Evidence Based This post has 55 references
4.5 /5
3

12 Health Benefits of Sea Buckthorn + Side Effects

Written by Carlos Tello, PhD (Molecular Biology) | Last updated:
Jonathan Ritter
Puya Yazdi
Medically reviewed by
Jonathan Ritter, PharmD, PhD (Pharmacology), Puya Yazdi, MD | Written by Carlos Tello, PhD (Molecular Biology) | Last updated:

SelfHacked has the strictest sourcing guidelines in the health industry and we almost exclusively link to medically peer-reviewed studies, usually on PubMed. We believe that the most accurate information is found directly in the scientific source.

We are dedicated to providing the most scientifically valid, unbiased, and comprehensive information on any given topic.

Our team comprises of trained MDs, PhDs, pharmacists, qualified scientists, and certified health and wellness specialists.

All of our content is written by scientists and people with a strong science background.

Our science team is put through the strictest vetting process in the health industry and we often reject applicants who have written articles for many of the largest health websites that are deemed trustworthy. Our science team must pass long technical science tests, difficult logical reasoning and reading comprehension tests. They are continually monitored by our internal peer-review process and if we see anyone making material science errors, we don't let them write for us again.

Our goal is to not have a single piece of inaccurate information on this website. If you feel that any of our content is inaccurate, out-of-date, or otherwise questionable, please leave a comment or contact us at [email protected]

Note that each number in parentheses [1, 2, 3, etc.] is a clickable link to peer-reviewed scientific studies. A plus sign next to the number “[1+, 2+, etc...]” means that the information is found within the full scientific study rather than the abstract.

A common plant used in traditional Chinese medicine, as well as in jams for its sweet flavor, sea buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides) is a thorny, berry-filled bush found in Central Asia and Europe. Thanks to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds, it has potential applications such as promoting skin health, improving dry eye syndrome, and preventing heart disease. Read on to discover the potential benefits of using this plant in your diet and as an extract.

What Is Sea Buckthorn?

Sea buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides) is a berry-filled bush from Europe and Central Asia that has long been used in traditional medicine to prevent aging, promote heart health, and clear up the skin.

Although the evidence is limited, preliminary results suggest that some of these benefits could be backed by science. The high abundance of antioxidant chemicals, vitamins, and flavonoids may be responsible for its effects.

Chemical Composition

Sea buckthorn contains [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]:

Vitamins and Minerals

Flavonoids

  • Hippophaeosides (1-3) – (found in the leaves)
  • Hippophins (found in the seeds)
  • Catechin (leaves)
  • Epicatechin (leaves)
  • Gallocatechin (leaves)
  • Epigallocatechin (leaves)

Fatty Acids

  • Palmitic (found in the berries)
  • Oleitic (berries)
  • Linoleic (berries)

Mechanisms

Flavonoids have a high free radical scavenging activity, which contributes to sea buckthorn’s protection against oxidative stress. This may help with wounds, ulcers, inflammation, and stress-induced conditions [6].

Compounds found in sea buckthorn oil, such as messenger molecules produced from fatty acids (eicosanoids) and vitamins (carotenoids and tocopherols), help ease inflammation and repair tissues [7].

Snapshot

Proponents

  • High content of antioxidant compounds, vitamins, and minerals
  • May improve skin health and wound healing
  • May reduce the risk of heart disease
  • May improve dry eye syndrome
  • May protect the organs from oxidative and inflammatory damage
  • Few mild adverse effects reported

Skeptics

  • Insufficient evidence for all potential benefits
  • Relatively unknown safety profile
  • May add to the effects of blood pressure-lowering and blood thinner medication

Health Benefits

Insufficient Evidence for:

The following purported benefits are only supported by limited, low-quality clinical studies and animal and cell-based research. There is insufficient evidence to support the use of sea buckthorn for any of the below-listed uses until larger, more robust clinical trials are conducted. Remember to speak with a doctor before taking sea buckthorn supplements and never use them as a replacement for approved medical therapies.

