Now, it seems, there’s a potential new member of the group. Yes, it is brightly colored (orange), and its Siberian origins are, if not terribly romantic, rather exotic for the average American consumer. Enter "oblepikha," a berry that most in the Russian-speaking world are familiar with and likely haven't given a sustained thought to. (The English name for the fruit, by the way, is the rather cumbersome "sea buckthorn.")
Russian grannies consider the fruit to have a wide variety of health benefits, and they may be correct. But if you believe the claims on websites like seabuckthornoil.net and seabuckwonders.com, Russians may have been ignoring a veritable panacea in their midst. And a marketable one at that.
Such websites say oblepikha juice, oil, and pills -- all available for purchase -- can be used to reduce weight, ease constipation, soothe acne, and heal mouth ulcers. The latter website even says the berry "goes to space as a special food, keeping astronauts well adapted to a complex and hectic space environment."
None of the claims, of course, have been evaluated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, although the members of this sea-buckthorn-oil Facebook page likely take them quite seriously.
Amika, a Brooklyn-based business with a creative director from Ukraine, has taken the lead in using the fruit cosmetically -- and, to be fair, oil from the berry is not unheard of in skin preparations from back East.
The hair-care company offers masks, serums, and sprays containing oil from the sea buckthorn (or "obliphica," as their erroneous transliteration reads) and their products are now available at Sephora and on the Home Shopping Network.
A representative of the company tells me that "since the berry comes from such a harsh climate, it has built up an arsenal of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to protect itself" -- including, she says, 15 times more vitamin C in each berry than an orange.
This Russian website, complete with oblepikha cartoons, has more details.
While Amika imports their sea buckthorn directly from Siberia, U.S. aficionados needn't look so far from home. If oblepikha does become the next superfruit, you can stock up on the shrubs here, or snap up the seeds on eBay.
-- Richard Solash