SEABUCKTHORN FUTURE FOOD
Seabuckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides L.), a member of the family Elaeganaceae, is a hardy shrub native to Mongolia and Siberia. It is currently recognized as comprising 6 species and 12 subspecies. A new species Hippophae goniocarpa, speculated to be a natural hybrid, was found in Western China in 1995.
Seabuckthorn is a dioecious species which means that the male and female flowers are on separate trees.
Pollination normally occurs by wind.
Seabuckthorn is certainly well named for it is indeed a very thorny shrub which normally grows between two and four meters tall. A temperate plant, it has a high tolerance for arid and wet soil conditions, heat and cold and Ph variations from 5-9. In addition to being a nitrogen fixer seabuckthorn has a strong and extensive root system which can penetrate to 3 meters and propagates by producing suckers from this root system. All these attributes combine to make seabuckthorn an ideal plant for erosion control for which it is used extensively in China where they have upward of 500,000 hectares planted for this purpose. It is interesting to note that seabuckthorn has been employed on the Canadian prairies for many years as a very effective shelterbelt plant and there are currently seabuckthorn plantations in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.
While there is no doubt that seabuckthorn definitely qualifies as a model citizen of the plant kingdom, it is the breadth and depth of its bio-active compounds that has stimulated the increased interest in recent years. As Mark Blumenthal of the American Botanical Council stated:
“If there ever was an herb that could qualify for the next generation of herbal luminaries, I would nominate Seabuckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides).”
This stellar nomination is fully justified, for at recent count, the plant contains over 190 nutritional compounds. Seabuckthorn is indeed a Synergistic Giant.
While the nourishing and healing qualities of seabuckthorn are relatively new to the West, they have been well known in the East for hundreds of years. The earliest mention of seabuckthorn was in the Tibetan medical classic "'rGyud Bzi" in the eight century. Word has it that Genghis Khan fed the leaves and berries to his legendary horses during his dramatic conquest of Asia. In fact a component of seabuckthorn’s botanical
name, Hippophae means “bright shining horse.”
If there is one word that best describes seabuckthorn it is ANTIOXIDANT. The fruit, seed and leaves contain an impressive array of antioxidant compounds. The concentration of vitamin C in the berries reaches
2500mg/100g depending on the species. The berries are also a rich source of vitamin E, carotenoids,flavonoids, sterols including beta sitosterol; stanols,superoxide dismutase (SOD) and polar lipids. The leaves are an equally rich source of important antioxidants including beta carotene, vitamin E, flavonoids,catechins, elagic acid, ferulic acid, folic acid and significant values of calcium, magnesium and potassium.
The dried leaves also provide an important source of protein at 24%.
In addition to its carotenoid and vitamin E content, the oil from the seabuckthorn berry contains on average 35% of the rare and valuable palmitoleic acid (16:1n-7). This rare fatty acid is a component of skin fat and is known to support cell, tissue and wound healing. The seed oil is characterized by its high oleic acid content (17%) and its one to one ratio of omega 3 (alpha linolenic) and omega 6 (linoleic) at approximately 34% and 31% respectively. The relationship of equivalence between the two omegas is critical because they selfcheck each other in a delicate balance to regulate thousands of metabolic functions through prostaglandin pathways. Nearly every biologic function is somehow interconnected with the delicate balance between Omega-6 and Omega-3.
Until recently, most of the research into the medicinal, nutraceutical and cosmeceutical properties of seabuckthorn has originated in China and Russia where studies have been ongoing since the 1950’s.
Preparations from the fruit, seeds, leaves and bark of seabuckthorn have demonstrated great promise in the treatment of the mucous membranes including ulcers and gastro-intestinal disorders as well as vaginal problems. Additional studies have shown that seabuckthorn oils and juice have a positive effect on the cardiovascular system and have a cholesterol lowering activity. Certain compounds in the bark and leaves are anti-carcinogenic and anti-tumoregenic.
The oils are effective in the treatment of burns, bedsores and such skin conditions as dermatitis, eczema, rosacea, acne, psoriasis and the effects of sun damage. The powerful synergies and antioxidant properties of seabuckthorn fruit, leaves and oils support the immune system, eye health, are anti-senescent, reduce cholesterol, support cardiovascular health, muscle nourishment, strengthens cell walls, regulate endocrine function, regulate blood lipids, and have significant anti-inflammatory activity and pain reduction. It is generally accepted in the cosmetic industry that seabuckthorn oils have unique anti-aging properties and stimulate tissue regeneration. There is no doubt that the future holds great promise for seabuckthorn.
This ancient plant with its powerful and healing synergies has much to contribute to this planet and its inhabitants. We can look forward to a continued revelation of seabuckthorn’s many gifts through the increasing interest and research into its abundant and valuable properties.
Susan McLoughlin is the President of Seabuckthorn International Inc. Peachland, BC Canada.