1) Wound Healing

In a clinical trial on 151 burn patients, soaking their bandages with sea buckthorn increased pain relief and sped up skin regrowth around the wound [8].

In a small trial on 12 healthy people, an oral sea buckthorn berry extract quickly increased the mobilization of stem cells involved in tissue repair and regeneration [9].

Similarly, topical sea buckthorn leaf extract helped sped up the healing process of skin wounds in albino rats. The extract decreased wound size and increased the production of wound-healing proteins [10].

Injected sea buckthorn extract improved the recovery of tendon injuries in rats by promoting muscle fiber alignment and collagen deposition [11].

2) Skin Health

In a clinical trial on 49 people with eczema (atopic dermatitis), oral supplementation with sea buckthorn pulp oil improved dermatitis symptoms and increased blood palmitoleic acid while reducing pentadecanoic acid levels. The seed extract was less effective at improving the symptoms and mainly increased blood alpha-linolenic levels [12].

Topically applied sea buckthorn oil increased skin thickness and helped speed up the healing process of deep cuts in mice [13].

Sea buckthorn components may also help smooth skin, reduce aging and dryness, treat frostbite and sun damage, and soothe irritation [14].

3) Reducing the Riks of Heart Disease

In a small trial on 23 healthy men, sea buckthorn extract lowered blood fat levels after a meal. Its high fiber and polyphenol content were considered responsible for this effect [15].

In another trial on 80 overweight women, dried sea buckthorn berries lowered blood levels of triglycerides and VLDL (“bad”) cholesterol. Sea buckthorn oil lowered IDL and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol [16].

However, sea buckthorn berry extract increased blood levels of flavonoids (quercetin, kaempferol, and isorhamnetin) but had no effect on blood fats in 2 trials on over 200 healthy people [17, 18].

In rats fed a high-sugar diet, the extract lowered blood pressure and reduced heart damage through its antioxidant activity [19, 20].

Oral sea buckthorn oil prevented platelets from clumping together, possibly reducing the risk of heart disease from blood clots, in a small trial on 12 people [5].

4) Dry Eye Syndrome

In a clinical trial on 86 people, oral sea buckthorn oil fixed cold weather-induced dry eye symptoms by reversing the high level of particle concentrations on the tear film in the eye [21].

However, another trial on 100 people found that the oil had no effect on the fatty acid proportion of this tissue. The authors proposed that the improvements due to sea buckthorn oil might be due to its effects on inflammation and eyelid (meibomian) gland development [7].

The fatty acids in sea buckthorn seed and pulp oils reduced stress-induced dry eyes in mice by increasing tear secretion, with pulp oil having a much stronger effect [22].

5) Digestive Function

In a clinical trial on 120 children with indigestion (functional dyspepsia), a treatment with sea buckthorn extract improved appetite (by increasing the levels of leptin and neuropeptide Y), and increased stomach emptying and digestive function better than a drug for stomach and bowel motility (domperidone). This resulted in their increased growth and development [23].

6) Liver Protection

In a clinical trial on 50 people with liver cirrhosis, sea buckthorn extract reduced tissue scar (measured as blood levels of laminin, hyaluronic acid, and type III and IV collagen) and improved liver function (measured as total bile acids) in 30 of the patients [24].

In mice with liver cirrhosis, sea buckthorn extract also reduced the severity of the disease. Seed oil was more effective than berry oil [25].

In chickens poisoned with the toxin aflatoxin B1, sea buckthorn berry oil prevented the buildup of the toxin in the liver and reduced markers of inflammation, cell death, and cancer (COX-2, Bcl-2, and p53) [26].

7) Kidney Protection

In a pilot study on 28 people with kidney disease (idiopathic nephrotic syndrome), an herbal preparation with sea buckthorn (as an add-on to conventional therapy) improved symptoms of swelling, lack of appetite, and low urination, as well as reducing inflammatory cytokines in the blood and proteins in the urine after 3 months [27].

