Proven Medicinal Effects of Sea Buckthorn

Research evidence confirms that sea buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides) is truly a medicinal plant, with a number of proven health benefits.

Sea buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides) has been shown to have numerous health benefits according to scientific research.

These are not to be confused with some anecdotal articles that claim that sea buckthorn can cure everything from skin rashes to high cholesterol. In the case of cholesterol, for example, a 2009 study from the Finland’s University of Turku studied 229 healthy people. They gave them 29 grams of sea buckthorn or a placebo for three months. They found no change in circulating levels of cholesterol, including LDL-C.

These sorts of studies indicate that sea buckthrorn is not the miracle food that some claim it to be. But at the same time, sea buckthorn is a tremendous source of quercetin and other flavonoids that help scavenge free radicals. And it does have some incredible proven medicinal effects. Let’s review the evidence.

What is sea buckthorn?

The drought-resistant sea buckthorn shrub typically grows in the cold arid areas Northern Europe and Central Asia, as well as North and South America. It likes the high altitudes and is present in the Asian mountainous regions. In recent years, sea buckthorn has been cultivated in some regions.

The orange berries of sea buckthorn are relatively small and its taste is unlike most berries. The fruit contains unique medicinal compounds, notably decanol and dodecanoate. The berries also contain many vitamins including A, C and E. They also contain phenolic compounds such as flavonoids, isorhamnetin-3-rutinoside and isorhamnetin-3-glucoside and phytosterols.

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Traditional medicines have utilized sea buckthorn for a number of conditions. These include liver issues, ulcers, tendon and muscle injury, heart problems, and metabolic disorders.

Researchers have increasingly confirmed that sea buckthorne has a number of health benefits. Let’s examine the research:

Sea buckthorn boosts stem cells

Research headed up by Oregon’s NIS Labs tested 12 healthy people. After analyzing blood samples from the subjects, the researchers gave 500 mg of sea buckthorn or a placebo to the group.

The scientists then tested the blood of the subjects one and two hours after taking the sea buckthorn or placebo.

The group that took the sea buckthorn showed a significant boosted in their counts of progenitor stem cells. The stem cells that were boosted included:

Progenitor stem cells:

  • CD45dim
  • CD34+
  • CD309

Endothelial stem cells:

  • CD45−
  • CD31+
  • CD309+

Lymphocytoid mesenchymal stem cells:

  • CD45−
  • CD90+

In addition, minor increases of pluripotential stem cells CD45dim CD34+ CD309+ were seen.

Sea buckthorn helps insulin levels and glucose control

A 2017 study of 18 overweight men compared a meal that was either sea buckthorn with sugar or strawberries with sugar. The sea buckthorn meal significantly improved the glucose levels in the men compared with the strawberry group.

The sea buckthorn also improved (lowered) the insulin levels in the men after the meal compared with the strawberry group.

Helps protect the liver

A 2017 study tested sea buckthorn against liver cells and liver cancer cells. They found that the extracts inhibited the proliferation of cancer. They also found the extracts help protect the liver with antioxidants.

A 2018 study from the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences tested sea buckthorn on liver health in the laboratory. They found the extracts reduced liver injury and reduced liver inflammation. They also found that the compounds promoted faster liver healing.

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Aids oral health

A 2019 study from France’s University of Rennes and INSERM studied a mouthwash made of the pulp oil of sea buckthorn. The research found the mouthwash killed Streptococcus gordonii and Porphyromonas gingivalis bacteria – known to cause periodontal disease. The mouthwash also inhibited the growth of Actinomyces viscosus, another bacteria that contributes to cavities and gum disease.

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Aids eye health

Sea buckthorn contains a special compound called proanthocyanidins. In 2016, researchers tested the extract of sea buckthorn seed and found that the compound helps protect the eyes against retinal degeneration.

Other healthy effects of sea buckthorn

Research has also established that sea buckthorn is radioprotective, which means that it helps protect the body against radiation. It also reduces free radicals and boosts the immune system. Indeed, the berry fights bacterial infections and helps boost tissue regeneration. Other research found the plant boosted probiotic bacteria such as L. casei.

