Skip to Content

Black Currant

Medically reviewed on December 6, 2017

Scientific Name(s): Ribes nigrum L. Family: Grossulariaceae (Currant family) Syn. Saxifragaceae 1 , 2

Common Name(s): European black currant , blackcurrant , black currant , quincy berries , Siyah Frenkuzumu , Gichtbeerblaetter , Kurokarin , Grosellero negro 1 , 3 , 4


From the limited data, black currant oil and juice extracts appear useful as an antioxidant source and in treating rheumatoid arthritis and night and fatigue-related visual impairment; the oil and juice extracts also exhibit limited antimicrobial and anticancer properties.


No trials have been conducted to establish appropriate dosage.


Contraindications have not been identified.


Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking.


None well documented.

Adverse Reactions

No adverse reactions have been reported. Although no direct evidence is available, use caution in epileptic patients because of reports of lowered seizure threshold with evening primrose oil.


No toxicity, carcinogenicity, or teratogenicity has been reported.


Black currant is a stout, woody, usually spineless, deciduous shrub with toothed-edged, maple-like leaves growing to a height of about 1.2 to 2.1 m unless trimmed. It is native to the midwestern United States, and the fruits are some of the hardiest in resistance to cold or changing temperatures. They do not thrive in hot or dry climates. Some of the species are fragrant, but R. nigrum emits a strong, unpleasant odor. In spring, the flowers are yellowish-white and look like small bells growing alternately in a row. In the fall, clusters of 4 to 6 black-red fruits ripen from the main branch.


Black currant was used for centuries in Chinese folk medicine as a diuretic, diaphoretic, and febrifuge, and as an ingredient in nutraceuticals, wines, juices, and jams in China and Europe. 4 , 5 It was used in “Syrupus Ribis Fructus BPC” (100 parts red currants, 10 parts red cherries, 5 parts black currants) as a flavoring and coloring agent.

An infusion of the leaves has been used in the treatment of dropsy, rheumatic pain, whooping cough, sore throats, and mouth ulcers. The young roots and bark decoctions also have been used.


The chemical composition of the leaves, seeds, and berries of black currant have been determined using various analytical methods. The different methods give rise to differences in reported concentrations of each component. There appears to be variation of chemical content within the species but not necessarily as a consequence of the cultivation method (organic versus commercial). 6 , 7 , 8 , 9

Aside from a high content of vitamin C (L-ascorbic acid), 10 the berries contain flavonoids, including quercetin, myricetin, and kaempferol; 7 , 11 , 12 , 13 and at least 15 different phenolic acids, including anthocyanins and proanthocyanidins. 2 , 8 , 10 , 12 , 14 , 15 , 16 , 17 p-Coumaric acid has been identified as one of the predominant phenolic acids. 12 , 15 , 17 The aroma of juice extracts is attributed to the presence of terpenes, esters, and alcohols. 18

The oil from the seeds of the plant contains varying amounts (15% to 19%) of fatty acids: gamma- and alpha-linolenic acids, and stearidonic acid, 6 , 19 as well as anthocyanins, flavonoids, and 2 nitrile-containing compounds. 20 The leaves of the plant contain prodelphindins. 21

Uses and Pharmacology

Antioxidant activity

The antioxidant activity of the black currant berries and juice has been examined for potential cardiovascular and anticancer effects.

In vitro studies

Study results vary because of different analytical methods; the sugar content and pH of the juices tested also differ. 15 , 22 , 23

The total antioxidant capacity of black currant berries is relatively high when compared with other berries and closely correlates to the total phenolic content. 9 , 12 However, the individual phenolic compounds are suspected in contributing to differing extents. 14 , 22 , 24 , 25 , 26 It is further suggested that the lipophilic antioxidant capacity is low, while the hydrophilic antioxidant capacity of phenolic compounds is higher. 14

