If you have dry, tired eyes, you are not alone.
Dry eye syndrome (DES) affects about 3.2 million women and 1.68 million men over the age of 50. For women, DES parallels menopause and other typical conditions of aging. For men, it corresponds not just with age, but hypertension, antidepressant use, and benign prostate hyperplasia (BPH).
Aside from computer use, dry eyes have many other causes as well: driving, working outside, contact lens wear, common over-the-counter drugs (like antihistamines), dust, wind, and exposure to air pollutants. In serious cases, an autoimmune disease like Sjögren’s Syndrome may be the root cause.
The right balance of fatty acids is truly essential to our health in many ways, and this includes healthy skin and mucous membranes. However, it is not just omega-3, 6, and 9 fatty acids, which are pretty familiar to anyone interested in natural health. Omega-7, also called palmitoleic acid – not nearly as common as the others – is critical, too, but much harder to find. There are only a few sources of the rare omega-7 fatty acid, but the science on this subject is exploding. Today we’ll discuss how to reduce or eliminate dry eyes with omega-7 from sea buckthorn.
Sea Buckthorn Oil: The Answer to Dry Eyes
Sea Buckthorn (Hippophaë rhamnoides) has a long history of use and is such a healthy berry that it is called “the nutrient bomb.” Some varieties have been recommended for centuries in Traditional Chinese Medicine for everything from improving digestion and stopping heartburn to keeping the heart and circulation running smoothly. In fact, those are all still very good reasons to use an extract from the berries and seeds.
The seed, pulp, and skin of the berry are packed with over 200 nutrients, including antioxidant tocopherols, beta-carotene, phytosterols, and omega fatty acids. The omega fatty acid profile includes omega-3, 6, 9 and the much more difficult-to-find, but very valuable omega-7. Omega-7 comprises up about 50% of sea buckthorn berry’s fatty acid content making it one of the most valuable nutrient sources, and the richest plant-based source of palmitoleic acid you’ll find.
However, not all sea buckthorn products contain omega-7 fatty acids. That’s because omega-7 is found only in the pulp of the berry, not the seed oil. However, the seed oil is rich in essential alpha-linolenic and linoleic fatty acids, for beneficial omega-3 and omega-6. Both the pulp and the seed oil supply high levels of natural vitamin E (tocopherols and tocotrienols) and plant sterols along with the omega-7 fatty acid that makes sea buckthorn so unique.
There are many companies selling sea buckthorn products, but since many of them contain seed oil only, people aren’t getting the omega-7s they expect. That’s why it’s important to choose the right sea buckthorn – for many reasons.
These days, there is more cultivation of sea buckthorn. The berry needs to be handled with care. The buckthorn shrub is covered with thorns, which makes hand-harvesting extremely difficult and time-consuming. However, this tough work needs to be done in order to keep the practice sustainable and the berries nutrient-rich. Some companies try to circumvent the process by simply cutting off the branches, freezing them, and knocking off the berries. Unfortunately, that shortcut not only damages the plant, it damages and alters the very compounds you want from the berries. For the most benefits, you want to get extracts made with sea buckthorn berries that have been gently gathered.
Additionally, it’s also crucial to find a sea buckthorn extract that has been sensibly processed. I recommend looking for a sea buckthorn extract that uses a supercritical CO2 extraction process. Overall, I think this form of extraction is one of the best for this specific nutrient.
That’s because most supplemental ingredients are produced using harsh solvents, such as hexane, to separate the extract from the plant material in order to concentrate its benefits. Supercritical CO2 extraction is much different.
Supercritical CO2 extraction uses carbon dioxide in liquid form, which is odorless, tasteless, and non-toxic. Oils in plants that are extracted using this method contain no heavy metals, are completely pure and safe, provide no base for germ growth, and need no additional preservation. Supercritical CO2 extraction works at very low temperatures, so it preserves the sensitive plant constituents, and avoids the risk of biologically active components being destroyed by oxidation. Plus, it yields high levels of the omega fatty acids.
Relieving Dry Eyes
One of the reasons we develop dry eyes is because the moisture levels of the eyes (and the entire body) change as we get older. Aside from simple change in body chemistry, our lifestyle contributes to dry eyes as well. Being at a computer all day, working outside, wind, dust, allergies, and prescription drugs can cause a lot of the irritation and dryness that make us wish for lasting relief.
