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The Truth About Black Currants

April 3, 2009 Written by JP    [Font too small?]

If you visit health food stores on a regular basis you’ve probably begun to see products that feature black currant juices and extracts. It’s important to clarify that black currant seed oil is not the same as black currant extract or juice. The oil has been commercially available for many years and is known for containing a therapeutic fatty acid called GLA. But it’s the juice and concentrated extracts from the berry that are now being widely promoted throughout the natural health industry. They’re but one contender for the “hot new product of the moment” award.

Blackberries on the VineI’d like to attempt to separate some of the facts from the promotional material associated with these berries. In order to do so, let’s look at some scientific research that will help us to view black currants from a reasonable perspective.

Black currants are similar in many ways to other black, blue and dark purple berries. I’m specifically referring to members of the berry family that includes black raspberries, blueberries and elderberries. But just like human family members, there are some distinct and subtle differences to be found in each of these relatives.

From a nutritional standpoint black currants are an excellent source of vitamin C and potassium. But the primary selling point for almost all berries is their phytochemical (plant chemical) antioxidant content. These chemicals are largely responsible for the rich, dark skin color of many of the berries. That’s also thought to be the primary reason for their health promoting properties.

Here’s what we currently know about the possible health benefits of this up-and-coming berry:

In order for any food or supplement to provide health benefits, it must be able to be absorbed in therapeutic quantities. To that end, I want to mention two potentially vital pieces of information about enhancing the body’s uptake of the phytochemicals in black currants.

  1. Taking black currant extract (BCE) with a natural substance called IP6 may increase the bioavailability of the antioxidants contained in the BCE. IP6 is also known as phytic acid. It’s typically found in legumes, seeds and whole grains and is known to be a powerful antioxidant and chelator of minerals. Therefore, it is recommended that supplemental IP6 only be taken on an empty stomach and at least 2 to 3 hours before or after meals.
  2. I recently reported on a study that found that milk consumption significantly reduced the absorption of antioxidants in blueberries. Since black currants are chemically and structurally very similar to blueberries, it may be wise to avoid taking black currant along with any dairy products.
Antioxidants in Black Currants

In addition to the more common uses of black currants, I also came across some promising, but highly preliminary findings about possible future uses.

In a previous article about blueberries, I pointed out a scientific inquiry that found that organic blueberries had higher levels of antioxidants than those that were conventionally grown. The same does not appear to hold true in the case of black currants. This is not to say that there aren’t other reasons to look for organic currants. But if you can’t find them, at least you can rest assured that you’ll benefit fully from any kind of black currant you can find.

After reviewing the existing literature on black currants, my personal position is to “wait and see”. In my opinion, eating a wide variety of berries and utilizing berry extracts can be enormously beneficial to a great many people. But I’m not yet sold on the superiority of black currants vs other similar berries. For instance, the science supporting the use of blueberries is much more substantial at this point.

So the next time I see a salesman at my local health food store offering a free “shot” of black currant juice, I’ll try it. But when he asks me if I’d like to buy a bottle, I’ll probably just say, “Check back with me in 2 or 3 years”.

Be well!


Posted in Nutritional Supplements

14 Comments & Updates to “The Truth About Black Currants”

  1. Euphoria Says:

    There are many berries this color that are good for health including bilberries, yumberries and the acai berries. They are very good for cardiovascular health.

  2. JP Says:

    I agree with you, Euphoria. Many berries are a wonderfully good source of nutrition.

    I know they do my heart good! 🙂

    Be well!


  3. laura Says:

    I adore black currant juice… it need not be purchased at “wonder remedy” prices. I can find it for less than $3 for a half-liter aseptic package at local specialty food stores that carry Eastern European items.

  4. JP Says:

    Thank you for the tip, Laura! 🙂

    Be well!


  5. Robert Marengo Says:

    To call blackberries, blueberries, elderberries and black currants a “family” betrays ignorance of plant taxonomy. They may have nutritional traits in common, but they are about as distantly related botanically as you can get. Blackberries & black currants are closer to each other (both are in the rose family), but blueberries & elderberries are not related to each other, or to blackberries & currants.

