6 Health Benefits of Black Currant
Native to northern Europe and Asia, blackcurrant (sometimes spelled “black currant”) is a shrub that produces clusters of tart berries during the summer.
The berries are used in many foods and drinks. Because they're so tart, they're generally combined with other fruits, or made into jellies and jams. They're especially popular in the U.K. as a juice and soft drink flavoring.
Blackcurrants are rare in the United States, however, and growing them was banned for several decades because they can carry a fungus that kills pine trees.
Blackcurrant is widely used in Europe as an herbal medicine. Women take it to ease PMS and menopause symptoms. It’s also used as a diuretic, and to treat colds, flu, and fevers.
Medicines are made from the plant's leaves and fruits, and from an oil contained in its seeds. Blackcurrant seed oil is the most commonly used part of the plant, and is available in capsules as a dietary supplement.
You can also make infusions and teas out of the plant’s leaves, whether fresh or dried.
Joint Jump Starter
Joint Jump Starter
Blackcurrant seed oil contains gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), a type of omega-6 fatty acid that’s been said to help ease inflammation in the body.
GLA may help reduce joint pain, stiffness, and soreness in people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). RA is a disease in which people's immune systems attack their joints, causing chronic inflammation. In some studies, GLA supplements were so effective that participants with RA could reduce their usual pain medications.
Blackcurrant seed oil's anti-inflammatory effects may help keep healthy folks that way. A study of healthy older adults showed the oil helped boost their immune systems by cutting their production of prostaglandin E(2) (PGE2).
Prostaglandins are hormone-like substances that help the muscles and blood vessels contract and relax. They’re released whenever there is an infection or injury, but too much can cause inflammation and prevent the immune system from working properly.
Because we release more PGE2 as we age, using blackcurrant seed oil to lower production can prevent inflammation-related fevers and help the immune system work better.
Lots of folks swear by the antioxidant capabilities of red wine and grape juice, which help to cut the oxidation of “bad” cholesterol. Bad cholesterol can cause plaque buildup inside the arteries, along with heart disease.
However, according to a British study of 35 juices, you may be sipping the wrong kind of juice. While grape-based drinks are still good for you, the study found that it’s blackcurrant juice (along with pomegranate juice) that is the most potent when it comes to antioxidants.
While hard to find in most U.S. stores, the blackcurrant-based drink Ribena is very popular in the U.K.
The health benefits of vitamin C are legion. It's used by the body to form collagen and metabolize protein. It’s often used to soothe sore throats and ease fly symptoms, and ongoing research is trying to determine if it might be able to help prevent colds, certain cancers, and heart disease.
When it comes to vitamin C-containing foods, blackcurrants are superstars. They have three to four times the amount of vitamin C as oranges, based upon serving weights.
Blackcurrant seed oil is used to treat a variety of skin conditions, such as eczema, although there hasn’t been much in the way of scientific research. However, its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects are known to help ease the symptoms of another disorder — psoriasis — says the National Psoriasis Foundation.
Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease. Symptoms include red, raised scaly patches on the skin. The patches often itch, burn, and sting.
Taken orally, blackcurrant seed oil can help slow the growth and development of psoriasis patches. It also can be applied directly to dry, itchy skin.
Blackcurrants contain a lot of potassium, which helps to lower high blood pressure. And that’s not the only thing the blackcurrant shrub can do for your heart.
According to a French study, doses of GLA (found in blackcurrant seed oil) can help to lower your blood pressure, when combined in the diet with eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). These acids are found in cold water fish, such as mackerel, tuna, salmon, halibut, herring, and cod liver.
Besides dropping blood pressure, the GLA in blackcurrants helps cells in your heart resist damage and also slows down platelet clumping in your blood vessels. When the platelets in your blood stick together, this can increase your risk of heart attack or stroke.
It’s not hard to incorporate more blackcurrants into your diet. Not only are blackcurrant juices available — including Britain’s Ribena, which you may be able to find in the imports section at the grocery store — the berries themselves can be tossed into any recipe that calls for a bit of tangy sweetness.
Try substituting berries for blackcurrants in your yogurt or salad, or indulge yourself and have a go at this amazing dark chocolate log recipe. It might not be an everyday treat, but it’s definitely one to try at the holidays!
Both the berries and oil of blackcurrant are generally considered safe at recommended doses. However, supplements have been known to cause some side effects. Blackcurrant oil supplements can cause soft stools, mild diarrhea, and intestinal gas in some people.
Because it can slow blood clotting, blackcurrant supplements are not recommended for people with bleeding disorders or those about to have surgery.
Not enough is known about dried blackcurrant leaves to rate their safety. Women who are pregnant or breast-feeding should talk to their doctor before taking any supplements, including blackcurrant.
- Cassity, J. (n.d.). Six diet tips to help with psoriasis, psoriatic arthritis. Retrieved from http://www.psoriasis.org/advance/features/6-diet-tips-to-help-with-psoriasis-psoriatic-arthritis
- Frenoux, J., Prost, E., Belleville, J., & Prost, J. (2001, January). A polyunsaturated fatty acid diet lowers blood pressure and improves antioxidant status in spontaneously hypertensive rats. The Journal of Nutrition, 131(1) 39-45. Retrieved from http://jn.nutrition.org/content/131/1/39.long
- Get the facts: Rheumatoid arthritis and complementary health approaches. (2012, August). Retrieved from http://nccam.nih.gov/sites/nccam.nih.gov/files/Get_The_Facts_RA_and_CHA.pdf
- Potassium and high blood pressure. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HighBloodPressure/PreventionTreatmentofHighBloodPressure/Potassium-and-High-Blood-Pressure_UCM_303243_Article.jsp
- Rosenblat, M., Volkova, N., Attias, J., Mahamd, R., & Aviram, M. (2010, January). Consumption of polyphenolic-rich beverages (mostly pomegranate and black currant juices) by health subjects for a short term increased serum antioxidant status, and the serum's ability to attenuate macrophage cholesterol accumulation. Food & Function, 1, 99-109. Retrieved from http://pubs.rsc.org/en/Content/ArticleLanding/2010/FO/c0fo00011f#!divAbstract
- Vitamin C: Fact sheet for health professionals. (2013, June). Retrieved from http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminC-HealthProfessional/#h7
- Wu, D., Meydani, M., Leka, L. S., Nightingale, Z., Handelman, G. J., Blumberg, J. B., & Meydani, S. N. (1999, October). Effect of dietary supplementation with black currant seed oil on the immune response of healthy elderly subjects. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 70(4), 536-543. Retrieved from http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/70/4/536.long