Plant Profiler

Black currant (Ribes nigrum)

Black currant (Ribes nigrum) Image
Synonyms / Common Names / Related Terms
Alpha-linolenic acid, anthocyanin, anthocyanidin glycosides, anthocyanoside, astragalin, BCA, BCSO, black currant, black currant berry, black currant juice, black currant power, black currant seed oil, cassis (French, Spanish), cassistee, European black currant, European black currant, Feuilles de Cassis, gamma-linolenic acid, Gichtbeerblaetter, groselha preta (Portuguese), groselheira preta (f) (Bot.), Grossulariaceae (family), isoquercitrin, kurokarin extract, linoleic acid, omega-3 fatty acids, omega-6 fatty acid, phenolic compounds, polyphenolic antioxidants, proanthocyanidins, prodelphinidins, quercetin, Quinsy berries, red currant, Ribes nero, Ribes nigri folium, Ribes nigrum, Ribes rubrum, Ribis nigri folium, Rob, Saxifragaceae (family), schwarze Johannisbeerblaetter (German), schwarze Johannisbeere (German), Squinancy berries, solbaerbusk (Danish), stearidonic acid, svart vinbar (Swedish), tutin.

Mechanism of Action


  • Constituents: Black currant has been shown to be rich in phenolic compounds.16 In one study, black currant seed oil was found to contain 14.5% alpha-linolenic acid (18:3n3), 12.6% gamma-linolenic acid (18:3n6), 47.5% linoleic acid (18:2n6), and 2.7% stearidonic acid (18:4n3).17 Black currant seed oil has been shown to modulate membrane lipid composition and eicosanoid production.9
  • The flavonoids found in black currant belong to one of two classes: the anthocyanin class15 or the proanthocyanidin class. Black currant contains the four main anthocyanins: delphinidine-3-glucoside, delphinidine-3-rutinoside, cyanidine-3-glucoside, and cyanidine-3-rutinoside. One study showed that these four anthocyanins were excreted unchanged (0.020-0.050% of the oral doses) after 200mL oral doses containing 153mg of anthocyanins at 30-minute intervals for five hours.18
  • Black currant fruit and juice contain approximately 2,000mg of vitamin C per kg, as well as rutin and other flavonoids. This level of vitamin C is approximately five times that of oranges and is much higher than its relative herb, red currant (Ribes rubrum).
  • Antibacterial effects (H. pylori): One study found that acidic, high-molecular-weight galactans are responsible for the anti-adhesive qualities of black currant seed extracts.3 These polymers are able to block H. pylori surface receptors, thus inhibiting their interaction with specific binding factors located on human gastric epithelia.
  • Anticoagulant effects: Based on anecdotal information, black currant may interact with herbs with anticoagulant effects.1 Black currant contains gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), and stearidonic acid (SDA), which may account for its possible anti-inflammatory and antithrombotic actions.
  • Antihypertensive effects: A study of black currant seed oil vs. placebo showed that black currant inhibited blood pressure (BP) reactivity by more than 40% (diastolic BP, p=0.026; systolic BP, p=0.021).10 The diastolic BP decrease in the black currant group was significantly different than the slight change observed in the placebo group. Evidence from the study indicated that the gamma-linolenic acid in black currant may influence cardiovascular control, although the mechanisms by which this control occurs are unknown.
  • Anti-inflammatory effects: In one study, monocytes were isolated from subjects and cultured in the presence of lipopolysaccharide.14 Subjects given black currant seed oil showed markedly altered prostaglandin E2 production, as well as production from the cultured monocytes of the cytokines IL-1 beta, TNF-alpha, and IL-6. Results suggest anti-inflammatory effects due to a reduction in the inflammatory cytokines IL-1 beta and TNF-alpha, possibly through the redirection of eicosanoid metabolism, although this alteration may occur through an effect on the monocyte membranes.
  • Antioxidant effects: In one study, the antioxidant intensities of nine anthocyanin glycosides were measured in plasma of study volunteers after the administration of black currant anthocyanins. The antioxidant intensities were affected by three factors: pH value and both moieties of the aglycon and C-3 sugar.13 Chemiluminescence intensity increased from pH 5.0 until its max at 6.0-7.0 and then decreased at 9.0. The intensities among the 3-glucosides with five different aglycons compared with the 3-glycosides with three different sugar moieties at C-3 showed that the strongest intensities were given by the delphinidin aglycon and 3-rutinosyl moiety, respectively.
  • Antithrombotic effects: Because black currant contains gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), and stearidonic acid (SDA), anti-inflammatory and antithrombotic actions may be possible. GLA is a precursor in the synthesis of prostaglandin E1; ALA is a precursor of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and EPA is a precursor of the series-3 prostaglandins, the series-5 leukotrienes, and the series-3 thromboxanes, all of which are eicosanoids with anti-inflammatory and antithrombotic activity.
