Orange Happiness or a Cup of a Sea Buckthorn Tea

With the advent of the colder season, orange coloured foods beckon. Pumpkin soup, roasted squash, red lentils (that actually look orange when cooked). Even oranges are at their best around January. Orange colour is destined to brighten the gloom cast by the shivering weather. Indeed, orange is associated with warmth and happiness. Give me more carrots!!!

Whilst pumpkin, lentils and oranges (and carrots!) undoubtedly have medicinal properties, we do not really think about them as medicines. In vain, my friends, in vain. Remember Hippocrates? “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”.

Out of interest, I scanned some herbal literature, and yes, Cucurbita pepo (pumpkin) and Daucus carota (wild carrot) are medicinal plants!!!

But I am not inspired by them today. I am going to tell you about a wonderful orange coloured berry – the fruit of Hippophae rhamnoides or Sea Buckthorn.

Sea Buckthorn grows in Britain in the wild. I encountered it on the Norfolk coast one November day. I remember its bushy appearance, with no remaining leaves at this time of the year. Just greyish stems covered with considerably long thorns and few vibrantly orange berries that burst with juice the moment your finger touched them, so overripe they were. I tasted it and the familiar tanginess and sourness hit my taste buds. (My husband made a face like he scoffed a whole lemon, but really it is not that bad!)

To be honest, I have been walking on the British coast for quite a few years, and this encounter in Norfolk was the only one. Not surprising that Sea Buckthorn is not popular medicinally or nutritionally in the UK. Core texts on classical Western Herbal Medicine do not mention it at all. 

In contrast, Sea Buckthorn is an officially listed medicinal plant in the Russian herbal pharmacopeia. It is also used as a medicine by the countries around the Baltic Sea and in Asia.

Sea Buckthorn berries are loaded with vitamins – A, C (content 15 times higher than in the orange fruit), B1, B2, B6, Folic acid, PP, K, P and E. The berries are also rich in carotenoids (both alpha and beta) and flavonoids (especially rutin amongst 36 types present). The berries are rich in zinc, iron, boron, selenium, copper, manganese. Berries are also a good source of organic acids (malic, tartaric and oxalic). Sea Buckthorn berries and bark have serotonin that is important for healthy functioning of the nervous system. A real superfood!

The most valued medicinal preparation of Sea Buckthorn is Sea Buckthorn Oil. It is obtained by the method of cold extraction from berries and seeds of the plant. It allows to access the bioactive compounds of the seed. These include vitamin D, saturated fatty acids, sterols, unsaturated fatty acids Omega-3, Omega-6, Omega-9 and rare Omega-7 (palmitooleic acid).

The oil is widely used in dermatology for wound healing due to its antioxidant, anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, analgesic properties and ability to stimulate regenerative processes in the skin (thanks to sterols and Omegas, especially Omega-7). The oil is also used internally for soothing and healing of the mucous membranes. For example, the oil is used in gastroenterology for treatment of peptic ulcer disease. Sea buckthorn oil is also used in treatment of sinusitis, chronic tonsillitis and periodontal disease.

Sea Buckthorn juice (taken as a tea diluted with boiling water) will relieve coughs and colds caused by viral respiratory tract infections. Sea Buckthorn juice and tea cannot be taken by gastritis and peptic ulcer sufferers as it is too sour (whereas the oil is not sour and will not impact the level of the stomach acid).

β-Sitosterol found in Sea Buckthorn berries significantly increases the level of beneficial high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol. It is therefore a great preventative for atherosclerotic disease. A human clinical trial looked at the effects of a combination formula (a Xinnaoixin capsule) of Rhodiola rosea, Lycium chinense berry and fresh Hippophae rhamnoides fruit juice on 30 patients with chronic cerebral circulatory insufficiency, and found significant improvement after 4 weeks of taking the formula.

Leaves of Sea Buckthorn are also used medicinally. Stephen Buhner in his book “Herbal Antivirals” refers to Sea Buckthorn leaf as a specific antiviral for Dengue Fever Virus (a debilitating viral disease of the tropics, transmitted by mosquitoes, that causes fever and sudden joint pain).

An animal study examining adaptogenic properties (alleviating negative effects of stress on the organism) of Sea Buckthorn leaf extract concluded that Sea Buckthorn is a potent adaptogen.

And of course, Sea Buckthorn can be enjoyed as a culinary delight – one can make liquors, jams and punches from the berry, steep them in honey and use them in baking. And then, how could I forget, on a trip to St.Petersburg, a few years ago, every single cafe and restaurant offered this exotic tea flavoured with honey. Orange happiness.


A.M. Zadorozhny, A.G. Koshkin & S.Y. Sokolov. Compendium of Medicinal Plants, Lesnaya promyshlennost, Moscow (1988)

S.H. Buhner. Herbal Antivirals, Storey Publishing, USA (2013)

Zielinska and Nowak, “Abundance of active ingredients in sea-buckthorn oil”, Lipids in Health and Disease. 2017; 16: 95. doi: 10.1186/s12944-017-0469-7

Sayegh et. al, “Potential cardiovascular implications of Sea Buckthorn berry consumption in humans”, International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition. 2014 Aug;65(5):521-8. doi: 10.3109/09637486.2014.880672.

Saggu et. al, “Adaptogenic and safety evaluation of seabuckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides) leaf extract: A dose dependent study”, Food and Chemical Toxicology 45(4):609-617. doi: 10.1016/j.fct.2006.10.008

Photo credits

Pavlofox and Silviarita from Pixabay