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Sea buckthorn is originally a wild plant from Central Asia. Over millennia it spread naturally across from the Alps in central Europe to the coasts of the North and Baltic Seas. The ripe berries of the sea buckthorn have provided vitamin-packed juice for Weleda’s supplements for almost 70 years. During the Second World War, when scientists were looking for natural sources of vitamin C, they came across sea buckthorn in Switzerland and decided to harness the plant’s potential. More recently, Weleda developed rich natural and organic cosmetic products based on sea buckthorn oils.
For the last two decades, the berries have been sourced from wild plants
found in controlled areas of the Alps. Today the finest sea buckthorn varieties
are found thriving in an area of about 100 hectares in San Mario, bringing an
annual harvest of 200 tonnes of fresh, organically grown berries. The Künzi
& Röthlisberger family business presses almost 100 tonnes of fresh juice
from these, in a close partnership with Weleda which has lasted for over ten
Kurt Künzi, a traditional plant breeder, began to experiment with cultivating
selected sea buckthorn varieties from the Alps in the late 1980s. Selection and
breeding of the most suitable varieties is a complex process, which takes time
and patience. Breeders increase the amount of plants taking cuttings of small
branches from selected parent plants, grown in a special soil-compost mixture.
Kurt eventually moved his biodynamic farming operation to San Mario in the
Pisan Maremma, in Tuscany near the sun-soaked city of Pisa. The growing
conditions here are ideal – the soil is nourished with compost and the hours of
sunshine are longer even than they are in the southern Alpine valleys. This is
important because sea buckthorn needs as much light as it can get to build its
valuable vitamin complexes. But still it’s only after three to four years that
analysis reveals whether the berries’ juice delivers good enough composition and
Kurt Künzi and his team are currently cultivating more than five varieties of
sea buckthorn. For juice and syrups, to be taken internally, there are varieties
that have a rich content of vitamins and trace elements. And as with wine,
attention must be paid to the aroma, acidity and the correct mixture of
different varieties in the juice. Other varieties are better at producing
nutrient-rich sea buckthorn oil for cosmetic products, because they have a
higher oil content in the fruit’s flesh, like olives, and are therefore valuable
to restorative skin care.
For Kurt Künzi and his four employees, sustainability permeates everything
they do in San Mario. It begins with the selection of plants, continues in the
biodynamic fields and includes the use of energy-saving processes, smart compost
management and herbal and mineral preparations to promote soil vitality. Thus,
the plants remain healthy and are not prone to pests and diseases. The
management at San Mario matches the ecological criteria that Weleda chooses too.
With our own in-house cultivation of medicinal plants Weleda uses this method,
which is almost as old as the company itself.
Harvesting takes place on the fields by cutting the branches manually – for
the berries grow close to the sea buckthorn branches this is the most effective
way. For the rest a specially-designed threshing apparatus, the ‘sea buckthorn
chameleon’ strips the berries from the branches. Then they go into cold storage,
labelled by variety, and are pressed into juice for Weleda in small batches. The
juice is gently pasteurised and packed into airtight containers, while a further
process step collects the sea buckthorn seed and juice oils.
The wild sea buckthorn plant demonstrates an important aspect of bio-dynamic
agricultural philosophy and sustainability for Weleda. Agricultural and
medicinal plants that could be collected in the wild are increasingly being
cultivated, partly due to the disappearance of habitats through construction,
and also due to a reduction in species as a result of intensive farming. Weleda
has set a corporate goal of starting to cultivate a wild plant every year,
sometimes in cooperation with research and cultivation partners, but also in our
own biologically-diverse medicinal plant garden. This way, the survival of
endangered plant types can be ensured for the future. By safeguarding these
plants through cultivation, Weleda also ensures continued access to essential
raw materials needed for our uniquely beneficial product ranges.
Organic sesame oil is an essential component of various Weleda body care products, from refreshing shower creams to baby care.
In the middle of the dry grass plains of central Hungary the bright yellow blooms of sunflowers grow in the fields.
The orange-yellow to red Sea Buckthorn Oils are valuable active substance oils that are characterised by a high proportion of unsaturated fatty acids, vitamin E and carotenoids. Sea Buckthorn Oils have regenerating, antioxidant and intensive skin care properties.
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