, V.V. et al. J Amer Oil Chem Soc (2006) 83: 359.
[8] Fatima T, Snyder CL, Schroeder WR, Cram D, Datla R, Wishart D, Weselake RJ, Krishna P. Fatty acid composition of developing sea buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides L.) berry and the transcriptome of the mature seed. PLoS One.2012;7(4):e34099. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0034099. Epub 2012 Apr 27. PubMed PMID: 22558083
[9] Giuffrida D, Pintea A, Dugo P, Torre G, Pop RM, Mondello L. Determination of carotenoids and their esters in fruits of sea buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides L.) by HPLC-DAD-APCI-MS. Phytochem Anal. 2012 May-Jun;23(3):267-73. doi: 10.1002/pca.1353. Epub 2011 Aug 18. PubMed PMID: 22473853.
[11] Elemental and Nutritional Analysis of Sea Buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides ssp. turkestanica) Berries of Pakistani Origin, S.M. Sabir, H. Maqsood, Imran Hayat, M.Q. Khan, and A. Khaliq, Journal of Medicinal Food 2005 8:4, 518-522
[14] T. Beveridge, T.S.C. Li, B.O. Oomah, A. Smith, J. Agric Food Chem 47(9) (1999) 3480-3488 [21] J.
[15] Baoru Yang, Kirsti O Kalimo, Leena M Mattila, Sinikka E Kallio, Jouko K Katajisto, Olli J Peltola, Heikki P Kallio, Effects of dietary supplementation with sea buckthorn (Hippophaë rhamnoides) seed and pulp oils on atopic dermatitis, The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, Volume 10, Issue 11, 1999, Pages 622-630, ISSN 0955-2863,