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Sea Buckthorn Oil and its Many Benefits for Health and Skin

Sea Buckthorn oil uses and benefits

Sea buckthorn oil is a vegetable oil that can be obtained from two parts of the plant: seed or pericarp.  However, the most common form of sea buckthorn oil is that made from whole berries, including the seeds.

Sea buckthorn fruit oil is dark orange in color and has a thick consistency (it is liquid at room temperature, but becomes much thicker if refrigerated).  Seed oil, on the other hand, is pale yellow and does not solidify under refrigeration.

Berries of sea buckthorn have been used as food and medicine, while oil derived from berries is a source of valuable ingredients for cosmeceuticals.

The oil of sea buckthorn has shown great healing effect in treating damaged mucous membranes of the gastrointestinal tract, wound, burn, dry eye, dermatitis and sunburn, and is widely used as a source for ingredients in several commercially available cosmetic products and nutritional supplements.

Also, it has been used for medicinal purposes for over 12 centuries in China; nowadays, its use range from allopathy medicine to Ayurvedic medicine.

About Sea Buckthorn Plant (Hippophae rhamnoides L.)

Sea buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides L., Elaeagnaceae.) is a thorny, soil-adhering, deciduous shrub or small tree that grows widely at high altitudes of 7,000–15,000 foot of the northwest Himalayan region, native to Eurasia.

Its fruit is a round berry, varying in color from pale yellow or orange to red.  The berries ripen in September but may stay on the branches the whole winter. The seed is brown, shiny, and has a smooth surface. Fruit tastes very sour, with a slight bitterness, and has a faint odor.

A special feature of this shrub is that it may withstand extremes in temperature, from −43 to +40◦C.  It is considered an air-pollution, drought- and frost-tolerant plant.

Its fruit is widely exploited due to its hydrophilic and lipophilic ingredients that are beneficial for human health. However, harvesting sea buckthorn fruit is not so easy, because of the dense thorn arrangement among the berries. The only way to obtain the fruit is often to remove the entire branch of the shrub. This is the reason why berries can be harvested only once every two years.

It is an anti-erosive plant that enhances the soil content since its roots have nitrogen-fixing properties.  In natural habitats, it may reach up to 4 m (13 ft) in height.

Sea buckthorn belongs to the Elaeagnaceae family, and should not be mistaken with the buckthorns of the Rhamnaceae family.

Origin of Sea Buckthorn

The name of genus Hippophae comes from two Greek words—“hippo”, which means horse, and “phaos”, which means to shine; the leaves of this plant were used in ancient times as horse fodder, which gave the horses a shiny coat.

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Sea buckthorn is also known as Siberian pineapple, sand thorn, sallow thorn, and sea berry.

It is naturally found in Northern and Central Europe, Caucasus, and Asia (Siberia, China, and Tibet).

Sea buckthorn fruits have been used in ancient Indian, Chinese, and Tibetan medicine for dysfunctions of alimentary, respiratory, and circulatory system.

Since it has been recognized as a highly valuable plant, sea buckthorn has been cultivated in different parts of the world, including many countries in Europe, Canada, Russia, and China.

Sea Buckthorn oil uses and benefits

Extraction Methods for obtaining Sea Buckthorn Oil

Sea buckthorn is an ancient plant with modern virtues, due to its nutritional and medicinal value. Sea buckthorn berry is rich in oil and its seeds and fruit pulp are used for oil extraction.

It may be extracted in the process of the mechanical cold pressing of seeds, which contain up to 12.5 wt % of oil.

In the case of fruit pulp, the oil is obtained by extraction or in the cold pressing of fruit pulp, which contains 8 to 12 wt % of oil. The obtained fractions are filtered.

These two types of oils differ significantly in terms of appearance and properties. The oil obtained from juicy berries is a thick, dark orange or red-orange liquid with a characteristic smell and a sour taste, if it is pressed from the fruit.

Both oils contain a wide range of essential unsaturated fatty acids (UFAs), in particular palmitoleic acid, which is highly valued in cosmetology.

Among all vegetable oils, sea buckthorn fruit oil has the highest concentration of palmitoleic acid at 30–35 wt %, which is not as high as that of sea buckthorn seed oil.

In addition, both oils abound in tocopherols, tocotrienols, and plant sterols.  Unlike seed oil, pulp oil has a high concentration of carotenoids.

