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What Are the Medical Uses of Sea-Buckthorn?

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  • Written By: Canaan Downs
  • Edited By: Kaci Lane Hindman
  • Last Modified Date: 01 November 2016
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Sometimes known as seaberry or sandthorn, sea-buckthorn is a folk medicine that has been rediscovered and popularized as a treatment for a wide variety of ailments. In addition to its popularity as an anti-inflammatory, the fruit of the plant has also been used as a digestive aid, a treatment for coughs, a pain reliever, a treatment for minor bleeding, and a circulatory stimulant. Although not considered to be effective on its own, sea-buckthorn is often added to Chinese, Tibetan and Ayurvedic medical formulations for the treatment of gastrointestinal, heart, lung, metabolic and blood disorders to enhance their efficacy. Research by Western scientists have suggested that the plant may possess some minor activity against dengue virus and some types of cancer cells.

The medicinal properties of the bark and leaves are somewhat different from those of the fruit and cold-pressed oil. Due to the high concentration of tannins, these parts are powerfully astringent. This astringency has led to the use of these parts almost exclusively in the treatment of diarrhea and some skin diseases.

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Studies into the medical uses of sea-buckthorn have strayed somewhat from its uses in folk medicine. There have been positive findings in the use of the fruit to treat gastric ulcers, possibly through the regulation of gastric acid secretion and the inhibition of inflammatory chemicals in the body. Another study found that extracts of sea-buckthorn assisted in the normalization of serum bile acids, liver enzymes and immune system markers associated with liver inflammation in patients with cirrhotic livers. Further research into the possible beneficial uses for the plant is likely, as sea-buckthorn could serve as a sustainable new non-timber forest resource in the underdeveloped regions of China where it is commonly found.

The fruit of the sea-buckthorn is also astringent enough to be unpalatable. To render the berries edible, they may be either mixed with a sweeter fruit puree or subjected to bletting or freeze treatment to reduce the concentration of astringent chemicals. Commercial sea-buckthorn products are usually sold as liquids, either as an oil or as a juice, which facilitates easy dilution. These products are usually sold as dietary supplements on the basis of their high levels of vitamin C as well as polyunsaturated fats, amino acids, trace minerals, antioxidant polyphenols and beta sitosterol. A number of the polyphenols present in sea-buckthorn have been investigated heavily in other plants for their antioxidant, cancer-preventing, and anti-inflammatory properties.

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