Sea Buckthorn: Delicious Yet Antioxidant

The power berry sea buckthorn is particularly rich in vitamin C and provides relief for a variety of health problems.

The sea buckthorn – a winter fruit

When Father Frost reclaims his kingdom, we humans like to make ourselves comfortable at home. The gnarled sea buckthorn bush, on the other hand, defies wind and weather and lets its orange-colored berries shine from afar – as if it were shouting out loud: “Hello, you there! Come and eat my berries! They will help you get through the winter healthy!”.

The berries of the sea buckthorn are so strikingly colored that it is also called orange berry bush, coral bush, or red sloe. In contrast to the sloe, however, the sea buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides L) does not belong to the rose family, but to the oleaster family. Much like the sloe, the sea buckthorn is covered with thorns – and because it likes to thrive on sandy soil, it was called sea buckthorn.

A snack for horses and Genghis Khan

Hippophae – the botanical genus name – means shining horse. He recalls that sea buckthorn was used as a horse snack in ancient times, which resulted in a wonderfully shiny coat. But the riders themselves also benefited from the healthy berries. Even the warriors of the Mongolian ruler Genghis Khan are said to have strengthened themselves with the help of the power-giving berries. To this day, the fruits of the sea buckthorn are a symbol of vitality and resilience.

Today, the distribution area of ​​the sea buckthorn extends from large parts of Europe to China. Whether in the steppes of Siberia, in the rugged mountain regions of the Alps, or in the north German plains: the sea buckthorn feels at home almost everywhere and does not make any great demands. Originally, however, the sea buckthorn comes from Central Asia, such as Nepal and Tibet.

Magical healing power

In terms of medicine, sea buckthorn is a particularly interesting plant. The millennia-old application speaks for itself. In traditional Tibetan medicine, the berries, but also the flowers and leaves of the sea buckthorn have been used since time immemorial, e.g. to increase the body’s defenses and fitness and to cure skin diseases.

In Europe, on the other hand, there are hardly any old sources about the use of sea buckthorn in medicine. An indication of the sea buckthorn leaves against the so-called Antonius fire, which was once associated with the devil himself, has only survived from the Middle Ages. It is now clear that the poisoning caused by the consumption of ergot-infested rye caused countless deaths.

The sea buckthorn seems to have belonged more to the magical plants. So people liked to put sea buckthorn branches over windows and doors in the hope that the evil spirits would get caught in the strong thorns.

Since the sea buckthorn is not one of the well-tried medicinal plants in the western world like sage or rosemary, it is not yet to be found in the German Pharmacopoeia. Old empirical knowledge from other countries as well as many results of modern scientific investigations could lead to the sea buckthorn finally being officially recognized as a medicinal plant in the foreseeable future. He would have deserved it!

The traditional applications

Research into the ingredients and traditional uses of sea buckthorn at the Defense Institute of Physiology and Allied Sciences in India has shown that sea buckthorn berries have antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, cell and liver protective properties, strengthen the immune system, reduce stress, and contribute to tissue regeneration.

The list of traditional applications is very long and includes e.g. e.g.:

  • Loss of appetite, burnout, and fatigue
  • Gastrointestinal problems (eg, intestinal inflammation, diarrhea, heartburn)
    inflammation of the mucous membranes
  • ulcers
  • Influenza and flu (fever)
  • gout
  • Skin conditions (e.g. acne, rash, neurodermatitis, burns)
  • bleeding gums
  • cardiac insufficiency
  • radiation damage
  • vitamin deficiency

The macronutrients

Like other berries, sea buckthorn berries consist of more than 80 percent water. Although the fruit tastes very acidic, it contains about the same amount of sugar (mainly in the form of fructose and glucose) as strawberries – around 5 grams per 100 grams of fresh fruit. The calorie content is 94 kcal. The sour taste is due to the very different fruit acids it contains, but in particular to the malic acid, which i.a. has a detoxifying effect. The nutrient profile of fresh sea buckthorn berries is as follows:

  • 1.4 grams of protein
  • 5.2 grams of carbohydrates
  • 3 grams of dietary fiber
  • 7 grams of fat

What is striking is the high oil and fat content of 7 grams for fruit. B. only 0.3 grams.