The scientific research illustrates that sea buckthorn has other effect:

  • Aids gut microbes
  • Anti-cancer
  • Antibacterial
  • Antioxidant
  • Boosts digestion
  • Helps speed skin healing


Mortensen MW, Spagner C, Cuparencu C, Astrup A, Raben A, Dragsted LO. Sea buckthorn decreases and delays insulin response and improves glycaemic profile following a sucrose-containing berry meal: a randomised, controlled, crossover study of Danish sea buckthorn and strawberries in overweight and obese male subjects. Eur J Nutr. 2018;57(8):2827‐2837. doi:10.1007/s00394-017-1550-8

Smida I, Pentelescu C, Pentelescu O, et al. Benefits of sea buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides) pulp oil-based mouthwash on oral health. J Appl Microbiol. 2019;126(5):1594‐1605. doi:10.1111/jam.14210

Olas B. Sea buckthorn as a source of important bioactive compounds in cardiovascular diseases. Food Chem Toxicol. 2016;97:199‐204. doi:10.1016/j.fct.2016.09.008

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Suryakumar G, Gupta A. Medicinal and therapeutic potential of Sea buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides L.). J Ethnopharmacol. 2011;138(2):268‐278. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2011.09.024

Hao W, He Z, Zhu H, et al. Sea buckthorn seed oil reduces blood cholesterol and modulates gut microbiota. Food Funct. 2019;10(9):5669‐5681. doi:10.1039/c9fo01232j

Guo R, Guo X, Li T, Fu X, Liu RH. Comparative assessment of phytochemical profiles, antioxidant and antiproliferative activities of Sea buckthorn (Hippophaë rhamnoides L.) berries. Food Chem. 2017;221:997‐1003. doi:10.1016/j.foodchem.2016.11.063

Suryakumar G, Gupta A. Medicinal and therapeutic potential of Sea buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides L.). J Ethnopharmacol. 2011;138(2):268‐278. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2011.09.024

Zhang G, Liu Y, Liu P. Active Components from Sea Buckthorn ( Hippophae rhamnoides L.) Regulate Hepatic Stellate Cell Activation and Liver Fibrogenesis. J Agric Food Chem. 2018;66(46):12257‐12264. doi:10.1021/acs.jafc.8b05306

Pop OL, Dulf FV, Cuibus L, et al. Characterization of a Sea Buckthorn Extract and Its Effect on Free and Encapsulated Lactobacillus casei. Int J Mol Sci. 2017;18(12):2513. Published 2017 Nov 24. doi:10.3390/ijms18122513

Hou DD, Di ZH, Qi RQ, et al. Sea Buckthorn (Hippophaë rhamnoides L.) Oil Improves Atopic Dermatitis-Like Skin Lesions via Inhibition of NF-κB and STAT1 Activation. Skin Pharmacol Physiol. 2017;30(5):268‐276. doi:10.1159/000479528

Wang Y, Zhao L, Huo Y, et al. Protective Effect of Proanthocyanidins from Sea Buckthorn (Hippophae Rhamnoides L.) Seed against Visible Light-Induced Retinal Degeneration in Vivo. Nutrients. 2016;8(5):245. Published 2016 May 2. doi:10.3390/nu8050245

Larmo PS, Yang B, Hurme SA, et al. Effect of a low dose of sea buckthorn berries on circulating concentrations of cholesterol, triacylglycerols, and flavonols in healthy adults. Eur J Nutr. 2009;48(5):277‐282. doi:10.1007/s00394-009-0011-4


  • Case Adams, Naturopath

    California Naturopath, Ph.D. in Natural Health Sciences, Doctorate in Integrative Health Sciences, Board Certified Alternative Medicine Practitioner. Diplomas in Blood Chemistry, Clinical Nutritional Counseling, Homeopathy, Aromatherapy, Colon Hydrotherapy, certificates in Pain Management and Case Management/Contact Tracing. Has authored more than 30 books and hundreds of periodical articles on natural medicine. Recreational activities include surfing, sailing, running, biking, swimming, SUPing, hiking. Contact: case(at)caseadams(dot)com.

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