In partnership with her late husband, Ms. McLoughlin pioneered the seabuckthorn industry in Canada. Educated at UBC,she is currently engaged in the manufacture and marketing of nutraceuticals and cosmeceuticals from seabuckthorn.
Rongsen, A. (1992). Seabuckthorn a multi-purpose plant species for fragile mountains. ICIMOD Occasional
Paper No. 20, Khathmandou, Nepal. 62 p.
Li, Thomas S. C. and Beveridge, Thomas H. J. Sea Buckthorn (Hippophae Rhamnoides L.): Production and
Utilization. Ottawa: NRC Research Press. 2003
Quirin, K.W. and D. Gerard (1993). Sea-buckthorn pulp and kernel oils: valuable lipids for skin care.
Unpublished Report, Flavex Natuuextrakte Co. 8 p.
Schroeder, W.R. and Yao, Y. Sea-Buckthorn, A Promising Multi-Purpose Crop For Saskatchewan. Agriculture
Canada, PFRA, 2003
Risto, Erkkola and Baoru, Yang, Sea buckthorn oils: Towards healthy mucous membranes.
AGROFood industry hi-tech May/June 2003
Red berries, future dietary supplement? European Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2003) 57; 37-42
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HILLBERRY UNIQUE HEALTH DRINK FROM SEABUCKTHORN JUICE
Current and Future Food Trends
Eighty percent of Canadians agree that food and eating are an important part of their lives and that nutrition is a prime concern when making food and eating decisions. Most consumers now believe that food can have a potent impact on health. The movement towards better health through improved nutrition has spurred the development of new foods, food supplements, herbal remedies and other enhanced food products. The “natural products” industry, which includes
fresh and organic foods and beverages, dietary supplements and “all natural” personal health care products, grew 25% in 1996 and continues to experience ongoing growth.
Food trend futurists predict that by year 2006, a shift in focus from the health aspects of food to
the entertainment and pleasure associated with food will occur.
Future consumers will want specialized products and services. The consumer will expect a blend of pleasure and medicinal, customized to individual needs. Diversity will still matter, but self-care and the combination of the pleasure and medicinal, is likely to become very important in the future.
Current and future trends for new foods such as seabuckthorn bode well. Seabuckthorn, as a
crop and future food source, has been gaining attention because of its nutritional benefits.
However, because seabuckthorn is native to Asia, its nutritional benefits remain relatively
unknown in North America.
Seabuckthorn has been reported to contain more than 190 compounds in the seeds, pulp, fruit
and juice. These compounds include fat soluble vitamins (A, K, E), 22 fatty acids, 42 lipids,
organic acids, amino acids, carbohydrates, vitamins C, B1, B2, folic acid, tocopherols and
flavanoids, phenols, terpenes and tannins. It also contains 20 mineral elements. Many of the
substances that area found in seabuckthorn are known to have beneficial effects on health.
These will be discussed in the following text.
1. Heart Disease
Heart disease remains one of the leading causes of death in North America. Dietary factors
are known to increase or decrease the risk for heart disease. The most widely recognized
factor is dietary fat. Not all dietary fats increase the risk of heart disease. Monounsaturated
fats may decrease the risk of heart disease by reducing the levels of LDL cholesterol (“bad”
cholesterol). Omega-3 fatty acids are associated with decreased risk of heart disease
because of their action to lower triglycerides. In addition, omega-3 fatty acids (i.e. linolenic
acid) reduce the risk of stroke by reducing blood pressure and altering platelet aggregation,
which reduces the tendency of the blood to clot.
Polyunsaturated fatty acids (i.e. linolenic acid) are beneficial in that they decrease total and
LDL cholesterol and thus decrease the risk of heart disease.
In examining the fatty acid profile of seabuckthorn seed supplied by Canada Seabuckthorn
Enterprises Limited [CSEL] (POS Analytical Services Laboratory Report), it contains nearly
90% unsaturated fat. It is high in both linolenic acid and linoleic acid relative to most other
plant sources. The high level of unsaturated fat makes seabuckthorn seed appropriate for
decreasing the risk of heart disease.
Antioxidants also act to reduce the risk of heart disease by preventing the oxidation of LDL
cholesterol. Oxidation damage of the fat results in atherosclerotic lesions in blood vessels
and the progression of heart disease. It has been well established in the scientific literature
that heart attack risk is reduced by the antioxidant vitamins A, C and E, with Vitamin E being
most protective against heart disease. Beta-carotene and antioxidant phytochemicals are
also believed to be protective.
Seabuckthorn contains vitamins A, C and E, with the pulp and fruit being especially high in
vitamin C (700-800mg/100g). Antioxidant phytochemicals in seabuckthorn include terpenes
(carotenoids), phenols (flavonoids) and organic acids. These would be expected to also
reduce the risk of heart disease. Yang Cunshe (Hippophae, 1995, vol.8, No. 1, pp 33-35)
presents a clinical study which seems to support the beneficial effects of seabuckthorn in
decreasing total cholesterol and triglycerides and by increasing HDL. Additional clinical
studies would be helpful in providing conclusive evidence for the role of seabuckthorn in
reducing heart disease, however, preliminary results are promising.