Chemical Composition of Sea Buckthorn Oil

There have been more than 100 ingredients identified in sea buckthorn oil, some of which are rare in the plant kingdom (e.g., the ratio of palmitoleic to γ-linolenic acid).

Around 14 vitamins have been identified in sea buckthorn berries, including vitamin A, C,D, E, F, K, P, and B complex vitamins (B1, B2, B6).

Besides, berries are the richest source of lipids. They are located in fruit (the pericarp) or in seed. Both types of fatty oil isolated either from fruits or seeds are rich in liposoluble vitamins and plant sterols.

Depending on the plant origin, the harvesting time, and the method of oil isolation, the composition of fatty oil from fruits may vary.

On the other hand, both qualitative and quantitative content of fatty acids (FAs) may differ in sea buckthorn oil depending if the oil is from fruits or from seeds, being up to 8 wt % from the fruits and up to 12.5 wt % from the seeds.

There have been 8 FAs reported in the pericarp oil: myristic, palmitic, palmitoleic, stearic, oleic, linoleic, arachidic, and α-linolenic acids, while seed oil has two additional acids: lauric and pentadecanoic.  

Both oils are rich in UFAs, but pericarp oil is richer in monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs), while the seed oil is richer in polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs).

The quantitative concentrations of palmitic, palmitoleic, and oleic acids in pericarp oil are as follows: 35.2%, 28,5%, and 29.9%, respectively; in the seed oil, quantitative concentrations of oleic, linoleic, and α-linolenic acids are as follows: 23.7%, 37.6%, and 20.5%, respectively.

Sea buckthorn seed oil is considered to be of particular nutritional interest because it is the only oil that naturally provides a 1:1 ratio of omega- 3: omega-6 (linolenic and linoleic acid respectively).

Sea Buckthorn Oil Uses and Benefits

Properties of Buckthorn Oil

The oil from pulp and the seeds of sea buckthorn have been shown to possess anti-diabetic, anticancer, antiatherogenic, hypocholesteromic, hypotensive, anti-hypoxic, antioxidant, mild analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties.

Uses of Sea Buckthorn Oil

Due to the unique combination of its constituents and the well-balanced content of fatty acids, carotenoids and vitamins, sea buckthorn oil provides multiple benefits for internal and external use.

Some of its most common uses are:

Industrial uses

Industrially, sea buckthorn oils are used as a source for ingredients in several commercially available cosmetic products and nutritional supplements like jelly, plant capsules, or oral fluids.

Oil extracted from Sea buckthorn fruit pulp and seeds absorb ultraviolet light. Thus, promoting healthy skin and acting as raw material for the pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries.

Therapeutic uses

Oral consumption 

  • It has positive effects on the digestive system lowering inflammation.
  • Oral application is adjuvant in the treatment of gastric, duodenal, and intestinal ulcer.
  • Reduces inflammation processes in the vagina and cervix.
  • Its high amount of vitamin C makes it suitable for immune deficiencies; due to its antioxidant activity, it removes free radicals and strengthens the immune system.
  • Lowers blood cholesterol, which helps to prevent atherosclerosis.
  • Protects against cerebrovascular and cardiovascular disorders.
  • Promotes cognitive function and bone health.
  • Causes positive effect on such neurological disorders as depression, schizophrenia, and Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Fights diabetes, since it helps maintain normal blood sugar levels.
  • It reduces the risk of thrombophlebitis and is enrolled in the control of bleeding.
  • Helps to decrease febrile states.
  • Alleviates symptoms of rheumatoid disease.
  • Its advantage as an adjuvant in cancer therapy is that fastens regeneration after use of chemotherapy.
  • Positively influences brain functions and the central nervous system by an antidepressant effect.
  • Significantly increases the level of beneficial high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol fraction.

Sea buckthorn anticancer activity

External Application 

  • Oil from sea buckthorn has shown effectiveness in skin therapy for sunburns, chemical burns, radiation burns, eczema, dermatoses, ulceration, psoriasis, and atopic dermatitis.
  • Externally applied, it may also reduce bedsores, spots, acne, scars, discoloration, and allergic and inflammatory lesions of the skin. 
  • Preparations containing sea buckthorn oil have been found to promote wound healing. In the presence of liquid crystals, it may exhibit wound healing even in a lower concentration.