  • Antiviral effects: Kurokarin extract (Ribes nigrum L./black currant) has shown anti-influenza virus effects in vitro.5 The concentration of extract needed to produce inhibitory effects in plaque formation (stages IVA and IVB) by 50% (IC50) was 3.2mcg/mL. At a 10mcg per mL dose of the extract, IVA and IVB were directly inactivated by 99% at a pH level of 2.8 and by 95-98% at pH of 7.2. IVA cells were completely suppressed after treatment with 10 and 100mcg per mL of extract for one hour at eight to nine hours after infection, indicating that the extract inhibited viral release from infected cells.
  • An in vitro study of anti-herpes virus activity of kurokarin (black currant) extract showed inhibitory effects in herpes-simplex-1 attachment on the cell membrane and plaque formation of herpes-simplex-1 and 2 at a 100-fold dilution, as well as the inhibition of varicella-zoster by 50% at a 400-fold dilution or lower concentrations.4 The inhibition of varicella-zoster was due to the inhibition of protein synthesis in infected cells from early stage infection.
  • Cardiovascular effects: As a rich source of GLA and ALA, black currant may have cardioprotective effects, although sufficient information on this topic is lacking.
  • Circulatory effects: Left forearm blood flow (FBF) was measured in 20 healthy volunteers after 17mg capsules of either black currant seed oil or placebo.11 Before dosing and every hour for four hours thereafter, FBF following venous occlusion and muscle oxygen consumption following arterial occlusion were measured. Two hours after ingestion, the group given black currant seed oil had a significant increase if FBF (p<0.05) vs. placebo and tended to increase for three hours after ingestion.
  • Cyclooxygenase (COX) inhibitory effects: In vitro studies of black currant on COX enzymes indicated the inhibition of prostaglandin E2 synthesis, but prodelphinidin did not affect COX in the whole blood assay.6 These results suggest that the prodelphinidin fractions in black currant may be a useful additive in the prevention of osteoarthritis.
  • Fatty acid profile effects: Black currant seed oil supplements have shown differences from fish oil supplements in effects on fatty acid profiles of plasma lipids, concentrations of serum total and lipoprotein lipids, plasma glucose, and insulin.17 In one randomized, double-blind, crossover study with 15 healthy females, the group given black currant seed oil had a significant increase (p<0.05) in the proportion of 18:3n6 in triacylglycerols (TAGs) and cholesteryl esters (CEs), as well as that of dihomo-gamma-linolenic (20:3n6) in TAGs, CEs, and glycerophospholipids (GPLs). The proportion of 18:3n6 was significantly higher in subjects in the black currant group (p<0.05), but the group had only minor changes in the proportions of 20:5n3 or 22:6n3. Serum levels of LDL cholesterol were lower in the black currant group, whereas the placebo group had a decrease in plasma glucose concentration.
  • Hematologic effects: In a double-blind, placebo controlled, crossover study, the effects of black currant anthocyanin intake on peripheral circulation and shoulder stiffness caused by poor local circulation were evaluated.11 Left forearm blood flow increased notably two hours after black currant anthocyanin ingestion vs. placebo. Black currant anthocyanin intake also significantly prevented a decrease in oxygenated hemoglobin (p<0.05). These results suggest that black currant anthocyanin intake may improve shoulder stiffness by increasing peripheral blood flow.
  • Immune response effects in elderly subjects: One randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled study of 40 healthy subjects aged 65 years or older examined the effects of black currant seed oil supplementation for two months on immune response.9 Investigators found that black currant seed oil had a moderate immune-enhancing effect most probably attributed to its ability to reduce prostaglandin E2 production.
  • Inflammatory disease effects: Black currant seed oil is a source of polyunsaturated fatty acids, which have shown to act in the treatment of inflammatory disease.19
  • MAOI activity: Based on secondary sources, black currant is thought to be a possible monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI) based on its mechanism of action. In a 50g concentrate, black currant was shown to inhibit 92% of the monoamine oxidase enzymes.
  • Oxidative DNA damage: Volunteers in a three-week controlled parallel intervention study were given daily supplementation with black currant juice, an anthocyanin drink, or a control drink in doses that ranged from 475-1,000mL according to body weight, with mean anthocyanin intakes in black currant juice and anthocyanin drink groups of 397g and 365g per day, respectively.7 Results showed that the large doses of dietary antioxidants did not decrease the already low steady-state levels of oxidative DNA damage in healthy, adequately nourished volunteers.
  • Vascular effects: A study found that preparations rich in gamma-linolenic acid, one type of essential fatty acid found in black currant, may influence cardiovascular control by mechanisms yet to be clarified.10
  • Venous disorder effects: One randomized study of 2,295 women with vein insufficiency evaluated the effects of Ribes nigrum (black currant) extract on the condition.12 One group received the extract every day for 24 weeks, and the second group was given the same dose only on days 10-28. After 24 weeks of treatment, pain and edema were absent in 89.1% and 79.6% of women in the two groups, respectively. Overall, the effects in both treatment groups continued and improved with time by an unspecified mechanism of action.


