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 thorny tree commonly found in Asia and Europe. Parts of the sea buckthorn tree have long been used in herbal medicine and cosmetics. The tree is thought to have medicinal properties, leading many people to use sea buckthorn in interesting ways, 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).

This article discusses sea buckthorn's proposed uses, potential side effects, precautions, and dosage information.

Dietary supplements are not regulated in the United States, meaning the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not approve them for safety and effectiveness before products are marketed. When possible, choose a supplement that has been tested by a trusted third party, such as USP, ConsumerLabs, or NSF. However, even if supplements are third-party tested, that doesn’t mean that they are necessarily safe for all or effective in general. It is important to talk to your healthcare provider about any supplements you plan to take and to check in about any potential interactions with other supplements or medications.

Supplement Facts

●     Active Ingredient(s): Sea buckthorn oil; some supplements may contain additional ingredients

●     Alternate Name(s): Hippophaes rhamnoides, sea-buckthorn, Siberian pineapple

●     Legal Status: Legal, over-the-counter (OTC)

●     Suggested Dose: There is not enough scientific evidence to determine a safe or effective dose

●     Safety Considerations: Sea buckthorn may not be suitable for some populations

Uses of Sea Buckthorn

Supplement use should be individualized and vetted by a healthcare professional, such as a registered dietitian, pharmacist, or doctor. No supplement is intended to treat, cure, or prevent disease.

In herbal medicine, sea buckthorn has long been used to support the digestive system, enhance heart health, reduce inflammation, and treat skin disorders.

Sea buckthorn oil has also gained popularity as an ingredient in various skin care products. When applied topically, sea buckthorn oil is thought to have many benefits.

There is currently a lack of clinical trials testing both the medicinal and cosmetic effects of sea buckthorn. However, preliminary research has looked at several potential uses. We'll look at some of the potential uses and claims surrounding sea buckthorn here.

Eczema

Older studies suggest that oral 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 in eczema symptoms among those who took sea buckthorn supplements every day for four months.

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

Wound Healing

Some nonhuman animal-based studies have suggested that sea buckthorn may promote wound healing when applied topically. For example, in a 2009 Food and Chemical Toxicology study, scientists found that topically applied sea buckthorn seed oil helped speed up the healing of burn wounds in rats.

However, It's important to mention that this study was not performed on humans. While the research is interesting, we cannot definitively say that these effects will happen in humans. More human research using sea buckthorn would need to be done before we could make further conclusions about sea buckthorn's effectiveness for wound healing.

Blood Sugar

A 2021 human trial out of China found that consuming a puree of sea buckthorn fruit for five weeks resulted in a slight decrease in fasting blood sugar. However, the study was small—including only 38 people. The participants had impaired glucose regulation (IGR), or pre-diabetes.

Another small study of 18 males (sex assigned at birth) suggested that sea buckthorn berries decreased and delayed the insulin response after eating.

The antioxidant components of sea buckthorn are thought to be responsible for its potential blood sugar-lowering effects. Overall, the research in this area has been limited, and more comprehensive studies are needed.

Cancer

According to a short review, the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory components of sea buckthorn are thought to have anti-cancer properties.

However, the review points out that the research so far has been done on animals or in vitro (in a glass), This means human trials are needed before we can confirm the potential anti-cancer effects of sea buckthorn in humans.

Skin Care and Cosmetics

A review from 2017 reported various skin uses of sea buckthorn. According to the review, topical sea buckthorn may be helpful in:

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

The review notes that both the antioxidants and fatty acids in sea buckthorn are helpful tools in skin care. The antioxidants in sea buckthorn are thought to remove free radicals and, thus, reduce the appearance of aging, while the fatty acids are said to add moisture to the skin.

Other Potential Uses

In addition to the above, studies have also looked at sea buckthorn's use in:

What Are the Side Effects of Sea Buckthorn?

