High in the Himalayan desert regions of India and Tibet, sea buckthorn, a thorny shrub dense with bright and bitter orange berries, grows wild like a weed. Scrappy and hard to harvest, sea buckthorn is the new “it” plant, the latest superfruit and age-defying elixir that also happens to come from the land of Shangri-La.
Under the radar until recently, the oil extracted from the luscious little berry is not only found in supplements, it’s cropping up in soaps and shampoos, moisturizers, serums, face and body oils, too. “Sea buckthorn helps with dryness, aging, and sun damage,” says Kristine Kehely, co-founder of Vapour Organic Beauty, whose new face oil, Vapour Essence Restorative Night Treatment, is a tell-tale orange color. “It’s kind of a miracle plant.”
The botanical name is Hippophae rhamnoides, which means “shining horses” in Greek. The ancient Greeks found that feeding sea buckthorn to their horses made the horses’ coats glossy. Through the centuries, Tibetan healers have used it to soothe inflammation and also noticed the remarkable effects on skin and hair—so remarkable that sea buckthorn is considered a holy fruit in the Himalayas. (Sibu, a leading sea buckthorn supplement and skincare brand, has a free-trade agreement with the Tibetan government, along with the Dalai Lama’s blessings.)
Almost 90 percent of the world’s sea buckthorn forests are found in Tibet, where the high altitude, dry heat, severe cold, and hardscrabble soil combine to produce a fruit rich in antioxidant vitamins A, C, and E; fatty acids, flavonoids, and carotenes; and skin-fortifying minerals such as selenium, zinc, copper, and sulfur.
Sea buckthorn is considered a miracle fruit because it yields the highest natural concentrations of omega 7s available and is rich in omega 3s and 6s, essential fatty acids that the body cannot produce on its own. Omega 3s and 6s, which improve circulation and decrease inflammation, protect against sun damage, improve eczema and psoriasis, encourage collagen and elastin production and new cell growth, must be obtained through a diet rich in seeds, nuts, green leafy vegetables, salmon, raw cold-pressed vegetable oils—or supplements. Unlike omegas 3 and 6, omega 7 (palmitoleic acid), the new omega on the block, is not an essential fatty acid and therefore our bodies do synthesize it, says Sibu Beauty president Peter McMullin. “However, because of our modern-day diets we don’t get enough of the components to make omega 7 naturally,” he says. “Additionally, with aging, the production of omega 7 begins to decrease and the need for it in our bodies increases.”
Clinical studies have shown that omega 7, taken internally and applied topically, is an elixir for the skin: It soothes eczema and helps clear up acne; stimulates collagen, keeps skin firm, aids in elasticity; strengthens hair and nails; and promotes tissue regeneration. It also benefits cardiovascular, liver, and brain function and improves the metabolism. (The Mayo Clinic is studying how sea buckthorn reacts on fatty acid metabolism.) The oil moistens and strengthens the lining of the intestines and has been shown to coat the gastrointestinal system to prevent and heal ulcers. Dr. Mehmet Oz touts the benefits of 500 mg sea buckthorn soft gels as a daily supplement to relieve constipation and maintain healthy bowels.
Raw sea buckthorn juice will soon be on the menu in Dr. Andrew Weil’s True Food kitchens, which feature dishes in sync with Weill’s anti-inflammatory diet. Sea buckthorn tea is on the way. Even sea-buckthorn infused chocolate is hitting the shelves. If that isn’t “it” status, what is?
Where can you find it?
Sibu Beauty Sea Buckthorn Age Defying Eye Cream $24.95/.5 ounces, sibubeauty.com
Firms and plumps the delicate undereye area with nourishing pumpkin seed and sea buckthorn oil. The entire Sibu line of skincare, supplements, and food—including chocolates—is built on sea buckthorn.
Naked Organix Sea Buckthorn Body Butter $14.95 /4 ounces, organixsouth.com
Wild-crafted sea buckthorn, coconut oil, shea butter and cocoa seed butter moisturize and nourish skin.
Vapour Organic Beauty Essence Restorative Night Treatment $90/.94 ounces, vapourbeauty.com
A neatly absorbent skin-plumping face oil formulated with sea buckthorn oil, along with pomegranate, camellia and evening primrose.
Hollybeth’s Natural Luxury Rose Geranium Face Moisturizer $35/2 ounces, hollybeth.net
Rich in sweet almond, rosehip and geranium oils, along with sea buckthorn. USDA certified organic and gentle enough for super-sensitive skin.