It won't help you fly, but it has benefits

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 24 July, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 24 July, 2012, 12:00am


Legend has it that the sea buckthorn was the preferred berry of Pegasus, the mythological Greek horse, for its flight-inducing qualities.

A relatively recent entry to the list of 'rediscovered' foods, this unassuming orange berry, native to Europe and Asia, might not help lesser mortals like us take to the skies, but it's making its presence felt in the medical world for its health benefits.

Sea buckthorn is available in the form of supplements, oils, essences, or even cosmetics. Its juice was the official drink used by Chinese athletes during the 2008 Beijing Olympics and they won 51 gold medals.

Pharmaceutical company Tangut, which introduced seaberry essence to the Hong Kong market in January, claims the berry has brought relief to many people suffering from mouth ulcers by accelerating healing and boosting immunity.

A study by the University of Saskatchewan in Canada and the Indian Institute of Technology have discovered that sea buckthorn berries contain a potent mixture of vitamin A, K, E, C, B1 and B2. In fact, the berries provide 10 times more vitamin C than oranges and are the third-highest source of vitamin E in the plant world.

Also found were high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, amino acids, folic acid and flavonoids that help to strengthen the immune system and heart and provide protection from disease. It's interesting that it's the only plant known to contain essential fatty acids 3, 6, 7 and 9.

The superfruit is said to contain more than 190 bioactive nutrients and has a high abundance of some of the rarest and most powerful antioxidants in the world.

A report in the Indian Journal of Medical Research in 2009 said sea buckthorn berry extract had a positive effect on human cancer cells in certain situations.

These berries, taken since the time of Genghis Khan, are rich in antioxidants that inhibit 'bad' cholesterol oxidisation, or LDL, which could fight cardiovascular disease. When LDL is oxidised, it sticks to the lining of blood vessels. Consuming the berries is said to prevent clogged arteries.

One component of the sea buckthorn's oil, palmitoleic acid, is also present in human skin, which explains why it is used for healing burns, wounds and skin diseases. It was used to heal burn victims of the 1986 nuclear disaster at Chernobyl, Ukraine. Russians use the oil on cosmonauts to help heal radiation skin burns that occur when they re-enter the earth's atmosphere.

In a June 2006 study, Chinese researchers investigated the therapeutic effects of the oil on burn wounds by applying the oil to the dressing. This treatment was given to 151 burn patients, who experienced reduced swelling and pain as well as faster skin regrowth than the group receiving only petroleum jelly treatment.

Experts believe sea buckthorn's mix of fatty acids signals the body to stop storing fat, and celebrity nutritionist Dr Oz says it melts fat immediately. Adequate amounts of vitamin B12, found in sea buckthorn, help halve the rate of brain atrophy, which can lead to Alzheimer's disease and dementia, a study by Oxford University and the University of Oslo found.

Every part of the plant multi-tasks as a food or medicinal source.

Leaves Sea buckthorn tea has no caffeine, is rich in proteins, vitamins and minerals, and has traditionally been used for improving the digestive system and skin.

Berries Especially in Germany and France, sea buckthorn is sold as fruit juice or as an ingredient in non-alcoholic and alcoholic mixed beverages. The pulp is also used to make jams and compotes.

Oil Often commended for its anti-ageing properties, sea buckthorn oil is used to treat acne, burns, skin ulcers, and various types of dermatitis, including eczema. It has been reported to give amazing results in a shorter time. It's also been proven to help keep mucus membranes lubricated, relieve constipation and strengthen teeth.

Because of its nutritional and botanical characteristics, no reports of adverse reactions or side effects of the oil have appeared yet. Even so, it is always wise to consult your doctor before using the supplement.