Friday, 26 September 2014

LEH BERRY/ SEA BUCKTHORN: Hippophae rhamnoides ssp. turkestanica

Plant Morphology
(Photograph courtesy: Wikipedia at) (

Synonyms: Hippophae turkestanica
Family: Elaeagnaceae (Oleaster family)
Common Names:
English: Leh berry, Sea buckthorn, Sallow thorn, Sand thorn
India: Chharma (Lahul-Spiti, H.P), Suak (Pangi, H.P.), Tirkug (Lahul-Spiti, H.P), Sirna (Ladakh, J&K), Tasru (Ladakh, J&K), Tsarna (Ladakh, J&K), Tsermang (Ladakh, J&K).
Distribution: Pakistan to Europe, Himalayas in the higher Tibetan plateau at 2100-3600 m.
Habitats: Riversides in the subalpine to lower alpine zones.
Morphology: Hippophae rhamnoides ssp. turkestanica is a thorny and deciduous shrub growing to 6 m by 2.5 m at a medium growth rate. The crown is irregular with rigid and silvery twigs and leaves.  
The leaves are linear to lance-shaped, alternate, 2-6 cm long, covered on both sides with silvery-white scales. The undersides of leaves have brown dots. The plants are unisexual (dioecious) with either male or female flowers. The flowers are present in clusters, inconspicuous, yellow and appear before leaves. Each fruit is a 1-seeded, reddish orange berry and 5-12 mm in size. The plants can fix nitrogen.
Flowering: June
Fruiting: September-October

Ripe fruits of Leh berry
(Photograph courtesy: Wikimedia Commons at,_Nubra_valley,_Ladakh.jpg)

Fruits:  The reddish orange berries are soft, juicy, rich in oils and edible. They are nutritious, very acidic and unpleasant to eat raw. The juice of berries can be mixed with sweeter substances such as sugars and apple or grape juices. The juice is considered very rich in vitamin C. Its juice is available in the Indian market under the trade names ‘Leh Berry’ and ‘Ladakh Berry’. It has a market of over Rs. 6 crores in India and over Rs 17,000 crores in China. The fruits can also be processed into preserve, jam and squash.

Known hazards:  Some reports consider the fruits poisonous, while the others attribute it to the acidic nature of fruit pulp.


Ethnobotanical uses:  The berries are eaten in Lahul & Spiti (Himachal Pradesh, India). The fruit infusion is relished by children. It is considered a tonic, aphrodisiac and medicine for tuberculosis.
Medicinal uses: The twigs and leaves have astringent and vermifuge properties. Medicinal oil obtained from fruits is used in the treatment of cardiac disorders, healing of burns and eczema.  The fresh juice is used in the treatment of colds, fever and exhaustion. The berries are very rich source of vitamins and minerals. Ample amounts of vitamins A, C, E and flavanoids have been reported. 

Cultivation: The plants can be propagated through seeds, suckers and stem cuttings. They are very hardy and can tolerate a temperature of about -25°C, but require sunny sides for their proper growth. The seeds are sown in spring in the sunny locations. Cold stratification for three months considerably improves the germination percentage.  The male seedlings can be easily differentiated from the females in the spring as males have very prominent axillary buds. The plants produce suckers, which can be used as a planting material also. The stem cuttings of half-ripe wood can also be used for propagation at the end of autumn or very early in the spring.


  1. Isorhamnetin 3-glucoside-7-rhamnoside is a compound of the flavonoid class found in the herbs of Hippophae rhamnoides Linn. Isorhamnetin 3-glucoside-7-rhamnoside