SeaBuckthorn : Nature’s Anti-oxidant
In recent years people have discovered the many potential benefits of antioxidants in the diet, and the pharmaceutical industry has raced to synthesize more and more powerful varieties of them. But in chasing new discoveries we have forgotten a time-honored natural source of antioxidants: Seabuckthorn
Seabuckthorn , a hardy plant which grows in dry soil, which had very healthful and even miraculous herbal properties. It sounded rather exotic, but it seemed to thrive. It certainly lived up to its name – it had thorns enough to deter even the most thick-skinned buck. They looked pretty on the bush, oval-shaped and a bright orange colour. They didn’t have much flavour, and they weren’t even particularly sweet.
It seems that it was already known in Ancient Greek times. It is also called “Sallow Thorn”, presumably from the berries which can stain the skin yellow (they have been used to make pigments and dyes). Seabuckthorn’s Latin name is Hippophae rhamnoides L., translated to mean “giving light to a horse” (hippos – horse, phaos – light); refer- , to its reputed power of curing blindness in horses (- well, who am I to argue). It is native to Europe and some northern regions of Asia, but is cultivated elsewhere too.
What is the secret?
Seabuckthorn berries have a unique composition, combining a cocktail of components usually only found separately. The content of vitamin C, vitamin E and carotenoids reads like the label on a pack of multi-vitamin pills. The vitamin C content is among the highest for any plant (4th after rose-hips, hot chili pepper and sweet red pepper), while for vitamin E it takes 2- nd place around the other “champions” are all nuts and seeds with a high fat content. Seabuckthorn berries also have a high content of b-carotene (see Tables 1 and 2). The beta-carotene content is what gives the berries their colour, which can vary from yellow to red depending on the variety. All of these components are classified as natural anti-oxidants, which form a vital part of the body’s defense system.
Despite the wide area where Seabuckthorn grows, few people in Europe or America make use of its medicinal properties. But in some countries like Tibet, China, Russia and Ukraine, Seabuckthorn oil is a popular home-made ointment for minor cuts, sunburn, and skin irritation; and its curative properties have been confirmed by scientific research. If you are able to harvest some Seabuckthorn berries, you can try preparing the oil yourself.
Why do we need anti-oxidants?
Smoking, drinking alcohol, exposure to environmental pollutants, and also exposure to ultraviolet light or nuclear radiation can all trigger the production of “free radicals” on the skin’s surface, or inside the body. Free radicals are very simple compounds of oxygen, in which the innocent molecule has acquired an extra electron. Free radicals are very reactive particles and they aggressively attack all the surrounding molecules within the cell. The attacked molecules are oxidized, becoming structurally damaged and even making them toxic for the body. Vitamins with antioxidant properties form a natural line of defense against free radicals; they “catch” free radicals and neutralize them. These anti-oxidant vitamins, all present in Seabuckthorn oil, are vitamin A (derived from -carotene), vitamin C (ascorbic acid) and vitamin E (-tocopherol).