Black Currant Oil

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Black currant seed oil is a popular health supplement, like fish oil. It is a vegetable oil that is taken by people to deal with disorders of the immune system, hair thinning and as an anti-inflammatory. Black currant fruits are delicious and have many health benefits. Similarly, the oil from its seeds is also quite nutritious. It has many medicinal uses.

Source

Black currant seed oil is pressed from the seeds of Black currant fruit. Its biological name is Ribes nigrum. These are black colored berries which leave a purple color on the tongue when eaten. Black curants are rich in Vitamin C and are very popular in many parts of the world. They are used to make jams, jellies, flavored ice creams.

Black Currant Oil
Black Currant Oil (Image:Shutterstock)

Black currants have been used traditionally in Europe to drive away common cold and flu. Its leaves have been used to treat diarrhea very effectively. It was also applied for arthritis and respiratory spasms. Most of the health benefits of black currant seed oil derive from the original medicinal uses of the plant. At one point in time, black currants were grown and used as substitute for oranges in United Kingdom.

Production

Black currant seed oil is generally obtained from its seeds by cold pressed method. However, other methods of extraction like solvent extraction and supercritical carbon dioxide is also used. The last two methods do not yield an organic oil as they use chemicals for extracting more oil from the seeds. For getting the maximum health benefits, one should go for the pure, organic and cold pressed black currant oil.

Properties

Black currant seed oil exerts some therapeutic properties which make it a healing oil.

  • Antioxidant – It protects the cells from free radical induced damage.
  • Anti-inflammatory – Black currant oil is among the powerful anti-inflammatory oils which can be ingested in small amounts.
  • Cardioprotective – It exerts a protective effect on the heart and blood vessels.
  • Immunostimulant – The herb, berries and its seed oil are good for improving the functioning of the immune system.
  • Anti-dermatitis – It treats dermatitis in humans and even canines.
  • Anti-rheumatic – Black currant seed oil is among the best anti-rheumatic oils. It reduces the pain and inflammation of rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Anti-Allergic – It reduces the susceptibility of a person to allergies.
  • Anti-neuropathic – Gamma linolenic acid from black currant oil has shown protective effects in diabetic neuropathy.

There may be other possible therapetic properties of black currant oil like Anti-cancer, Diuretic, Anti-diarrhea and more which should become evident with further research.

Color, Taste and Aroma

Black currant seed oil, even if it is cold pressed is generally refined. This leaves behind a honey colored oil with hardly any taste. It is bland and has no odor.

Blends Well With

Black currant seed oil is generally not used in aromatherapy. However, one can play around with this oil and use it as a carrier oil for skin massage.

Health Benefits

Black currant seed oil has prominent health benefits, most of which are well documented and verified by research studies. Most of its health benefits are attributed to a nutrient called gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) which is a fatty acid. It is also found in evening primrose oil, borage seed oil and a few others.

Immune System

Supplementation with black currant seed oil has been shown to improve the functioning of the immune system by a moderate amount [1]. This effect can take some months to appear. As we age, the production of prostaglandin E 2 in our body increases. This leads to a decline in immune function because of lower T cell function. Black currant seed oil provides our body with gamma linolenic acid and alpha linolenic acid ( omega -3 ) which reduces prostaglandin synthesis. As a result, the performance of immune system boosts up. As a result, regular supplementation with black currant seed oil can help our body deal with pathogens, like infections caused by bactera, virus and fungi. One can recover faster from flu and cold. It also helps in auto-immune conditions like lupus, eczema and psoriasis.

Cardioprotective Effects

Black currant seed oil seems to have influence on the serum lipid profiles of a person. In this study[2], black currant seed oil supplementation was found to lower LDL cholesterol levels. It also raised HDL to LDL cholesterol ratio, which means that it only lowered LDL cholesterol while not affecting the HDL cholesterol. This shows that black currant oil is quite good for cardiovascular health. It can lower the risk of heart diseases like atherosclerosis.

Black currant seed oil has also been found to be quite effective in preventing cardiac arrhythmia [3]. In this condition, the heart beats without its normal rythym because of lower blood supply to the heart. Black currant seed oil helps to lower the risk of developing this condition. It performs even better than evening primrose oil in this condition, possibly because of higher omega-3 concentration in black currant oil.

Black Currant Seed Oil for Hair Problems

Black currant seed oil helps in many hair problems when taken as a supplement. It combats hair thinning, splitting and frizzy hair. It should not be used topically on the hair, as that might be damaging to the hair. When taken internally, it provides our body with essential fatty acids which provide nutrition to the hair follicles. This effect may take a few weeks to show effect.

Dry Eyes

People who suffer from chronic dry eyes find relief by takig black currant seed oil. This is because low levels of healthy fatty acids can lead to reduced tear production, which inevitably leads to dry eyes condition.

Premenstrual Syndrome

Just like evening primrose oil, black currant seed oil also helps a lot in premenstrual syndrome. It alleviates the symptom of this condition like mood swings, irritability, depression, insomnia, body pains and weight gain due to fluid retention. Black currant seed oil also helps in menopause during hot flashes and night sweats.

Acne

Many people take GLA supplements to help with flare ups of Acne. In some people, it helps while in others, it may even worsen the acne. However, with black currant seed oil, things can be different. It contains high amounts of GLA as well as ALA ( omega -3 as we know ). Because of high omega-3 , it should reduce inflammation and redness on skin besides reducing the acne breakouts.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Black currant seed oil is very helpful in rheumatoid arthritis [4]. It reduces swelling, pain and joint injury in patients suffering from arthritis. This effect does not come up immediately. Rather it can take upto 24 weeks for significant relief from the symptoms of arthritis. This oil is also helpful in reducing inflammation that occurs in gout.

