(editors note: This article has been updated as of August 2019 to reflect the latest testing we've done on other sea buckthorn products and trends we've been seeing.)
Are you Getting What you Paid for?
With so many new sea buckthorn based supplements on the market today, it's important that consumers understand what they are getting when they buy. Sea buckthorn is a very nutritious plant. Nearly every part of the plant can be used for different purposes. However, many customers are looking for something very specific from sea buckthorn- omega 7, which can't be found in every part of the plant.
What's in Your Bottle?
There are many factors that go into the final product when it comes to sea buckthorn. If you're not careful, you could be getting something completely different than what you were hoping for.
What part of the plant did it come from? Is the final product made of pure oil? How was the oil made in the first place? These are just a few of the issues that affect the quality of a sea buckthorn product. They also have a big effect on what the product actually does for you and how much you should be paying for it.
Sea Buckthorn oil Expert Advice
SeabuckWonders has been in the sea buckthorn business for over 25 years. This guide is meant to share some of the major tips we've learned in that time. Hopefully, you'll be able to take this information and use it to tell the difference between a good sea buckthorn product and a bad one.
Our sea buckthorn experts can analyze a bottle of sea buckthorn product just by looking at important clues on the product's packaging. This guide will help you look for the tell tale signs of phony products, just by giving the label a quick glance. Before you know it, you'll be a sea buckthorn expert too!
If you see this on a label, it's good, but not great. Hippophae Rhamnoides is the Latin binomial name for the species of sea buckthorn that creates the best berries for skin care and supplements.
There are other species of the sea buckthorn plant that do not have the same properties as Hippophae. On labels, sea buckthorn and hippophae rhamnoides can be interchangeable terms.
While seeing this term on a label is good, it can still be used to mask the actual identity of the ingredient. By using the term Hippophae Rhamnoides, a brand can gloss over what kind of sea buckthorn oil is in the product. We'll talk more about the different types of sea buckthorn oils later on.
When you're looking at a label for a sea buckthorn product, remember that the kind of oil counts. Look for a very specific term like "sea buckthorn seed oil" or "sea buckthorn berry oil".
Sea Buckthorn Subspecies and Region
There are some brands that also disclose the subspecies of the sea buckthorn plant that is used on the ingredients panel or on other area of the packaging. For example, SeabuckWonders packaging and product titles state that our sea buckthorn is Himalayan.
It's only been in the past few years that some brands have begun to disclose the subspecies of the the plant that they use. We use a subspecies of sea buckthorn called Tibetana (which makes sense because the Tibetan region is where our farm is).
The Subspecies Discloses the Source
This is an important factor when it comes to sea buckthorn products because not all companies have access to a single source of the plant. Sea buckthorn can be found all over Asia and parts of Europe and is not commonly grown in North America (though there are some exceptions).
Since the ingredient is only now gaining notoriety in the West, many brands are scrambling to find a source for the oil. Not many companies know much about sea buckthorn oil, other that it's recent popularity.
The More you Know, the Better
There are only a very select group of companies, including SeabuckWonders, that have access to a single source of sea buckthorn.
The truth is that many brands source the oil from third parties, and most brands want to get the best deal. So, what often happens is that brands will buy what equate to mystery oils just so that they can include the ingredient on their label.
If the brand you are buying from can tell you where the product came from and it's subspecies- that is a very good sign!
Sea Buckthorn Extract
The use of this term should raise some suspicion because it is open to interpretation. It could be an extraction of the whole sea buckthorn berry. It could be an extraction from the bark only. If the label doesn't specify the type of extraction, that can be a factor too.
This kind of extract is the most concerning when it comes to sea buckthorn products. While dried powder extracts can contain very potent ingredients, we've found that many powdered sea buckthorn products are not what they claim to be. We'll discuss that more a bit later, but for now we'll talk about what a powder extract really is.
Dried extracts are made when a plant material is soaked in a solvent, which is then evaporated. The remaining powdery material contains much of the plant's nutrients and then can be mixed with other powders to create a supplement or other ingredient.
Loss of Nutrition
It's very difficult to retain the spectrum of fatty acids found in sea buckthorn berries using this method. It's nearly impossible to extract omegas from sea buckthorn seeds this way.
Our best guess is that you're most likely to get the most nutrition from sea buckthorn leaves and bark using this method, just don't expect too much in the way of fatty acid content.
Liquid extracts are made when plant material is soaked in water with other ingredients like alcohol and glycerine. Liquid extracts can also be made using things like apple cider vinegar- but this is rarely done on a large scale is usually only used in small batches.
While it is possible to get some nutrition from different parts of a sea buckthorn plant, liquid extracts are not the best way to get these benefits. Liquid extracts make tincures which are meant to be taken orally. Tinctures typically have a very bitter taste. They also aren't ideal for sea buckthorn seeds and berries because they can't get all of the nutrients extracted in an optimal way.
Believe it or not, essential oils are extracts too. The way essential oils are made is by using a process of steam distillation. The plant material is exposed to steam in a special device and the oil content becomes separated from the rest of the plant material.
As you already know, essential oils are extremely popular. The best use of essential oils is for plants that have special scent qualities and are used in aromatherapy. Essential oils can be used in a number of applications but are so potent that they can be hazardous if not handled properly.
Most essential oils should not be used topically unless they are diluted. Pure essential oils can eat through wood- so you can imagine what they can do to the delicate tissues of the body! There are a few exceptions, but most essential oils can't be used orally. Essential oils can specifically damage the mucous membranes in the body.