Healthy Fatty Acids

The fat content is mainly concentrated in the small sea buckthorn seeds. They are made up of 20 percent fat or oil. But the flesh of the sea buckthorn berries still contains about 5 percent oil.

However, the composition of the fat in the seeds differs from that in the pulp, according to an English study from the University of Western Ontario. In the seeds, the polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) have the edge. The seed oil consists of 35 percent each of linoleic acid (an omega-6 fatty acid) and alpha-linolenic acid (an omega-3 fatty acid), which corresponds to an interesting omega-6:omega-3 ratio of 1:1.

On the other hand, monounsaturated fatty acids dominate in fruit pulp oil, of which palmitoleic acid accounts for an average of 40 percent. The still relatively unknown palmitoleic acid is also known under the term omega-7 fatty acid. Sea buckthorn oil is one of the best vegetable sources for this fatty acid.

Palmitoleic acid – an omega-7 fatty acid

The omega-7 fatty acid is said to inhibit inflammatory processes, increase the insulin sensitivity of the cells, thus counteracting insulin resistance, and can thus prevent many lifestyle diseases such as type 2 diabetes, arteriosclerosis, and heart attacks.

According to the latest findings, the omega-7 fatty acid also has a hormone-like effect and is intended to prevent fat from being stored in the wrong tissue, such as the liver, which counteracts the development of the fatty liver. In addition, the omega-7 fatty acid should have a balancing effect on high carbohydrate intake and prevent obesity.

The fat content of the sea buckthorn berries also ensures that the fat-soluble vitamins (vitamins K and E) can be well absorbed.

The vitamins

Sea buckthorn berries are primarily known for their exceptional vitamin C content. However, they combine practically the entire vitamin complex. For example, 100 grams of fresh sea buckthorn berries contain on average (RDA = recommended daily dose):

  • 450 mg vitamin C (450 percent of the RDA): The powerful antioxidant is important for the eyes, the nervous system, and the skin, strengthens the immune system, and protects against atherosclerosis.
  • 1,500 µg beta-carotene (75 percent of the RDA): Works against free radicals and is converted in the body to vitamin A, which is involved in vision and keeps the skin and mucous membranes healthy.
  • 210 µg Vitamin B2 (13 percent of the RDA): Essential for cell function, growth, and development.
  • 5.6 µg vitamin B12 (186 percent of the RDA): Is involved in cell division, blood formation, and the functioning of the nervous system and promotes concentration and memory.
  • 10 µg vitamin K (14.3 percent of the RDA): This is important for blood clotting and bone metabolism and counteracts vascular calcification.
  • 0.5 mg vitamin E (4 percent of the RDA): Acts as an anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective and antioxidant, supports the immune system, and protects against cancer.

Sea buckthorn as a source of vitamin B12?

Be skeptical about plant-based sources of vitamin B12, as vitamin B12 is a vitamin that is almost entirely absent from plant-based foods (10). All too often it turned out afterward that the vitamin B12 contained in supposedly good vegetable vitamin B12 sources consisted largely of inactive vitamin B12, so-called analogs, such as in sauerkraut. We have already discussed details here: Vitamin B12 – food for vegans

Sea buckthorn berries have also long been touted as an extremely good source of vitamin B12. But when a well-known manufacturer of sea buckthorn B12 capsules had to take them off the market, uncertainty suddenly spread. The company announced that vitamin B12 had not been found at all in its suppliers’ organic sea buckthorn berries for years.

However, a recent German study from 2017 has now revealed that 37 micrograms of vitamin B12 are hidden in 100 grams of dried sea buckthorn berries, which is clearly relevant given the daily requirement of around 4 micrograms. German researchers have also confirmed that it is actually active vitamin B12 and not analogs (inactive B12). Yes, the sea buckthorn berries examined even contained over 98 percent bioactive vitamin B12!

