Sea buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides L.), a thorny deciduous shrub/ tree, belongs to the family Elaeagnaceae and grows abundantly in the higher Himalayas-Karakoram-HinduKush region including Pakistan. It is usually 2-4 meters in height with orange or red color berries weighing 0.20-0.35 grams.

Sea buckthorn has many economic, nutritional and medicinal benefits. China, Mongolia and Russia are pioneers among the Hippophae growing countries by having harnessed the potential of this plant for various purposes like food, medicine and cosmetics. In China alone the total value of sea buckthorn products was more than US$ 20 million in 1990. In Pakistan this plant is still not fully exploited for its benefits despite an estimated natural cover of 7,000 hectares in the Northern Areas.

The sea buckthorn industry has been thriving in Russia since 1940 when scientists there began investigating the biologically active substances found in the fruit, leaves and bark. The first Russian factory for sea buckthorn product development was established in Bisk. These products were utilized in the diet of Russian cosmonauts and as a cream for protection from cosmic radiation. The Chinese experience with sea buckthorn fruit production is more recent, although traditional uses date back many centuries. Research and plantation establishment were initiated in 1980. Since 1982 over 300,000 hectares of sea buckthorn have been planted in China. In addition, 150 processing factories have been established producing over 200 products. The sea buckthorn based sports drinks “Shawikang” and “Jianibao” were designated the official drink for Chinese athletes attending the Seoul Olympic Games.

The following information is taken from Khan and Kamran (2004) who have compiled information on sea buckthorn from many sources and original references are listed in this paper.

Nutritional value

Sea buckthorn berries are among the most nutritious and vitamin-rich fruits found in the plant kingdom. The following table gives a summary of the substances found in this plant.
Table . Nutritional value of sea buckthorn



Vitamin C (in berries)

360-2500 mg/100g of berries

Carotene (in berries)

30-40 mg/100g of berries

Vitamin E

Upto 160 mg/100g of berries

Vitamin P


Soluble sugars (glucose, fructose, xylose)


Organic acids(malic & succinic)


Amino acids (18)

At least 24 elements in juice (N, P, Fe, Mn, B, Ca, Al, Si etc.)

Oil (palmitic& palmitoleic acids) in juice and seeds


sitosterol, tocopherol & other bioactive compounds (in berries, leaves, bark)

Medicinal value

Medicinal uses of sea buckthorn are well documented in Asia and Europe. Investigations on modern medicinal uses were initiated in Russia during the 1950s. Preparations of sea buckthorn oils are recommended for external use in the case of burns, bedsores, and other skin complications induced by confinement to a bed or treatment with X-ray or radiation.

Internally, sea buckthorn is used for the treatment of stomach and duodenal ulcers. In the UK and Europe sea buckthorn products are used in aromatherapy. Research in the late 1950s and early 1960s reported that 5-hydroxytryptamine (hippophan) isolated from sea buckthorn bark inhibited tumor growth. More recently, clinical studies on the anti-tumor functions of sea buckthorn oils conducted in China have been positive. Sea buckthorn oil, juice or extracts from oil, juice, leaves and bark have been used successfully to treat high blood lipid symptoms, eye diseases, gingivitis and cardiovascular diseases such as high blood pressure and coronary heart disease. Sea buckthorn was formally listed in the “Pharmacopoeia of China” in 1977.

Environmental value

Sea buckthorn is an attractive ornamental plant with bright orange fruit and narrow, silver green leaves. The fruit persists all winter and can be useful in the winter garden. Observations and surveys show that many birds and animals depend on sea buckthorn for food and shelter. For example, in the Canadian prairies sea buckthorn is valuable habitat for the sharp-tail goose, Hungarian partridge and pheasant.

The wide adaptation, fast growth, strong coppicing and suckering habits coupled with efficient nitrogen fixation make sea buckthorn well adapted for soil conservation, soil improvement and marginal land reclamation. Studies have shown that sea buckthorn promotes the growth of poplars, pines and other trees in mixed stands. From 1950 to 1985, China planted 200,000 hectares of sea buckthorn for soil and water conservation and fuel wood production. In Canada, Hungary, Russia, Romania and Germany, sea buckthorn has been used to reclaim wasteland or mined areas.

