A bushful of medicine

seabuckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides) grows in the cold desert regions in Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir. Scientists value it for its medicinal properties. The deciduous bushy-tree is another one of the plants found in India that private companies from the rest of the world trade in but which the Indian government doesn’t consider valuable enough to be cultivated.

A study carried out by the department of biochemistry and food chemistry of the University of Turku, Finland and the Institute of Food Research, uk, has shown that the seabuckthorn seed oil acts as an inhibitor of platelet aggregation in blood. This reduces the risk of heart attacks and blockage of veins and arteries.

Prescribed dosage of seabuckthorn oil capsules can reduce both cholesterol and triglyceride (a harmful fat that blocks veins and arteries) formation, reducing chances of stroke. A series of clinical trials conducted on 12 patients has shown that seabuckthorn oil could be valuable for treating patients susceptible to blood clotting.
Other studies The Institute of Nuclear Medicine and Allied Sciences (inmas) based in Delhi has found that a herbal preparation from the seabuckthorn fruit , which they call rh-3, can give protection against injuries from harmful radiation. The institute has tested the preparation in clinical tests conducted on mice. Half an hour before the mice were subjected to gamma radiations, about 100 mice out of 250 were given the preparation. While all the mice not given the preparation died, 82 per cent of those given the herbal preparation survived for atleast 30 days. This was attributed to the free radical scavenging activity, increase in bone marrow cells and improved immune system brought about by the herbal preparation. The free radicals are responsible for ailments associated with exposure to harmful radiation. Bone marrow cells divide and produce new blood cells. The wound healing property of seabuckthorn seed oil has also been proved by researchers at inmas and the Himachal Pradesh Agricultural University and has been attributed to the presence of particular group of chemicals called flavonoids found in the oil.

Hiporamin, a drug prepared from the plant, acts against viruses causing herpes simplex and influenza. It also has antibacterial property according to a study carried out by the All Russian Research Institute of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants based in Moscow, Russia. The oil extracted from the fruit pulp of the plant is useful for treating atopic dermatitis, a skin disease characterized by dry, scaly and itchy skin. Though generally controlled by genetic disorders, external factors can also lead to the skin disorder. Steroids and antihistamins (anti-allergic chemicals) are used for treatment. But they have many harmful side effects. “Patients with atopic dermatitis have a disturbed fatty acid content in the skin and oral administration of the oil normalises the fatty acid composition,” says Heikki Kallio, researcher at the University of Turku, Finland.

The seabuckthorn fruit is rich in vitamins such as A, B, C and K (see table: Vitamin rich fruit). According to Brahma Singh, director of the Defence Research and Development Organisa