Blackcurrant is more than just an exotic ice cream flavor. These berries are potent antioxidant, antispasmodic, anti-diabetic, and anticancer agents.
They prevent viral infections and boost your memory. Your skin and eyes will love this fruit too! In this extensive read, you will know how these currants heal acute and chronic conditions. If you are looking for some science behind these benefits, you are in the right place. Read on!
In This Article
Blackcurrants: In brief
Blackcurrants (Ribes nigrum L.) are small, black, berry-like fruits native to central Europe and northern Asia. Today, they are cultivated in parts of the world with a temperate climate (1).
The fruits are rich in vitamin C, organic acids, and essential oils besides the other micro and macronutrients. Hence, they taste acidic but sweet. Moreover, they have phenolic compounds with antioxidant and antimicrobial properties (1).
The leaves of blackcurrants contain unique quercetin derivatives. These active molecules also contribute to the anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and antiseptic effects (1).
Traditional medicine uses its extracts to manage a variety of disorders, including cancer. Today, there is a volume of clinical studies that show positive effects of blackcurrants on heart, brain, and kidney diseases (1), (2).
In the following sections, you’d find the evidence supporting the benefits of these fruits. You’d also get to know how to eat them and about their safety.
Scroll down and enjoy reading!
What Are The Benefits Of Blackcurrants?
Blackcurrants can protect your digestive, circulatory, nervous, and excretory systems. These fruits have been extensively studied for their anticancer properties.
1. Have Anti-inflammatory Effects
Inflammation may cause heart, liver, and kidney diseases. It may also induce arthritis, urinary tract infections (UTIs), and neurodegenerative disorders (Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, etc.). Including foods rich in anti-inflammatory compounds in your diet can prevent/reduce the severity of this phenomenon.
Anthocyanins are a class of polyphenols predominantly found in blackcurrants. Blackcurrant extracts suppress the activation of pro-inflammatory components in your immune system (3).
These molecules target specialized cells like macrophages. This prevents several inflammatory disorders from worsening (4).
2. Soothe The Stomach And Aid Digestion
These berries are abundant in flavonoids. These phytochemicals have been shown to cause smooth muscle relaxation. Blackcurrant extracts could relax contractions in the GI tract, according to animal studies (5).
Studies confirm the antispasmodic activity of these fruits. Quercetin, myricetin, and other flavonoids inhibit spasms in the stomach and intestines. Also, blackcurrant leaves have been used in folk medicine to treat diarrhea (6).
3. Boost Kidney Health
The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects of blackcurrants prevent chronic kidney disorders. They protect your excretory system from inflammation and infections. The extracts also inhibit the formation of kidney stones (7).
Blackcurrant juice/tea makes your urine more alkaline (increases its pH). It also promotes the excretion of excess citric acid and oxalic acid from your body. If not, these two acids can react to form kidney stones when left to pile up (8).
A hundred grams of black currants has about 4.3mg of oxalate. That makes these fruits safe for individuals with kidney disorders and bladder stones (9).
4. Lower Blood Cholesterol Levels
High levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol elevate the risk of cardiovascular, liver, and other metabolic disorders. Research shows that diets rich in anthocyanins cause a decrease in total cholesterol and LDL levels. They also increase serum HDL (good) cholesterol levels (10).
Animal studies with blackcurrant extracts are supporting evidence to this effect. Subjects treated with this extract showed significantly lower cholesterol levels than the untreated/control ones (11).
Moreover, blackcurrant juices are abundant in antioxidants. These juices prevent the oxidation of lipids in your body (12). This way, they can prevent/delay the onset of obesity and chronic conditions like atherosclerosis and Alzheimer’s.
5. Have Antidiabetic Effects
Blackcurrant has anthocyanins like cyanidin 3-rutinoside, delphinidin 3-glucoside, and peonidin 3-rutinoside. When consumed in fair amounts, these phytochemicals improve insulin sensitivity, particularly in individuals with type 2 diabetes (13).
Carbohydrate-metabolizing enzymes (like α-Glucosidase and pancreatic α-amylase) are the targets of anthocyanins. They block the activity of these enzymes. As a result, the rapid breakdown of carbohydrates is slowed down. Ultimately, anthocyanins can prevent sudden spikes in your blood sugar/glucose levels (14).
6. May Help Manage Eye Disorders
The black currant anthocyanins improve the functions of your eyes/vision. These molecules increase the blood flow in the optical nerves and eyes. Regular consumption of such foods and supplements may decelerate the loss of vision or related symptoms in patients with glaucoma (15).
Anthocyanins may have positive effects on chronic eye ailments. These include diabetic retinopathy, retinal vein occlusion, and retinal artery occlusion (15).