In the Canadian prairies approximately 1,000 km of field shelterbelts are planted annually to prevent soil erosion and for microclimate modification. These shelterbelts protect the soil and increase crop yields. Sea buckthorn is one of several species used in the outer row of multiple row shelterbelts and in multi-species single row shelterbelts. It provides valuable wildlife habitat as well as soil erosion protection.

One example of extensive use of sea buckthorn for wildlife enhancement is the Rafferty wildlife mitigation project near Estevan, Saskatchewan, Canada. The project, initiated in 1989, involves re-vegetation of 5000 acres of agricultural land with grass, trees and shrubs. A total of 50,000 sea buckthorn have been planted at the project. Wildlife populations, especially upland game birds and songbirds, have increased significantly since the start of the mitigation project. Sea buckthorn is a preferred nest site for songbirds and provides excellent escape cover for upland game birds.

Sea buckthorn products

Since the discovery of the nutritional value of sea buckthorn, hundreds of sea buckthorn products made from the berries, oil, leaves, bark and the extracts from them have been developed. In Europe sea buckthorn juice, jellies, liquors, candy, vitamin C tablets and ice-cream are readily available. Examples of commercial products available are: ‘Biodoat’ sold in Austria; ‘Exsativa’ a vitamin supplement sold in Switzerland; sea buckthorn syrup in France; liqueurs in Finland; and ‘Homoktovis Nektar’ an apple based fruit juice sold in Hungary. Sea buckthorn jams and jellies are produced on a small scale in Saskatchewan, Canada.

At present, the largest producers and consumers of sea buckthorn products are China, Russia, and Mongolia. They all have large scale processing facilities. Processed products include: oil, juice, alcoholic beverages, candies, ice-cream, tea, jam, biscuits, vitamin C tablets, food colors, medicines, cosmetics and shampoos.

In Russia, sea buckthorn berries are often used in home made cosmetics. Recipes for moisturizing lotions, dandruff control and hair loss prevention are widely known and used in Russia. It is generally accepted that sea buckthorn oils have unique anti-aging properties and as a result are becoming an important component of many facial creams manufactured in Asia and Europe. In addition, the UV-spectrum of the oil shows a moderate absorption in the UV-B range, which makes sea buckthorn derived products useful in sun care cosmetics. The Body Shop, an international cosmetic chain, is adding sea buckthorn oil to their sunscreen products. The potential of sea buckthorn oils in face masks, body lotions and shampoos is excellent.

Sea buckthorn in Northern Areas

In Pakistan sea buckthorn is found in Kurram Agency, Chitral, upper Swat, Utror-Gabral, Gilgit, Astore, Skardu, Ganche, Baltistan, Ladak and all over the Northern Areas from 1,219 m (4,022 ft) to 4,266 m (14,077 ft) elevation (Rasool, 1998). The Northern Areas of Pakistan have tremendous potential of the wild sea buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides subsp. turkestanica). The plant is spread over all five districts of the region. According to an estimate 3,000 ha of land in the Northern Areas is under natural sea buckthorn cover (Nasir, 1997). If managed and utilized properly the plant can bring positive change in the socio-economic conditions of the local communities. Though here this plant is used as firewood, hedges (both living and dead), fodder and compost, yet its uses as medicine, food as well as an income-generating source are limited and need to be introduced.

Realizing the importance of sea buckthorn the government of Pakistan launched a project “Sea buckthorn Exploitation and Development in Pakistan” in 1977 through the National Arid-Land Development Research Institute (NADRI). Under this project the Pakistan Council for Scientific and Industrial Research Institute (PCSIR) was assigned the task to develop, introduce and promote various products of sea buckthorn. It developed a number of products and trained local communities in its preparation on domestic level, mainly in Skardu district.

WWF-Pakistan sea buckthorn study in Ghulkin

WWF-Pakistan introduced sea buckthorn farming in the Northern Areas as an alternative income generating option not only to reduce the wasteful exploitation of the plant but also to reduce pressure on other natural resources. The activity mainly consisted of demo plots, studies and community trainings in various sea buckthorn food products preparation and their marketing.

