Buckthorn, or sea buckthorn, is a deciduous shrub native to the high Himalayas and the coastal regions of Mongolia and China. Its orange berries are very rich in vitamin C and contain over 60 antioxidants, although they have a bitter taste when eaten raw.
Buckthorn is also very high in carotenoids, notably beta-carotene, zeaxanthin and lycopene, and it also contains alpha-tocopherol, a vitamin E compound. Buckthorn is also a very good source of cholesterol-lowering plant sterols.
Used in Chinese medicine for centuries, buckthorn is commonly used to relieve gastrointestinal conditions. Preliminary research is underway into the effect of buckthorn on cardiovascular disease.
Buckthorn is also the richest known source of the relatively newly discovered fatty acid, omega-7 or palmitoleic acid. This is known to have an effect on the factors contributing to metabolic syndrome – diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure – and may therefore be able to help cut the chances of heart disease in those people most at risk.
You can consume buckthorn as a juice, or the fruits can be made into jams, jellies and tarts. However, most people who want to enjoy the benefits of buckthorn take supplements, either in tablet or capsule format.