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Well and Good: New Super-berries – Sea Buckthorn

Have you heard about the sea buckthorn berry? An ancient home remedy in other parts of the world, this super-berry is just now getting noticed in the United States, most notably when TV’s Dr. Mehmet Oz praised this natural substance on his show in early June.

You don’t usually eat these berries – they’re said to taste rather bitter unless mixed with other, sweeter fruits. But they are harvested and used to make products, including dietary supplements and skin cleansers and creams, that can offer great benefits to the body and skin.

Sea buckthorn is rich in Omega-7, a mono saturated fatty acid that is present in all tissues, but generally found in higher concentrations in the liver. Omega-7 is one of the essential fatty acids, like the more-famous omega-3s. The berries also contain vitamins C and E, beta carotene, lycopene, zeanthine, quercetin, potassium, calcium and other polyphenols.

Taken together, these nutrients all help with skin and tissue hydration, which help enhance the skin’s elasticity. Sea buckthorn berries also have antioxidant, anti-aging, anti-inflammatory, and anti-microbial properties, and have been used as a natural acne fighter. And they can aid in improved function of the gastro intestinal, urinary, and cardiovascular systems; for instance, they are said to soothe the digestive tract.

With all that going for it, why haven’t we heard of sea buckthorn years ago? Probably because they are not native to the Americas. The sea buckthorn berry comes from a spiny shrub or tree that grows in Asia, especially China, and parts of Europe. It has been used by the Chinese for nearly 3,000 years, and has been used in the Indian system of Ayurveda for at least 2,000 years. More recently, the people of the Himalayas have blended Ayurvedic, Chinese, Arabic and Tibetan modalities to develop their own uses of the sea buckthorn plant.

Now, the Sibu company has committed itself to bringing the sea buckthorn to the U.S. from the Himalayas. The berries are picked by hand early in the morning before the sun can rob the berries of their nutritive properties. The harvest season lasts only 6-8 weeks. But, because Sibu follows fair trade practices, those two months of employment provide enough income to sustain the local families throughout the entire winter.

The berries are pureed the same morning they are picked, then delivered to Sibu’s processing facility at the bottom of the mountains where they are promptly frozen and sent to the U.S. Here, the pureed fruit is used to make several products, including dietary supplements now sold at FRESH.