Study rationale

During the past four years it was learnt that due to difficult and time consuming picking techniques and high product prices expected by the community, proper marketing of the products became difficult. In Northern Areas the sea buckthorn species is thorny with small berries. Moreover, the berries are firmly attached to the stalk and are difficult to collect through the usual hand picking that results in high labour costs. Picking techniques developed in other countries are unaffordable to the farmers here because production is mainly at the domestic level and most farmers are too poor to adopt them.

Similarly no cost-benefit analysis of products prepared at domestic level had been conducted in Northern Areas. As a result most farmers expected high prices for the products which became a hurdle in proper marketing.

Therefore, WWF-Pakistan conducted an on-site participatory study regarding sea buckthorn in Ghulkin village situated 138 km northeast of Gilgit in Hunza sub-division (Khan and Kamran, 2004). The area provides excellent natural habitat for sea buckthorn with the main species “Hippophae rhamnoides subsp. turkestanica”, locally called zakh, covering about 300 acres.

Study objectives

The overall objective was to promote marketing of various sea buckthorn products through investigating and assessing various harvesting techniques and cost analysis of berry picking, production and marketing of its products in a participatory manner (Khan and Kamran, 2004).

The specific objectives of the study were:
To test various picking methods of sea buckthorn berries in managed and unmanaged plots and recommend the best one.
To analyze cost involved from picking to marketing of various sea buckthorn food products and recommend reasonable prices.
To share the results and recommendation with the communities involved in the preparation of products and marketing.

. Methodology
Secondary data review:
Literature was reviewed for identifying various picking techniques and products preparation formulae. Web sites were also consulted for the study.

Primary data collection:
The study was conducted from September 28-30th , 2003, when the berries were at optimum maturity level. Moreover the area has both managed and unmanaged stands providing good opportunity for comparative analysis. Simple and easily adoptable picking techniques were tested and analyzed. The methods used ensured that various techniques were tested in a simple and understandable manner and also guaranteed authenticity of the results.
Testing picking techniques:
For picking sea buckthorn berries three simple techniques i.e. hand picking using gloves, cutting of branches followed by clipping of bunches using scissors and beating with wooden sticks, were tested in both managed and unmanaged plots with the same sea buckthorn variety (Hippophae rhamnoides subsp. Turkestanica’s yellow variety ).

In managed plots the sea buckthorn trees were properly spaced and pruned allowing easy access for laborers to collect berries. Trees having approximately the same height and containing almost equal amount of berries were selected for trials to minimize biased readings. Each picking technique was repeated five times with one-hour standard time allocated for each repetition involving three laborers. Average time (person hours) spent collecting one kg of berries was calculated from the readings and efficacy of each method in terms of time and labour cost was determined. Labour cost was determined from the prevailing daily wages (1 day = 06 hours).
Cost analysis of product preparation:
The products involved are jams, jelly, syrup and squash prepared at domestic level. Production cost was divided into cost of product preparation (cost of raw materials, labour and energy consumed), cost of packaging and cost of transportation. Using the standard formulae recommended by PARC Skardu Research Station four sea buckthorn products were first prepared. Through cross multiplication method the production cost of 450 grams of jam and jelly and 750 ml of squash and syrup were then derived. The cost of raw material was determined from prevailing market prices of the ingredients including that of sea buckthorn berries. The labour cost was determined from the prevailing daily wages. Packaging cost was determined by contacting different printing presses, designers and wholesalers involved in the supply of jars, bottles and labels. The cost of transportation of different products was determined from the prevailing vehicle rents and their respective capacities.

Results and discussion
The results of the study are in two portions, the first one is about picking techniques while the second one covers cost analysis of four different products prepared from sea buckthorn.
Picking Techniques:
The results of the berries collected through the three methods is given in the following table.

Table . Weight of berries collected by three laborers (in grams)


Stick beating

Branch cutting & scissor clipping

Hand picking using gloves

Managed Plot


Mana-ged Plot

Un-managed Plot

Managed Plot

Un-managed Plot











































Quantity/ Laborer/ hr







Quantity/ Laborer/day







Source: Khan, M.I. and M. Kamran. 2004. “Cost analysis of sea buckthorn berries picking techniques and food products preparation at domestic level: A study conducted in Ghulkin, Upper Hunza, Northern Areas of Pakistan”. WWF-Pakistan, Jutial, Gilgit.

