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Exotic Superfruits - Sea Buckthorn Cornucopia (Page 2)

Page 1

Phenolics. Seaberry's water-soluble pigments associated with antioxidant effects are phenolic acids including proanthocyanidins, anthocyanins, resveratrol, catechin, myricetin, quercetin, p-coumaric acid, caffeic acid, gallic acid and ellagitannins isolated in variable amounts from different cultivars (2,4,14). Flavonoids -- isorhamnetin, isorhamnetin-3-rutinoside, narcissin, rutin, kaempferol, isoquercetin and quercetin with individual contents up to 116 mg per 100 g of dried berries – have been isolated (4, A. Wähling, unpublished). Incomplete as a total number of phenolic species, 36 individual seaberry phenolics are known to date (2), but a value for total phenolics has not been published, making quantitative comparison difficult with other phenolic-rich antioxidant plant foods (Table 1).

Phytosterols inhibit uptake of dietary cholesterol and so may reduce overall blood levels of cholesterol, a well-established risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Seaberry seeds contain high levels of total sterols (120-180 mg per 100 g) and pulp contains particularly high content of beta-sitosterol, about 20 mg per 100 g (2,7,9). Among four different sterols isolated from seeds or pulp, beta-sitosterol was 60-80% of the total (2).

Lignans. Two lignans, secoisolariciresinol and matairesinol, contributing phytoestrogen and antioxidant value were recently discovered in dried seaberries and their seeds (total 224 microg per 100 g) (10). Harvesting dates and berry maturity significantly influenced both seed and pulp content of the two lignans.

Juice. Pressing or sieving seaberries yields 73-87% by weight of juice high in organic acids with a low liquid pH near 2.7 (2,4,11). Accordingly, raw seaberry juice is highly astringent and unpalatable. In addition to major content of L-ascorbic acid (vitamin C), malic and quinic acids total 3-5 g per 100 ml (2,4,11). Across different authors and juice preparations, brix levels range from 7-13% (2). Protein content is high for a fruit juice (2,11), probably accounting for its typical cloudy opalescence.

Oils. Seaberry fruit has two subcompartments containing oils -- the seeds having 10-15% by weight in oils and pulp compartments containing from 1% to 9% oils of total pulp weight, depending on subspecies, berry maturation and method of separation (2). Both pulp and seed oil contents of vitamin E or total carotenoids vary upon subspecies and particular berry segment studied, with carotenoid enrichment evident from the orange-yellow pulp oil (2,4,11).

Having light absorption and emollient properties, the golden seed oil is mainly unsaturated, showing promise for commercial development of skin care cosmetics, topical drugs, or sun exposure products. It may be prepared by conventional centrifugation and extraction techniques or by supercritical carbon dioxide extraction (2-5).

The seed oils have up to 75% linoleic (omega-6; C18:2n-6) and alpha-linolenic (omega-3; C18:3n-3) fatty acids (2) in amounts exceeding the respective contents in flaxseeds (Table 2). Unique among plant foods is a) the 1:1 ratio of omega-3 (alpha-linolenic) and omega-6 (linoleic) fatty acids in seeds, b) significant percentages of omega-9 (oleic) fat in both pulp and seeds, and c) presence together of these valued healthy fats in one edible plant source.

Pulp oil is predominantly saturated fat with about 38% as palmitic (C16:0) fatty acid and up to 50% as monounsaturated palmitoleic (C16:1, omega-7) fatty acid. Some authors have speculated about the value to the plant of having pulp compartments containing saturated fat. It is possible these parenchymal compartments retain high vitamin E and carotenoid levels as a protectant antioxidant sphere surrounding seeds.

Perhaps due to such unusual nutrient content, especially vitamin E and omega-3, -6 and -7 fatty acids, the seed oils have been well-studied to date in Finnish, Chinese and Russian medical research addressing several disease models listed below. With such extensive research interest, seaberry seed oils represent a promising resource for developing consumer products.