The vitamin C content is considered to be the major contributor to the antioxidant capacity of black currant. 8 A correlation between vitamin C content and in vitro inhibition of cancer cell proliferation was found when examining antioxidant capacity. 27

In vivo studies

Investigations reveal that the bioavailability of anthocyanins and flavonoids in black currant berries and juices is low. In addition, they are considered poor sources of antioxidants. 11 , 28 , 29

Clinical studies

No difference in antioxidant activity and biochemical markers were found in 22 elderly people participating in a 2-week trial of berry-enriched desserts, 30 and no difference was found in oxidative DNA damage in a 3-week trial with 60 healthy, adequately nourished adults receiving large amounts of berries in their diet. 31

Rheumatoid arthritis
Animal data

The anti-inflammatory effects and immune response of black currant seed oil and prodelphinidins from the leaves have been studied in animal and in vitro settings. 3 , 21 , 32 , 33

Clinical data

A Cochrane review of available trial data suggests some benefit from gamma-linolenic acid in rheumatoid arthritis, despite the relatively poor quality of the individual studies. 34 A trend toward reduction of morning stiffness and joint tenderness as well as pain relief was shown. Sufficient evidence was found to warrant further larger trials to provide information regarding outcome, optimal dosage, and duration of therapy. 34 Two randomized, controlled trials using black currant seed oil were included in the review. 35 , 36


In one study, 37 black currant showed the least activity against gram-negative bacteria compared with other berries studied. In another study, it inhibited all tested bacteria. 38 A crude extract suppressed the late stage growth of the influenza virus type A and B in canine kidney cells, and inhibited the release of virus from infected cells. 39 Plaque formation, replication in cells, and the attachment of herpes simplex virus type 1 on cell membranes were inhibited in another in vitro study. 4


In a double-blind, crossover trial involving 12 subjects, a single dose of a black currant anthocyanin extract showed a dose-dependant effect on lowering the dark adaptation threshold. 40 A review of 12 placebo-controlled trials of bilberry anthocyanins on night vision found no support for effect but noted considerable confounding variables in the trials. 41 In other in vitro studies, black currant anthocyanins were shown to accelerate the regeneration of rhodopsin and produce sustained and progressive relaxation of bovine myopic ciliary muscle. 42 , 43


An in vitro study found black currant extract to inhibit the proliferation of breast cancer cells and, to a lesser extent, colon cancer cells. An inverse relationship between vitamin C content and cancer cell proliferation was noted, so that berry extracts with high vitamin C content inhibited cancer cells to a greater extent. 27

Lipid profile

The effect of black currant extracts and anthocyanins on the lipid profile has been investigated. Varying results indicate positive 33 , 44 , 45 and negative 46 effects on cholesterol and triglycerides. Links with positive cardiovascular effects are yet to be established.

Diabetic neuropathy

In a study in diabetic rats, the effect of black currant oil on nerve conduction velocity was compared with other gamma-linolenic acid-containing oils. Black currant oil had a lesser effect than all other oils tested. 47


In a small study in humans, black currant berries were noted to increase the urine pH (alkalinizing effect) as well as increase citric and oxalic acid secretion. 48


No trials have been conducted to establish appropriate dosage; however, 330 mL of black currant juice was given daily in a trial investigating urolithiasis. 48 In rheumatoid arthritis trials, black currant seed oil equivalent to gamma-linolenic acid 525 mg was used in 1 trial 35 and 10.5 g oil daily in another. 36 In another study, six 750 mg capsules were administered daily. 3


Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking.


Because gamma-linolenic acid was demonstrated to decrease platelet aggregation and increase bleeding times in rats fed evening primrose oil, a theoretical interaction exists between black currant oil and anticoagulants, such as warfarin. 49 Other in vitro studies add to this consideration. 33 , 50

Adverse Reactions

No adverse reactions have been reported. Although no direct evidence is available, use caution in epileptic patients because of reports of lowered seizure threshold with evening primrose oil. 51 , 52 , 53


No toxicity, carcinogenicity, or teratogenicity has been reported.


