Common Sea-buckthorn shrub in The Netherlands
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Phylum: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Rosales
Family: Elaeagnaceae
Genus: Hippophae

See text

The sea-buckthorns (Hippophae L.) are deciduous shrubs in the genus Hippophae, family Elaeagnaceae. The name sea-buckthorn is hyphenated here to avoid confusion with the buckthorns (Rhamnus, family Rhamnaceae). It is also referred to as sandthorn, sallowthorn,[1] or seaberry.[2]



There are considered to be seven species, two of them probably of hybrid origin,[3] native over a wide area of Europe and Asia.

The common sea-buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides) is by far the most widespread of the species in the genus, with the ranges of its eight subspecies extending from the Atlantic coasts of Europe right across to northwestern China. In western Europe, it is largely confined to sea coasts where salt spray off the sea prevents other larger plants from out-competing it, but in central Asia it is more widespread in dry semi-desert sites where other plants cannot survive the dry conditions. In central Europe and Asia it also occurs as a subalpine shrub above tree line in mountains, and other sunny areas such as river banks. They are tolerant of salt in the air and soil, but demand full sunlight for good growth and do not tolerate shady conditions near larger trees. They typically grow in dry, sandy areas.

More than 90 percent or about 1.5 million hectares of the world's sea buckthorn plantations can be found in China where the plant is exploited for soil and water conservation purposes.[4]


The shrubs reach 0.5–6 metres (1.6–20 ft) tall, rarely up to 10 metres (33 ft) in central Asia. The leaf arrangement can be alternate, or opposite.[5]

Common Sea-buckthorn foliage and berries

Common sea-buckthorn has branches that are dense and stiff, and very thorny. The leaves are a distinct pale silvery-green, lanceolate, 3–8 centimetres (1.2–3.1 in) long and less than 7 millimetres (0.28 in) broad. It is dioecious, with separate male and female plants. The male produces brownish flowers which produce wind-distributed pollen. The female plants produce orange berry-like fruit 6–9 millimetres (0.24–0.35 in) in diameter, soft, juicy and rich in oils. The roots distribute rapidly and extensively, providing a non-leguminous nitrogen fixation role in surrounding soils.

Hippophae salicifolia (willow-leaved sea-buckthorn) is restricted to the Himalaya, to the south of the common sea-buckthorn, growing at high altitudes in dry valleys; it differs from H. rhamnoides in having broader (to 10 millimetres (0.39 in) broad) and greener (less silvery) leaves, and yellow berries. A wild variant occurs in the same area, but at even higher altitudes in the alpine zone.[citation needed] It is a low shrub not growing taller than 1 metre (3.3 ft) with small leaves 1–3 centimetres (0.39–1.2 in) long.


  • H. goniocarpa Y.S.Lian & al. ex Swenson & Bartish
  • H. gyantsensis (Rousi) Lian
  • H. litangensis Y.S.Lian & X.L.Chen ex Swenson & Bartish
  • H. neurocarpa S.W.Liu & T.N.He
  • H. rhamnoides L. – Common Sea-Buckthorn
  • H. salicifolia D.Don
  • H. tibetana Schlecht.

A study of nuclear ribosomal internal transcribed spacer (ITS) sequence data[6] has suggested that the genus can be divided into three monophyletic clades:

  • H. tibetana
  • H. rhamnoides with the exception of H. rhamnoides ssp. gyantensis (=H. gyantensis)
  • The remaining species.

A study using chloroplast sequences and morphology,[3] however, recovered only two clades:

  • H. tibetana, H. gyantsensis, H. salicifolia, H. neurocarpa
  • H. rhamnoides

Both studies concluded that H. goniocarpa and H. litangensis originated as hybrids.

Natural history

The fruit are an important winter food resource for some birds, notably fieldfares.

Leaves are eaten by the larva of the coastal race of the ash pug moth and by larvae of other Lepidoptera including brown-tail, dun-bar, emperor moth, mottled umber and Coleophora elaeagnisella.

Close-up of fruit of Common Sea-Buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides)


Fruit harvesting

Harvesting is difficult due to the dense thorn arrangement among the berries on each branch. A common harvesting technique is to remove an entire branch, though this is destructive to the shrub and reduces future harvests. A branch removed in this way is next frozen, allowing the berries to be easily shaken off. The branches are cut, deep frozen to −32°C, then shaken or abraded for removal of the berries.

The worker then crushes the berries to remove up to 95% of the leaves and other debris. This causes the berries to melt slightly from the surface as the work takes place at ambient temperature (about 20°C). Berries or the crushed pulp are later frozen for storage.

The most effective way to harvest berries and not damage branches is by using a berry-shaker. Mechanical harvesting leaves up to 50% in the field and the berries can be harvested only once in two years. They only get about 25% of the yield that could be harvested with this relatively new machinery.

