Sea buckthorn (not to be confused with common buckthorn) is a plant native to high altitude regions of China and Russia, but today it is cultivated in many other areas, including the Saskatchewan province of Canada. The fruits of the plant have a long history of use as food. It was also used in ancient Chinese medicine for treating skin problems and digestive disorders. The whole berry or its oil extract are the parts used medicinally.
The only substantial, well-designed study of sea buckthorn examined its possible efficacy for reducing the frequency and duration of the common cold. This double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 254 people failed to find any evidence of benefit.1
The study just mentioned also found, rather incidentally, that use of sea buckthorn was associated with a reduction in C-reactive protein, an emerging marker for heart disease. However, contrary to widespread advertising, this incidental observation has no immediate practical meaning. High levels of C-reactive protein are, at present, only known to be associated with higher heart disease risk; it is not at all clear that deliberately reducing C-reactive protein will reduce heart disease risk.
In fact, one of the leading theories is that high levels of C-reactive protein indicate the presence of a bacteria that is currently unidentified but that accelerates atherosclerosis. If this theory is true, it is no doubt possible to reduce the C-reactive protein levels that indicate the bacteria’s presence without reducing the levels of the bacteria itself.
In other words, reducing C-reactive protein would only hide the signs of the problem, rather than affect the problem. Furthermore, this study was designed to look at effects on the common cold, not effects on C-reactive protein. If one conducts a study and afterwards goes on a hunt for something that is different between the treatment and placebo groups, the laws of chance alone guarantee that one will find something. This is called data-dredging, and it is a common cause of false conclusions.
To determine whether sea buckthorn actually affects C-reactive protein levels (something that itself may be altogether unimportant), one needs to conduct a study designed at the outset to examine this question. Other evidence cited to indicate that sea buckthorn can prevent or treat cardiovascular disease is similarly too preliminary to justify usage for this purpose.2-8
In the study of sea buckthorn for preventing colds noted above, the dose used was 28 g of frozen berry puree daily.
Sea buckthorn oil is commonly recommended to be taken at a dose of 5 ml, 2-3 times per daily, or applied externally to lesions of the skin or mucous membranes.
Other sea buckthorn products should be used according to label instructions.
As a widely consumed food, whole sea buckthorn berries are presumed to be safe. Oil extracts of plants, however, are often much less safe than the whole plants, and the safety of sea buckthorn oil has not been established.
Use by pregnant or nursing women, young children, or people with liver or kidney disease has not been investigated.
1. 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. 2007 Jun 27. [Epub ahead of print]
2. Suomela JP, Ahotupa M, Yang B, et al. Absorption of flavonols derived from sea buckthorn ( Hippophae rhamnoides L.) and their effect on emerging risk factors for cardiovascular disease in humans. J Agric Food Chem. 2006;54:7364-7369.
3. Zhu F, Huang B, Hu CY, et al. Effects of total flavonoids of Hippophae rhamnoides L. on intracellular free calcium in cultured vascular smooth muscle cells of spontaneously hypertensive rats and Wistar-Kyoto rats. Chin J Integr Med. 2005;11:287-292.
4. Cheng J, Kondo K, Suzuki Y, et al. Inhibitory effects of total flavones of Hippophae Rhamnoides L. on thrombosis in mouse femoral artery and in vitro platelet aggregation. Life Sci. 2003;72:2263-2271.
5. Wang ZR, Wang L, Yin HH, et al. Effect of total flavonoids of hippophae rhamnoides on contractile mechanics and calcium transfer in stretched myocyte. Space Med Med Eng (Beijing). 2000;13:6-9.
6. Liu FM, Li ZX, Shi S. Effects of total flavones of Hippophae rhamnoides L. on cultured rat heart cells and on cAMP level and adenylate cyclase in myocardium]. Zhongguo Yao Li Xue Bao. 1988;9:539-542.