1. USDA, NRCS. 2004. The PLANTS Database, Version 3.5 ( ). National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA.
2. Maatta KR , Kamal-Eldin A , Torronen AR . High-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) analysis of phenolic compounds in berries with diode array and electrospray ionization mass spectrometric (MS) detection: ribes species . J Agric Food Chem . 2003;51:6736-6744.
3. Wu D , Meydani M , Leka LS , et al. Effect of dietary supplementation with black currant seed oil on the immune response of healthy elderly subjects . Am J Clin Nutr . 1999;70:536-543.
4. Suzutani T , Ogasawara M , Yoshida I , Azuma M , Knox YM . Anti-herpesvirus activity of an extract of Ribes nigrum L . Phytother Res . 2003;17:609-613.
5. Matsumoto H , Takenami E , Iwasaki-Kurashige K , Osada T , Katsumura T , Hamaoka T . Effects of blackcurrant anthocyanin intake on peripheral muscle circulation during typing work in humans . Eur J Appl Physiol . 2005;94:36-45.
6. Del Castillo ML , Dobson G , Brennan R , Gordon S . Fatty acid content and juice characteristics in black currant ( Ribes nigrum L.) genotypes . J Agric Food Chem . 2004;52:948-952.
7. Mikkonen TP , Maatta KR , Hukkanen AT , et al. Flavonol content varies among black currant cultivars . J Agric Food Chem . 2001;49:3274-3277.
8. Nielsen IL , Haren GR , Magnussen EL , Dragstead LO , Rasmussen SE . Quantification of anthocyanins in commercial black currant juices by simple high-performance liquid chromatography. Investigation of their pH stability and antioxidative potency . J Agric Food Chem . 2003;51:5861-5866.
9. Nakajima JI , Tanaka I , Seo S , Yamazaki M , Saito K . LC/PDA/ESI-MS profiling and radical scavenging activity of anthocyanins in various berries . J Biomed Biotechnol . 2004;2004:241-247.
10. Rechner AR , Kuhnle G , Hu H , et al. The metabolism of dietary polyphenols and the relevance to circulating levels of conjugated metabolites . Free Radic Res . 2002;36:1229-1241.
11. Erlund I , Marniemi J , Hakala P , Alfthan G , Meririnne E , Aro A . Consumption of black currants, lingonberries and bilberries increases serum quercetin concentrations . Eur J Clin Nutr . 2003;57:37-42.
12. Ehala S , Vaher M , Kaljurand M . Characterization of phenolic profiles of Northern European berries by capillary electrophoresis and determination of their antioxidant activity . J Agric Food Chem . 2005;53:6484-6490.
13. Hakkinen S , Auriola S . High-performance liquid chromatography with electrospray ionization mass spectrometry and diode array ultraviolet detection in the identification of flavonol aglycones and glycosides in berries . J Chromatography A . 1998;829:91-100.
14. Wu X , Gu L , Prior RL , McKay S . Characterization of anthocyanins and proanthocyanidins in some cultivars of Ribes, Aronia, and Sambucus and their antioxidant capacity . J Agric Food Chem . 2004;52:7846-7856.
15. Maatta K , Kamal-Eldin A , Torronen R . Phenolic compounds in berries of black, red, green, and white currants (Ribes sp.) . Antioxid Redox Signal . 2000;3:981-993.
16. Slimestad R , Solheim H . Anthocyanins from black currants ( Ribes nigrum L.) . J Agric Food Chem . 2002;50:3228-3231.
17. Zadernowski R , Naczk M , Nesterowicz J . Phenolic acid profiles in some small berries . J Agric Food Chem . 2005;53:2118-2124.
18. Varming C , Andersen ML , Poll L . Influence of thermal treatment on black currant ( Ribes nigrum L.) juice aroma . J Agric Food Chem . 2004;52:7628-7636.