So it may well be that some sea buckthorn products actually contain vitamin B12. However, to be on the safe side, we would not assume that every sea buckthorn product now contains relevant amounts of B12 and can help to cover the vitamin B12 requirement.

If you still want to use the sea buckthorn for vitamin B12 supply, you should first ask the manufacturer of the selected products for a corresponding and up-to-date analysis that not only lists the B12 value but also differentiates between active vitamin B12 and analogs.

The minerals

Sea buckthorn fruits also contain more than ten minerals or trace elements, including the following – again based on 100 grams of fresh berries:

  • 200 µg copper (13.3 percent of the RDA): The trace element is involved in the formation of red blood cells and protects against infections.
  • 30 mg magnesium (10 percent of the RDA): Stabilizes the body’s cells, supports the heart and muscles, has an anti-inflammatory effect, prevents diabetes, and is involved in at least 300 enzyme activities.
  • 133 mg of potassium (6.7 percent of the RDA): Is involved in signaling between cells and counteracts high blood pressure.
  • 42 mg calcium (4.2 percent of the RDA): Is essential for the mineralization of bones and teeth, is involved in the function of muscles and the heart, and has many other countless functions in the body.

Manufacturing and Quality

Fresh sea buckthorn berries are consumed comparatively rarely on their own, as they taste quite sour and are very rarely available in stores. If you can neither collect wild berries in your region nor have sea buckthorn in your garden, you can e.g. fall back on dried fruits or the delicious sea buckthorn juice. Both usually perform very well in terms of nutritional content. However, the quality depends on the manufacturing process.

Dried sea buckthorn berries

Freeze-drying has proven its worth for dried fruit, since the liquid is removed from the berries, but not the valuable ingredients. 30 grams of freeze-dried berries correspond to approximately 200 grams of fresh berries.

When drying, on the other hand, temperatures of around 50 degrees Celsius are used, which affects heat-sensitive vitamins such as vitamin C and especially vitamin B12. Especially small fruits like the sea buckthorn berries are not well suited for drying. In addition, preservatives such as sulfur dioxide and sugar are often added to dried fruits to extend their shelf life.

Dried sea buckthorn fruits can basically be used in the kitchen like fresh berries or used to prepare tea.

Sea ​​buckthorn juice

In the production of sea buckthorn juice, the sea buckthorn berries are washed, sorted, and crushed in a fruit mill. Then the mash is pressed and spun, separating the residue (pomace). The sea buckthorn juice is then gently pasteurized and thus heated to 80 to 85 degrees for seconds to preserve it.

If you want to use sea buckthorn juice as a remedy, you should use organic mother juice or primeval juice. This is a high-quality direct juice from the first pressing, which is naturally cloudy and bottled directly. By clarifying the juice, some of the healthy ingredients would be lost. Organic mother juices contain no sugar, no synthetic vitamin additives, colorings, or preservatives.

A single glass of high-quality sea buckthorn juice (200 milliliters) contains around 560 milligrams of vitamin C, which already corresponds to 560 percent of the recommended daily amount! However, mother juices are not meant to be drunk in large quantities, instead, they are taken by the spoonful or diluted with other juices – not least pure sea buckthorn mother juice (which is usually only available in small 0.3 l bottles). tastes extremely sour.

For this reason, apart from the mother juices, there is hardly any unsweetened sea buckthorn fruit juice on the market. In the organic trade too, these juices are always mixed with sweet juices (e.g. apple juice or carrot juice) and/or sweetened with honey.

Sea buckthorn juice and sea buckthorn tea: the application

Sea buckthorn juice and fresh and dried berries are perfect for boosting the immune system and preventing a cold. But even if the first signs of an infection are already showing, fruits rich in vitamin C, such as sea buckthorn berries, help to positively influence the course of the disease. A study conducted at the University of Otago in 2017 confirmed this again.