These active molecules are absorbed and transferred beyond the blood-retina barrier when taken orally. They reach various parts of the ocular tissues and preserve their function. Thus, blackcurrants or their extracts can slow down the effects of aging and disease on eyes (15).
7. Protect Your Brain
Like vitamin C, black currant extract inhibits lipid peroxidation in your body. Experimental studies report about 65% inhibition, thanks to its antioxidant capacity. This activity is most beneficial in protecting your central nervous system (CNS) (16), (17).
In the absence of this effect, free radicals accumulate in your system. Free radicals are known to trigger neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s, and Parkinson’s diseases (18).
Usually, the accumulation of free radicals leads to inflammation of the brain cells (neurons). Blackcurrants reduce neuroinflammation because they contain anti-inflammatory molecules. A cumulative effect of these properties causes improved memory, learning, and cognitive abilities (18).
8. May Promote Liver Health
Alcohol abuse causes permanent changes in the structure and function of liver cells. The proteins and phospholipids get structurally modified. This may have a direct effect on the liver’s functionality (19).
Another problem that stems from alcohol abuse is the formation of free radicals/reactive oxygen species (ROS). These ROS can react with phospholipids in the liver cell membranes and trigger inflammation (19).
Adding polyphenol-rich foods like blackcurrants to your diet can pause/stop such detrimental effects. Blackcurrants protect the structural lipids and proteins from the attack by ROS (19).
In several animal studies, the skins of these berries show anti-proliferative effects on cancerous liver cells (20).
9. Repair And Nourish Skin
Various skin diseases arise due to inflammation, infections, or aging. They leave you with dry skin, lesions, itching, redness, scabs, etc. Atopic dermatitis is an example of a serious skin condition seen in children and adults (21).
Your skin would need intense repairing and conditioning in such cases. Clinical studies discovered a specific polysaccharide in blackcurrants that exerts anti-inflammatory effects. This molecule controls the production of inflammatory compounds by your immune system (21).
Blackcurrant seeds contain good amounts of fatty acids, like linolenic acid. Their oil suppresses the inflammation mediators in your skin. So, blackcurrants and the seed oil can nourish and nurse your skin to health without any side effects (21), (22).
10. Possess Antimicrobial Properties
Recent studies have reported potent antiviral properties in the leaves of wild blackcurrants. Their extracts can particularly eliminate Influenza A viruses (IAV) that cause highly contagious human diseases. The typical symptoms of IAV infections are fever, sore throat, headache, muscle pain, and nasal inflammation (23).
The leaf extracts prevent the entry and internalization of these viruses at the molecular/genetic level. The essential oil of these leaves also has antibacterial and antifungal properties.
Active compounds like caryophyllene, sabinene, terpinolene, ocimene were identified in this oil. Escherichia coli, Streptococcus faecalis, Staphylococcus aureus, Candida albicans, and Trichophyton mentagrophytes are a few microbes susceptible to blackcurrant seed oil treatment (24).
It is equally important to know the nutrients responsible for these mind-blowing benefits. A powerful phytonutritional composition is the answer.
Jump to the next section for more information!
Nutritional Profile Of Blackcurrants
|Nutrient||Unit||1 cup or 112 g|
|Total lipid (fat)||g||0.46|
|Carbohydrate, by difference||g||17.23|
|Vitamin C, total ascorbic acid||mg||202.7|
|Vitamin A, RAE||µg||13|
|Vitamin A, IU||IU||258|
|Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol)||mg||1.12|
The plant has a rich polyphenol reserve. Chlorogenic acid, cryptochlorogenic acid, and neochlorogenic acid are the predominant phenolic acids.
Anthocyanins include delphinidin-3-O-glucoside, delphinidin-3-O-rutinoside, cyanidin-3-O-glucoside, and cyanidin-3-O-rutinoside, petunidin-3-O-rutinoside.
Flavonoid derivatives of quercetin, myricetin, rutin, kaempferol, and aureusidin have also been identified.
The best way to utilize the properties of these bioactive molecules is to consume blackcurrants. Here are a few options you could choose from.
How To Have Blackcurrants
Blackcurrants taste the best when eaten fresh and raw.
You can also blend them into a milkshake or juice with other vegetables and fruits. They add in great color and texture.
Apart from these, blackcurrants are available in several forms in the market. Ice creams, puddings, and cakes are a few kid-friendly and tasty options.
Blackcurrant seed oil is a good option for topical treatment.
If you are not a fan of any of these natural options, you can try blackcurrant supplements in the form of capsules and lozenges.
Follow the instructions given by the manufacturer(s) to enjoy the benefits of this berry.
But how safe are blackcurrants? Other berries have been linked to certain adverse effects, so should you be careful with these too?
Find out more below.
Do Blackcurrants Trigger Side Effects?
