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Sea Buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides L.): Production and Utilization. Thomas S.C. Li and Thomas H.J.

Sea Buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides L.): Production and Utilization. Thomas S.C. Li and Thomas H.J. Beveridge. NRC Research Press: Ottawa, Canada; 2003. 133 pp. ISBN 0-660-19007-9. .95.

If there ever was an herb that could qualify for the “next generation” of herbal luminaries, I would nominate sea buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides ). The fruits of this northern-growing member of the family Elaeagnaceeae have numerous beneficial qualities that are just becoming known in western herbalism and the North American herbal and cosmetics industries. But this is about to change; a Google search on sea buckthorn (accessed January 24, 2004), revealed up to 27,000 results, the initial ones related mostly to skin-care products, followed by articles on agricultural aspects (erosion control) and more.

Preparations made from sea buckthorn have been used medicinally for more than 1,000 years in China, Tibet, and Mongolia. The first documented benefit of sea buckthorn was recorded in the classic 8th century Tibetan medical text rGyud Bzi . Russian research has been ongoing since the 1940s when Soviet researchers investigated active compounds in the plant’s fruits, leaves, and bark. Beneficial uses include the use of the fruit in the diet of Russian cosmonauts and the oil in a cream to help protect them from solar radiation. Since the early 1980s over 500,000 hectares (hectare = 2.5 acres) have been planted in China, with about 150 processing plants producing over 200 industrial and consumer products. Sea buckthorn fruit is an official medicine in the Chinese Pharmacopoeia where it is recognized for the following properties and indications: expelling phlegm, arresting coughing, promoting digestion, removing food stagnancy, and promoting blood flow to remove blood stasis. The principle TCM indications include coughing, abundant expectoration, indigestion, abdominal pain due to indigestion, blood stasis and anemia. Ten different sea buckthorn-based medications are used in China. The oil is used in hospitals in China and Russia. Medicinal uses include the use of the oil for wound healing where numerous trials suggest its efficacy. The oil also has demonstrated antitumor properties.

This book provides several chapters on the range of chemical compounds and their nutritional and medicinal properties. Chemically, sea buckthorn fruits contain a relatively high level of lipids, plus proteins, ascorbic acid (vitamin C), flavonoids, alpha-linoleic acid (ALA), and the highly antioxidant superoxide dismutase (SOD).

The authors are scientists at the National Study-Production System for New Crops at the Pacific Agri-Food Research Centre, a division of Agriculture and Agri-Foods Canada, located in British Columbia. Thus, as its title suggests, the book is decidedly geared towards agricultural and production aspects of sea buckthorn, not its medicinal qualities, which are mentioned relatively briefly. This book contains at least 10 color photos of the plant and fruits, plus diagrams and line drawings, and many tables. Chapters include Taxonomy and Distribution; Plant Breeding; Land Preparation, Orchard Design, and Planting; Soil Fertility and Soil Moisture; Propogation; Pruning; and Diseases, Insects, Pests, and Weed Control; and Ecology. There are also chapters explaining Post Harvest Handling and Storage and Processing and Products (i.e., commercial processing of sea buckthorn parts to make commercial products).

As farmers look for new crops to consider, this book is an invaluable tool providing tested agricultural methods for crop development. Processors and members of industry will want this book too, if for no other reason than to have a peek into what may become a major item in the herb and cosmetic markets in the near future. Herbalists and clinicians will have to wait for another book that more fully explains in more detail the pharmacological and clinical literature on this herb’s nutritional, medicinal, and cosmetic benefits.

—Mark Blumenthal