All Hail Sea Buckthorn

All Hail Sea Buckthorn

3/23/2009 8:15:39 AM

Bruce McMullin


Called the “King of Superfruit,” this fruit was consumed by the armies of Genghis Khan to improve their stamina in battle. And while this “holy fruit of the Himalayas” has a storied history, it is only recently that modern researchers have touted its virtues. What is it? It’s sea buckthorn, the sleeping giant of health and nutrition that grows on virtually every continent.

Most people have never heard of this small bright orange berry, but it has been a cornerstone of Russian and Chinese medicine. In fact, an important ancient Tibetan medical text, the Sibu Yidian, dedicates 30 of 162 chapters to the medicinal uses of sea buckthorn. Ancient legend also credits sea buckthorn as the secret behind Pegasus’ ability to fly; the fruit’s scientific name, Hippophae rhamnoides, means “shiny horse.” Today, horses receiving a supplement made with sea buckthorn from these high mountain regions show marked improvement in their overall health, as evidenced by their “shiny coats.”

Sea buckthorn is a very hardy plant that can grow in harsh, arid conditions, as its roots tap deep to find water. It is related to the olive tree and has a “silver-green” leaf that is similar to its botanical cousin; but, that’s where the similarities end. Sea buckthorn is olives on steroids. The nutrient spectrum is a quantum leap above other botanicals.

It absorbs energy from the sun and its berries are hues of red, orange and yellow. The plant is very resilient, almost indestructible, but the berry is extremely delicate, especially after harvest. It is “hot to handle” because the berry is so concentrated with nutrients, especially essential fatty acids (EFAs), and it has a high propensity to oxidize quickly. This is evident by a loss of color and an increase in fermentation. High-altitude harvesting and processing provide a great advantage to premium sea buckthorn. Lower levels of oxygen and cooler temperatures facilitate “berry to barrel” production with the least amount of degradation. The color, smell and nutrient profile remain exceptional. These factors make premium Himalayan sea buckthorn harvested at 10,000 feet to 14,000 feet unrivaled.

The fact that the fruit is “hot to handle” is the main reason there are not more commercial products available. Most suppliers and manufacturers have raw materials that, due to their harvesting techniques and processing, are in some degree of decomposition or break down. The color of inferior sea buckthorn tends to be brown with a flat, unpalatable taste.

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