Ethnopharmacological context: Plant oils are known to have biological activity. This review paper summarizes the current knowledge of the composition of sea buckthorn (Elaeagnus rhamnoides (L.) A.Nelson) seed and pulp oil and its beneficial health aspects.
Materials and methods: In vitro and in vivo studies on humans and animals have found sea buckthorn oil to have a variety of beneficial properties to human health, and indicate that it may be a valuable component of human and animal nutrition. Various bioactive substances are present in all parts of sea buckthorn, and these are used traditionally as raw material for health foods and as nutritional supplements. The oil, berries, leaves and bark have medicinal properties, and the fruits have a unique taste; these parts can be processed to make oil, juice, jam, jellies and candies, as well as alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages.
Results: Sea buckthorn oil may be extracted from the seed or the pulp. The mature seeds contain 8-20% oil and the dried fruit pulp about 20-25%, while the fruit residue contains about 15-20% oil after juice extraction. These oils have high concentrations of lipophilic constituents, most commonly unsaturated fatty acids (UFAs), phytosterols and vitamins A and E. These components have a multifunctional effect on human health, with the fatty acids playing an important function in modifying cerebrovascular and cardiovascular disorders. The oil also has anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-depressive properties.
Conclusion: Sea buckthorn is a unique plant. Its beneficial properties against cardiovascular disorders have been attributed to its high UFA content and range of phytosterols, especially beta-sitosterol. However, its different action on the human organism remain unclear, and further well-controlled, high-quality experiments with human subjects are required to determine the prophylactic and therapeutic doses of sea buckthorn oil for use in clinical studies. Additional studies are also needed to understand the action by which the oil exerts its beneficial properties, i.e. its cardioprotective and anti-cancer activity.
Keywords: Elaeagnus rhamnoides (L.) A.Nelson; Fatty acids; Health; Oil.
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