The common sea buckthorn (botanical name Hippophae rhamnoides L.) is a flowering plant belonging to the family Elaeagnaceae. This species is native to the sea cliffs as well as fixed dunes in Asia and Europe. Sea buckthorn is a deciduous herb having spines.
In normal conditions, the sea buckthorn may grow up to a height of anything between 2 meters and 4 meters. The leaves of this plant are alternate, slender and shaped like a lance, while their upper face has a silvery-green color. The common sea buckthorn is dioecious, denoting that the male and female blooms of the plant grow on separate shrubs. The male inflorescence of this plant is composed of anything between four and six flowers, which are devoid of petals. On the other hand, usually the female inflorescence comprises just a single flower devoid of petals, but has an ovary and an ovule. For fertilization as well as production of fruits, it is essential to grow the male plants close to the female plants of this species. The fruits of sea buckthorn have an oval shape or may even be somewhat spherical and grow like grapes packed together. The color of sea buckthorn fruits may range from light yellow to deep orange.
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The root system of this plant is highly developed and it possesses the aptitude to hold soil even on elevated slopes. The roots have a symbiotic relation with a form of bacteria referred to as actinomycetes. This association allows the plants to fix nitrogen from the atmosphere. In addition, this also helps the roots to convert insoluble organic as well as mineral matters present in the soil to become more soluble. The rhizomes of sea buckthorn grow very fast to develop newer colonies.
The leaves and twigs of common sea buckthorn plant are vermifuge and astringent. The young leaves and branches also enclose bioactive substances that are employed to produce oil, which is very much different from the oil yielded by the fruits/ berries. On average the leaves and stems yield 3.0 per cent oil, which is used in the form of an ointment to heal burn injuries. The fruit of this plant yields superior quality therapeutic oil that is used to treat cardiac problems. In addition, it is also claimed that topical application of this oil to the affected areas on the skin helps to heal burns and radiation injuries and cure eczema, while it is used internally for treating ailments related to the stomach and the intestines. As the fruit possesses astringent properties, it is also used in the form of a tonic.
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Freshly extracted juice of sea buckthorn fruit is used for treating fevers, colds, fatigue and other conditions. The fruit of this plant is an excellent resource of vitamins as well as minerals, particularly vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, flavonoids as well as different bio-active chemicals. In addition, it contains good amounts of essential fatty acids, which is somewhat strange for any fruit. Currently, scientists have undertaken studies to determine whether this fruit can be used as a food having the aptitude to lessen new cases of cancer and also in the form of a tool to stop or reverse cancerous growths. It is worth mentioning here that this fruit juice also forms an ingredient of several medications that are rich in vitamin content as well as used to make cosmetics, for instance facial creams plus toothpastes. A decoction prepared from this fruit has been traditionally used in the form of a wash for treating skin eruptions and irritation.
The common sea buckthorn possesses the aptitude to withstand exposure to maritime conditions and, hence, this plant may be utilized in the form of a sheltered hedge. The plant, however, loathes pruning. Being an extremely prickly plant, sea buckthorn is able to form an impassable barrier very quickly. The root system of this plant is widespread and its suckers grow rapidly and owing to these qualities of sea buckthorn, it is often used in schemes pertaining to soil conservation, particularly in slopes and sandy soils. The plant's root system is suckering and fibrous and these work to prevent the sand from eroding. As sea buckthorn has a very rapid growth in exposed conditions also and its root nodules help to fix nitrogen from the atmosphere, this plant can also be used in the form of a pioneering species to re-establish forests in problematic areas. As this plant requires a sunny position for growth, the shade of the taller trees in any woodland is likely to hinder its growth and eventually the sea buckthorn plants may die due to lack of sunlight after they have helped to re-establish woodlands.
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The seeds of this plant enclose about 12 per cent to 13 per cent oil that is slow-drying. The fruit is rich in vitamin content and often used as cosmetics, especially for making facial masks and others. The sea buckthorn fruits also yield a yellow dye. In addition, the root, stems and foliage of the plant also yield a yellow dye. On the other hand, the tender leaves and shoots yield a blackish-brown dye.
The timber of the sea buckthorn shrub is sturdy, tough and extremely long-lasting. The wood is also fine-grained and is commonly used for superior quality carpentry, turning and others. In addition, the wood of this shrub is also used in the form of charcoal and fuel.
The sea buckthorn is also used for culinary purposes, especially its fruit (berries), which can be consumed fresh or after cooking. These fruits contain rich amounts of vitamin A and vitamin C and most people find them highly acidic in their raw state. However, it has been found that majority of the children relish consuming the sea buckthorn fruits raw. The juice extracted from these fruits has a pleasing aroma and contains high levels of vitamins. These days the sea buckthorn fruits are being used more and more to make fruit juices and the juice is also blended with those extracted from other fruits. The fruit juice of this plant is said to offer a number of health benefits.