1 to 3 tablespoons of sea buckthorn juice throughout the day can be enough to stay healthy or get fit again. If necessary, the amount can be increased.

Sea buckthorn juice for diabetics

Diabetics can easily reach for sea buckthorn mother juice, yes, they should do so. Because the properties of sea buckthorn clearly indicate that it can have a healing effect on diabetes. For example, a 2015 study showed that sea buckthorn juice may improve carbohydrate utilization and also have beneficial effects on the tissues of the pancreas.

Sea ​​buckthorn tea

You can also prepare a fruity sea buckthorn tea. Although vitamin C is sensitive to heat, it is only rapidly degraded after prolonged cooking. In addition, acids stabilize the dissolved vitamin C and sea buckthorn fruits are known to be very acidic. Therefore, sea buckthorn tea is also a good source of vitamin C. When preparing tea, simply proceed as follows:


  • 250ml of water
  • 2 tbsp fresh or 2 tsp dried sea buckthorn berries
  • if necessary 1 tsp honey, also yacon syrup, or another natural sweetener


  • Briefly boil the sea buckthorn berries together with the water.
  • Take the tea off the stove and let it steep for 8 minutes.
  • You can then sweeten the tea as you wish.

Sea buckthorn fruits are often combined with other healing plants such as e.g. B. rosehip, ginger, coltsfoot, thyme, or sage combined. In any case, pay attention to organic or pharmaceutical quality. The latter guarantees certain amounts of active ingredients in the respective medicinal plant.

An antioxidant powerhouse

According to a study at Aristotle University Thessaloniki, sea buckthorn berries rank among the most antioxidant-rich remedies in the world. In addition to the amazingly high vitamin content, the bright berries shine due to numerous secondary plant substances, including carotenoids.

The carotenoids

The average carotenoid content is a fantastic 100 milligrams per 100 grams of colorful berries. By comparison, orange carrots contain just half that—and that’s because they’re among the most carotenoid-rich foods out there. Beta carotene is one of the most important carotenoids. It is called provitamin A because it can be converted in the body to vitamin A – the vitamin responsible for healthy eyes, bones, and mucous membranes.

In addition, sea buckthorn berries contain other carotenoids such as alpha-carotene and beta-cryptoxanthin, which also act as provitamin A. Taken together, carotenoids have an incredible number of health benefits to offer, as they have an antioxidant effect and e.g. B. heart disease, stroke, eye disease, dementia, and cancer can prevent.

The flavonoids

In addition, sea buckthorn berries contain a lot of flavonoids such as rutin, quercetin, and kaempferol. However, you will look in vain for the flavonoids in tables of nutritional values ​​and there is hardly any information on flavonoid intake in humans.

According to a Bavarian subgroup of the National Consumption Study, adults only take in around 54 milligrams of flavonoids per day on average. Now it is really clear how useful it is to use sea buckthorn products more often. Because in just 100 milliliters of sea buckthorn juice, the flavonoid content is 118 milligrams.

Various studies have shown that higher flavonoid intake reduces mortality from cardiovascular diseases, for example. This happens, among other things, because the flow properties of the blood are improved. It flows more easily through the vessels, the risk of clot formation is reduced and the risk of heart attack, stroke, and thrombosis is reduced.

Sea buckthorn oil: two oils from one fruit

Of course, with sea buckthorn berries or juice you can also take some of the sea buckthorn oil. However, the amounts are small. So if you want to try pure sea buckthorn oil (Oleum Hippophae), it is already available in stores. It is not only a valuable supplier of fatty acids but – like the berries themselves – particularly rich in valuable micronutrients and secondary plant substances such as the carotenoids and flavonoids just discussed.

Sea buckthorn oil is obtained from both the pulp and the seeds by cold pressing and centrifugation. There are thus two different sea buckthorn oils that, according to a comprehensive review study published in 2017 at Adam Mickiewicz University (Poland), have many similarities in terms of ingredients, but also differences.