  • Black currant is an antioxidant13,8,14 estimated to be as effective as the pomegranate, which is considered one of the most powerful sources of antioxidants.
  • In one study of the polyphenolic antioxidants in black currant fruit juice, urinary excretion of quercetin seemed to be a small but constant function of quercetin intake. The fraction excreted in urine was constant at 0.29-0.47%, and plasma quercetin did not change with juice intervention.
  • The pharmacokinetic parameters based on non-compartmental methods for plasma and urine concentration showed higher variability in urinary excretion after ingestion of elderberry extract than black currant extract in one study.20 Subjects who were given elderberry extract also showed significantly greater anthocyanin absorption than those given black currant, as evidenced by the 5.3- and 6.2-fold higher estimates of dose-normalized Cmax and area under the curve of total anthocyanins, respectively. The geometric means of the half-lives of the two extracts were reported not to be significantly different, and the urinary excretion rates of intact anthocyanins were rapid and appeared monoexponential for both.
  • In another study, Nielsen et al. report that the excretion and absorption rates of anthocyanins after ingestion of black currant juice by Watanabe heritable hyperlipidemic rabbits compared with humans were found to be within the same order of magnitude within the first four hours (rabbits, 0.035%; humans, 0.072%) and Tmax (rabbits, approximately 30 min; humans, approximately 45 min).2 Researchers noticed a food matrix in rabbits, which resulted in a higher proportion of anthocyanin absorption from black currant juice than from an aqueous citric acid matrix. In humans, the ingestion of a rice cake did not influence the absorption and urinary excretion of anthocyanins from black currant juice, which were proportional with dosage. In both rabbits and humans, a larger proportion of the anthocyanin rutinosides than of the glucosides was absorbed; the structure of the aglycon had no influence on absorption and excretion.
  • The flavonoids found in black currant belong to one of two classes: the anthocyanin class15 or the proanthocyanidin class. Black currant contains the four main anthocyanins: delphinidine-3-glucoside, delphinidine-3-rutinoside, cyanidine-3-glucoside, and cyanidine-3-rutinoside. One study showed that these four anthocyanins were excreted unchanged (0.020-0.050% of the oral doses) after 200mL oral doses containing 153mg of anthocyanins at 30-minute intervals for five hours.18
  • Black currant seed oil contains the following essential fatty acids: omega-6 polyunsaturated gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) (15-20%), omega-3 polyunsaturated alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) (12-14%), and stearidonic acid (SDA) (2-4%). All are in the form of triacylglycerols (TAGs), also known as triglycerides. The stereospecific position of GLA is concentrated in black currant seed oil in the sn-3 position.
  • Available information holds that after ingestion, triacylglycerols (TAGs) containing gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), and linolenic acid undergo hydrolysis via the lipases to form monoglycerides (MGs) and free fatty acids (FFAs), which are absorbed by the enterocytes. In the enterocytes, a reacylation takes place and the TAGs are reformed and assembled with phospholipids, cholesterol, and apoproteins into chylomicrons (CMs). The CMs are released into the lymphatics, transported to the circulatory system, and then degraded by lipoprotein lipase. The fatty acids are assumed by endothelial tissues and used for oxidation or synthesis. GLA is metabolized to dihomo-gamma-linolenic acid, which is converted into prostaglandin E1. Linoleic acid is metabolized to ALA, and ALA and stearidonic acid are metabolized to eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), a precursor in the synthesis of series-3 prostaglandins, series-5 leukotrienes, and series-3 thromboxanes. The metabolites of GLA and ALA are catabolized by oxidative processes and excreted primarily in the urine.
  • Bioavailability: In six healthy subjects, ingestion of black currant and elderberry juice elevated anthocyanin excretion.20 The rates of urinary excretion were not significantly different between the two juices, indicating that the two had similar rates of absorption.