  6. JP Says:


    Your point about plant taxonomy is taken. However, I think you’re ascribing more meaning to that particular sentence than I intended. I was simply referring to berries as a class of fruit. Since the three mentioned berries all end with the word “berries” and contain similar characteristics and phytochemicals … I grouped them together.

    Be well!


  7. HK Expat Says:

    Just picked up some back currant concentrate today, mixed some up and it tasted great… looking around for nutritional info…and it looks like a winnner…

  8. Jerry Says:

    Research from Purdue University and many other food research institutions worldwide all show black currants are superior to blueberries in almost every area. The reason for the lack of quantity of research is because there are almost no commercial growers of black currants in the United States to fund the research. (it was illegal to grow them for almost a hundred years due to a disease that infected white pine)Your only consideration should be cost and availability. Now that the ban has been lifted in many areas of the US more growers will emerge and availability should increase while costs decrease. The issue of which berry is superior pound for pound is well established so there is no reason to wait 2-3 years for the benefits. Just eat ’em!

  9. JP Says:

    Thank you for comments, Jerry! Since writing this column, additional research has been published. Here are a few of the highlights:



    http://www.clinchem.org/content/57/11/1524.long (blackcurrant & bilberry combination)

    Be well!


  10. JP Says:

    Update: Black currants may support oral health in smokers …


    J Med Food. 2015 Mar 3.

    Acute Effects of Black Currant Consumption on Salivary Flow Rate and Secretion Rate of Salivary Immunoglobulin A in Healthy Smokers.

    The role of saliva in maintaining oral health and homeostasis is based on its physicochemical properties and biological activities of its components, including salivary immunoglobulin A (IgA). Both salivary rates and immunological status of saliva are found to be compromised in smokers. The aim of this study was to investigate the acute time-dependent effect of smoking and black currant consumption on the salivary flow rate (SFR) and salivary IgA secretion rate (sIgA SR) in healthy smokers. SFR, sIgA levels in saliva, and sIgA SRs were determined in healthy smokers (n=8) at eight times of assessment within three consecutive interventions: at the baseline; 5, 30, and 60 min after smoking; 5, 30, and 60 min after black currant consumption (100 g), followed by smoking; and 5 min after black currant consumption. Smoking induced a significant delayed effect on SFR measured 60 min after smoking (P=.03), while black currant consumption preceding smoking prevented that effect. Salivary IgA concentrations and sIgA flow rates were not acutely influenced by smoking. Black currant consumption preceding smoking induced a significant decrease in sIgA concentrations 5 min after the intervention compared with the baseline (P=.046), with a further increasing trend, statistically significant, 60 min after the intervention (P=.025). Although smoking cessation is the most important strategy in the prevention of chronic diseases, the obtained results suggest that the influence of black currant consumption on negative effects of tobacco smoke on salivary flow and immunological status of saliva could partly reduce the smoking-associated risk on oral health.

    Be well!


  11. Jerry Coon Says:

    It is nice to see your research into the subject. As you indicate, as popularity increases so will the number of studies. And then hopefully the studies will aid in the popularity.If you are looking for a place to get them drop us a line. http://www.coonsberryfarm.com. At our farm we are actively conducting research into the best varieties and growing methods for currant production in Michigan.
    Although the USDA recognizes Michigan as a premier site for growing currants, there is virtually no research of currants in Michigan’s unique climate. Hopefully that will change in the near future.

  12. JP Says:

    Thank you for the insight, Jerry! This past week, I noticed a few interesting black currant supplements at the Natural Products Expo West in Anaheim, California. I’ll probably include a description of them in my forthcoming coverage of the convention. Please stay tuned!

    Be well!


  13. Anne Says:

    Very easy to grow blackcurrants, and once a bush is established they just keep coming every year. Some years they do well, others not quite so well, but there’s always a crop – here in the UK anyway. Put a net over them or the birds will have the lot suddenly just as soon as they are ripe. I freeze them and then use through the winter either whole or as a drink. I crush them, strain the juice and add Maple Syrup or honey. Can’t help thinking raw has got to be better than a heat treated syrup or other supplement. Just heard on the “Quest for Cancer Cures” docu-series that berry seeds carry heavy metals out of the body, so now I also eat the mush that’s left after extracting the juice.

  14. JP Says:

    Thank you for sharing your experience and insights, Anne!

    Be well!


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