19. Dobson G . Leaf lipids of Ribes nigrum: a plant containing 16:3, alpha-18:3, gamma-18:3 and 18:4 fatty acids . Biochem Soc Trans . 2000;28:583-586.
20. Lu Y , Foo LY , Wong H . Nigrumin-5-p-coumarate and nigrumin-5-ferulate, two unusual nitrile-containing metabolites from black currant ( Ribes nigrum ) seed . Phytochemistry . 2002;59:465-468.
21. Garbacki N , Augenot L , Bassleer C , Damas J , Tits M . Effects of prodelphinidins isolated from Ribes nigrum on chondrocyte metabolism and COX activity . Naunyn Schmiedebergs Arch Pharmacol . 2002;365:434-441.
22. Matsumoto H , Nakamura Y , Hirayama M , Yoshiki Y , Okubo K . Antioxidant activity of black currant anthocyanin aglycons and their glycosides measured by chemiluminescence in a neutral pH region and in human plasma . J Agric Food Chem . 2002;50:5034-5037.
23. McGhie TK , Ainge GD , Barnett LE , Cooney JM , Jensen DJ . Anthocyanin glycosides from berry fruit are absorbed and excreted unmetabolized by both humans and rats . J Agric Food Chem . 2003;51:4539-4548.
24. Viljanen K , Kylli P , Kivikari R , Heinonen M . Inhibition of protein and lipid oxidation in liposomes by berry phenolics . J Agric Food Chem . 2004;52:7419-7424.
25. Joseph JA , Fisher DR , Carey AN . Fruit extracts antagonize Abeta- or DA-induced deficits in Ca2+ flux in M1-transfected COS-7 cells . J Alzheimers Dis . 2004;6:403-411.
26. Breinholt VM , Nielsen SE , Knuthsen P , Lauridsen ST , Daneshvar B , Sorensen A . Effects of commonly consumed fruit juices and carbohydrates on redox status and anticancer biomarkers in female rats . Nutr Cancer . 2003;45:46-52.
27. Olsson ME , Gustavsson KE , Andersson S , Nilsson A , Duan RD . Inhibition of cancer cell proliferation in vitro by fruit and berry extracts and correlations with antioxidant levels . J Agric Food Chem . 2004;52:7264-7271.
28. Mulleder U , Murkovic M , Pfannhauser W . Urinary excretion of cyanidin glycosides . J Biochem Biophys Methods . 2002;53:61-66.
29. Young JF , Nielsen SE , Haraldsdottir J , et al. Effect of fruit juice intake on urinary quercetin excretion and biomarkers of antioxidative status . Am J Clin Nutr . 1999;69:87-94.
30. Ramirez-Tortosa C , Garcia-Alonso J , Vidal-Guevara ML , et al. Oxidative stress status in an institutionalised elderly group after the intake of a phenolic-rich dessert . Br J Nutr . 2004;91:943-950.
31. Moller P , Loft S , Alfthan G , Freese R . Oxidative DNA damage in circulating mononuclear blood cells after ingestion of blackcurrant juice or anthocyanin-rich drink . Mutat Res . 2004;551:119-126.
32. Garbacki N , Tits M , Angenot L , Damas J . Inhibitory effects of proanthocyanidins from Ribes nigrum leaves on carrageenin acute inflammatory reactions induced in rats . BMC Pharmacol . 2004;4:25.
33. Barre DE . Potential of evening primrose, borage, black currant, and fungal oils in human health . Ann Nutr Metab . 2001;45:47-57.
34. Little C , Parsons T . Herbal therapy for treating rheumatoid arthritis . Cochrane Database Syst Rev . 2001;(1):CD002948.
35. Watson J , Byars ML , McGill P , Kelman AW . Cytokine and prostaglandin production by monocytes of volunteers and rheumatoid arthritis patients treated with dietary supplements of blackcurrant seed oil . Br J Rheumatol . 1993;32:1055-1058.
36. Leventhal LJ , Boyce EG , Zurier RB . Treatment of rheumatoid arthritis with blackcurrant seed oil . Br J Rheumatol . 1994;33:847-852.
