Skip to main content

'SEABUCK THORN' - Magic plant of Gilgit-Baltistan

‘Seabuck thorn’  -  Magic plant of Gilgit-Baltistan (Published in The Nation dated September 11, 2002)
Syed Shams ud Din
Nature has endowed Pakistan with vast resources and ‘seabuck thorn’ is indeed, one of them. For its stupendous ingredients, it is considered an elixir. This plant is found in abundance throughout Gilgit-Baltistan, hence its popularity and maximal growth on scientific lines can work wonders in eradicating poverty from the region. Following its fruitful experimentation, the neighboring China and Russia have reportedly converted all the natural growth areas of ‘seabuck thorn’ into nurseries spreading over thousands  of acres of land. China got it planted on a large scale in certain backward regions some three decades knack that helped catapult them economically to unimaginable heights.

The stupendous characteristics associated with this plant lately prompted  the western countries like Finland, Belgium, Germany and Sweden to undertake ‘seabuck thorn’ transplantation. India hosted an international conference on ‘seabuck thorn’ in Delhi at the end of 2000.

Gilgit-Baltistan abounding it is in the natural forests of ‘seabuck thorn’ for centuries. The tracts like Astore, Hunza, Nagar, Bagrote, Ghizar, Diamir and the whole of Baltistan have all mushroom growth of this plant.

This can also be seen in Chitral and Upper Swat. According to an estimate, the total area under ‘seabuck thorn’ is put at some 7000 acres – mostly along the river courses, watered wastelands and nullahs. It is greatly instrumental in preventing soil-erosion and hence serves as the most effective natural embankment to water courses. Its abundant growth can be witnessed mostly along the flooded parts of land in Gilgit-Baltistan.

The height of ‘seasbuck thorn’, on full growth, can be up to seven meters. It is said to comprise both male and female species. During autumn, all its branches get bedecked with reddish, beans-like fruit. In Baltistan, it is called ‘zhoq’ while the Hunzakutz call it ‘shung’. In Gilgit region, it is named ‘buru’ while in Wakhi, it is named ‘zakh’. The plant primarily becomes classifiable into its four natural varieties, and one of them is to be found in Gilgit-Baltistan. However, in parts of Kashmir, another of the kind ‘Hippophae salicifolia’ is reportedly in natural growth.

In Gilgit-Baltistan, its growth in abundance remains a centuries-old natural phenomenon albeit its medicinal utility always shrouded in mystery save only that the native people took its highly pricking thorny nature, precluding any intrusions.

It has nonetheless, been a source of fodder and fuel wood as well. During 1995, the federal ministry for food and agriculture first prepared a development plan for popularizing this plant. Pursuant to this scheme, thousands of kilograms of ‘seabuck thorn’ seeds were purchased from the farmers of Gilgit-Baltistan that threw open new income generation avenues to them. This seed was then used for its oil extraction by both government and nongovernmental organizations. In the meantime, its fruit came to be utilized for making jams, jellies and biscuits. This was followed by its use for making as many as twenty eatables.

This is in addition to a number of cosmetics – shampoos, creams etc, it is used for. In homoeopathy, it is now widely used for curing all diseases like cancer, hypertension besides various capsules and elixirs made for cough relief.

And for the preceding few years, the ministry of agriculture in collaboration with a private firm – institute of acupuncture and medical science – started researches on ‘seabuck thorn’ quite hectically. In various cities of Pakistan, its jams, jellies and oil became rapidly popularized. These products are reportedly used for coronary ailments, cough, stomach disorders and other diseases as aforesaid, while a number of dismayed women too, get advised to use these products.

The wonders associated with the plant prompted the ministry to set up a ‘seabuck thorn’ oil extraction plant at Skardu in Baltistan, in collaboration with ‘Pakistan Council for Scientific Research’ (PCSIR), Peshawar, which will become operational soon.

The ‘seabuck thorn’ seeds contain more oily ingredients as compared to others. If Pakistan becomes well poised to meet the growing demands abroad, it would certainly bring about a prosperous socio-economic change.

Europe, Canada and America etc, are struggling hard to have this plant in abundance while alongside gearing up efforts to develop more varieties. It is said that the botanical scientists of Siberia first started research work on having varieties of ‘seabuck thorn’ as far back as 1930s. These researches eventually  led them to have about 30 varieties of this plant, which have already reached the farms. The new varieties reportedly give fruit larger in size than the natural ones. These are also said to be dwarf besides having less thorns with the apparent advantage being easy collection or harvesting of fruits.

For the last two decades, China has been working on a number of varieties which resulted in the addition of nine more varieties. One visiting the Chinese graveyard at Danyore in Gilgit would find such a plant bedecking the monument which substantially differs from the indigenous ones. This could have been popularized but it seems that the relevant authorities have not taken note of it. However, one such variety has also reportedly been introduced in Pakistan by the agriculture ministry. It is to be seen that all ‘seabuck thorns’ of Pakistan are natural while the yield is put at 162 kilogram per care.

This, therefore, calls for researches on this plant on the line of other countries for a remarkable boost.

Read More


Popular posts from this blog

Gilgit-Baltistan – A Historical Narrative

BySyed Shamsuddin

Perceptibly, there abound divergent narratives and counter narratives wittingly or unwittingly churned out as to status of Gilgit-Baltistan which more often than not, have no bearing on and are sadly devoid of any substance when put in the correct historical perspective. In order to get the best and clearest possible picture, it becomes imperative to have a full view of and delve deeper into its background with a view to irrefutably place facts connected with the matter in the correct historical order by separating what is called the wheat from the chaff for the information of the readers as follows:
Strictly speaking, the region fell on turbulent times and troublous waters during the second half of the nineteenth century which may, with profit, be called the period of uncertainty and the gloomiest transitional phase in Gilgit-Baltistan’s context. Synoptically, region consisted of and apportioned into a dozen tiny kingdoms each ruled by despotic, independent rulers f…

Foiling India’s Inimical Designs

BySyed Shamsuddin A very interesting summation, aptly encompassing has been going on in Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) overtime in socio-political context, was published in a regional Urdu daily the other day. The learned writer offered a peep into the brief historical background of the region dating to the post-independence period, and referred precisely to what happened preceding the liberation of Gilgit-Baltistan. Beginning with briefly recording of the facts about how the British colonizers packed off by giving back the territory of Gilgit, in August 1947, to the Dogra occupiers, quite intriguingly with the condition that the latter would retain Major William Brown – a British military officer – to assign him the command of Gilgit Scouts. The move was ostensibly aimed at checking effectively and blocking Russo-China contacts, as well as to preclude Gilgit region from the impact of communists inroads into this land.
After the successful revolution of 1st November 1947, Gilgit emerged as a…

Eulogizing The Protectors of Culture and Tradition

BySyed Shamsuddin QUITE PROPITIOUSLY, a flurry of activities is getting underway in the context of revival of Shina language in its original form and diction. This is in addition to the marked efforts afoot to build a consensus among the literary circles formed by Shina speaking communities all across the Shina speaking areas – mostly inhabiting northern Pakistan and part of the Indian held Kashmir- to popularize and universalize a homogenized approach to a unified code aimed at sustaining and preserving this language which is sadly on the wane.
To give a recent example, Shakil Ahmad Shakil carried out a research work culminating in his products like ‘dade shilokeh’ (grandmas’s tales) and Shina Grammar, Aziz-ur-Rehman Malangi’s Shina Diwan and to top them all is Haji Shah Mirza’s translation of the Holy Qura’an into Shina which is greatly contributive to the existing literature in Shina. There is no gainsaying that viewed in terms of it originality of form, diction and etymology, Shin…