  1. Norred, C. L. and Brinker, F. Potential coagulation effects of preoperative complementary and alternative medicines. Alt Ther 2001;7(6):58-67.
  2. Nielsen, I. L., Dragsted, L. O., Ravn-Haren, G., Freese, R., and Rasmussen, S. E. Absorption and excretion of black currant anthocyanins in humans and watanabe heritable hyperlipidemic rabbits. J Agric Food Chem 4-23-2003;51(9):2813-2820. 12696978
  3. Lengsfeld, C., Deters, A., Faller, G., and Hensel, A. High molecular weight polysaccharides from black currant seeds inhibit adhesion of Helicobacter pylori to human gastric mucosa. Planta Med 2004;70(7):620-626. 15254855
  4. Suzutani, T., Ogasawara, M., Yoshida, I., Azuma, M., and Knox, Y. M. Anti-herpesvirus activity of an extract of Ribes nigrum L. Phytother Res 2003;17(6):609-613. 12820226
  5. Knox, Y. M., Suzutani, T., Yosida, I., and Azuma, M. Anti-influenza virus activity of crude extract of Ribes nigrum L. Phytother Res 2003;17(2):120-122. 12601672
  6. Garbacki, N., Angenot, L., Bassleer, C., Damas, J., and Tits, M. Effects of prodelphinidins isolated from Ribes nigrum on chondrocyte metabolism and COX activity. Naunyn Schmiedebergs Arch Pharmacol 2002;365(6):434-441. 12070756
  7. Moller, P., Loft, S., Alfthan, G., and Freese, R. Oxidative DNA damage in circulating mononuclear blood cells after ingestion of blackcurrant juice or anthocyanin-rich drink. Mutat Res 7-13-2004;551(1-2):119-126. 15225586
  8. Young, J. F., Nielsen, S. E., Haraldsdottir, J., Daneshvar, B., Lauridsen, S. T., Knuthsen, P., Crozier, A., Sandstrom, B., and Dragsted, L. O. [Polyphenolic antioxidants in fruit juice. Urinary excretion and effects on biological markers for antioxidative status]. Ugeskr Laeger 3-6-2000;162(10):1388-1392. 10745678
  9. Wu, D., Meydani, M., Leka, L. S., Nightingale, Z., Handelman, G. J., Blumberg, J. B., and Meydani, S. N. Effect of dietary supplementation with black currant seed oil on the immune response of healthy elderly subjects. Am J Clin Nutr 1999;70(4):536-543. 10500023
  10. Deferne, J. L. and Leeds, A. R. Resting blood pressure and cardiovascular reactivity to mental arithmetic in mild hypertensive males supplemented with blackcurrant seed oil. J Hum Hypertens 1996;10(8):531-537. 8895037
  11. Matsumoto, H., Takenami, E., Iwasaki-Kurashige, K., Osada, T., Katsumura, T., and Hamaoka, T. Effects of blackcurrant anthocyanin intake on peripheral muscle circulation during typing work in humans. Eur J Appl Physiol 2005;94(1-2):36-45. 15605279
  12. Allaert, F. A., Vin, F., and Levardon, M. [Comparative study of the effectiveness of continuous or intermittent courses of a phlebotonic drug on venous disorders disclosed or aggravated by oral, estrogen-progesterone contraceptives]. Phlebologie 1992;45(2):167-173. 1528969
  13. Matsumoto, H., Nakamura, Y., Hirayama, M., Yoshiki, Y., and 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 8-28-2002;50(18):5034-5037. 12188603
  14. Watson, J., Byars, M. L., McGill, P., and Kelman, A. W. 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(12):1055-1058. 8252313
  15. Mulleder, U., Murkovic, M., and Pfannhauser, W. Urinary excretion of cyanidin glycosides. J Biochem Biophys Methods 2002;53(1-3):61-66. 12406587
  16. Carmen Ramirez-Tortosa, M., Garcia-Alonso, J., Luisa Vidal-Guevara, M., Quiles, J. L., Jesus, Periago M., Linde, J., Dolores, Mesa M., Ros, G., Abellan, P., and Gil, A. Oxidative stress status in an institutionalised elderly group after the intake of a phenolic-rich dessert. Br J Nutr 2004;91(6):943-950. 15182397
  17. Tahvonen, R. L., Schwab, U. S., Linderborg, K. M., Mykkanen, H. M., and Kallio, H. P. 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(6):353-359. 15936647
  18. Netzel, M., Strass, G., Janssen, M., Bitsch, I., and Bitsch, R. Bioactive anthocyanins detected in human urine after ingestion of blackcurrant juice. J Environ Pathol Toxicol Oncol 2001;20(2):89-95. 11394716
  19. Byars, M. L., Watson, J., and McGill, P. E. Blackcurrant seed oil as a source of polyunsaturated fatty acids in the treatment of inflammatory disease. Biochem Soc Trans 1992;20(2):139S. 1397534
  20. Bitsch, I., Janssen, M., Netzel, M., Strass, G., and Frank, T. Bioavailability of anthocyanidin-3-glycosides following consumption of elderberry extract and blackcurrant juice. Int J Clin Pharmacol Ther 2004;42(5):293-300. 15176653

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