  • platelet aggregation
  • gastric ulcers
  • hearing loss
  • inflammatory skin disease
  • skin wounds
  • vascular disease
  • eye disorders
  • cancer
  • bacterial infections
  • metabolic disorders
  • stroke
  • oxidative stress

Table 2. Pulp and Seed Oil Fats: Seaberry vs. Flax Seeds

Whole Dried Seaberries

Fresh Seaberry Pulp

Seaberry Seeds

Flax Seeds

Unsaturated Fats

Alpha-linolenic acid






Linoleic acid






Oleic acid






Palmitoleic acid






Saturated Fats

Palmitic acid






Stearic acid






% of total. References for seaberry: 2,6,9; flaxseeds:

Table summary. As pulp and dried berries contain oily compartments rich in palmitic acid, there is significant saturated fat content in whole seaberries. Nevertheless, whole berries are good sources also of palmitoleic acid (monounsaturated omega-7, C16:1) and the polyunsaturated omega fats, alpha-linolenic (omega-3, C18:3), linoleic (omega-6, C18:2) and oleic (omega-9, C18:1). Seeds, however, a valuable commodity for product development, are highly unsaturated, containing at least 75% polyunsaturated fats and less than 20% saturated fats. In comparison to flax seeds, the total amount of polyunsaturated fats in seaberry seeds is double (76% vs. 37%).

Leaves and teas. Seaberry leaves contain ample nutrients and bioactive substances. Interestingly, among individual plant components – skin, pulp, seeds, bark and leaves – the richest content of many micronutrients and phenolics resides within leaves, making seaberry leaves an abundant resource for extractions and potentially healthy consumer products like tea.

Fourteen different phenolic chemicals and 11 tannins were isolated from seaberry leaves (2), including quercetin, gallic acid, catechins, astralagin, rutin, kaempferol and isorhamnetin, each of which is associated with emerging research evidence for anti-disease effects. Other leaf phytochemicals include vitamins (particularly C and E), various dietary minerals, carotenoids and sterols (2). Such a list indicates that seaberry leaves provide substantial nutrition exploitable for consumer products.

Farming applications. The millions of seaberry hectares growing in China and Russia offer commercial potential for management and harvesting for development of consumer products. One potentially large market for seaberries are animal nutraceuticals. The substantial volume of nutritious residues from product processing, such as leaves, damaged fruit, pulp, and seed pomaces, could be developed into high-nutrient, value-added products for farmstock and pet nutrition. Seaberry leaves contain approximately 15% protein, and berry and seed pomaces retain valuable phytochemicals high in concentrations possibly useful for human and animal products.

Discussed by Li and Beveridge of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (2), the vitamin C and antioxidant-rich seaberry juice may also be an effective organic protectant for spraying vulnerable tree and shrub fruits like apples, peaches, cherries, grapes and other berry crops. Preliminary results showed that seaberry juice effectively inhibited common fruit diseases such as powdery mildew, brown rot and bacterial fire blight (2).

Research Progress and Current Literature

In folk and traditional medicine, seaberry has extensive applications (2-4), but these have not been confirmed by medical science to date. They include treatments for various cancers (15), skin care, digestion, pain relief, gastric ulcers, cardiovascular disorders, hepatitis, respiratory infections, laxatives, among others (2,16).

Searching “sea buckthorn” or “Hippophae” on PubMed ( yields 179 reports since 1951 with 54 papers published during 2006-7 (searched in December 2007). Nearly all the research was done in China, Finland, Russia, Germany or India.

Within the past year, topics in medical research using preliminary animal models or in vitro preparations to demonstrate seaberry characteristics included:

  • anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial effects
  • isolation of phenolics, specifically of the most common seaberry phenolic -- isorhamnetin -- or the carotenoid, zeaxanthin
  • cancer and cardiovascular disease models
  • treatment of burns and skin wounds using seed oil
  • antioxidant properties

In a recent clinical trial investigating seaberry supplementation for treating common viral and bacterial infections, there was no significant clinical effect shown (17). The treatment did lower blood levels of C-reactive protein, a systemic marker of inflammation, and so may indicate further studies for a mechanism.

Overall, represented by an active, diverse research field discussed at a 2007 international meeting (16), seaberry offers plentiful opportunity for crop exploitation in temperate world regions, phytonutrient extractions and consumer product development.


