Blackcurrant is an edible fruit that is presently gaining significant scientific attention because of its high constituent of essential phenolic compounds and ascorbic acid. Blackcurrant is a woody shrub that is botanically known as Ribes nigrum L. and belongs to the family of Grossulariaceae. This shrub is mostly planted for its piquant berries and is mostly planted in the temperate regions of the world. The blackcurrant fruit is an excellent source of vitamin A (carotenoids), vitamin B1 (thiamin), vitamin B3 (niacin), vitamin C, vitamin E (tocochromanols), potassium, low calories, sodium, calcium, iron, organic acids, pectins, essential oils, micronutrients, macronutrients and biologically active flavonols (proanthocyanidins, anthocyanins, isorhamnetin, quercetin, phenolic acids and myricetin). These flavonols are believed to possess neuroprotective activity. The extracts from blackcurrant pomace contain high amounts of phenolic compounds, especially anthocyanins. The anthocyanins are the natural pigments that give the blue colour in plants.
The deciduous plant can grow up to 2 m tall and it begins yielding fruit after about 2 to 3 years. The buds are strongly aromatic and can be slender, long, ovoid, conical or fusiform in shape. The long broad leaves are alternately paired, strongly perfumed, pale green and measures approximately 3 to 5 cm. The palmate leaves bear five lobes with glabrous upper and many sessile glands on the lower leaf surface. The pinkish green to reddish flowers bear curved sepals with white petals, while the racemes hang down and bear up to 10 flowers. The blackcurrant fruit is distinguished by its good organoleptic properties such as aromatic flavour, taste and deep colour, thus useful in various food productions. The phenolics in blackcurrant have been associated with numerous health benefits such as the inhibition of development of specific types of cancers, inflammation and cardiovascular-related diseases.
Benefits of Blackcurrants
Impact on Sports
The consumption of blackcurrant increases the peripheral blood flow in humans due to the anthocyanin-induced vasorelaxation and vasodilation. This impacts the substrate delivery, exercise performance and recovery. Researchers from the University of Chichester evaluated the impact of blackcurrants on exercise performance. They examined how a 7-day consumption of New Zealand blackcurrant extract can impact athletes during a 16.1km cycling time-trial. The results revealed that the competitors were able to complete the time-trial up to 2.4% faster on average after taking the berries. This justifies the use of blackcurrant as a functional food during sports and exercise. Blackcurrant promotes healthy exercise by minimizing muscle damage, soreness and assisting immune protection. This fruit also promotes easy recovery, tissue repair and performance in exercise.
Cardiovascular Health and Vascular Inflammation
Studies reveal that an increased consumption of blackcurrant polyphenols reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease. This is achieved by improving the lipid levels in the blood, regulating the blood pressure, minimizing vascular inflammation and promoting endothelial function (endothelium: the inner lining of blood vessels). Clinical trials with blackcurrants for cardiovascular health have shown that anthocyanin supplementation improves endothelium-dependent vasodilation in individuals with high levels of blood cholesterol.
Cosmetics Production
Blackcurrant buds contain essential oils that are rich in aromatic volatile compounds. These volatile compounds are mostly oxygenated fractions of terpenes and hydrocarbons. The essential oils from the blackcurrant buds release a strong terpenic aroma, thus the buds can be used as a fragrance or aroma enhancers in cosmetics, perfumes etc.
Neuroprotection Effects
Blackcurrant offers maximum neuroprotection against the oxidative stress that is caused by neuronal damages in human cell cultures. Amongst the various phenolics, the anthocyanins are the most effective neuroprotective compounds found in the blackcurrant fruits.
Antioxidant Activity
The high antioxidant activity of blackcurrant is due to its high levels of polyphenolics, especially anthocyanins and flavonols. The four main anthocyanins in black currants are cyanidin 3-rutinoside, delphinidin 3-glucoside, cyanidin 3-glucoside and delphinidin 3-rutinoside.
Treatment of Eye Diseases
The polyphenols anthocyanins found in blackcurrant fruit extract, especially delphinidin and cyanidin makes it suitable for treating eye problems and diseases of the eye.