In Japanese quails, sea buckthorn leaf powder protected kidney tissues from the damage caused by the toxin ochratoxin A [28].

8) Brain Protection

In a clinical trial on over 200 elderly people (both healthy and with Alzheimer’s disease), a formulation with the extracts of sea buckthorn leaves and berries, Bacopa monnieri plants, and Dioscorea bulbifera bulbils improved word recall, attention span, mood, and inflammatory and oxidative markers [29].

Sea buckthorn leaf extract protected the brain against oxidative damage and reversed scopolamine (drug)-induced brain destruction in rats [30].

9) Vaginal Thinning during Menopause

In a clinical trial on over 100 postmenopausal women with vaginal dryness, itching, or burning, oral sea buckthorn oil improved the symptoms by protecting the vaginal lining from thinning [31].

10) Diabetes

In a small trial on 18 healthy people, sea buckthorn berries reduced and delayed blood glucose and insulin spikes after a meal with added sugar [32].

Sea buckthorn extract also lowered blood sugar (and fat) levels in healthy mice [33].

11) Anti-inflammatory

In a clinical trial on over 250 healthy volunteers, sea buckthorn berry extract reduced the levels of an inflammatory marker (CRP) [34].

In rats with arthritis, an injected dose of sea buckthorn extracts greatly reduced the amount of swelling, inflammation, and immune cell proliferation in the joints [35].

Leaf extract lowered pro-inflammatory cytokine (TNF-α, IL-6, and IFN-γ) and enzyme (iNOS, COX-2) levels in mice cells [36, 37].

12) Antioxidant

In a clinical trial on 30 children with type 1 diabetes, a dietary supplement with sea buckthorn and blueberry slightly improved their antioxidant status (by increasing glutathione peroxidase activity) [38].

In mice, a sea buckthorn leaf extract protected against chromium-induced oxidative stress [39].

Alcoholic extracts from sea buckthorn leaves and fruits protected mouse cells against oxidative stress caused by a chemical called sodium nitroprusside. Chemicals in the extract slowed down free radical production [40].

Animal and Cell Research (Lack of Evidence)

No clinical evidence supports the use of sea buckthorn for any of the conditions listed in this section. Below is a summary of the existing animal and cell-based research, which should guide further investigational efforts. However, the studies should not be interpreted as supportive of any health benefit.

Ulcers

Seed and pulp sea buckthorn oils significantly protected rats from artificially-induced ulcers [41].

In another rat study, sea buckthorn bark extract accelerated the repair of the stomach lining. It also reduced the size and severity of ulcer damage compared to the control group [42].

In horses, sea buckthorn berry and pulp extract only prevented ulcers in those housed in stalls and fed intermittently [43].

Protecting Against Radiation

RH-3, a constituent of sea buckthorn extract, protected rats against whole-body radiation. The extract led to an 82% survival rate (compared to a 0% survival rate in the control group) [44].

In cell-based studies, sea buckthorn extract protected against DNA damage caused by radiation. It acted as an antioxidant, promoted DNA strand linking, and prevented DNA link breakage [45, 46].

Immunity Boost

Sea buckthorn extract boosted chicks’ immune systems and decreased the effects of a toxin that suppresses the immune system (T-2). Fiber glucomannan combined with sea buckthorn had an additive effect [47].

Its oil increased natural killer cell counts and activity in rats subjected to chronic stress [48].

Bacterial Infections

Sea Buckthorn leaf extract stopped the growth of a variety of potentially infectious bacteria (including Escherichia coli, Salmonella typhi, Shigella dysenteriae, Streptococcus pneumoniae, and Staphylococcus aureus) in test tubes [49].

Berry and leaf extracts showed similar antibiotic effectiveness against MRSA bacteria as the standard drug vancomycin [50].