In both cases, these are medicinal oils that contain a lot of vitamin E – around 20 milligrams per 10 milliliters of oil. This corresponds to 140 percent of the recommended daily dose!

We have already discussed the different fatty acid compositions of the seeds and the pulp in detail, but there are other differences:

  • The sea buckthorn pulp oil is ahead of the seed oil. It is particularly rich in carotenoids, which is reflected in the orange color. While there are around 30 milligrams of carotenoids in 10 milliliters of pulp oil, pumpkin seed oil only has around 2 milligrams.
  • Sea buckthorn seed oil, on the other hand, is yellow in color, tastes less acidic, and, according to the study at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki mentioned above, contains more vitamin K, namely around 20 milligrams per 10 milliliters of oil. In the case of fruit pulp oil, it is only about 5 milligrams. But this amount would be enough to meet the RDA 7,000 percent!

There is also sea buckthorn oil, which is extracted from the seeds AND the pulp and consequently combines the properties of the whole berry. Sea buckthorn pomace oil, on the other hand, is obtained from the residues after the first pressing and is therefore of lower quality, but cheaper.

Sea buckthorn oil for stomach problems: internal use

In traditional medicine, sea buckthorn oil – for example in Russia and China – is used for a wide variety of ailments, e.g. B. laryngitis and diseases of the digestive system applied.

If sea buckthorn oil is taken orally, it covers the mucous membranes like a film and can be helpful for heartburn, gastritis, and stomach ulcers. The dose recommended by naturopaths is 20 drops 1 to 3 times a day.

For internal use, keep in mind that sea buckthorn oil has not yet been officially medically evaluated and is therefore only available as a food or dietary supplement. Sea buckthorn oil is primarily used externally.

Sea buckthorn oil for your skin

Researchers from the aforementioned Adam Mickiewicz University took a close look at sea buckthorn oil and found that it contains around 200 bioactive substances and has numerous benefits for skin health. The balanced composition of the contained fatty acids, vitamins, and secondary plant substances ensures that the sea buckthorn oil works well for dry and scaly skin and counteracts skin aging.

Omega-6 and omega-7 fatty acids have to repair properties and help to regenerate the skin. Sea buckthorn oil penetrates even into the deeper layers of the epidermis, stimulating blood circulation, thus promoting oxygen supply to the skin and removing toxins from it. Gamma-linolenic acid – an omega-6 fatty acid – works against inflammation and infections of the skin and prevents allergies. In addition, sea buckthorn oil contains phytosterols, which have anti-inflammatory properties and a stabilizing effect on the skin’s barrier function.

Sea buckthorn oil has a very special status as a helpful companion for patients undergoing radiation therapy. The valuable oil can be used both internally to prevent radiation damage and externally after radiation to heal wounds and regenerate the skin.

The external application

Whether for wound healing, burns, as an anti-aging agent, or for chronic skin diseases such as psoriasis or neurodermatitis: You can apply undiluted sea buckthorn oil to the skin. Simply apply about 3 drops of the oil 2 to 3 times a day to the affected skin and massage it gently.

For injuries and burns, an oiled bandage with sea buckthorn oil can be useful. Put 40 to 50 drops of the oil on a compress and fix it. The oil bandage remains on the affected part of the body for 8 to 10 hours – preferably overnight.

To optimize the healing effect, sea buckthorn oil can also be mixed with other oils. For example, a mixture of 80 percent sea buckthorn seed oil and 20 percent St. John’s wort oil has proven effective for dry neurodermatitis.

Please note that sea buckthorn pulp oil can turn the skin orange due to its high carotenoid content.

Preferably organic sea buckthorn

For thousands of years, sea buckthorn berries were collected exclusively from the wild, but there are now more and more growing areas with cultivated plants. Today the sea buckthorn thrives on around three million hectares worldwide. The largest producers are China, where a total of 2.5 million hectares are planted with sea buckthorn, Mongolia, India, and Pakistan. However, the plants are also cultivated on a small scale in France, Italy, and in German-speaking countries.

