Update 8/7/20. Does Sea Buckthorn help weight loss? Could it be? At one time, this stuff rocketed to weight loss stardom after being featured on the Dr. Oz Show. I remember it like it was yesterday, with Dr. Oz showing the picture of the fat and skinny mice, telling us how sea buckthorn helped the skinny mouse stay skinny. But, that's a mouse. What about people? It's been some time since I reviewed this stuff and I thought it was worth a fresh look. So, can sea buckthorn help people lose weight – or do anything else? Let's look at the evidence and see if its right for you.
1 What Is Sea Buckthorn?
It's a plant that grows in various regions from China and Pakistan to Canada. Its scientific name is Hippophae rhamnoides. The fruit of the plant is rich in different vitamins and minerals and plant nutrients such as vitamin C, beta carotene, calcium, amino acids, flavonoids, and vitamin A.
2 Sea Buckthorn Benefits
The berries of the plant are said to provide the following benefits
- Help people lose weight
- Prevent colds
- Help ulcers
- Help heart disease
- Help diabetes
- Help rejuvenate aging skin
- Help ease stress
- Help ulcers
- Help hair growth
Much of these benefits may be attributed to its fatty acids, especially omega, 3, 6, and omega 7 fatty acids. This sea vegetable has more omega 7 fatty acids than any other plant.
3 Types of Buckthorn
There are 4 main types of sea buckthorn. The types are:
- Sea Buckthorn (also called Hippophae rhamnoides). Some people write it as “C. Buckthorn”
- Alder Buckthorn (also called Frangula alnus or Rhamnus frangula)
- Buckthorn (also called Cascara or Frangula purshiana or Rhamnus purshiana)
- European Buckthorn (also called Rhamnus cathartica)
Alder Buckthorn, Cascara, and European Buckthorn are typically used as laxatives. Sea buckthorn is rich in vitamin C, omega 3,7 and 7 fatty acids and phytonutrients. As such, it is also an antioxidant food. This is why it may be found in some cosmetics.
4 Sea Buckthorn And Weight Loss
So, what's the proof this stuff helps people lose weight? When it was featured on the Dr. Oz show (back in 2011), viewers were shown 2 mice – fat and skinny – and the differences were dramatic. In spite of eating the same food as the overweight mice, the mouse which also ate sea buckthorn was MUCH thinner.
In this video, Dr. Oz shows the difference in how much the mice weighed and other benefits
Weight Loss Research
The mouse study they were referring to may have been this one.
Basically, mice were fed a high-fat diet for 4 weeks. Then the mice were given a combination of sea buckthorn and a statin drug while eating the same diet. Twelve weeks later, the mice getting sea buckthorn weighed less than the mice which did not get it. As an added bonus, the fruit also lowers cholesterol levels AND helped their insulin worked better too.
Researchers in Finland tested this supplement in 110 overweight women for 3 months. The women were given diets that contained either Bilberries, Sea Buckthorn berries, Buckthorn extract, or the oil from the fruit. Researchers noted women getting the fruit had a significant reduction in waist circumference (about a half-inch difference). A small amount of weight was lost too (less than 1 pound).
This appears the only research on weight loss.
Now, let's look at some of the other reasons why someone might be interested in this supplement.
5 Sea Buckthorn and Colds/Flu
The berries of sea buckthorn contain vitamin C, bioflavonoids, and other plant nutrients which might help reduce the severity of colds and flu. Researchers in Finland tested this idea with an experiment involving 233 people who received either sea buckthorn on a placebo. There was no difference in the rates of colds of urinary tract infections in those taking sea buckthorn. To be fair, there are not many cold/flu studies out there. So, it's hard to know for sure if it works or not.
6 Sea Buckthorn And Ulcers
Most of the research on ulcers involves mice, rats, and horses. As such, it's anyone's guess if this food helps ulcers or not.
7 Sea Buckthorn And Heart Disease
Evidence suggests the berries of the plant can reduce cholesterol and LDL (bad) cholesterol. In another study, the berries were shown to reduce CRP levels. CRP is marker of cell inflammation and thought to be invited in heart disease.
When researchers gave 12 men either 5 grams of sea buckthorn berry oil to coconut oil for 4 weeks, they observed the berry oil reduced blood clotting. In other words, the berry oil had a blood-thinning effect.
By lowering cholesterol and LDL levels, and helping blood flow, in theory, sea buckthorn might have heart health benefits. But, due to the small number of studies, it's difficult to know for sure.
Heart disease Research Summary
Research has noted sea buckthorn appears to:
- lower cholesterol and bad cholesterol
- lower CRP levels
- have a blood-thinning effects
All of these effects may translate into a lower heart attack risk. But it will take better studies to know for sure. Research finds people who eat more fruits and vegetables, have fewer heart attacks, strokes, and other health problems.
8 Sea Buckthorn And Diabetes
Researchers in Romania noted the berries decreased glycosolated hemoglobin in 30 kids with type I diabetes after 2 months of use. This may mean the berries reduce A1C levels. Levels of SOD – a powerful antioxidant enzyme – were also improved. The study only lasted 2 months. Generally, I'd like to see at least 3 or 4 months before checking for A1C reductions. A mouse study has also noted better insulin but human studies have not yet demonstrated this effect.
9 Sea Buckthorn And Skin
This supplement finds its way into some cosmetics. While the berries are rich in vitamin C, there may be other reasons too. A mouse study noted the fruit increased levels of a powerful antioxidant called SOD (superoxide dismutase) and prevented aging skin in mice exposed to UV radiation.
Researchers in San Diego noted that a 90-day treatment of a sea buckthorn supplement used alongside a drug called TAZ, improved wrinkles. This was a small study of only 10 women.
The supplement used this investigation was called GliSODin Skin Nutrients Advanced Anti-Aging Formula.B
10 Sea Buckthorn And Stress
No research appears to have investigated if sea buckthorn berries help reduce mental stress. It might or might not. It's anyone's guess at this point.
11 Berries vs. Juice
The fruit can be eaten or squeezed together to make a juice. While clinical trials comparing juice to berries cannot be located, I think in some ways they may be similar. If I had to pick one however, I'd choose to eat the berries because that is more of a whole food. There are likely compounds excluded when just drinking the juice.
12 Sea Buckthorn And Hair
13 Can You Drink Sea Buckthorn Oil?
Use the oil on the skin only. Do not drink it. No buckthorn oil I looked at for this review said to take it internally. To the contrary, they ALL said it was for external use only.
14 How Much Works?
This is difficult to say due to the lack of human studies. Some research has used about an ounce of berries per day. When it comes to using sea buckthorn oil on the skin, follow the directions on the product label.
15 Sea Buckthorn Side Effects
In healthy people, sea buckthorn is safe. Here are a few things to consider when using this supplement. This list is not complete:
- Start with less than recommended for the first week
- Stop taking at least 2 weeks before having surgery
- Speak to your doctor first if you are pregnant/breastfeeding
- The supplement may have a blood thinner effect so speak to your doctor if you take any blood thinner medications
- The oil may cause acne or a rash in some people. Start with less than recommended for the first week to see how you respond.
- There is one report of sea buckthorn turning a man's skin yellow. This occurred after 3 months of use.
16 Does Sea Buckthorn Work?
The research on sea buckthorn is interesting but I think we need more human research to know if it helps various conditions or not. Because its a food, I do think the berries have their place in a healthy diet.