37. Puupponen-Pimia R , Nohynek L , Meier C , et al. Antimicrobial properties of phenolic compounds from berries . J Appl Microbiol . 2001;90:494-507.
38. Cavanagh H , Hipwell M , Wilkinson JM . Antibacterial activity of berry fruits used for culinary purposes . J Med Food . 2003;6:57-61.
39. Knox YM , Suzutani T , Yosida I , Azuma M . Anti-influenza virus activity of crude extract of Ribes nigrum L . Phytother Res . 2003;17:120-122.
40. Nakaishi H , Matsumoto H , Tominaga S , Hirayama M . Effects of black current anthocyanoside intake on dark adaptation and VDT work-induced transient refractive alteration in healthy humans . Altern Med Rev . 2000;5:553-562.
41. Canter PH , Ernst E . Anthocyanosides of Vaccinium myrtillus (bilberry) for night vision--a systematic review of placebo-controlled trials . Surv Ophthalmol . 2004;49:38-50.
42. Matsumoto H , Kamm KE , Stull JT , Azuma H . Delphinidin-3-rutinoside relaxes the bovine ciliary smooth muscle through activation of ETB receptor and NO/cGMP pathway . Exp Eye Res . 2005;80:313-322.
43. Matsumoto H , Nakamura Y , Tachibanaki S , Kawamura S , Hirayama M . Stimulatory effect of cyanidin 3-glycosides on the regeneration of rhodopsin . J Agric Food Chem . 2003;51:3560-3563.
44. Tahvonen RL , Schwab US , Linderborg KM , Mykkanen HM , Kallio HP . Black currant seed oil and fish oil supplements differ in their effects on fatty acid profiles of plasma lipids, and concentrations of serum total and lipoprotein lipids, plasma glucose and insulin . J Nutr Biochem . 2005;16:353-359.
45. Frank J , Kamal-Eldin A , Lundh T , Maatta K , Torronen R , Vessby B . Effects of dietary anthocyanins on tocopherols and lipids in rats . J Agric Food Chem . 2002;50:7226-7230.
46. Nielsen IL , Rasmussen SE , Mortensen A , et al. Anthocyanins increase low-density lipoprotein and plasma cholesterol and do not reduce atherosclerosis in Watanabe Heritable Hyperlipidemic rabbits . Mol Nutr Food Res . 2005;49:301-308.
47. Dines KC , Cotter MA , Cameron NE . Effectiveness of natural oils as sources of gamma-linolenic acid to correct peripheral nerve conduction velocity abnormalities in diabetic rats: modulation by thromboxane A2 inhibition . Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids . 1996;55:159-165.
48. Kessler T , Jansen B , Hesse A . Effect of blackcurrant-, cranberry- and plum juice consumption on risk factors associated with kidney stone formation . Eur J Clin Nutr . 2002;56:1020-1023.
49. Norred CL , Brinker F . Potential anticoagulation effects of preoperative complementary and alternative medicines . Altern Ther Health Med . 2001;7:58-67.
50. Pregnolato P , Maranesi M , Bosi I , et al. Effect of diets containing different amounts of precursor and derivative fatty acids on serum TXB2 . Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids . 1996;55:325-328.
51. Werneke U , Earl J , Seydel C , Horn O , Crichton P , Fannon D . Potential health risks of complementary alternative medicines in cancer patients . Br J Cancer . 2004;90:408-413.
52. Ernst E . Ayurvedic medicines. Pharmacoepidemiology Drug Saf . 2002;11:455-456.
53. Vaddadi KS . The use of gamma-linolenic acid and linoleic acid to differentiate between temporal lobe epilepsy and schizophrenia . Prostaglandins Med . 1981;6:375-379.

Copyright © 2009 Wolters Kluwer Health

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.