Benefits of Sea Buckthorn Oil

The oil of sea buckthorn has multiple health benefits including boosting immunity, fighting oxidative stress, slowing the process of aging, and several other benefits protecting the stomach and reducing inflammation. 

Besides, buckthorn oil may help fight cancerous cells,  protects the liver,  alleviate diabetes symptoms, enhance wound healing, protect the brain, fight bacteria, improve cardiovascular health, and enhances skin health.

Below, we will know more in detail some of these important benefits for our health:

Protects the stomach from ulcers

It has shown positive results in treating health problems related to damaged mucous membranes of the gastrointestinal tract including mouth ulcers, gastric ulcers and stress ulcers. 

Administration of the CO2 – extracted sea buckthorn seed and pulp oils significantly reduced the index of pylorus ligation induced gastric ulcer and speed up the healing process of acetic acid induced gastric ulcer.

It is concluded that Sea buckthorn oil was the best therapeutic agent for dexamethasone-induced GUE in dogs followed by famotidine, lansoprazole, misoprostol, and sucralfate.

The antiulcer action of sea buckthorn oils related to an increased in the hydrophobicity of the mucosal surface, retarded the gastric emptying, inhibited lipid peroxidation in gastric mucosa, accelerated of the mucosal repair, inhibited proteolytic activity in gastric liquid, promoted the wound reparation processes of mucosa, and prevent mucosa damage.

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Anticancer Activity

The anticancer effects of sea buckthorn have been widely studied, not only in its oil, but also extract / chemical compound or other form obtained from sea buckthorn.

Various studies report that sea buckthorn oil also possesses anti-tumor properties.

So far, research shows its effectiveness en cell lines of breast cancer, prostate, liver, lung, colorectal, stomach, semi-colon and acute myeloid leukemia cells.

In the following link, you can find a valuable and detailed information about it:

The Anticancer Activity of Sea Buckthorn [Elaeagnus rhamnoides (L.) A. Nelson]

Natural Antimicrobial 

Oil obtained by pressing is a very effective inhibitor of bacterial growth, especially of Escherichia coli.

Kaushal and Sharma (2011) confirmed that sea buckthorn seed oil showed good antimicrobial properties against Escherichia coli.

The phenolic compounds of sea buckthorn oil represent the main group of phytochemicals, which exhibit antibacterial and antiviral effects. These compounds suppress gram-negative bacteria and reduce gram-positive bacteria.

Wound healing

Sea buckthorn seed oil has been observed to possess mitogenic potential and is involved in fibroblasts and keratinocytes proliferation at the wound site.

Seed oil treatment showed an increase in endogenous antioxidant and decrease in free radical production in burn wounds.

Palmitoleic acid contained in sea buckthorn is a component of skin fat, and thus, represents a valuable component of topical treatment of cellular tissue and wounds.

Burnt sheep were administered sea buckthorn seed oil and in 6, 14 and 21 days after the injury, the wound blood flow and epithelization were determined.

After 14 days the percentage of epithelization in the areas treated with sea buckthorn was higher than in the untreated areas. 

Antidiabetic effects

Sea buckthorn fruit oil (SBFO) is rich in palmitoleic acid, which has been reported to play roles in many metabolic processes. 

Gao et al., (2017) conducted in vivo and in-vitro experiments to explore antidiabetic mechanism of SBFO. 

The results revealed that the extract effectively increased the glucose uptake from 12.23 ± 1.09 to 14.90 ± 1.48 mmol/L in insulin resistance HepG2 cells, lowered blood glucose, and improved insulin indices after 4 weeks treatment with SBFO extract, at 300 mg/kg/day in rats induced type 2 diabetes. 

Eye health

Oil from seeds and fruits are used in the treatment of keratitis, trachoma, injuries or burns of eyelid, and conjunctivitis.

It is shown that sea buckthorn oil reduces an increase in tear film osmolarity during the cold season and positively affects the dry eye symptoms. 

Carotenoids and tocopherols in the sea buckthorn oil, or eicosanoids produced from the fatty acids of the oil, may have a positive effect on inflammation and differentiation of the meibomian gland cells in dry eye.

Oral intake of sea buckthorn pulp oil has a potency to preserve tear secretion capacity in the dry eye state and palmitoleate, its main constituent fatty acid, is an active component of the oil.

Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory

Seed oil and pulp oil from sea buckthorn berries contain all the natural isomers of tocopherols and tocotrienols. 