During the Cold War, Russian and East German horticulturists developed new varieties with greater nutritional value, larger berries, different ripening months and a branch that is easier to harvest. Over the past 20 years, experimental crops have been grown in the United States, one in Nevada and one in Arizona, and in several provinces of Canada.[7][8]

Landscape uses

Sea-buckthorn is also a popular garden and landscaping shrub, particularly making a good vandal-proof barrier hedge with an aggressive basal shoot system exploited in some parts of the world as wind breaks and to stabilize riverbanks and steep slopes. They have value in northern climates for their landscape qualities, as the colorful berry clusters are retained through winter.[9] Branches may be used by florists for designing ornaments. The plant is the regional flora of the Finnish region of Satakunta.

Sea-buckthorn is distributed free of charge to Canadian prairie farmers by PFRA to be used in shelterbelts.[10]

Nutrients and potential health effects

Sea-buckthorn berries are edible and nutritious, though very acidic (astringent) and oily, unpleasant to eat raw, unless 'bletted' (frosted to reduce the astringency) and/or mixed as a juice with sweeter substances such as apple or grape juice.

When the berries are pressed, the resulting sea-buckthorn juice separates into three layers: on top is a thick, orange cream; in the middle, a layer containing sea-buckthorn's characteristic high content of saturated and polyunsaturated fats; and the bottom layer is sediment and juice.[11][12] Containing fat sources applicable for cosmetic purposes, the upper two layers can be processed for skin creams and liniments, whereas the bottom layer can be used for edible products like syrup.[11]

Nutrient and phytochemical constituents of sea-buckthorn berries may have potential effect in inflammatory disorders, cancer prevention or positive effect on bone marrow after chemotherapy [4][13] or other diseases,[14] although no specific health benefits have yet been proven by clinical research in humans.

The fruit of the plant has a high vitamin C content – in a range of 114 to 1550 mg per 100 grams[4][12] with an average content (695 mg per 100 grams) about 15 times greater than oranges (45 mg per 100 grams)[15] – placing sea-buckthorn fruit among the most enriched plant sources of vitamin C. The fruit also contains dense contents of carotenoids, vitamin E, amino acids, dietary minerals, β-sitosterol[4][12][16] and polyphenols. Flavonols were found to be the predominating polyphenols while phenolic acids and flavan-3-ols (catechins) represent minor components. Of the seven flavonols identified, isorhamnetin 3-O-glycosides were highest quantitatively.[17]

Consumer products

Sea-buckthorn fruit can be used to make pies, jams, lotions and liquors.[4] The juice or pulp has other potential applications in foods or beverages.[4] For example, in Finland, it is used as a nutritional ingredient in baby food.[citation needed] Fruit drinks were among the earliest seabuckthorn products developed in China. Seabuckthorn-based juice is popular in Germany and Scandinavian countries. It provides a nutritious beverage, rich in vitamin C and carotenes. A specialty beer called Tyrnilambic Baie d'Argousier has been produced at the Cantillon Brewery in Brussels exclusively for the Finnish Market.[18]

For its troops confronting extremely low temperatures (see Siachen), India's Defence Research Development Organization established a factory in Leh to manufacture a multi-vitamin herbal beverage based on sea-buckthorn juice.[citation needed]

The seed and pulp oils have nutritional properties that vary under different processing methods.[4][19] Sea-buckthorn oils are used as a source for ingredients in several commercially available cosmetic products and nutritional supplements.[4]

To overcome high acidity, juice made by adding five-parts water to one-part sea-buckthorn and sweetened to taste, put through a blender and strained, is said to taste like orange or peach juice.[citation needed] Sea-buckthorn leaves, dried and shredded, can be made into teas.[1][2]

Traditional medicine

Different parts of sea-buckthorn have been used as traditional therapies for diseases.[14] As no applications discussed in this section have been verified by science and sufficient clinical trial evidence, such knowledge remains mostly unreferenced outside of Asia and is communicated mainly from person to person, therefore falling into the category of folk medicine.

Grown widely throughout its native China and other mainland regions of Asia, sea-buckthorn is an herbal remedy reputedly used over centuries to relieve cough, aid digestion, invigorate blood circulation and alleviate pain.

Bark and leaves may be used for treating diarrhea and dermatological disorders.[4] Berry oil, taken either orally or applied topically, may be used as a skin softener.[4]

For its hemostatic and anti-inflammatory effects, berry fruits are added to medications for pulmonary, gastrointestinal, cardiac, blood and metabolic disorders in Indian, Chinese and Tibetan medicines.[4] Sea-buckthorn berry components have potential activity against cancer[4][13][20] and dengue virus.[21]


In 2005, the "EAN-Seabuck" network between European Union states, China, Russia and New Independent States was funded by the European Commission to promote sustainable crop and consumer product development.[22]

The International Seabuckthorn Association,[23] formerly the International Center for Research and Training on Seabuckthorn (ICRTS), was formed jointly in 1988 by the China Research and Training Center on Seabuckthorn, the Seabuckthorn Office of the Yellow River Water Commission, and the Shaanxi Seabuckthorn Development Office. From 1995 to 2000, ICRTS published the research journal, Hippophae, which appears to be no longer active.