You may decide to take sea buckthorn for various reasons. However, using a supplement like sea buckthorn may cause side effects.

Sea buckthorn fruit is likely safe when consumed in amounts typically found in foods. The fruit is also likely safe when eaten for medicinal purposes.

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

Common Side Effects

Few side effects of using topical or oral sea buckthorn have been reported.

One small human study reported that about 10% of participants experienced gastrointestinal symptoms after taking 3 grams (g) of sea buckthorn oil for three months.

Severe Side Effects

No severe side effects of sea buckthorn have been reported. Despite this, some of the possible interactions of sea buckthorn could pose an increased risk for adverse events for certain populations.

For example, small human studies, as well as animal studies, have shown signs of sea buckthorn's ability to act as a blood thinner. Because of this, people taking blood thinners may need to avoid sea buckthorn due to the risk of increased bleeding.

People taking blood sugar-lowering medications should also be cautious with sea buckthorn, as it may cause blood sugar to drop even more.

Again, it's important to consult with a healthcare provider before starting sea buckthorn or other supplements, especially if you are taking other medications.

Sea buckthorn soft gels
Verywell / Anastasia Tretiak​

Precautions

Sea buckthorn supplements, ointments, or cosmetics may not be suitable for everyone.

It's especially important to seek advice from a healthcare professional before using sea buckthorn in children. While it may be safe to give sea buckthorn to children, there is insufficient evidence to support this.

In addition, you should talk to a healthcare provider before starting sea buckthorn if you:

Again, much of the research on sea buckthorn has been performed on animals or very small groups of humans. Because of this, we still do not know the full list of potential precautions when using sea buckthorn.

Dosage: How Much Sea Buckthorn Should I Take?

Always speak with a healthcare provider before taking a supplement to ensure that both the supplement and dosage are appropriate for your individual needs.

There is not enough scientific evidence about oral or topical sea buckthorn to determine safe or effective dosages.

In nonhuman animal studies, doses have ranged from 0.1 to more than 10 grams (g) per kilogram (kg) of body weight. But we cannot use animal studies as definitive evidence, which means more human studies on the safe dosage of sea buckthorn are needed.

The right dose for you may 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 Happens if I Take Too Much Sea Buckthorn?

Because we do not yet know the safe dosage ranges for sea buckthorn, we also do not know what will happen if you take too much sea buckthorn or if toxicity is possible in high doses.

Since sea buckthorn is not an essential nutrient we need to consume regularly to maintain health, there is no defined upper limit (UL) for it.

Remember, though, that side effects may be more likely if you take more sea buckthorn than is recommended. The most common reported side effect of sea buckthorn is gastrointestinal upset.

Interactions

While there is no strong evidence of interactions with sea buckthorn, some research suggests it may interact with certain medications. This includes blood thinners and blood sugar lowering medications.

Blood Thinners

Sea buckthorn may reduce blood clotting, which can lead to increased bleeding. People taking blood thinners should be wary of taking sea buckthorn as doing so could increase their risk of bleeding.

Blood Sugar Lowering Medications

People with diabetes or who are on blood sugar-lowering medication should also talk to a healthcare provider about whether sea buckthorn is a suitable supplement to take. This is because some evidence points to sea buckthorn's ability to lower blood sugar. Blood sugar could become too low when taking both sea buckthorn and a blood sugar-lowering medication.

It is essential to carefully read the ingredient list and nutrition facts panel of a supplement, like sea buckthorn, to know which ingredients and how much of each ingredient is included. Please review this supplement label with your healthcare provider to discuss potential interactions with foods, other supplements, and medications.

How to Store Sea Buckthorn

You may be wondering the best way to store sea buckthorn supplements or skin cream.

It is recommended to store supplements and creams in a cool, dry place that does not receive direct sunlight. Discard supplements and creams as indicated by the expiration date on the packaging.

If you are using fresh sea buckthorn berries, store them as you would other food items.