α-Tocopherol is the major isomer in the pulp oil, whereas the seed oil contains almost equal levels of α- and γ-tocopherols.

Sea buckthorn seed oil and pulp oil are also rich in natural carotenoids, a group of antioxidants working synergistically with tocopherols and tocotrienols by quenching oxygen and scavenging oxygen containing free radicals.

Both pro- and non-vitamin A carotenoids present in sea buckthorn oil have proven effects on inflammation in vitro.

The oil is rich in phytosterols, associated with potential antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity.

Ting et al., (2011) studied antioxidant activity of seed oil found significant radical-scavenging activities. Similarly alcoholic fruit extract found significant cytoprotection against sodium nitroprusside induced oxidative stress in the lymphocytes.

Similar studies of seed oil showed strong inhibition of oxidative damage induced by CCl4 on mice, increased the activities of antioxidant enzymes, and decreased the lipid peroxidation in liver.

Uses and benefits of sea buckthorn

Antiatherogenic Action (Lower cholesterol)

Because sea buckthorn seed oil is a rich source of unsaturated fatty acids, phytosterols, carotenoids and flavonoids, the anti-atherogenic activity of sea buckthorn seed oil in rabbits have been evaluated.

Feeding sea buckthorn seed oil to normal rabbits for 18 days caused a significant decline in plasma cholesterol, LDL, atherogenic index and LDL/HDL ratio.

Significant increase in HDL was observed in sea buckthorn seed oil treated hypercholesterolemic rabbits.

Atherogenic index was significantly reduced and acetylcholine-induced vaso-relaxation was markedly impaired, which could be restored to control values in sea buckthorn seed oil treated normally and hypercholesterolemic animals.

Antihypoxic effects

Hypoxia is a condition in which the body or a region of the body is deprived of adequate oxygen supply at the tissue level.

It significantly attenuated hypoxia-induced oxidative stress, maintaind blood-brain barrier membrane integrity, restricted the rise in plasma catecholamine, and significantly enhanced the hypoxic tolerance in experimental animals.

The oil of sea buckthorn seed also decrease the level of stress hormones and enhances hypoxic tolerance in animals exposed to hypoxia, indicating its anti-stress and adaptogenic activity against hypoxia.

Protects the Liver

The hepatoprotective activity of sea buckthorn seed oil was evaluated in a study. It was conducted on 50 patients with liver cirrhosis.

The extract of sea buckthorn was found to reduce the severity caused by the disease in over 30 patients of the group, roughly making it over 70% advantageous in the cure of liver-related diseases.

It also reduces liver damage caused by paracetamol and carbon tetrachloride, and additionally helps prevent fatty liver.

Other effects

Research suggests that sea buckthorn oil alleviates haematological damage caused by chemotherapy, such as part of treatment of leukemia (Yang and Kallio, 2002).

Therapeutic effects are ascribed to substances such as catechin, gallocatechin, and epigallocatechin (Khan et al., 2010).

Sea buckthorn berry oil is reported to play a potential role in treating atopic dermatitis and thrombosis (Cheng et al., 2003; Yang et al., 2000).

The proposed mechanisms of action of sea buckthorn oil are the stimulation of epidermis regeneration and collagen synthesis, so it was found to stimulate wound healing, even healing of necrotic tissue.

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These mechanisms have been connected to the content of unsaturated ω-3 and ω-6 fatty acids, carotenoids, and tocopherols, which stimulate fibroblast proliferation, collagen biosynthesis, and expression of specific matrix metalloproteinases that induce tissue reparation and angiogenesis.

Benefits for Skin

In order to survive extreme cold temperatures as low as -50°C, sea buckthorn developed a highly unsaturated lipid profile.

Seed oils from sea buckthorn berries are enriched with α-linolenic and linoleic acids. The two essential fatty acids together constituting up to 90 % of the total fatty acids, this makes it a valuable source of EFAs for both internal and external care of the skin.

Also, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and tissue-regenerating effects of sea buckthorn oils have been proven by extensive studies. 

The unique combination of multiple natural antioxidants provides the skin with a synergistic protection against oxidation induced by UV, stress and aging.

β-Carotene in sea buckthorn oil is a precursor for vitamin A, known to be essential for skin well-being. 

All the above factors are involved in enhancing hydration, elasticity and roughness of the skin. With the constant use of sea buckthorn oil, the results will be visible from the first month, increasing progressively over time.