Since the sea buckthorn has low demands on the soil and is almost allergic to pesticides, especially when it is young, fertilization and sprays can be largely or completely dispensed with. In addition, sea buckthorn is not usually cultivated on a large scale in Europe, which is why many sea buckthorn farmers opt for organic cultivation anyway.

However, keep in mind that a large proportion of the sea buckthorn berries processed in Germany are now imported in refrigerated containers from China, where the fruits are mass-produced and the use of pesticides and the like is not stingy.

With regard to conventionally grown goji berries from China, the chemical and veterinary investigation office in Stuttgart even found alarmingly high residues of pesticides in 13 of 14 samples in 2010. These analyzes lead to the conclusion that in China the sea buckthorn is not spared from the chemical mace, which of course has an enormous effect on its quality. Therefore, when shopping, always rely on organic products, ideally from your region or a neighboring region!

Sea buckthorn berries from our own garden

You can also bring the sea buckthorn into your own garden. The undemanding plant only needs a lot of light and deep soil. Heavy clay soil must be sufficiently loosened up with sand before planting. Except for the first year after planting, the sea buckthorn does not need to be watered. He also does not need fertilizer.

In the ground, however, the sea buckthorn takes up a lot of space (12 meters in all directions) as it develops an extensive root system, crowding out neighboring plants. A root barrier is therefore recommended in small gardens. In addition, only the female plants bear fruit – and only if a sea buckthorn man is nearby. Five female shrubs need at least one male plant for reproduction to go really well.

The Sea Buckthorn Harvest

The sour fruits stay on the branches in winter, but the best time to harvest is usually in September. The harvest is quite laborious since the pressure-sensitive berries are difficult to detach from the branches and the thorns are not without problems either. This explains why it takes 1,500 people to harvest one hectare by hand in China.

It should be easier with a trick: Cut off the berry-bearing branches, cut them into small pieces, and freeze. Then the berries z. B. knock off the branches with a wooden spoon. However, if everyone did this, there might not be any more sea buckthorn berries next year because the bushes do not tolerate heavy pruning well. We therefore strongly advise against this harvesting method for wild collection. And even in your own garden, you should only do this every other year.

We also recommend NOT picking the sea buckthorn in nature! Because if everyone went out and gathered sea buckthorn, all the wild animals and birds that depend on sea buckthorn would get nothing. Therefore, it is better to buy sea buckthorn products in stores.

If you have harvested berries in your own garden, leave a part on the bush for the birds. Since fresh berries quickly lose quality, you should eat them as soon as possible, freeze them, dry them or process them into juice, oil, or jam.

The sea buckthorn in the kitchen

Sea buckthorn fruits have a sour, slightly tart taste and a particularly delicate, fruity aroma that is somewhat reminiscent of a pineapple, which explains the sometimes used term “Siberian pineapple”. Basically, sea buckthorn berries go well with any dish that can tolerate a bit of acidity. The delicious fruits are primarily associated with sweet dishes such as cakes, jams, or compotes, but they can also be prepared heartily.

The fresh and dried berries as well as the sea buckthorn juice are wonderful for blessing muesli, fruit salad, or smoothies with a special kind of vitamin boost. In addition, sea buckthorn berries and sea buckthorn juice give a very special touch to green salads, sauces, soups and vegetable stews, millet and rice dishes, or oriental couscous. Sea buckthorn berries harmonize with all kinds of spices, whether with cinnamon, vanilla, thyme, or turmeric and chili.

The valuable sea buckthorn oil can, for example, can be used to prepare a delicious salad dressing or to spice up hot dishes. The pulp oil is recommended for use in the kitchen, as the pumpkin seed oil has a very neutral taste. It is important never to heat the oil.

We wish you lots of inspiration when creating new sea buckthorn recipes and an unforgettable taste experience!

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Written by Micah Stanley

Hi, I'm Micah. I am a creative Expert Freelance Dietitian Nutritionist with years of experience in counseling, recipe creation, nutrition, and content writing, product development.

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