Supercritical CO2 Extraction
Sea buckthorn's benefits are mostly found in it's fatty acid and antioxidant compounds. It wouldn't do much in terms of aromatherapy. The best way to reap all of the benefits of sea buckthorn is with CO2 extracted oil.
Not only is this the best way to create sea buckthorn oil, it's considered state of the art in modern plant oil manufacturing.
This process ensures that the pure oils are gentle enough to be used orally or topically without being diluted. CO2 extraction helps save almost all of the nutrition of the original plant.
Pure sea buckthorn oil made with CO2 extraction is so gentle that it's thought to improve the health of mucous membranes in the body- instead of damaging them like essential oils can.
The flavor of sea buckthorn oil using this from of extraction is mild and botanical- and never bitter like in a tincture.
Sea buckthorn oils made in this way are less likely to go rancid and can have many more applications than the other forms we mentioned. That's why we only use this method for SeabuckWonders oils.
If you want to safely use sea buckthorn oil orally or topically-go with CO2 extracted oils. Remember, other extraction methods can't give you the same amount of nutrition or fatty acid content!
We've noticed many brands in the past few years with "cold pressed" on the labels of their sea buckthorn oil products. To make a cold pressed oil, plant material (often nuts) is crushed into a paste and then another compression process extracts the oil.
There is little heat involved in this process- hence the "cold" part of the name. When oils are heated, their nutritional compounds can change, which is why the "cold" part of cold pressing is so important.
While this method is best for other types of oils, it's not a method that works well for sea buckthorn. Sea buckthorn berries have enough volume that you could make oil from their pulp using cold press. Still, this is not the best method for making sea buckthorn berry oil.
The Problem with Seeds
Sea buckthorn seed oil cannot be made using cold press. This is because the seeds are very small- much like the seeds from a kiwi fruit. They're so small that cold pressing cannot create an oil product from them.
Sea buckthorn seed oil is rich with plant based omega-3, and shouldn't be discounted. We recommend using both the seed and berry oil in most cases, so that you can get the full spectrum of benefits from sea buckthorn.
The only way to create high quality sea buckthorn seed oil is with CO2 extraction. The best part is that CO2 extraction uses an even lower temperature than cold-press! Any oil using CO2 extraction will have little damage because it's so cool.
The shocking thing is that some brands claim to have seed oil made from cold pressing right on their packaging!
Be wary of sea buckthorn products claiming to be made with cold press- especially sea buckthorn seed oil!
Sea Buckthorn Seed, Berry, Bark or Leaf?
It's very important to know if the product is coming from the seed or the berry. That's because they do not have the same nutritional content.
In fact, many people are drawn to sea buckthorn oil because they've heard of omega 7 but will often buy sea buckthorn products that contain no omega 7 at all!
The leaves and bark of the sea buckthorn plant also have nutritional properties- but are those the properties that you were looking for when you bought the product?
There are many health reasons to use sea buckthorn, but fighting dryness is one of the most reported factors for users. If you're looking for mucous membrane health, age defying properties, or dryness fighting properties- you'll want to stick to pure sea buckthorn oils.
Stick with sea buckthorn seed and berry oil if you're looking for fatty acid content, and skip products that are use different parts of the plant.
Sea Buckthorn Powder
While properly made powder extracts can be very potent, most sea buckthorn powder that you'll find on the internet today is not what it seems. We think this is because the by-product of other sea buckthorn products are being sold as powder extracts.
By-products and dry extracts are simply not the same thing. As we mentioned before, powder extracts aren't the most optimal way to create sea buckthorn oil supplements or other ingredients because the fatty acid content can be mostly lost. However, what we've been finding when it comes to common "sea buckthorn" powder supplements has been shocking.
Testing Proves That Many Competitors are Fake!
In the past few years, SeabuckWonders has done some investigating on the actual nutrition in some of the new (and very inexpensive) sea buckthorn products on the market.
We tested one product that was a power based supplement that had a label claiming high levels of isolated omega 7. The product was sent to a lab to show the levels of omega 7 and other markers to prove that the ingredients came from a sea buckthorn origin.
The results that came back were shocking to say the least. This product contained ZERO mgs of Omega 7. Yes- that's correct, there was no omega- 7 in the product at all!
To go back to the issue of ingredients on labels- this product label says "Sea Buckthorn Oil". We aren't sure exactly how they were able to make a powder out of sea buckthorn oil (that's not how that works).
Regardless, a good label from a transparent company would state "Sea Buckthorn Berry Oil"- because that is the only part of sea buckthorn that you can get omega 7 from. Of course, a transparent company would never print a bold-faced lie on it's packaging either!
It's probably wise to just avoid sea buckthorn powdered products altogether!
Sea Buckthorn Juice
This ingredient sounds wholesome and appears to be a much more affordable option than sea buckthorn oil. In another article, we broke down the actual costs and benefits of sea buckthorn oil over juice, which you can read here. It turns out that pure sea buckthorn oil is much more cost effective and can help provide a much wider range of nutrition.
Save your money and avoid sea buckthorn juice.
Don't be Fooled
It's important to look into the natural products that you buy these days. It's much easier to end up with questionable products in your online shopping cart than in previous years. Follow our tips, and do a little extra research into the brands you're buying from.
There are imposter sea buckthorn oil products circulating online. This article goes into depth on how to spot a fake. Once you know what to look for in sea buckthorn oil products, it's easy to find quality products.
Our SeabuckWonders staff writers love our 100% USDA-certified organic sea buckthorn health & beauty products (of course), and we're passionate about helping people become their healthiest selves. Keep reading for more about our company, and connect with us on social!