No side effects of having blackcurrants have been reported to date. They are generally considered safe if taken in normal quantities.
However, there is insufficient information regarding the safety of these fruits for pregnant and nursing women.
We recommend that you consult your healthcare provider before making blackcurrant a part of your regular diet.
Discuss your medical history and find out if you should consume them. Frame an intake limit and strictly follow it to avoid unknown/undesirable side effects.
Blackcurrants are among the healthiest members of the berry family. With high levels of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory components, these fruits are used to treat a horde of disorders.
The leaves and seeds of blackcurrant also have high therapeutic value. Having these fruits or their supplements boosts your overall immunity. If approved by your doctor, buy some fresh blackcurrants, and enjoy their sweet stingy goodness.
If you’ve tried any recipes with these fruits, feel free to share them with us. Post your feedback and suggestions in the section below.
Until next time, enjoy cooking and collecting currants!
- 1. Biological Activity of Blackcurrant Extracts (Ribes nigrum L.) in Relation to Erythrocyte Membranes, BioMed Research International, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- The health benefits of blackcurrants, Food & function, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Blackcurrant (Ribes nigrum) Extract Exerts an Anti-Inflammatory Action by Modulating Macrophage Phenotypes, Nutrients, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Supplementation with orange and blackcurrant juice, but not vitamin E, improves inflammatory markers in patients with peripheral arterial disease, British Journal of Nutrition, CiteSeerX, The Pennsylvania State University.
- Antispasmodic Effect of Blackcurrant (Ribes nigrum L.) Juice and Its Potential Use as Functional Food in Gastrointestinal Disorders, Medical Principles and Practices, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Berry Leaves: An Alternative Source of Bioactive Natural Products of Nutritional and Medicinal Value, Antioxidants, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Blackcurrant Suppresses Metabolic Syndrome Induced by High-Fructose Diet in Rats, Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Effect of blackcurrant-, cranberry- and plum juice consumption on risk factors associated with kidney stone formation, European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Kidney Stone Oxalate Diet, Nephrology, Medical College of Wisconsin.
- Anthocyanin supplementation improves serum LDL- and HDL-cholesterol concentrations associated with the inhibition of cholesteryl ester transfer protein in dyslipidemic subjects, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, CiteSeerX, The Pennsylvania State University.
- The Effect of Polyphenol-Rich Black Currant Extract on Lipogenic and Inflammatory Gene Expression in Diet Induced Obesity Mice, OpenCommons@UConn, UCONN Library, University of Connecticut.
- Consumption of polyphenolic-rich beverages (mostly pomegranate and black currant juices) by healthy subjects for a short term increased serum antioxidant status, and the serum’s ability to attenuate macrophage cholesterol accumulation, Food & Function, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Recent Progress in Anti-Obesity and Anti-Diabetes Effect of Berries, Antioxidants, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Dietary Anthocyanins and Insulin Resistance: When Food Becomes a Medicine, Nutrients, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Black Currant Anthocyanins Normalized Abnormal Levels of Serum Concentrations of Endothelin-1 in Patients with Glaucoma, Journal of Ocular Pharmacology and Therapeutics, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Protective Effects of Berry Extracts on Hydrogen Peroxide-induced Rat Brain Neuronal Cell Damage In Vitro, Journal of Food and Nutrition Research, CiteSeerX, The Pennsylvania State University.
- Black-currant protection against oxidative stress formation, Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Neuroprotective effects of berry fruits on neurodegenerative diseases, Neural Regeneration Research, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Protective Effect of Blackcurrant on Liver Cell Membrane of Rats Intoxicated with Ethanol, The Journal of Membrane Biology, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Anthocyanin-rich black currant (Ribes nigrum L.) extract affords chemoprevention against diethylnitrosamine-induced hepatocellular carcinogenesis in rats, Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, Elsevier, Academia.
- Effect of administrating polysaccharide from black currant (Ribes nigrum L.) on atopic dermatitis in NC/Nga mice, Bioscience of Microbiota, Food and Health, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Nutritional skin care: health effects of micronutrients and fatty acids, Review article, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, CiteSeerX, The Pennsylvania State University.
- A Plant Extract of Ribes nigrum folium Possesses Anti-Influenza Virus Activity In Vitro and In Vivo by Preventing Virus Entry to Host Cells, PLoS One, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Composition and antimicrobial activity of the essential oil of the leaves of black currant (Ribes nigrum L.) cultivar Čačanska crna, Journal of the Serbian Chemical Society, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Black Currants – Ribes nigrum, CARRINGTON RESEARCH EXTENSION CENTER, North Dakota State University.
- Treatment of Rheumatoid Arthritis with Marine and Botanical Oils: An 18-Month, Randomized, and Double-Blind Trial, Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.