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Some sea buckthorn species as well as cultivars produce fruits that enclose a maximum of 9.2 per cent oil. The fruit measures approximately 6 mm to 8mm across. The acidity of the fruits decreases following a frost or when they are cooked. The fruits begin to ripen from the end of September and generally keep hanging from the branches throughout the winter, provided birds do not eat them earlier. Hence, it is recommended that the fruits should be consumed prior to a frost, as the taste as well as the quality of the fruits start deteriorating rapidly after the frosts.
The common sea buckthorn is native to Europe, especially Britain, southern Norway and eastern regions of Spain. It is also found growing naturally in certain regions of Asia like the Himalayas and Japan. Generally, this species is found growing close to the coasts, frequently developing into a dense coppice at sea cliffs and fixed dunes.
This species possesses the aptitude to thrive in almost all types of soils, even in poor soils, provided the soil is not extremely arid. This plant has an excellent growth beside water bodies and its growth is quite satisfactory in damp soils. Once the plants become established, they are able to withstand drought conditions. Sea buckthorn needs a sunlit position for proper growth. While the seedlings do not grow well in shady places, even the mature shrubs wither away quickly if grown under the shade of taller plants. This species thrives excellently in sandy soils and can withstand exposure to maritime conditions. Generally, these plants are found growing naturally close to coastal areas, but they grow better when cultivated inland. They can withstand very low temperatures, up to roughly -25°C.
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The sea buckthorn is an extremely ornamental plant and at times it is grown, particularly in the northern regions of Europe, for its fruits, which are edible. In fact, some named varieties of the fruits also exist. One variety of free-forming sea buckthorn fruit is called 'Leikora', which has been developed for ornamental purposes. Plants belonging to this genus have been attracting a lot of attention from the various breeding institutes, as they contain loads of nutrients that can help to support as well as prop up our overall health. The common sea buckthorn usually has a very sluggish growth rate. Working in symbiosis with specific bacteria in the soil, this association leads to the formation of bacterial nodules or lumps on the roots and helps in fixing nitrogen from the atmosphere. While a portion of this nitrogen is used by the plant itself, some can be utilized by other plants in the vicinity.
These plants also produce lots of suckers, particularly when they are cultivated in sandy soils. The sea buckthorn is dioecious in nature and the male and female flowers are produced by different plants. In order to obtain the flowers, fruits and seeds of this species, you need to grow the male and female varieties in close vicinity to facilitate fertilization. However, it is not possible to distinguish the sexes of these plants before they start flowering. Nevertheless, the male plants produce buds during the winter and these have a conical shape. While the buds produced by the male plants are conspicuous, those of the female plants are relatively small and spherical in shape. It has been found that the plants belonging to this genus are very resilient to honey fungus.
If you are propagating common sea buckthorn by its seeds, they should ideally been sown in a cold frame and place in a sunny position during spring. Generally, the seeds germinate quite quickly and satisfactorily. However, keeping the seeds in cold stratification for about three months before sowing them will help to enhance the rate of germination. On the other hand, you may also sow the seeds immediately when they are ripe in a cold frame during autumn. When the seedlings have grown sufficiently large for handling, prick them out carefully and plant them in separate containers. Continue growing the young plants in a greenhouse at least for the first winter of their existence. Plant them outdoors in their permanent positions during the later part of spring. In spring, the male seedlings possess noticeable auxiliary buds, whereas the female plants are clear and soft during this time of the year.
Propagating this plant by its cuttings is quite difficult. Nevertheless, this is the easiest means of vegetative propagation. If you are using semi-mature wood for propagation, the cutting should be made during June and July and planted in a frame. Cuttings of mature wood of sea buckthorn should be undertaken in autumn. This is also a difficult process. Ideally, the cuttings should be done during the autumn end or early spring prior to the opening of the buds. Store up the cuttings in a mixture of sand and peat till April. Subsequently, cut the wood into small pieces each having a length of about 7 cm to 9 cm and plant these pieces inside a plastic tent and heat them from the bottom. Usually, it will take about two months for new roots to emerge from the cuttings. Once the roots appear, you may plant the cuttings directly outdoors in the permanent positions during autumn.
The common sea buckthorn may also be propagated by means of its sucker division. Undertake the division of the suckers in winter and plant them directly outdoors into their fixed positions. Normally, the sucker divisions establish satisfactorily and quite fast. They require layering during autumn.
The common sea buckthorn fruit contains elevated amounts of vitamin C. In addition, this fruit also encloses rich amounts of vitamin E, carotenoids, amino acids, polyphenols, beta-sitosterol and various dietary minerals. Flavonols form the major constituents of the polyphenols present in the common sea buckthorn fruit, while its minor constituents include catechins or flavan-3-ols and phenolic acids. Among the seven flavonoids that have been identified so far in this fruit, isorhamnetin 3-O-glycosides are present in maximum amounts.
Even the leaves and twigs of the plant enclose about 4 per cent to 5 per cent tannins.
There are a number of reports which claim that the fruit of sea buckthorn is toxic for humans. Although the fruit may be highly acidic, it is certainly not toxic. Nevertheless, pregnant women should avoid this fruit.