The stick-beating method proved to be the best with an average 1,949.86 and 1,601.53 grams of berries collected in one person hour in managed and unmanaged plots respectively. It was followed by scissor-picking and hand picking techniques. The quantity of berries collected in the managed plot was significantly higher than in the unmanaged plot using the same picking techniques, indicating that proper management (spacing and pruning) of even the local varieties of sea buckthorn can make the picking process more cost effective

The results also reveal that the maximum quantity a person can collect in one day is 11.7 kg, which can fetch Rs. 410/- according to the prices offered locally i.e. Rs. 35 per kg. Thus the collection and selling of fresh sea buckthorn berries can be promoted as an alternative income generating activity provided proper marketing is in place. There is need for identification of proper dealers and establishment of their linkages with the communities.

Production cost:
Four sea buckthorn products were first prepared according to the formulae recommended by Pakistan Agriculture Research Center (PARC) Skardu Research Station as given in the following table. The products were weighed to determine the quantity of products in grams or ml. The cost of ingredients and labour used were determined and cross-checked with other sources.
Table . Product ingredients/formulae



Pulp/Juice (g/ml)

Water (ml)

Sugar (g)

Pectin (g)

Sodium Benzoate (g)

Citric acid (g)

Sea buckthorn Jam







Sea buckthorn Jelly







Sea buckthorn Syrup







Sea buckthorn Squash







Source: Khan, M.I. and M. Kamran. 2004. “Cost analysis of sea buckthorn berries picking techniques and food products preparation at domestic level: A study conducted in Ghulkin, Upper Hunza, Northern Areas of Pakistan”. WWF-Pakistan, Jutial, Gilgit.

Production cost was divided into cost of products preparation (cost of raw materials, labour and energy consumed), cost of packaging and cost of transportation. Each of the above was determined through different methods.

Table shows that the total cost for the production of 450 grams jam and jelly is Rs. 66.74 and 74.78 respectively, and for 750 ml of syrup and squash is Rs. 44.7 and 36.11 respectively. But the communities, because of lack of information on costs involved, expect high prices for their products. For example in Ghulkin and Shinaki the price for one jar of sea buckthorn jam is Rs. 150/-, which shows over-expectation and is a hurdle in effective marketing.

Table . Different costs involved in preparation of sea buckthorn products (in Rs.)

Sea buckthorn Products

Ingredients Cost

Energy and labour Cost

  1. Packaging


Total Cost




Sod. benz-oate

Citric Acid



Jar/ bottle



Jam (450 g)












Jelly (450 g)












Syrup (750 ml)












Squash (750 ml)












Source: Khan, M.I. and M. Kamran. 2004. “Cost analysis of sea buckthorn berries picking techniques and food products preparation at domestic level: A study conducted in Ghulkin, Upper Hunza, Northern Areas of Pakistan”. WWF-Pakistan, Jutial, Gilgit.

The main problem with sea buckthorn harvesting is its thorny nature that creates difficulty in berry picking. It is recommended that research organizations like Karakorum Agriculture Research Institute for Northern Areas (KARINA) and National Agriculture Research Council (NARC) should focus on developing thornless varieties of the plant to make the harvesting process easier.

Management has a pivotal role in the proper collection of berries as it reduces picking time and consequently the labor cost. Thus KARINA and the Agriculture department should focus on establishing model / demonstration orchards at different localities in the Northern Areas.

Awareness campaigns for adopting sea buckthorn as an economic crop should be launched to bring innovators forward for the cause.
The results of the study have shown that berry collection is a profitable activity if proper market for selling of fresh berries is available. An awareness raising and capacity building campaign on this issue must be launched, coupled with identification of and linking various traders, dealers and food industries like Qarshi and Hamdard with the communities.

Concerned departments should lobby for food industries like Hamdard, Qarshi and Mitchell’s to establish their processing units in Northern Areas. Besides sea buckthorn they would have access to cherries, mulberries, apples, apricots, figs, pomegranates, pears etc.

Farmers who raise sea buckthorn should be given incentives in terms of purchasing their produce at subsidized rates. Otherwise very few farmers would establish sea buckthorn orchards in the area, as its market is still limited in the country.

Research conducted by various organizations like NADRI and KARINA is either limited to their stations or confined to a small number of communities. There is need for conducting on- farm adoptive research, which can be done through partnership between government research organizations and NGOs working with the communities.