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Helpful Herbs: Sea Buckthorn

Creating a landscaping hedge around your garden or growing in the wild, Sea Buckthorn makes a beautiful and dramatic bush and highlights its branches with bright orange, incredibly useful berries every season.

The bush will grow quickly and require little care, tolerating drought and high saline soil as long as it isn't planted in a particularly boggy area. They are a hardy perennial up to zone 3, and can be started as a shoot or from a cutting off an original plant. They are hardy enough to be considered invasive in some areas, so should be cultivated with care. Giving the bushes an annual prune will help keep them healthy and control their spreading. While the bushes can be kept trimmed to two or three feet high, wild trees may grow up to 20 feet tall.

A plant that's popular with birds and foragers, Sea Buckthorn adorns itself with clutches of bright orange fruits that are popular for jams and medicinal purposes. Because of their dense, sharp thorns, Buckthorn fruits are often harvested by clipping a full branch off of the bush. You can also remove them using a berry-shaker, but if you are only harvesting for yourself hand-picking may be the best option.

Sea Buckthorn berries can make a delicious jam or jelly, and they can also be enjoyed straight from the bush. Tasting rather like a sour orange - very tart - Buckthorn berries can be used to infuse vinegar or be whipped up in a smoothie. Yogurts, meringues, and even pies are great ways to enjoy the flavorful berries, which can also be tossed raw in a salad.

Including Sea Buckthorn, also known as sandthorn and seaberry, in your diet is a great idea. There are few berries as fully packed with vitamins and minerals as these little orange powerhouses. Its healing properties are so well regarded that many health food stores sell juices and vitamin tablets made from the fruit.

The berries are often recommended for heart health and to treat high blood pressure, and they are also used to ease the toxicity of chemotherapy in cancer treatment. Topically, the juice from the berries will treat sunburn and dry skin. Full of Vitamin C, Sea Buckthorn can be used to generally boost the immune system and support the internal organs. It is also said to help treat ulcers and gout, as well as improving eye sight.

Sea Buckthorn is native to China, Russia, and northern Europe. During the Cold War, the Russians cultivated new varieties of Sea Buckthorn as a potential food source. Because it is popular in landscaping as well as for its medicinal uses, Buckthorn was also used in the Canadian prairie to help create windbreaks.

The fruit of the Sea Buckthorn has always been respected for its nutritional and healing values. Used in Ancient Chinese and Greek medicine, the berries were used as a primary feed for Greek racehorses. It makes a popular liquor in Finland and was used to treat frostbite in freezing Russia.

Healthy, beautiful, and easy to grow, a hedge of Sea Buckthorn will reward you with plentiful berries to use in your kitchen and medicine cabinet.


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