Sea-buckthorn seed oil is a vegetal oil made from the seeds of sea-buckthorn berries. Sea-buckthorn seed oil is a source of fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamins E and K, antioxidants such as pro-vitamin A carotenoids, xanthophylls and various phenolic acids, phytosterols such as beta-sitosterol, polyunsaturated fatty acids such as Omega-6 and ALA Omega-3 and other biologically active components with therapeutic properties. Uses are topical and internal and the oil is reported to provide benefits for skin and eyesight, improve cardiovascular health and liver health, modulate the immune system response and metabolic processes that promote better insulin sensitivity and weight loss.
Difference between sea-buckthorn seed and berry oil
Sea-buckthorn seed oil is a non-toxic, edible nutraceutical containing fat extracted from the seeds of sea-buckthorn berries. Versus sea-buckthorn berry oil which is a non-toxic, edible nutraceutical containing fat extracted exclusively from the pulp or flesh of sea-buckthorn berries. There are several other important differences between sea-buckthorn seed and berry oil, notably differences in appearance (the seed oil is lighter yellow and more liquid, while the berry oil is darker orange and slightly thicker, more viscous) and differences in composition (fatty acids profile, antioxidant, vitamin and mineral profile).
What is sea-buckthorn seed oil made from and how?
As its name suggests, sea-buckthorn seed oil is made exclusively from the seeds of the sea-buckthorn berry. Any species and cultivar of sea-buckthorn may be used, although Hippophae rhamnoides is often preferred. The oil is typically extracted without heat, through a method known as cold-pressing which allows for the mechanical extraction of the fats in the seeds without altering their natural properties. Another more effective, similarly non-toxic method is supercritical (CO2) carbon dioxide extraction which uses low temperatures (comparable to temperatures during mechanical extraction) to avoid denaturing the natural properties of the oil, and no solvents.
Sea-buckthorn seed oil should be stored in a dark glass bottle or another type of glass container, sealed and kept in a dark, cool place so that the oil retains all of its natural properties and therapeutic action for as long as possible. It does have an expiration date, so it’s best used up in under 1 year (on average). The absolute best sea-buckthorn seed oil is obtained through cold-pressing and certified organic. It should be 100% pure sea-buckthorn seed oil, unadulterated (no other oils or compounds except sea-buckthorn seed oil), without the addition of preservatives, color agents or other additives.
What does sea-buckthorn seed oil look like?
Sea-buckthorn seed oil is a lighter, sometimes slightly paler yellow color and liquid, like your typical oil consistency. Carotenoid antioxidants such as orange carotenes (e.g. pro-vitamin A beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, alpha-carotene) and yellow xanthophylls (e.g. lutein, zeaxanthin) are responsible for the color of the oil. The seed oil contains significantly less carotenoids compared to the fruit oil, hence the difference in color between the two types of sea-buckthorn oil. More exactly, sea-buckthorn berry oil is a deeper, darker orange color and thicker or more viscous in consistency.
What does sea-buckthorn seed oil smell and taste like?
The seed oil is naturally unscented, with maybe just a slight oily odor to it (similar to other seed oils/carrier oils). An older oil or an oil that has not been preserved well will tend to ‘smell’ a little ‘oilier’, and that smell is likely because it’s gone rancid, or starting to. Rancidity in sea-buckthorn seed oil is the result of a high content of polyunsaturated fatty acids (e.g. Omega-6, ALA Omega-3). As for taste, sea-buckthorn seed oil doesn’t taste like anything in particular (think about the likes of refined sunflower oil which is relatively flavorless). In any case, sea-buckthorn seed oil is not a cooking oil, despite being edible/non-toxic, but rather a nutraceutical-type of oil, one that can be consumed relatively safely as a dietary supplement or nutritional supplement, or used topically for cosmetic uses.
Properties of sea-buckthorn seed oil
- Vegetal oil made from a plant source and seed oil made from seeds
- Cold-pressed oil, obtained by pressing sea-buckthorn seeds to extract the oils in them
- Type of carrier oil: tasteless, unscented, non-toxic and edible (for use as dietary supplement, not cooking oil)
- Light yellow color, liquid consistency
- Good carotenoid antioxidants content (orange carotenes and yellow xanthophylls)
Note: the berry oil is significantly higher in carotenoid antioxidants, hence its orange color.
