Sea Buckthorn helps 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 us people? It's been sometime 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 which 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, calcium, various 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
Below, I'll cover what the research says about these areas.
3 Types of Buckthorn
There is more than one type of Buckthorn. You need to know this if you go to the health food store looking for this supplement. The types are:
- Sea Buckthorn (also called Hippophae rhamnoides). Some people write it as “C. Buckthorn” but it’s really sea buckthorn.
- Alder Buckthorn (also called Frangula alnus or Rhamnus frangula)
- Buckthron (also called Cascara or Frangula purshiana or Rhamnus purshiana)
- European Buckthorn (also called Rhamnus cathartica)
Alder Buckthron, Cascara and European Buckthorn are typically used as laxatives, so do not confuse these with sea buckthorn. Sea buckthorn is rich in vitamin C and phyto-nutrients. As such it is also an antioxidant food. This is probably 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. The study they were referring to may have been this one, published in 2011.
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 lower 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 flus. Researchers in Finland tested this idea with experiment involving 233 people who received either sea buckthorn on a placebo. There was no difference in the rates of colds of urinary track infections in those taking sea buckthorn. There are not many cold/flu studies out there. As such, its 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. By reducing these, the berries may help people with heart disease. Studies which specifically look at heart disease benefits are lacking however. This makes it difficult to know if it helps or not. In theory it might, but we'd need research to prove it.
There is some evidence the berries may reduce CRP, a blood test marker for inflammation. Higher levels of inflammation play a role in heart disease development. Again, whether or not this means the berries help heart disease needs better studies before anyone can say for sure if it works.
That said, research does find people who eat more fruits and vegetables, have less heart attacks, strokes and other health problems. In that regard, this food has its place in a healthy diet.
8 Sea Buckthorn And Diabetes
Researchers in Romania have noted the berries decreased glycosolated hemoglobin in 30 kids with type I diabetes after 2 months of use. Technically this means the berries reduce A1C levels. The study only lasted 2 months. Generally, I'd like to see at least 3 or 4 months before checking for A1C reductions. Levels of SOD – a powerful antioxidant enzyme – were also improved. 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 disumtase) 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.
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 eating 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
While there seems to be no clinical trials on how it effects hair, there is buckthorn shampoo. Whether it's better than other shampoos needs more study.
13 Can You Drink Sea Buckthorn Oil?
Use the oil on the skin only. Do not drink it. No buckthron 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.
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:
- Stop taking sea buckthorn at least 2 weeks before having surgery.
- Speak to your doctor first if you are pregnant/breast feeding.
- 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 mans skin yellow. This occurred after 3 months of berry consumption. This effect may be due to the vitamin A and caratonoid content.
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 can have their place in a healthy diet.