Scientists at Indian Institute of Technology, Mandi and CSK Himachal Pradesh Agriculture University Palampur, in collaboration with and five other institutes, have submitted a Rs 7.5 crore research project proposal to Ministry of AYUSH, Government of India to develop seabuckthorn immunity booster and anti-COVID 19 drug.

The fruit and leaves of seabuckthorn are quite rich in a variety of vitamins and antioxidants (vitamin C, A, E, K, carotenoids, polyphenols and sterols etc. The studies done in over 70 research organizations of India like Palampur University, DRDO, CSIR and AIIMS etc. have found its efficacy in gastric ulcer, diabetes, cardiovascular, wound healing and skin diseases etc, said Dr Virendra Singh, a seabuckthorn expert and General Secretary of Seabuckthorn Society of India.

Dr Singh said Seabuckthorn has a great potential in boosting immunity, besides strong antivirus activity. Seabuckthorn naturally grows in cold desert and dry temperate regions of Himachal Pradesh (Lahaul-Spiti and Kinnaur), Ladakh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh.

Presently, over 55 countries are involved in scientific research and commercial utilization of seabuckthorn, he said.

Dr Singh said the scientific studies on seabuckthorn fruit oil and leaf extracts done in Finland, Russia, India and China have proven its strong immunity boosting and anti-viral properties. Seabuckthorn has been found to have much stronger activity against a broad spectrum of viruses, as per a team of Russian scientists at All Russian Research Institute of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants, Moscow, in 2001.

However, the first research breakthrough by using seabuckthorn against COVID 19 has been reported by South Korea, where a team of scientists at Ethwa Woman’s University Medical Centre was successful in isolating anti-COVID19 compounds from seabuckthorn.

It is pertinent to mention that Indian private sector has also invested in seabuckthorn and established ultra-modern seabuckthorn processing industries at Baddi, Faridabad and Kochi and have launched over 120 sea buckthorn juice, cosmetics and oil health products in India.

According to the Seabuckthorn Society of India, there are about 11,000 hectares natural forest of seabuckthorn in Ladakh, 1200 hectares in Himachal, 2000 hectares in Uttarakhand and about 1000 hectares in Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh. The collection by local farmers is mere 800 tons and rest 20,000 tons goes waste, as it is very difficult to enter into the thick forest.