Similar Supplements

Sea buckthorn is uniquely composed and contains various vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. But there are other supplements and nutrients that have similar proposed uses as sea buckthorn.

Similar supplements that may be used to help with eczema include:

Similar supplements that have been studied for wound healing include:

Similar supplements that may reduce inflammation include:

Because the proposed uses of sea buckthorn supplements and creams have a fairly wide range, other supplements may offer similar benefits. It is unknown if sea buckthorn would interact with these or other supplements. Therefore, speaking with a healthcare provider about all the supplements you are taking or plan to take is best. It's also important to remember that supplements are not a treatment or cure for any health condition. Although they may have supplemental benefits, you should always follow your healthcare provider's recommended treatment plan.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is sea buckthorn good for hair?

    Sea buckthorn may be good for your hair. Some shampoos contain sea buckthorn oil due to its potential use in repairing damaged hair. And, according to research, sea buckthorn oil may also help prevent hair loss.

  • How do I cook with sea buckthorn?

    You can eat sea buckthorn berries right off the tree, You can also cook or bake with sea buckthorn berries like you would with other types of berries. The berries can even be squeezed to make juice.

  • Is sea buckthorn oil good for your skin?

    Based on research, sea buckthorn is thought to be good for your skin. It is proposed that sea buckthorn oil can act as a skin moisturizer. It is also thought to be useful in healing wounds on the skin as well as slowing down the skin aging process.

Sources of Sea Buckthorn & What to Look For

Sea buckthorn contains many important nutrients that your body needs daily, like vitamin A, vitamin E, and important unsaturated fats, among others. It is always best to take a food-first approach to obtain all the necessary vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients.

Often, a healthy, well-balanced diet will provide plenty of the nutrients found in sea buckthorn.

Food Sources of Sea Buckthorn

Sea buckthorn is not widely found in foods sold in stores. You would most likely need to cook or bake your own recipes containing sea buckthorn to ingest it through food.

You may be able to find jellies, jams, sauces, or beverages that contain sea buckthorn at specialty grocery stores or online.

Keep in mind that since there is no recommended daily intake for sea buckthorn, it is not necessary to use it as a supplement or add it to recipes unless recommended to do so.

Sea Buckthorn Supplements

You can find sea buckthorn supplements in a variety of forms, including an oil or cream, a capsule, or a capsule combined with other herbal remedies. It is not known which form of sea buckthorn is best or most beneficial, as research is still limited.

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

When choosing a sea buckthorn supplement, the label will include vital information, including the amount of active ingredients per serving as well as any other ingredients that have been added.

Since the U.S. government does not regulate supplements, it is best to look for a third-party seal of approval on the supplement label. Independent organizations like U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP), ConsumerLab.com, and NSF International help verify the product.

These groups will ensure that supplements:

  • Were manufactured correctly.
  • Contain the ingredients listed on the label.
  • Do not have harmful levels of contaminants.

Remember, 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 is 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 third-party seal of approval that will help ensure the supplement has been vetted and approved.

Summary

Sea buckthorn is an herbal supplement that is sometimes used in certain health and skin conditions. However, there is very little evidence that sea buckthorn is beneficial for these purported uses, as explained in this article.

If you consider supplementing with sea buckthorn, 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. Often, a healthy, well-balanced diet will provide plenty of the nutrients found in sea buckthorn. Therefore, you might want to consider adjusting your diet. You can always talk to your healthcare provider or a registered dietitian nutritionist about maintaining a healthier diet to ensure you get all the nutrients you need.

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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.
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Additional Reading

By Brittany Lubeck, RD
Brittany Lubeck, RD, is a nutrition writer and registered dietitian with a master's degree in clinical nutrition. 

Originally written by
Cathy Wong
Cathy Wong

Cathy Wong is a nutritionist and wellness expert. Her work is regularly featured in media such as First For Women, Woman's World, and Natural Health.

Learn about our editorial process