Rivaling heart disease, cancer is also a leading cause of death, with 70% of all cancer
attributed to diet. Dozens of scientific studies have validated key nutrients which are
protective against cancer. Antioxidants such as vitamins A, C and E, phytochemicals such as
carotenoids, flavonoids, and many other plant constituents play a role in cancer prevention.
Seabuckthorn is a source of many of these important nutrients for cancer prevention, Xu
Mingyu, in Hippophae, Vol. 7, No. 4, pp41-43, refers to the rich nutrient ingredients and
biologically active compounds which could have anti-cancer properties. Well-designed clinical
studies with seabuckthorn are needed to validate its effects on cancer.
3. Immune System
As previously noted, seabuckthorn contains an appreciable amount of the omega-3 fatty acid,
linolenic acid. According to the POS Analytical Laboratory values, the level of linolenic acid is
32.3% and that of linoleic acid, 40.8%. The ratio of omega-6 fatty acid to omega-3 fatty
acid is thus roughly 1:1. Flaxseed, recognized as being the richest plant source of omega-3
fatty acid, has a ratio of 0.3:1. The typical North American and Western diets have dietary
omega-6 to omega-3 ratios in the range of 10:1 to 25:1. This is far different from Paleolithic
diets in which omega-3 fatty acids predominated. Health Canada recommends a ratio of 4:1
to 10:1, reinforcing the need to increase dietary omega-3 fatty acids relative to omega-6.
Recent research has shown that linolenic acid influences the immune system through its
effects on membrane phospholipids, and the production eicosanoids and cytokines. Because
of its effects on immunity, it is proposed that linolenic acid may have a useful role in treating
disorders in which the immune response is hyper-stimulated (i.e. rheumatoid arthritis,
psoriasis, multiple sclerosis and systemic lupus.) Seabuckthorn, because of its high levels of
omega-3 fatty acid, could become a major player in the efforts to increase levels of dietary
omega-3 fatty acid. This is especially true considering that another rich source of omega-3
fatty acids is fish, a natural resource that is rapidly becoming depleted.
Vitamin C has been shown to improve immune status in humans. In the elderly, the
optimum level of vitamin C was determined to be close to 100 mg per day, a value in excess
of the government’s Recommended Nutrient Intake (RNI). Seabuckthorn contains from 300
to 1600 mg of vitamin C per 100 grams. In addition, seabuckthorn contains vitamins E and
A, which are also important for a healthy immune system. Evidence continues to mount
supporting the increased need of these nutrients for all age groups and especially in the
elderly, to preserve or enhance immune function.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids — Other Considerations
The previous text has outlined the importance of omega-3 fatty acids in reducing the risk of
heart disease and stroke and its role in immune function. During pregnancy and lactation,
Health Canada recommends that women increase their omega-3 fatty acid intake. DHA,
which is an omega-3 fatty acid, is incorporated into the brain lipids and retina during the last
trimester of pregnancy and in the first year of life. DHA is mainly found in fish oils, but can
be made in the body from dietary linolenic acid, its omega-3 precursor.
It is interesting to note that in the body, linoleic acid (omega-6) interferes with the
conversion of linolenic acid to its omega-3 relatives, DHA and EPA. The omega-6 fatty acids
constitute a far greater proportion in the typical North American diet than the omega-3s.
Therefore, nutrition experts area recommending that individuals increase their consumption
of omega-3 fatty acids to omega-6.
Human breast milk contains significant amounts of linolenic acid. Prior to the 1990’s, most
infant formulas contained low levels of this omega-3. Recognizing the need for this fatty
acid, infant formula companies began adding linolenic acid to their formulas. The main
source of this fatty acid is soybean oil. Consideration is also being given towards the addition
of DHA. It is unclear as to whether dietary linolenic acid alone is sufficient to meet the
essential fatty acid needs of infants. However, it is definitely known that dietary omega-3
fatty acids are critical for the development of the nervous system and vision in infants,
especially pre-term infants.
Seabuckthorn as a Dietary Constituent
Because seabuckthorn is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin C, vitamin E, trace minerals,
and other phytochemicals, it can certainly contribute nutritionally to our diets. Given the
trend towards viewing food as a potent influence on health and “food therapy”, product from
Canada Seabuckthorn Enterprises Limited could be successfully introduced into the
marketplace in a variety of ways. Seabuckthorn could be incorporated into energy bars
(snack or meal replacement), baked goods, snack crackers, cereals, yogurt, carbonated and
non-carbonated health beverages, teas, gourmet sauces and jams or dried snacks. Market
analysis, consumer trends and creativity would all assist in product selection and
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