- High-unsaturated fatty acids oil (e.g. Omega-6, ALA Omega-3, Omega-9, Omega-7)
- High polyunsaturated fatty acids oil
About 65% or more of the total fatty acids content of sea-buckthorn seed oil is represented by linoleic acid (Omega-6) and alpha-linolenic-acid (ALA Omega-3). See source.
- High-vitamin E oil (e.g. tocopherols, tocotrienols)
- Source of pro-vitamin A antioxidants (mainly beta-carotene, but also beta-cryptoxanthin, alpha-carotene)
- Quick-absorbing, light feel, non-greasy, but rich oil
- Unscented and flavorless
- Non-toxic (edible and safe to eat in small amounts), non-irritating
- Calming, soothing, moisturizing, reparative, rejuvenating properties
Se-buckthorn seed oil, whilst different in composition from sea-buckthorn berry oil, boasts fairly similar properties and therapeutic activity, with a few exceptions.
Sea-buckthorn seed oil uses
Main uses are topical use and internal use as a dietary supplement or nutraceutical.
- Topical use for skin care: for dry skin, dry hands, dry scalp, eczema, dermatitis, acne, fine lines and wrinkles, thin skin, ulcerations, minor burns, cuts, blisters and other wounds, hyperpigmentation etc.
- Topical use for hair care: for dry, brittle, listless hair and split ends
- Topical use for nail care: to soften cuticles, moisturize brittle nails, nourish nails.
- Internal use: as a nutritional supplement for supplementation with vitamin A, vitamin E, unsaturated fatty acids or various antioxidants, and as a dietary supplement or nutraceutical to help with inflammation in arthritis, lower high cholesterol levels, build immunity, improve liver health, digestive health, skin health, insulin sensitivity and for weight loss.
Note: Sea-buckthorn seed oil has a long list of uses, cosmetic and therapeutic, some of which may not be mentioned here. People have been taking the oil for a host of health issues and often report great results (e.g. dry eyes in Sjogren’s), but research on the therapeutic effects of the oil is still scarce which is why we might not be clued in on some of its more spectacular health benefits for some time still.
Benefits of sea-buckthorn seed oil
- Benefits for dry skin. Fatty acids in sea-buckthorn seed oil, phytosterols and fat-soluble vitamins replenish skin cell membranes, preventing water loss through the skin barrier and helping skin cells better retain moisture, resulting in improved skin hydration. They further have a deeply moisturizing effect that combats dry skin.
- Benefits for acne. Sea-buckthorn seed oil as a dietary supplement is reported to regulate skin metabolism and reduce acne breakouts, likely thanks to its high content of linoleic and alpha-linolenic acid. Studies show acne-prone skin is deficient in the two fatty acids (source) and restoring missing nutrients in the skin improves sebum composition, unblocks pores and reduces numbers of blackheads and comedos, resulting in benefits for acne-prone skin.
- Benefits for eczema. Sea-buckthorn seed oil is rich in unsaturated fatty acids (Omega-6, ALA Omega-3, Omega-9, Omega-7). Supplementation replenishes these fatty acids in the skin which strengthens the skin barrier, helping keep water in the skin for a hydrating effect. Furthermore, fatty acids and fat-soluble vitamin E exert a deep moisturizing effect and promote healing of the skin barrier, helping combat eczema.
- Benefits for mature skin. Fatty acids in sea-buckthorn seed oil protect and contribute to the skin barrier, helping reduce water loss from the skin. They further contribute to skin fat and exert a moisturizing and reparative action, resulting in improved skin firmness and possibly also a more youthful and healthier looking skin. Antioxidants such as vitamin E and carotenoids further exert photoprotective and anti-aging effects.
- Benefits for atopic dermatitis. Topical use of sea-buckthorn seed oil replenishes missing fatty acids in the skin barrier to help combat dryness. Both fatty acids and fat-soluble vitamin E from the oil exert a moisturizing and reparative action and have anti-inflammatory effects, reducing itchiness, redness and swelling.
