Sea buckthorn berries are an underexploited source of nutrients, says a review, though knowledge gaps remain on the effect of processing on compounds.
Sea buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides L.) is a hardy bush that grows in Europe, Asia and the Americas and contains some 190 compounds in its seeds, pulp, and berries. The juice, which is consumed traditionally in Russia and parts of Europe, is acidic and tends to be mixed with other, sweeter juices like apple or grape.
The new review is published in a special edition of the journal Food Research International dedicated to exotic fruits and rounds up the research on sea buckthorn’s nutritional properties, bioactive compounds, and potential health benefits.
The berries have “huge bio-industrial potential which remains unexplored so far”, Lalit Bal and co-authors from the Indian Institute of Technology in New Delhi and the University of Saskatchewan in Canada wrote in their paper.
One drawback they identified, however, is the short harvesting season of the berries and their high moisture content which “thwarts utilization as high-value products”. Bal and colleagues propose that a microwave drying technique could be used to produce compound-rich de-hydrated berries that would open up more uses in foods and beverages, and also in cosmetic products like soap, cream, and shampoo.
Amongst the nutrients crying out to be tapped are vitamins A, K, E, C, B1 and B2, fatty acids, lipids, organic acids, amino acids, carbohydrates, folic acid, tocopherols and flavonoids, phenols, terpenes, and tannins.
Sea buckthorn oil has been reported to have a number of other health uses, including to alleviate atopic eczema, other skin problems related to deficient regeneration, UV radiation stressed skin, mouth dryness, mouth ulcers, gastric ulcers, urinary tract inflammations, cervicitis, genital ulcers, sinus inflammation and eye dryness.
It is not only researchers whose attention has been drawn sea buckthorn berries: marketers have spied the potential too. In a recent video interview with NutraIngredients-USA.com Jeff Hilton of Integrated Marketing Group drew attention to the presence of omega-7 (palmitoleic acid), “the elusive omega”, which is rarely found in plants.
Hilton added that there are no concerns about sufficient supply from the Tibetan Himalayas. “Supply is unending,” he said. “It’s harvested by a number of fair trade companies […] I’ve seen photographs that one of our clients took during the harvest itself and it’s just everywhere.”
The need for R&D
Despite the potential, the researchers did identify a number of gaps in the current knowledge of sea buckthorn berries. For instance, little is known about the effect of processing on the nutrients in different sea buckthorn berry species from different regions of the world.
They also note that current literature on processing techniques does not pay much attention to quality criteria or to food safety aspects, which would enhance the export potential. The effect of hormones such as ethylene on processed berries has not been determined; since berry-ripening correlates with higher internal ethylene concentrations, ethylene in processing may have a bearing on the storage and processing.
Bridging these knowledge gaps “would give impetus to new academic and R&D activities, in turn generating innovative job profile in the food and cosmoceutical industries,” the authors concluded.
Food Research International 44 (2011) 1718-1727
‘Sea buckthorn berries: A potential source of valuable nutrients for nutraceuticals and cosmoceuticals’
Authors: Bal, L.M; Meda, V., Satya, S.