See also


  1. ^ "USDA GRIN Taxonomy". 
  2. ^ "PLANTS Profile for Hippophae rhamnoides (seaberry)". United States Department of Agriculture. Retrieved 2007-10-08. 
  3. ^ a b Bartish J. V., Jeppson N., Nybom H., Swenson U. (2002) Phylogeny of Hippophae (Elaeagnaceae) inferred from parsimony analysis of chloroplast DNA and morphology. Systematic Botany 27(1):41–54.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Dharmananda S. Sea buckthorn, Institute of Traditional Medicine Online, 2004
  5. ^ Swenson, U.; Bartish, I.V. (2002). Taxonomic synopsis of Hippophae (Elaeagnaceae). Nordic Journal of Botany. 22(3): 369-374.
  6. ^ K. Sun, X. Chen, R. Ma, C. Li, Q. Wang, S. Ge: "Molecular phylogenetics of Hippophae L> (Elaeagnaceae) based on the internal transcribed spacer (ITS) sequences of nrDNA" Plant Systematics and Evolution 235(2002)121—134
  7. ^ Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration Center, Sea-buckthorn: A promising multi-purpose crop for Saskatchewan, January 2008
  8. ^, a sea buckthorn berry resource.
  9. ^ Kam, Barbara; Nora Bryan (2003). The Prairie Winterscape: Creative Gardening for the Forgotten Season. Fifth House Ltd.. pp. 108–110. ISBN 1894856082. 
  10. ^ "Prairie Shelterbelt Program:Application for Trees". Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. 2008. 
  11. ^ a b Seglina D. et al. The effect of processing on the composition of sea buckthorn juice, J Fruit Ornamental Plant Res 14 (Suppl 2):257-63, 2006
  12. ^ a b c Zeb, A. (2004). "Chemical and nutritional constituents of sea buckthorn juice". Pakistan Journal of Nutrition 3 (2): 99–106. doi:10.3923/pjn.2004.99.106. 
  13. ^ a b Zeb A (2006). "Anticarcinogenic potential of lipids from Hippophae—evidence from the recent literature". Asian Pac J Cancer Prev. 7 (1): 32–5. PMID 16629511. 
  14. ^ a b Zeb, A. (2004). "Important therapeutic uses of sea buckthorn (Hippophae): a review". J Biol Sci 4 (5): 687–693. doi:10.3923/jbs.2004.687.693. [dead link]
  15. ^ USDA Nutrient Database
  16. ^ Kallio H, Yang B, Peippo P (Oct 2002). "Effects of different origins and harvesting time on vitamin C, tocopherols, and tocotrienols in sea buckthorn (Hippophaë rhamnoides) berries". J Agric Food Chem. 50 (21): 6136–42. doi:10.1021/jf020421v. PMID 12358492. 
  17. ^ Rösch D; Bergmann M, Knorr D, Kroh L W (2003). "Structure−antioxidant efficiency relationships of phenolic compounds and their contribution to the antioxidant activity of sea buckthorn juice". J Agric Food Chem 51(15) (15): 4233–9. doi:10.1021/jf0300339. PMID 12848490. 
  18. ^ Cantillon Tyrnilambic Baie dArgousier
  19. ^ Cenkowski S et al. (2006). "Quality of extracted sea buckthorn seed and pulp oil". Can Biosystems Engin 48 (3): 9–16. 
  20. ^ Teng BS, Lu YH, Wang ZT, Tao XY, Wei DZ (Sep 2006). "In vitro anti-tumor activity of isorhamnetin isolated from Hippophae rhamnoides L. against BEL-7402 cells". Pharmacol Res. 54 (3): 186–94. doi:10.1016/j.phrs.2006.04.007. PMID 16765054. 
  21. ^ Jain M, Ganju L, Katiyal A, Padwad Y, Mishra KP, Chanda S, Karan D, Yogendra KM, Sawhney RC (2008). "Effect of Hippophae rhamnoides leaf extract against Dengue virus infection in human blood-derived macrophages". Phytomedicine 15 (10): 793–9. doi:10.1016/j.phymed.2008.04.017. PMID 18586478. 
  22. ^ EAN-Seabuck international cooperation network for the sustainable use of sea buckthorn
  23. ^ International Seabuckthorn Association

External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

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  • sea buckthorn — ▪ shrub also called  Sallow Thorn        (Hippophae rhamnoides, family Elaeagnaceae), willowlike shrub growing to about 2.5 m (about 8 feet) high with narrow leaves that are silvery on the underside and globose, orange yellow fruits about 8 mm… …   Universalium

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  • sea buckthorn — n. plant that has silvery leaves and somewhat green flowers and orange red edible berries and which produces yellow dye (found on the seacoasts of Europe and Asia) …   English contemporary dictionary

  • sea buckthorn — noun a bushy shrub or small tree that grows on sandy coasts, bearing orange berries. [Hippophae rhamnoides.] …   English new terms dictionary

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