(NaturalHealth365) If you are one of the roughly 15 million people across the United States affected by eczema – also known as atopic dermatitis — you know how uncomfortable and unsightly this inflammatory skin condition can be. Eczema often features small, intensely itchy blisters that ooze and then crust over repeatedly, especially upon being scratched. Other symptoms include patches of thickened, cracked and scaly skin, redness, swelling and pain.
Conventional medical treatment for eczema may involve corticosteroid creams, antibiotics and antihistamines. However, the possibility of side effects – including thinning skin; elevated blood pressure and increased susceptibility to infection — causes many people to seek alternative methods of treatment.
Wouldn’t it be amazing if a natural, non-toxic herbal remedy were found that could alleviate eczema misery? Many herbalists and natural healers believe that sea buckthorn, a hardy shrub that grows along coastal areas in Asia and Europe, may hold the key to eczema relief in its bright orange-yellow berries.
Sea Buckthorn described as the ‘Miracle Berry’
Berries from the sea buckthorn plant, botanically known as Hippophae rhamnoides, are receiving kudos from medical researchers and nutritionists alike for their high levels of antioxidants and beneficial vitamins and minerals. Sea buckthorn berries are also surprisingly rich in omega-3s, the same healthful essential fatty acids found in cold-water fish.
Sea buckthorn berries are so rich in health-enhancing constituents that many experts consider them a nutraceutical – a food with health-protective or curative properties. Dr. Mehmet Oz, emmy-award winning TV host of The Dr. Oz Show, has termed sea buckthorn a ‘miracle berry’ and endorses sea buckthorn extracts for their moisturizing, restorative and protective effects on skin.
Sea buckthorn’s benefits to skin extend to helping alleviate symptoms of eczema, although the United States lags far behind Asia and Europe in adopting it for this use. Sea buckthorn has been employed for centuries in both Ayurvedic and traditional Chinese healing systems to treat inflammatory skin conditions. In Russian folk medicine, sea buckthorn oil is used not only to treat eczema, but also to promote healing of skin damage caused by radiation.
What are sea buckthorn’s inflammation-fighting constituents?
The first clue to sea buckthorn’s healthful properties lies in the bright orange color of its berries; this indicates high levels of beta-carotene, a natural pigment and potent antioxidant. According to University of Maryland Medical Center (UMM), the antioxidants and flavonoids found in berries have anti-inflammatory properties; they also promote healing of connective tissue and can help prevent allergic reactions.
This is significant because eczema is believed to be a type of allergic response. UMM credits sea buckthorn extracts with promoting healing of wounds, and adds that the herb’s omega-3 fatty acids combat skin inflammations by reducing levels in the body of an inflammatory substance called leukotriene B-4.
Noting that patients with eczema often have low levels of EFA’s, dermatologist Dr. Carmelo Plateroti of Templeton, California, concurs that fatty acids are vital for treating the condition.
Sea buckthorn could almost be said to be ‘an entire health food store in a berry.’ In addition to beta-carotene and EFAs, sea buckthorn berries contain high levels of alpha-tocopherol, a natural form of vitamin E and a potent antioxidant in its own right. Also present are vitamins A and C, as well as essential minerals such calcium, manganese and selenium. Finally, sea buckthorn contains beta-sitosterol, another natural anti-inflammatory substance.
The compelling science behind sea buckthorn
In a double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical study published in 1999 in Journal of Nutrition and Biochemistry, 49 patients with atopic dermatitis were treated with dietary supplementation of sea buckthorn extracts daily for four months.
Patients treated with oil made from the pulp of the berries reported significant improvement of symptoms in a month. The team noted that the pulp oil – which contains oleic and palmitic acids, EFA’s not present in the seed oil — was more effective than oil made from the seeds. The group who had taken the pulp oil also experienced a rise in desirable high density lipoproteins.
What is the best way to use sea buckthorn?
Sea buckthorn berries, although nutritious, have a tart, bitter taste; fortunately, sea buckthorn extracts are available as a juice — which many people find more palatable — and as an oil, which can be applied to skin two or three times a day. In studies, participants took dosages 300 ml per day.
Sea buckthorn berries and juice are considered safe when used as a food. However, if you are pregnant or have any health issue, it would be best to consult an experienced healthcare provider before using this oil. Keep in mind, sea buckthorn can interact with prescription medications.
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