Edible Purposes
Blackcurrant fruits can be used for producing flavoured waters, jams, jellies, ice creams, purees, pie fillings, toppings for dessert, black currant schnapps, alcoholic drinks, vodka, liqueur de cassis or crème de cassis and sweets. The young leaves can be used for products such as tea, sweetener, and beverages.
Treatment of Rheumatism
Blackcurrant leaves can be herbally used for treating rheumatism and inflammatory problems.
Diuretic Properties
Blackcurrant possesses diuretic properties thus can cause an increased passage of urine.
Aids Digestion
Due to the dietary contents of blackcurrant, the fruit aid easy digestion of food.
Promotes Healthy Kidney Function
Clinical trials have shown that a regular intake of blackcurrant can minimize the likelihood of kidney stone
development. Blackcurrant lowers the urinary pH, which is a significant factor for uric acid kidney stone formation.
Reduces Airway Inflammation
A 2010 New Zealand in-vitro laboratory study shows that the components of blackcurrants can be taken up by the digestive tract into the bloodstream thereby reducing eosinophils and airway inflammation.
This post is for enlightenment purposes only and should not be used as a replacement for professional diagnostic and treatments. Remember to always consult your healthcare provider before making any health-related decisions or for counselling, guidance and treatment about a specific medical condition.
- Archaina et al., (2017), Physical and functional properties of spray-dried powders from blackcurrant juice and extracts obtained from the waste of juice processing, Research Article,
- Bishayee et al., (2011), Anthocyanin-rich blackcurrant (Ribes nigrum L.) extract affords chemoprevention against diethylnitrosamine-induced hepatocellular carcinogenesis in rats. Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, 22:1035 – 1046.
- Bonarska-Kujawa, D., Cyboran, S., Żyłka, R., Oszmiański, J., & Kleszczyńska, H. (2014). Biological Activity of Blackcurrant Extracts (Ribes nigrum L.) in Relation to Erythrocyte Membranes. BioMed Research International, 2014, 783059. http://doi.org/10.1155/2014/783059
- Corrigan et al., (2014), Flavour analysis of New Zealand grown blackcurrants: an evaluation of expert selection methods, Journal New Zealand Journal of Crop and Horticultural Science Volume 42, Issue 4.
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Rich Extracts from Blueberry and Blackcurrant Juice, International Journal of Mol. Science, 16, 2352-2365.
- Edirisinghe et al., (2011), Effect of blackcurrant anthocyanins on the activation of endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS) in vitro in human endothelial cells, Journal of Agric. Food Chem., 59, 8616–8624.
- Hurst et al., (2010) Blackcurrant proanthocyanidins augment IFN-γ-induced suppression of IL-4 stimulated CCL26 secretion in alveolar epithelial cells, Molecular Nutrition & Food Research, 54: S159–S170
- Jia, N., Xiong, Y. L., Kong, B., Liu, Q., & Xia, X. (2012). Radical scavenging activity of black currant (Ribes nigrum L.) extract and its inhibitory effect on gastric cancer cell proliferation via induction of apoptosis. Journal of Functional Foods, 4, 382-390.
- Karjalainen et al., (2009), A Review On Bioactive Compounds In Black Currants (ribes Nigrum L.) And Their Potential Health-promoting Properties, International Symposium on Biotechnology of Fruit Species,
- Matsumoto, H., Takenami, E., Iwasaki-Kurashige, K., Osada, T., Katsumura, T., & Hamaoka, T. (2005). Effects of blackcurrant anthocyanin intake on peripheral muscle circulation during typing work in humans. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 94, 36-45.
- Pixabay (2018), Images via https://pixabay.com/
- Slimestad, R. & Solheim, H. (2002). Anthocyanins from black currants (Ribes nigrum L.). Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 50, 3228-3231
- University of Chichester (2015), University's Research On Performance-improving Blackcurrants Broadcast Nationwide, Accessed online

- Willems et al., (2014), CurraNZ blackcurrant improves cycling performance and recovery in trained endurance athletes, Journal of Int Soc Sports Nutr., 11(Suppl 1): P14.

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