The Sea Buckthorn—A Tree of Many Uses
▪ Traveling in Russia in early autumn, visitors to the countryside may come across the sea buckthorn, * a small shrub or tree, laden with small beadlike berries of a bright-orange hue. Instead of growing in clusters, the berries literally coat each branch and twig with an eye-catching layer of color.
The berries are edible, but watch out for the sharp thorns when picking berries by hand! You must pick each one individually and take care not to crush it. Favoring cold climates, the sea buckthorn is often found in mountainous regions from northwestern Europe to the Altai Mountains in Central Asia, as well as in western and northern China and in the northern Himalayas. For centuries the berries have been prized in such areas as China, Russia, and Tibet.
Mention of the sea buckthorn is found in both classic Tibetan medicinal texts and ancient Greek texts. Its Greek name, Hippophaë, means “shiny horse.” The name is thought to refer to the ancient Greek practice of somehow using the tree’s berries or leaves to give racehorses a shiny coat.
The sea buckthorn was introduced to North America by Russian immigrants at the beginning of the 20th century when shrubs from Siberia were brought to Canada and the United States for commercial cultivation. Many countries now cultivate the shrub as an important food and medicinal crop.
Among other things, sea-buckthorn berries contain vitamins C and E, folic acid, carotenoids, fatty acids, and flavonoids. Recent medical research has examined claims of the benefits of the sea buckthorn in cancer therapy, as well as in reducing cardiovascular risk factors and treating gastrointestinal ulcers, skin disorders, and liver ailments. The berry also makes a refreshing, tangy drink and is used as a tonic for various ailments.
A prized part of the sea-buckthorn berry is its small black seed. The oil in this seed contains most of the nutrients found in the berry. Some studies suggest that sea-buckthorn oil helps boost the immune system. In addition, cosmetics and skin-care products make use of the oil because of its acclaimed rejuvenating effects.
If you ever visit Russia, you may see and admire the beauty of the orange-gold berries of the sea buckthorn. Yet, as we have already noted, there is more to this plant than its beauty. Indeed, it is one of the many creations that testify to the wisdom and goodness of our Creator!
^ par. 2 Perhaps so named because of its growth along the shores of Europe and Asia.