What Is Sea Buckthorn?

Can Sea Buckthorn Skin Creams Make a Difference?

Sea buckthorn capsules, gelcap, oil, and dried fruit

Verywell / Anastasiia Tretiak​

Sea buckthorn (Hipphophae rhamnoides) is a medicinal plant long used in herbal medicine. In addition, people sometimes use sea buckthorn fruit in sweet treats, including jams, pies, and drinks.

Available in supplement form, sea buckthorn extract contains various essential fatty acids and antioxidants (including vitamin C, vitamin E, and anthocyanins). As a result, proponents claim that sea buckthorn offers a wide range of health benefits.

This article explains sea buckthorn's uses, dosages, and side effects.

What Is Sea Buckthorn Used For?

In herbal medicine, sea buckthorn has long been used to stimulate the digestive system, enhance heart and liver health, and treat skin disorders. Today, sea buckthorn is touted as a natural remedy for the following health problems:

In recent years, sea buckthorn oil has gained popularity as an ingredient in skin-care products. When applied topically, sea buckthorn oil is thought to have many benefits, including:

  • Moisturizing the skin
  • Easing irritation
  • Treating acne
  • Healing aging-related damage

There is currently a lack of clinical trials testing the effects of sea buckthorn. However, preliminary research suggests that sea buckthorn may offer several health benefits.

Eczema

Older studies suggest that sea buckthorn supplements may help treat atopic dermatitis (eczema). For example, a 1999 study in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry tested sea buckthorn pulp oil on 49 people with atopic dermatitis. Researchers observed significant improvement among those who took supplements every day for four months.

However, more recent research suggests that supplements like sea buckthorn provide no benefit.

Wound Healing

Animal-based research suggests that sea buckthorn may promote wound healing when applied topically. For example, in a 2009 study in Food and Chemical Toxicology, scientists discovered that topically applied sea buckthorn seed oil helped speed up the healing of burn wounds in rats.

Diabetes

In a small 2010 study in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers found that sea buckthorn may help keep blood sugar in check and protect against type 2 diabetes. In an experiment involving 10 healthy, normal-weight volunteers, the study's authors discovered that adding sea buckthorn berries to meals helped prevent a post-meal spike in blood sugar.

Recap

People use sea buckthorn to treat chronic and systemic conditions, including diabetes, eczema, arthritis, and high blood pressure. In addition, the supplement is added to some skin products as a moisturizer and acne treatment. However, while proponents claim the herb holds many health benefits, very little evidence supports the claims.

Is Sea Buckthorn Safe?

Sea buckthorn fruit is likely safe when consumed in amounts typically found in food. The fruit is also likely safe when taken by mouth for medicinal purposes.

However, little is known about the safety of consuming sea buckthorn extract. Therefore, it's essential to consult a healthcare provider if you're considering the use of sea buckthorn supplements.

Be especially careful to get medical advice before using sea buckthorn in children. In addition, talk to a healthcare provider if you have health conditions, including:

It's important to remember that supplements haven't been tested for safety and dietary supplements are largely unregulated. In some cases, the product may deliver doses that differ from the specified amount for each herb. In other cases, the product may be contaminated with other substances such as metals. 

Recap

When consumed in food, sea buckthorn is likely safe. However, you should talk to a healthcare provider before taking sea buckthorn, especially if you have health conditions, take medications, or are pregnant or breastfeeding. Never give sea buckthorn to children without first consulting with a healthcare provider.

Sea buckthorn soft gels
Verywell / Anastasia Tretiak​

Dosage and Preparation

There is not enough scientific evidence about sea buckthorn to determine a safe or effective dose. The right dose for you will depend on a variety of factors including your age, gender, and medical health. Therefore, it's important to work with a healthcare provider to determine the best dosage for you.

What to Look For

Sea buckthorn supplements are available online and in some natural-food stores. In addition, you can find skin-care products containing sea buckthorn in many specialty beauty shops.