Sincere thanks to Dr. Tom Li of the Pacific Agri-Food Research Center, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Summerland, BC for sharing reference 2 and to Axel Wähling of Nahrungs-Ingenieurtechnik GmbH, Magdeburg, Germany for pictures, discussion and editing.

Russian seaberries

Author Profile

Paul M. Gross, PhD received his doctorate in physiology from the University of Glasgow, Scotland and was trained in neuroscience at the Laboratory of Cerebral Metabolism, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD. A Research Scholar for the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario, he published 85 peer-reviewed journal reports and book chapters over a 25 year career in medical science, and was recipient of the Karger Memorial Award, Switzerland, for publications on brain capillaries. Dr. Gross is publisher of The Berry Doctor's Journal, where readers can obtain free information on berry science and nutrition. He is coauthor of a book on the goji berry with X. Zhang and R. Zhang, Wolfberry: Nature's Bounty of Nutrition and Health, 2006, Booksurge Publishing (

Selected references

1. Seaberry, Hippophae rhamnoides L., United States Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service,

2. Li TSC, Beveridge THJ. Sea buckthorn: a new medicinal and nutritional botanical. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Publication No. 10320E, Ottawa, 2007.

3. Li TSC, Beveridge THJ. Sea buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides L.): production and utilization. National Research Council of Canada, Research Press No. 46317, ISBN 13-9780660190075

4. Dharmananda S. Sea buckthorn. Institute of Traditional Medicine Online, 2004,

5. Zeb A. Important therapeutic uses of sea buckthorn (Hippophae): a review. J Biol Sci 4:687-693, 2004.

6. Yang B, Kallio HP. Fatty acid composition of lipids in sea buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides L.) berries of different origins. J Agric Food Chem. 2001 Apr;49(4):1939-47.

7. Yang B, Karlsson RM, Oksman PH, Kallio HP. Phytosterols in sea buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides L.) berries: identification and effects of different origins and harvesting times. J Agric Food Chem. 2001 Nov;49(11):5620-9.

8. Tiitinen KM, Hakala MA, Kallio HP. Quality components of sea buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides) varieties. J Agric Food Chem. 2005 Mar 9;53(5):1692-9.

9. Cenkowski S, Yakimishen R, Przybylski R, Muir WE. Quality of extracted sea buckthorn seed and pulp oil, Can Biosystems Engin 48:3.9-3.16, 2006.

10. Yang B, Linko AM, Adlercreutz H, Kallio H. Secoisolariciresinol and matairesinol of sea buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides L.) berries of different subspecies and harvesting times. J Agric Food Chem. 2006 Oct 18;54(21):8065-70.

11. Zeb A. Chemical and nutritional constituents of sea buckthorn juice. Pak J Nutr 3:99-106, 2004.

12. Kallio H, Yang B, Peippo P, Tahvonen R, Pan R. Triacylglycerols, glycerophospholipids, tocopherols, and tocotrienols in berries and seeds of two subspecies (ssp. sinensis and mongolica) of Sea Buckthorn (Hippophaë rhamnoides). J Agric Food Chem. 2002 May 8;50(10):3004-9.

13. Singh V, Gupta RK, Sawhney RC, Arumughan C. Tocopherols and carotenoids in fruit pulp oil of seabuckthorn growing in dry temperate Himalayas, In: Proceedings of the 2nd Conference of the International Seabuckthorn Association, Beijing, China, August, 2005.

14. Gorbatsova J, Lõugas T, Vokk R, Kaljurand M. Comparison of the contents of various antioxidants of sea buckthorn berries using CE. Electrophoresis. 2007 Nov;28(22):4136-4142.

15. Zeb A. Anti-carcinogenic potential of lipids from Hippophae: evidence from the recent literature, Asian Pacific J Cancer Prev 7:32-5, 2006

16. List of presentations, 3rd Conference of the International Seabuckthorn Association, Quebec City, August 2007,

17. Larmo P, Alin J, Salminen E, Kallio H, Tahvonen R. Effects of sea buckthorn berries on infections and inflammation: a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial, Eur J Clin Nutr. 2007 Jun 27 (ahead of print).

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