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Wednesday, October 5, 2011

SEA BUCKTHORN - ENJOYED BY PEGASUS : HEALTH BENEFITS AND USES OF SEA BUCKTHORN


SEA BUCKTHORN, HIPPOPHAE RHAMNOIDES
As its name suggests sea buckthorn likes to live in coastal regions and is native to Europe, including the British Isles, and Asia through to the Himalayas and Japan. It has been used in traditional Tibetan and Chinese medicine for centuries, although the Chinese variety is not this one.
  In Greek legends it is said that the winged horse Pegasus liked to feed on sea buckthorn berries and these gave him power to fly. Ancient Greeks fed their racehorses on sea buckthorn berries to keep their coats sleek and the horses healthy. The botanical name for sea buckthorn means “shiny horse” and it is thought that this might refer to the underside of the leaves of the sea buckthorn tree.
  These trees can grow to heights of 20 feet and have spreads of up to 8 feet (2.5 metres) and are found on sand dunes and cliffs in Britain. They are members of the Elaeagnaceae family and are not related to the buckthorn. The orange berries of this tree are very astringent, but taste much better when they have been bletted (when they have been subject to frost). The branches and leaves contain different bio-active substances and oil to those of the berries, and this is curious, and currently the subject of research. There is a new Omega-7 fatty acid which has been found in the sea buckthorn. The berries are a very rich source of vitamins A and C and also contain vitamins E, some of the B-complex ones vitamin K and P. Their flavonoids are also the subject of research, as for minerals they contain boron, silica, phosphorous manganese, iron and calcium, among others.
  The berries therefore have antioxidant properties and are good for the vision (as are bilberries and blueberries) and are said to help with male problems such as premature ejaculation and impotence. They may also protect the liver, and lower blood cholesterol levels, as well as having anti-inflammatory properties.
 The twigs and leaves are used in decoctions for the skin and the berries are said to protect the skin from ageing - so you can make a face mask from the pulverized berries and leave it on for 20 minutes before rinsing off with tepid water. The oil obtained from the berries can be applied directly to the skin for any irritation or problems such as sores or eczema, and to the gums for oral health problems.
  Their medicinal value was known to Dioscorides writing in the first century AD as well as to Theophrastus, writing several centuries earlier. The berries were made into decoctions or infusions and used externally for skin problems and internally they were used for digestion problems. They have a bitter taste but can be juiced and added to sweeter fruit juices, such as orange or peach juice, or perhaps grape or strawberry juice. They can be made into compotes or conserves, pies, jams and jellies, and are tasty when combined with blackberries and apples.
  The berries were used for the foods of Russian cosmonauts to prevent “cosmic radiation” sickness. The Chinese athletes in the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008 used sea buckthorn berries in their team’s energy drink. The berries are used in cosmetics, in creams and toothpastes, and would very likely make good moisturizers.
  Sea buckthorn is also a soil nitrogen fixer and can help prevent soil erosion. It can be introduced as a pioneer species to devastated woodland area and is useful for its wood and charcoal as well as its hard, durable wood which can be used in carpentry and turning.
  Research is still ongoing into the properties of this plant, but hopefully in the near future it will be of immense benefit to us.

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