Sea buckthorn comes in a variety of preparations, including:

  • An oil
  • Capsule
  • Capsule combined with other herbal remedies

Read the Label

The National Institutes of Health advises all supplement users to examine Supplement Facts label on any product that you consider using. This label contains vital information including the amount of active ingredients per serving, and whether other ingredients have been added.

Look for a Seal of Approval

In addition, it is helpful to look for a third-party seal of approval by an independent organization. Groups like the U.S. Pharmacopeia, ConsumerLab.com, and NSF International help verify the product, including ensuring the following:

  • The product was manufactured correctly.
  • It contains the ingredients listed on the label.
  • It does not have harmful levels of contaminants.

Remember, though, a seal of approval from one of these organizations does not guarantee the product's safety or effectiveness.

Given the lack of supporting research, it's too soon to recommend sea buckthorn for any health condition. It's important to note that self-treating a condition with sea buckthorn and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious health consequences.

Recap

Supplements are unregulated, so be sure to read labels and look for a seal of approval that helps ensure an independent third party verified the product.

Summary

Sea buckthorn is an herbal supplement that people sometimes use for treating some chronic health and skin conditions. However, there is very little evidence that the herb is beneficial.

If you consider supplementing with sea buckthorn, be sure to check with a healthcare provider first, especially if you have health conditions or take medications. Supplements are unregulated, so read labels carefully and look for third-party seals of approval.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can I grow my own sea buckthorn?

    Yes, sea buckthorn plants are commonly sold online and in gardening stores. The tree can grow in full sun in most areas of the country.

  • How do I cook with sea buckthorn?

    You can eat these berries right off the tree or cook with them like you would bake or cook with other berries. The berries can also be squeezed and the juice can be added to beverages.

  • Does sea buckthorn lighten skin?

    Possibly. Sea buckthorn contains high amounts of vitamin C, which is often used to lighten dark spots and hyperpigmentation. In addition, fatty acids found in sea buckthorn oil can help to promote skin cell regeneration. This may help the skin to appear brighter.

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6 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Zielińska A, Nowak I. Abundance of active ingredients in sea-buckthorn oil. Lipids Health Dis. 2017;16(1):95. doi:10.1186/s12944-017-0469-7

  2. Yang B, Kalimo KO, Mattila LM, Kallio SE, Katajisto JK, Peltola OJ, Kallio HP. Effects of Dietary Supplementation With Sea Buckthorn (Hippophaë  Rhamnoides) Seed and Pulp Oils on Atopic Dermatitis. J Nutr Biochem. 1999 Nov;10(11):622-30. doi:10.1016/s0955-2863(99)00049-2

  3. Bath-hextall FJ, Jenkinson C, Humphreys R, Williams HC. Dietary supplements for established atopic eczema. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2012;(2):CD005205. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD005205.pub3

  4. Upadhyay NK, Kumar R, Mandotra SK, Meena RN, Siddiqui MS, Sawhney RC, Gupta A. Safety and Healing Efficacy of Sea Buckthorn (Hippophae Rhamnoides L.) Seed Oil on Burn Wounds in Rats. Food Chem Toxicol. 2009 Jun;47(6):1146-53. doi:10.1016/j.fct.2009.02.002

  5. Lehtonen HM, Järvinen R, Linderborg K, Viitanen M, Venojärvi M, Alanko H, Kallio H. "Postprandial Hyperglycemiaand Insulin Response Are Affected by Sea Buckthorn (Hippophaë Rhamnoides Ssp. Turkestanica) Berry and Its Ethanol-Soluble Metabolites." Eur J Clin Nutr. 2010 Dec;64(12):1465-71. doi:10.1038/ejcn.2010.173

  6. Dudau M, Codrici E, Tarcomnicu I, et al. A fatty acid fraction purified from sea buckthorn seed oil has regenerative properties on normal skin cells. Front Pharmacol. 2021;12:737571. doi:10.3389/fphar.2021.737571

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