Unveiling an Enigmatic Jewel: Sea Buckthorn – A Tale of Wellness and Wonder
Nestled high amidst the majestic peaks of the Himalayas lies a hidden treasure, a rare and mystical berry known as sea buckthorn. Revered for its extraordinary nutritional profile and therapeutic properties, this vibrant orange jewel has captivated the hearts and taste buds of travellers and locals alike. Join me on a journey of discovery as we delve into the intriguing world of sea buckthorn, unearthing its rich history, cultural significance, and the myriad ways in which it contributes to sustainable living and a holistic lifestyle.
I came across the sea buckthorn berry around three years ago, when my friend and I were searching for a picnic spot in the hidden valleys of Spiti, Himachal Pradesh. We had heard about a beautiful flowing freshwater stream where we could bathe and cook food on woodfire. Our plan was to find this spot. My friend, Yangzom, and I ended up hiking for about 1.5-2 hours and on the way stumbled across thorny shrubs that kept pricking our legs and lower body. We got extremely annoyed and cursed the shrubs since they were growing along the entire stretch. When we looked closely, we saw that they had small orange-yellow berries. At first, we were hesitant to try them, but when we did, they tasted tangy (a citrusy burst of flavour). We plucked many for our way back home. It was very difficult to even try plucking them due to the thorny branches. We managed to bring some back and when we inquired about them with a local, we learnt that these were sea buckthorn berries and they had superfood properties. This was the same berry being sold at the Himalayan cafes and homestays in the form of teas, juices and jams.
The human consumption of sea buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides) dates back thousands of years. Revered in traditional Tibetan and ayurvedic medicine, it has been treasured for its remarkable healing properties. Growing abundantly in the Himalayan region, sea buckthorn is an integral part of the local culture, where it is known by various names such as tirhuk and lehtar. The berry is known to be a nutritional powerhouse. They are a potent source of vitamins, including vitamin C, E, and beta-carotene, which support a robust immune system and promote healthy skin. Rich in essential fatty acids, such as omega-3, -6, -7, and -9, sea buckthorn nourishes the body from within, benefiting cardiovascular health and aiding in the management of cholesterol levels.
In traditional medicine, sea buckthorn has been revered as a natural remedy for various ailments. Its oil, extracted from the berries, is highly sought-after for its potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. This golden elixir is used topically to heal wounds, soothe sunburns, and combat the signs of aging. When ingested, sea buckthorn oil aids in digestion, reduces inflammation, and promotes healthy liver function.
Sea buckthorn berries; photo by Sheetansh
Beyond its remarkable health benefits, sea buckthorn plays a crucial role in sustainable travel and environmental conservation. This hardy shrub thrives in high altitudes, growing in the harsh and barren landscape, and helping to prevent soil erosion. Its roots anchor the soil, while its branches create natural windbreaks, protecting delicate ecosystems. Harvesting sea buckthorn berries provides a supplementary income to local communities, encouraging the preservation of traditional Himalayan farming practices.
The tangy and slightly astringent flavour of sea buckthorn has found its way into the culinary world, captivating chefs and food enthusiasts alike. The berries are used to create delightful jams, syrups, and sauces, lending a burst of vibrant colour and a refreshing acidity to dishes. Sea buckthorn tea is cherished for its invigorating taste, while innovative mixologists are crafting enticing cocktails featuring this Himalayan gem.
Immerse yourself in the awe-inspiring beauty of the Himalayas as you embark on a journey to discover sea buckthorn in its natural habitat. Trek through breath-taking landscapes, where the shimmering orange berries cling to branches, contrasting against the snowy peaks. Engage with local communities and witness their time-honoured techniques of harvesting and processing sea buckthorn, gaining a deeper appreciation for their sustainable way of life. You don't have to travel to the Himalayas to incorporate the benefits of sea buckthorn into your everyday life. Seek out products infused with sea buckthorn oil, such as skincare items and supplements, to harness its rejuvenating and immune-boosting properties. Experiment with sea buckthorn-infused recipes and drinks to add a nutritious twist to your culinary repertoire.
The enigmatic sea buckthorn, with its vibrant colour, remarkable health benefits, and deep cultural roots, is a true embodiment of sustainable travel and holistic lifestyle. Its presence in the Himalayas enriches the local communities and provides an opportunity for travellers to experience the wonders of this ancient berry. Let the allure of sea buckthorn ignite your curiosity and inspire you to explore the world, one sustainable and wellness-infused adventure at a time.
About the Storyteller
Sheetansh is a Himachali who enjoys capturing cultural traditions and stories. He is enthusiastic about working in the development and cultural sectors and is currently pursuing a Masters of Design at NIFT Delhi. He has been involved in several community development projects in Spiti valley for many years. He loves how warm and welcoming the cold desert is, which brings him back to Spiti regularly.