While the causes can vary, the basic mechanics of dry eyes generally boil down to two types: an “aqueous deficient” form of dry eye (you simply don’t produce enough tears or moisture to keep the eyes from feeling dry); and an “evaporative” dry eye where the amount of moisture starts off normal, but the composition of the tear film layer is simply not stable or healthy enough to prevent the eyes from drying out.
Certainly, there are many over-the-counter and prescription eye drops and “artificial tears” available, but they don’t really address the structural reasons that cause the problem to begin with. Nor do they offer a long-term solution. For that, you need nutrients working systemically from the inside.
Nutrients from sea buckthorn, including omega-7, do just that.
A double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled clinical study included one hundred men and women aged 20 to 75 who were experiencing dry eye symptoms. Not surprisingly, half of them used contact lenses - a major contributing factor to dry eyes and fatigue.
For three months, half of the participants used a supercritical CO2 sea buckthorn extract (SBA24®), in morning and evening doses. Participants kept a logbook of symptoms throughout the study, and clinical tests (including eye exams and fatty acid analysis of the tear film) were conducted.
The redness and burning sensations were lower in the sea buckthorn group versus the placebo group, and in similar studies, those using sea buckthorn also had a much better fatty acid composition of their tear film than those in the placebo groups.
So why does sea buckthorn work so well for dry eyes? The researchers believe that one important reason is the reduction of inflammation, which tends to dry out the eyes – and keep them dry. Other research has shown that omega fatty acids help reduce the inflammation, and they have a combined effect of increasing tear secretion while reducing inflammation. Fatty acids - and a healthy fatty acid balance - also help build the composition of tear film, produced by the meibomian glands at the edges of the eyelids. The lipid content of that film is what helps prevent water and moisture loss from the eyes, so it’s an important factor in dry eye syndrome and other conditions of eye dryness. In fact, there is a demonstrable difference in the fatty acid composition in the tears of people with healthy eyes versus those suffering from dry eyes. Additionally, omega-7 fatty acids helps the cells themselves retain moisture.
When you consider how critical fatty acids are to our health overall, that’s really not surprising. After all, omega fatty acids help support the structure of skin, mucosal membrane layers in the digestive system, vagina, and cells throughout the body. But most people don’t get this unique omega fatty acid through diet alone, which is why I believe that supplementation is essential.
The sea buckthorn oil I recommend has also been clinically proven for women with Sjögren’s syndrome, an autoimmune disease that leads to excessive dryness in the eyes, mouth, and vagina. In a double-blind, placebo-controlled crossover study, 24 women aged 37 to 66 took sea buckthorn oil (SBA24®) or a coconut oil placebo for three months. The improvement for women in the sea buckthorn group was dramatic. The botanical relieved itching, pain, dryness and burning sensations in the mucosal tissues throughout the body. For anyone suffering from this painful condition, I highly recommend this extract. It has the power to improve your life dramatically.
Of course, carotenoids and tocopherols have also been shown to have similar effects on inflammation and oxidative stress in the eyes. Sea buckthorn provides all of them in one package, along with the added benefits of moisture-improving omega-7. So, not only do you have nutrients that support the structure of the eyes – they also prevent free radical damage to the retina and other sensitive components of the eyes.
There is a Natural Solution to Dry Eyes – Sea Buckthorn Oil
Whether you have occasional dry eyes after being outside or working long hours staring at a computer screen, or are stressed each day by knowing you’ll have to contend with irritated, sore, and tired eyes, you don’t have to reach for the drops or some prescription drug.
Sea buckthorn can help your eyes feel fresh, rested, and healthy again. Plus, it will have amazing benefits for your skin, and support your heart and digestion, too. That’s because sea buckthorn truly is a “nutrient bomb”. The omega-7 it provides along with its astounding nutrient profile, make it a natural wonder you’ll appreciate every day.
For fresh, rested, and healthy eyes, I recommend taking 500 mg of sea buckthorn oil daily. Be sure to look for sea buckthorn oil that has been extracted using CO2 technology and features a standardized ratio of berry pulp and seed oil.