Seabuckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides L.), named a ‘superfruit’ for its robust nutritional properties, is poised to outrun and outgun many other functional foods, and the health industry is standing up and taking notice.
The term ‘superfood’ only came into being a few years ago, and yet the concept of superfoods, or ‘functional foods’ (foods that confer measurable health benefits) has come to the forefront in the pursuit of better health through diet. It’s now generally accepted that foods like wheatgrass juice and garlic improve human health in a measure greater than the sum of their nutritional ‘parts’, and with the recognition of such fruits as blueberries and cranberries as nutritional powerhouses, the term ‘superfruit’ is the new nutritional buzzword. Dr Paul Gross recently rated seabuckthorn second out of ten potential ‘superfruits’, based upon four criteria including nutrient density and potential for disease impact.
In studying the superfood and superfruit phenomena, nutritional science is recognising that Mother Nature is capable of providing, in such varied single foods as wheatgrass juice, garlic, blueberries and now seabuckthorn, a foodborne ‘inoculation’ against ill-health that the laboratory cannot yet match.
While the nourishing and healing properties of seabuckthorn are relatively new to the West, they have been well known in the East for hundreds of years. The earliest mention of seabuckthorn was in the Tibetan medical classic "'rGyud Bzi" in the eighth century. Word has it that Genghis Khan fed the leaves and berries to his legendary horses during his dramatic conquest of Asia. In fact, a component of seabuckthorn’s botanical name, Hippophae, means “bright shining horse.”
Almost the entire plant is suitable for consumption and topical application. The fruit pulp, rich in such antioxidants as vitamins C and E, beta carotene, and numerous flavonoids (complimentary micronutrients that work in concert with more familiar vitamins), plus the rare and valuable palmitoleic acid (known to support wound healing and cell health), can be pressed for juice, freeze dried and packaged as a supplement, and incorporated into topical skin preparations. The fruit oil can be extracted separately and taken internally or externally.
Oil from the seeds is high in several fatty acids, including omegas three and 6 in a critical 1:1 ratio; applied topically, the seed oil heals radiation burns, reduces scarring, heals or improves psoriasis and a host of other skin conditions, and taken internally it has been proven to improve heart health and gastro-intestinal disorders.
The leaves, high in vitamins, minerals, protein and several natural anti-inflammatory compounds, are dried for tea, powdered for an ingredient in soaps and creams, and steeped to make a soothing rinse for irritated skin. Studies are ongoing to determine the healing and nutritive possibilities of seabuckthorn bark.
All told, this superfruit, known to ease and soften scar tissue and arteriosclerosis, reduce inflammation and cell death and reverse burn damage, has over 191 known bio-active compounds for topical and internal applications. In fact, Mark Blumenthal of the American Botanical Council has stated: “If there ever was an herb that could qualify for the next generation of herbal luminaries, I would nominate Seabuckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides).”
While Asia and Europe have used seabuckthorn commercially for several decades, the industry is new in North America. The health and supplement industries are just starting to pay attention (and draw attention) to this plant. Seabuckthorn has been a main topic at such events as the recent annual Functional Foods Conference held in Vancouver BC in November 2006 and the upcoming Canadian Health Foods Association Conference starting April 19, also in Vancouver.
SBT Seabuckthorn International provides a complete line of skin care products and supplements utilising the healing properties of Seabuckthorn. Seabuckthorn International will be presenting an informational seminar on the topic of the nutritive and industry potential of seabuckthorn-derived products at the CHFA show, Canada Place, Vancouver April 19-22 2007.