Note, however, that these are very preliminary results that haven’t been replicated in humans and even in animals. Further research is needed to determine if sea buckthorn may be of any use against the infections caused by these microorganisms.

Cancer

Below, we will discuss some preliminary research on sea buckthorn’s potential anticancer effects. It’s still in the animal and cell stage and further clinical studies have yet to determine if its extracts may be useful in cancer therapies.

Do not under any circumstances attempt to replace conventional cancer therapies with white sea buckthorn or any other supplements. If you want to use it as a supportive measure, talk to your doctor to avoid any unexpected interactions.

In mice, sea buckthorn berry extract blocked the growth of tumors in the stomachs and skin of mice. It promoted the activity of anticancer proteins that limit abnormal cell growth and promote cell death [51].

Sea buckthorn juice slowed tumor growth in mice organs and extended their lifespans from an average of 195 days to 270 days [52].

Sea buckthorn juice reduced the number of genetic abnormalities caused by the chemotherapeutic drug cisplatin in both mice sperm and bone marrow cells [53].

Limitations & Caveats

There are very few human trials testing sea buckthorn. Further clinical research is needed to confirm all its potential health benefits.

Side Effects & Precautions

Keep in mind that the safety profile of sea buckthorn is relatively unknown, given the lack of well-designed clinical studies. The list of side effects below is not a definite one and you should consult your doctor about other potential side effects based on your health condition and possible drug or supplement interactions.

Since sea buckthorn can lower blood pressure, it may cause blood pressure to drop to too low values.

The use of sea buckthorn may slow blood clotting and should, therefore, be avoided in patients with cuts, deep injuries, or with a scheduled surgical procedure [5].

Chronic use of sea buckthorn may cause yellow staining of the skin, as seen in the case of a 45-year-old that used the product regularly for 6 months [54].

Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

Not enough evidence is available for the use of sea buckthorn as a medicine during pregnancy. Use caution or contact your doctor and be wary of any hypersensitivities or allergies you might experience while consuming the extract of this plant.

Natural Sources/Products

The berries can be bought in their pure form. They can also be made into juice, which is filtered to produce oil. The berries contain many of the antioxidants of the plant [1, 55].

The leaves contain many flavonoids and can be made into a tea [1, 55].

The seeds can be made into highly concentrated oil. This oil is an ingredient of many cosmetic products like skin cream and soap [1, 55].

User Reviews

The opinions expressed in this section are solely those of sea buckthorn users, who may or may not have medical or scientific training. Their reviews do not represent the opinions of SelfHacked. SelfHacked does not endorse any specific product, service, or treatment.

Do not consider user experiences as medical advice. Never delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice from your doctor or other qualified healthcare providers because of something you have read on SelfHacked. We understand that reading individual, real-life experiences can be a helpful resource, but it is never a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from a qualified healthcare provider.

Most people used sea buckthorn products for their purported benefits on skin health. They often reported that the supplements helped clear, soften, and tone the skin.

Other users reported an improved overall feeling of wellbeing.

In some cases, the users complained that sea buckthorn extract didn’t work for them.

About the Author

Carlos Tello

Carlos Tello

PhD (Molecular Biology)
Carlos received his PhD and MS from the Universidad de Sevilla.
Carlos spent 9 years in the laboratory investigating mineral transport in plants. He then started working as a freelancer, mainly in science writing, editing, and consulting. Carlos is passionate about learning the mechanisms behind biological processes and communicating science to both academic and non-academic audiences. He strongly believes that scientific literacy is crucial to maintain a healthy lifestyle and avoid falling for scams.

Click here to subscribe

RATE THIS ARTICLE

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars
(6 votes, average: 4.50 out of 5)
Loading...

FDA Compliance

The information on this website has not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration or any other medical body. We do not aim to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any illness or disease. Information is shared for educational purposes only. You must consult your doctor before acting on any content on this website, especially if you are pregnant, nursing, taking medication, or have a medical condition.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.