Sea Buckthorn Anticancer Activity

Sea Buckthorn Oil in Cosmetics

Sea Buckthorn oil used in cosmetics has been obtained by different processes and is intended for the treatment of mature skin.

Research has shown that the one-time application of creams consisting of natural emollients (such as sea buckthorn oil or olive oil, both in concentrations of 40%) lead to a statistically significant increase in skin hydration, compared to creams with the same quantity of synthetic emollient (such as isopropyl myristate).  None of the formulations change pH values of the skin.

Components of sea buckthorn oil reach different layers of epidermis, due to the presence of fatty acids with various properties that enhance dermal transportation.

Sea buckthorn oil as a powerful antioxidant, may delay the aging process by removing free radicals.

Most commonly, it is added to anti-aging / anti-wrinkle cosmetics due to its firming and tonifying properties for aging skin.

The oil of sea buckthorn alleviates dry, irritated, rough, flaking, and itchy skin. Skin damage caused by exposure to UV radiation or X-rays is successfully treated with SB oil due to its high concentration of carotenoids and tocopherols. It can also be used as an adjuvant therapy for skin alterations caused by chemical compounds.

It is often used in different cosmetic procedures (peelings, baths, masks, hair removal, etc.) due to its smoothing effect on the skin.

In addition, it strengthens hair, so it has been used in shampoos, conditioners, and other hair products, targeting the recovery of the damaged hair, elasticity restoration, and the prevention of hair loss.

Intensive color of the oil is due to its carotenoid concentration, which makes skin more elastic after cutaneous applications.

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Warnings and Precautions when Using Sea Buckthorn Oil

The favoring feature of sea buckthorn oil is that it is considered safe, with no potential harmful effects. It can be consumed by pregnant and breastfeeding women.

Cutaneous application: Before topical use it is recommended to perform a patch test in order to avoid unwanted effects such allergic reactions or skin irritations.

Bleeding disorder: Sea buckthorn might slow blood clotting when taken as a medicine. There is some concern that it might increase the risk of bruising and bleeding in people with bleeding disorders.

Low blood pressure: Sea buckthorn might lower blood pressure when taken as a medicine. In theory, taking sea buckthorn might make blood pressure become too low in people with low blood pressure.

Surgery: Sea buckthorn might slow blood clotting when taken as a medicine. There is some concern that it might cause extra bleeding during and after surgery. Stop using sea buckthorn at least 2 weeks before a scheduled surgery.

Some medications could interact with the consumption of sea buckthorn oil. Taking the oil along with medications that also slow clotting (such as anticoagulant or antiplatelet drugs), might increase the chances of bruising and bleeding.

Those medicines include:  aspirin, clopidogrel (Plavix), diclofenac (Voltaren, Cataflam, others), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others), naproxen (Anaprox, Naprosyn, others), dalteparin (Fragmin), enoxaparin (Lovenox), heparin, warfarin (Coumadin), and other with similar characteristics.

Were to buy Sea Buckthorn Oil?

Usually, good quality oils, that is, 100% pure and not mixed with other substances, can be found in specialized natural herb stores.

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Tips for a better performance and duration of your oils:

  • Store them in a dark glass bottle, never plastic, not even when blended with a carrier oil.
  • Keep them in cool, dark places, away from sources of heat and light.
  • Maintain the container that holds it tightly closed, since they are very volatile and also, their properties would be lost or modified.

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2 thoughts on “Sea Buckthorn Oil and its Many Benefits for Health and Skin

  1. I had no idea that sea buckthorn oil could be so beneficial. It’s nice to know that this is actually a powerful antioxidant that could delay the aging process. I’m interested to learn more as to how the oil is made, especially if a lot of berries are needed to make the oil.

    1. Hi Taylor!

      Thanks for visiting us and leave us your comment.

      While it is true, essential oils have gained fame for their many health benefits, the same is happening with vegetable oils. These are not only carrier oils, but are a valuable source of therapeutic and cosmetic properties, among others.
      Sea buckthorn oil is one of these wonders of nature that provides us with an extensive list of amazing benefits for both our skin and the entire organism.
      Primarily, technologies for extracting sea buckthorn oil include pressing, solvent extraction, supercritical fluid extraction (SCFE) and aqueous extraction. Each one requires expert hands that optimize the yield and quality of the final product.

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