Erect deciduous shrub growing to 5 ft (1.5 m). Has serrated, palm-shaped lobed leaves, small greenish-white flowers, and clusters of black berries.
Habitat & Cultivation
Blackcurrant is native to the temperate regions of Europe, western and central Asia, and the Himalayas. It is grown mainly in eastern Europe for its sour-sweet fruit. The leaves are gathered in early summer, the berries when ripe in mid to late summer.
Blackcurrant leaves contain flavonoids, tannins, proanthocyanidins, prodelphinidins, and a volatile oil. The berries contain flavonoids, flavonols, proanthocyanidins and sugars (10–15%). The seeds contain the essential fatty acids linoleic and alpha-linolenic acids, and up to 18% gamma-linolenic acid and 9% stearidonic acid. (However, most blackcurrant oil available on the market has been refined and will not contain these oils.)
The proanthocyanidins, especially in the fruit, are strongly antioxidant and anti-inflammatory and like bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus) exert a protective activity on the capillaries. The prodelphinidins are anti-inflammatory.
Medicinal Actions & Uses
In Europe, blackcurrant leaves are used for their diuretic effect. By encouraging the elimination of fluid, the leaves help to reduce blood volume and thereby to lower blood pressure. The leaves are also used as a gargle for sore throats and mouth ulcers. According to French investigators, blackcurrant leaves increase he secretion of cortisol by the adrenal glands, and thus stimulate the activity of the sympathetic nervous system.
This action may prove useful in the treatment of stress-related conditions. Blackcurrant berries and their juice are high in vitamin C. They help improve resistance to infection and make a valuable remedy for treating colds and flu.
According to the herbal authority R. F. Weiss, the juice is “as good as, if not better than, lemon juice (Citrus limon) for patients with pneumonia, influenza, etc.” The juice also helps to stem diarrhea and calms indigestion. Juice that is fresh or vacuum-sealed is more effective than concentrate.