The Health Benefits of Black Currant

Black currant dried fruit, tincture and capsules

Verywell / Zorica Lakonic

Black currant is a natural remedy sourced from Ribes nigrum, a plant native to parts of Europe and Asia. Black currant extract is typically derived from black currant fruit or from the oil of black currant seeds, and supplements are sometimes used to treat conditions ranging from menstrual pain to high blood pressure.

Black currant oil contains gamma-linolenic acid, an essential fatty acid found to reduce inflammation. And black currant berries (often consumed as a whole food) contain high amounts of anthocyanins, a type of antioxidant.

Health Benefits

While including black currants in your diet may offer some nutritional benefits, there is currently a lack of scientific evidence to support the use of black currant extract as a standard treatment for any health problem.

If you're considering using it, make sure to talk with your doctor first. Self-treating and avoiding or delaying standard care can have serious consequences.

There are limited human studies on the effects of black currant, but here is a look at some of the findings from available research.

Cholesterol

There's some evidence that consumption of black currant seed oil may help keep cholesterol in check. For example, a 2010 study from Phytotherapy Research found that regular consumption of black currant seed oil may help improve total cholesterol levels and reduce levels of triglycerides (a type of harmful blood fat). The study involved 2,154 patients with abnormal cholesterol levels, each of whom consumed black currant seed oil every day for six weeks.

In addition, a small study published in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry in 2005 found that black currant seed oil was more effective than fish oil in decreasing levels of LDL cholesterol.

However, it's important to note that the study involved only 15 participants and a four-week treatment period. In addition, a number of other studies have indicated that the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil may be of significant benefit in regulating cholesterol levels, pointing to it being a superior option.

Eye Health

Black currant extract shows promise for the treatment of glaucoma. In a 2012 study published in Ophthalmologica, for instance, researchers found that consuming black currant-sourced anthocyanins, in combination with anti-glaucoma medication, may benefit people with open-angle glaucoma.

For the study, 38 patients with the condition consumed either black currant anthocyanins or a placebo once daily for two years. Throughout the study period, all participants were also treated with anti-glaucoma eye drops. Results revealed that patients treated with black currant anthocyanins experienced a significantly greater increase in ocular blood flow compared to those treated with the placebo.

Oxidative Stress

Black currant fruit extract may help protect against oxidative stress, according to a 2009 study published in the American Journal of Physiology.

In tests on human cells, the study's authors determined that anthocyanins found in black currant extract may help suppress oxidative stress, as well as enhance the immune response to infection.

Gastrointestinal Disorders

An in vitro study published in 2018 investigated the relaxative effects of blackcurrant juice on the gastrointestinal smooth muscle. (In vitro studies are research projects that test health effects in test tube models. These studies are often preliminary investigations performed before human studies.)

The researchers found that the antispasmodic effects of black currant may hold promise in the treatment of gastrointestinal disorders. Specifically, blackcurrant juice may be beneficial as a functional food.

Black currant and black currant extract are also used to treat other concerns including:

Additionally, black currant extract is said to boost the immune system and promote detoxification. However, more evidence is needed to support the use of the supplement for these health benefits.

Possible Side Effects

Black currant—including black currant juice, extracts, and seed oil—is likely safe when consumed by mouth and used as food. Black currant juice, leaves, and flowers have Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) status in the United States.

Supplements may be made from the extract, the seed oil, the juice, or from dried black currant leaf. Black currant may be safe when used as a medicine, but there's some concern that it may interfere with blood clotting.

It's important for people with bleeding disorders to take caution when consuming black currant extract. In addition, the use of black currant extract should be avoided prior to undergoing surgery.

It is also advised that people with low blood pressure should exercise caution and speak to their healthcare provider before taking black currant.

Not enough is known about topical use of dried black currant leaf to determine if it is safe.

Selection, Preparation, and Storage

Black currant juice is available in some health food stores. Recipes for pies and other baked goods sometimes call for black currants, and they are used to flavor liqueurs, jams, ice cream, and other products.

Widely available for purchase online, dietary supplements containing black currant extract and black currant seed oil are sold in many natural foods stores, drugstores, and stores specializing in dietary supplements. Black currant seed oil is usually sold in capsule form or in small bottles as a carrier oil. Capsules and oil bottles should be stored in a cool, dry place.

If you choose a black currant supplement, it's important to keep in mind that these products are largely unregulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). It is not legal to market a dietary supplement as a treatment or cure for a specific disease or to alleviate the symptoms of one. But the FDA does not require that dietary supplements be tested for safety. In some cases, the product may deliver doses that differ from the amount specified on the label.

When choosing any dietary supplement, try to find a product that has been certified by ConsumerLabs, U.S. Pharmacopeia, or NSF International. These organizations don't guarantee that a product is safe or effective, but they do provide a certain level of testing for quality.

Common Questions

Can you eat black currants like any other berry?
Some people eat raw or dried black currant berries, although most people find them too tart. That is why you more often find black currant being used as an ingredient (e.g., in baked goods) or in products that are sweetened with sugar (like jams).

Why haven't I ever seen black currant at the grocery store?
Black currant farming was banned in the United States in the early 20th century because the plants carried a fungus that threatened the logging industry. The ban on currant farming has been lifted in some—but not all—states. For that reason, black currants are more popular in areas such as Europe or New Zealand and less so in the U.S.

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