- Benefits for small skin wounds. Sea-buckthorn seed oil can be applied on small burns, scratches, cuts or other small wounds or ulcerations for a soothing effect and to help initiate skin regeneration for wound healing.
- Other benefits for skin. Topical and internal use of the seed oil is believed to help improve scars and discoloration by initiating reparative processes at cell level, protecting against free radical damage and rebuilding the skin barrier, all thanks to unsaturated fatty acids, antioxidant vitamins and other bioactive compounds.
- Benefits for dry eyes. Supplementation with sea-buckthorn seed oil is reported to improve dry eyes problems associated with Sjogren’s syndrome. The effect is believed to be owed to the unsaturated fatty acids in the oil.
- Benefits for vision. A source of pro-vitamin A carotenoids, lutein and zeaxanthin and fatty acids to help with their absorption and use, sea-buckthorn seed oil promotes the physical health of the eyes and contribute to better eyesight.
- Lower total and LDL cholesterol. High in phytosterols (campesterol, stigmasterol, and β-sitosterol) and unsaturated fatty acids, sea-buckthorn seed oil contributes to lower total cholesterol levels and lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, whilst increasing high-density lipoprotein HDL (good) cholesterol levels.
- Anti-inflammatory benefits. Sea-buckthorn seed oil is rich in anti-inflammatory components (unsaturated fatty acids Omega-3, Omega-6, Omega-7, Omega-9, vitamin E, B vitamins, flavonoids, phenolic acids, phystosterols) which work together to achieve lower inflammation levels. There are reports of supplementation with the oil helping with rheumatoid arthritis pain.
- Benefits for the immune system. Most of the biologically active components in sea-buckthorn seeds and seed oil have immune system modulating effects. Unsaturated fatty acids, phytosterols, pro-vitamin A carotenoids, vitamin E, flavonoids, proanthocyanidins, phenolic acids and other micronutrients stimulate the immune system, contributing to the immune system function with reparative, anti-inflammatory and even anticancer effects (source 1, source 2).
- Anticancer properties. Antioxidants known as flavonoids in sea-buckthorn seed oil have been found to inhibit and induce apoptosis (cell death) in various cancer cell lines, including breast cancer, colon cancer, blood cancer and liver cancer cell lines (source 1, source 2, source 3).
- Potential benefits for the liver. The oil is a source of healthy unsaturated fatty acids and phytosterols as well as antioxidants with hepatoprotective properties that support normal liver function.
- Benefits for the digestive system. Sea-buckthorn is known for its anti-ulcer properties. The seed oil is an important source of unsaturated fatty acids such as Omega-7 and Omega-9, as well as vitamins A and E which are especially beneficial for mucous membranes health, and thought to be the key nutrients behind the anti-ulcerogenic and reparative properties of the oil. Supplementation is believed to hold benefits for gastritis and gastric ulcers and potentially improve heartburn, acid reflux and digestion.
- Potential benefits for weight loss and diabetes. Such benefits are theorized to be a result of the fats in the oil exerting minor hypoglycemic effects and subsequent benefits for regulating insulin levels. The oil has been reported to also cause incidental weight loss which is beneficial for diabetes prevention and management. Such benefits are associated with sea-buckthorn fruit oil as well.
- Benefits for mental health. There have been reports of sea-buckthorn seed oil promoting a state of calm and relaxation, reducing anxiety and increasing focus. Such benefits are likely a result of the oil’s content of healthy unsaturated fats which feed the brain and contribute to brain cell membranes.
Side effect of sea-buckthorn seed oil
- Risk of allergic reactions. Although generally recognized as safe for consumption and topical use, there is always a small chance for sea-buckthorn seed oil to cause allergic reactions.
- Palpitations, high heart rate, agitation, shortness of breath and similar cardiovascular side effects have been reported following supplementation with sea-buckthorn seed oil.
- Acid reflux. Oil-based supplements always carry the risk of causing acid reflux and stomach upset. They should be taken after a large meal to avoid digestive side effects.
- It may not work. We are all different and it is normal to respond differently to various foods, extracts and supplements. So it’s possible for sea-buckthorn seed oil to simply not produce the desired results for you, whatever the benefits you were looking for in it.