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Sea Buckthorn, Miracle Fruit?

I've been hearing good things about sea buckthorn juice, but I'm also confused. Is it the same as olivello juice? And is it really all that healthy?

Answer (Published 9/30/2011)

Sea buckthorn juice is indeed healthy, and is the same as olivello juice - olivello is the Italian name for this fruit. I am excited about this nutritious product, and look forward to its becoming more widely available. Sea buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides L.) is a hardy Eurasian shrub. Wild patches thrive where virtually nothing else can grow: on salty beach sand, in deserts, and above the tree lines of mountain ranges. Its thorny branches are covered with shiny, spherical yellow-orange fruits that are about 1/4 inch in diameter.

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In recent decades, horticulturists have developed domestic strains that improve the fruit's size, ease of picking and already impressive nutritional profile. Sea buckthorn  is an excellent source of antioxidants and protective phytonutrients; specifically, it is among the most concentrated natural sources of vitamin C ever discovered. It is also high in carotenoids, essential minerals, and polyphenols. Oil extracts have long been used topically in Asia and Europe to lower inflammation and relieve pain.

Unfortunately, the  flavor is "challenging." I tried both the fruit and juice in Italy on a biodynamic farm, and found them extremely acidic. Yet I felt they could be made not only palatable but appealing. I decided to make my True Food Kitchen restaurants the first in the U.S. to offer sea buckthorn juice.

Now, orange-olivello sorbet and several of our nonalcoholic drinks feature this remarkable juice. We mellow the sourness with vanilla and sweeter natural fruit juices, and all of these offerings have become extremely popular.

Andrew Weil, M.D.

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