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8. Eccleston C, Baoru Y, Tahvonen R, et al. Effects of an antioxidant-rich juice (sea buckthorn) on risk factors for coronary heart disease in humans. J Nutr Biochem. 2002;13:346-354.
9. Xu X, Xie B, Pan S, et al. Effects of sea buckthorn procyanidins on healing of acetic acid-induced lesions in the rat stomach. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2007;16(suppl 1):234-238.
10. Li Y, Xu C, Zhang Q, et al. In vitro anti-Helicobacter pylori action of 30 Chinese herbal medicines used to treat ulcer diseases. J Ethnopharmacol. 2005;98:329-333.
11. Xing J, Yang B, Dong Y, et al. Effects of sea buckthorn ( Hippophae rhamnoides L.) seed and pulp oils on experimental models of gastric ulcer in rats. Fitoterapia. 2002;73:644-650.
12. Suleyman H, Demirezer LO, Buyukokuroglu ME, et al. Antiulcerogenic effect of Hippophae rhamnoides L.Phytother Res. 2001;15:625-627.
13. Xiao M, Yang Z, Jiu M, et al. The antigastroulcerative activity of beta-sitosterol-beta-D-glucoside and its aglycone in rats]. Hua Xi Yi Ke Da Xue Xue Bao. 1992;23:98-101.
14. Goel HC, Samanta N, Kannan K, et al. Protection of spermatogenesis in mice against gamma ray induced damage by Hippophae rhamnoides.Andrologia. 2006;38:199-207.
15. Prakash H, Bala M, Ali A, et al. Modification of gamma radiation induced response of peritoneal macrophages and splenocytes by Hippophae rhamnoides (RH-3) in mice. J Pharm Pharmacol. 2005;57:1065-1072.
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18. Goel HC, Salin CA, Prakash H. Protection of jejunal crypts by RH-3 (a preparation of Hippophae rhamnoides) against lethal whole body gamma irradiation. Phytother Res. 2003;17:222-226.
19. Agrawala PK, Goel HC. Protective effect of RH-3 with special reference to radiation induced micronuclei in mouse bone marrow. Indian J Exp Biol. 2002;40:525-530.
20. Kumar IP, Namita S, Goel HC. Modulation of chromatin organization by RH-3, a preparation of Hippophae rhamnoides, a possible role in radioprotection. Mol Cell Biochem. 2002;238:1-9.
21. Goel HC, Prasad J, Singh S, et al. Radioprotection by a herbal preparation of Hippophae rhamnoides, RH-3, against whole body lethal irradiation in mice. Phytomedicine. 2002;9:15-25.
22. Chen Y, Zhong X, Liu T, et al. The study on the effects of the oil from Hippophae rhamnoides in hematopoiesis]. Zhong Yao Cai. 2003;26:572-5.
23. Gao ZL, Gu XH, Cheng FT, et al. Effect of sea buckthorn on liver fibrosis: a clinical study. World J Gastroenterol. 2003;9:1615-1617.
24. Gupta A, Kumar R, Pal K, et al. Influence of sea buckthorn ( Hippophae rhamnoides L.) flavone on dermal wound healing in rats. Mol Cell Biochem. 2006;290:193-198.
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26. Gupta A, Kumar R, Pal K, et al. A preclinical study of the effects of seabuckthorn ( Hippophae rhamnoides L.) leaf extract on cutaneous wound healing in albino rats. Int J Low Extrem Wounds. 2005;4:88-92.
27. Fu SC, Hui CW, Li LC, et al. Total flavones of Hippophae rhamnoides promotes early restoration of ultimate stress of healing patellar tendon in a rat model. Med Eng Phys. 2005;27:313-321.
28. 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;48:30-33.
29. Yang B, Kalimo KO, Mattila LM, et al. Effects of dietary supplementation with sea buckthorn ( Hippophae rhamnoides) seed and pulp oils on atopic dermatitis. J Nutr Biochem. 1999;10:622-30.
Last reviewed December 2015 by EBSCO CAM Review Board
Last Updated: 12/15/2015
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