Black Currant Seed Oil for Skin

Black currant oil is effective in reducing the severity of atopic dermatitis. It is generally taken internally and not applied topically. With regular use, one would experience the lesions of eczema or psoriasis healing. There is also a reduction in itching or pruritis in the lesions. As a result, the person scratches less which reduces inflammation in the lesions. This effect is due to the presence of healthy fatty acids in black currant oil, like alpha linolenic acid, gamma linolenic acid and dihomo-gamma linolenic acid. Its use also reduces excessive dryness of skin, thus preventing scales and flaking.

Uses

Black currant seed oil is most commonly sold as a health supplement. The essential oil from its buds, called Black currant bud absolute is used in making perfumes and scented products.

Side Effects, Safe Dosage and Toxicity Issues

Black currant seed oil should only be taken under its safe dosage value. If taken in excess, it can lead to minor side effects like headaches and upset stomach symptoms like diarrhea or constipation. Some people may develop an allergy to black currant products. It also has an anti-clotting effect, so it can aggravate bleeding. This oil should not be taken 2 weeks before and after surgery. One should keep the dosage of black currant seed oil under 1000 mg ( 1 gm ) per day for adults and 500 mg for kids. Although people do take higher amounts, upto 6 gm per day, but this can lead to side effects. One should consult th doctor before taking high amounts of black currant seed oil. It should not be taken during pregnancy. If you are on a medication, consult the doctor about its possible interactions with this oil.

Nutritional and Medicinal Information

Let us look at the nutrition facts of black currant seed oil. It definitely has an impressive amount of omega-3 and gamma linolenic acid, besides other vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. The most important nutrients in any oil are the fatty acids.

Fatty Acid nutritional profile of Black Currant Seed Oil

100 gm of oil contains :

  • About 10 gm Saturated Fats.
  • 9 – 13 gm Oleic Acid ( omega-9 ) MUFA ( monounsaturated fatty acid )
  • Rest of it is PUFA ( polyunsaturatd fatty acids )
Nutrient Percentage Property
Gamma Linoleic Acid (18:3) 15-20 % PUFA
Stearic Acid (18:0) 1-2 % Saturated fat
Palmitic Acid (16:0) 6-8 % Saturated fat
Palmitoleic Acid (16:1) – % MUFA
Oleic Acid (18:1) 9-13 % MUFA
Linoleic Acid (18:2) 44-51% PUFA
Alpha Linolenic Acid(18:3) 12-14 % PUFA
Erucic Acid (22:1) – % MUFA
Gondoic Acid (20:1) – % MUFA
Behenic Acid (22:0) Saturated fat
Arachidic Acid (20:0) – % Saturated fat

Source : 6

Black currant seed oil contains about 15 – 20 gm of gamma linoleic acid and about 12 – 14 gm of alpha linoleic acid ( omega -3 ). These two nutrients are strongly anti-inflammatory and impart the most health benefits. Linoleic Acid is omega – 6 and it is the principal fatty acid in this oil. Omega-6 is about 44 – 51 %. This fatty acid is pro-inflammatory. Therefore, intake of higher amount of black currant seed oil may aggravate inflammation in the body, whereas when taken in small amount, it is strongly anti-inflammatory. In most commercial black currant seed oil, gamma linolenic acid concentration is increased using a process called refinement.

Vitamin E in Black Currant Seed Oil

This oil has significant amount of Vitamin E. However, it is disproportionately divided among tocopherols and tocotrienols. Most of the Vitamin E in black currant seed oil is found only in tocopherol forms [7].

  • α – Tocopherol – 36.9 g/kg
  • γ – Tocopherol –  55.4 g/kg
  • δ – Tocopherol –  6.9 g/kg

Due to presence of Vitamin E, it provide the health benefits of this Vitamin. Black currant seed oil thus acts as an antioxidant. It protects the nerves from damage and also safeguards gene expression, which are all functions of Vitamin E.

Sterols in Black Currant Seed Oil

This oil also contains small amounts of plant sterol compounds, also known as phytosterols. These provide health benefits even in small concentrations. These are the phytosterols found in black currant seed oil [7].

  • Campesterol – It is strongly anti-inflammatory and lowers the degeneration of cartilage in arthritis.
  • Stigmasterol – Anti-cancerous compound. It also lowers blood glucose and exerts an effect on the thyroid hormone.
  • β – Sitosterol – This phytosterol reduces cholesterol levels in blood.

Chemical properties of Black Currant Seed Oil

From medicinal point of view, some chemical properties of an oil must be known. One of them is antioxidant capacity, measured in terms of ORAC value. The antioxidant power of black currant seed oil is not yet known.

Buying and Storage

Black currant seed oil is available in bottles as well as in capsules. One should note the source and method of preparation of oil. These are usually added with antioxidants to prevent this oil from getting rancid. Still, one should keep it away from sunlight, preferably in cool and dark place.

References

1.Effect of dietary supplementation with black currant seed oil on the immune response of healthy elderly subjects. Dayong Wu et. al. 1999 American Society for Clinical Nutrition
2. 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. Raija L. Tahvonen et. al. The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry
3. Gamma-linolenic acid, black currant seed and evening primrose oil in the prevention of cardiac arrhythmia in aged rats. John S Charnock et. al. Nutrition Research
4. TREATMENT OF RHEUMATOID ARTHRITIS WITH BLACKCURRANT SEED OIL. L. J. LEVENTHAL, E. G. BOYCE and R. B. ZURIER. Rheumatology.
5. Conjugated linoleic acid and black currant seed oil in the treatment of canine atopic dermatitis: A preliminary report. C. Noli et. al. The Veterinary Journal.
6. Fractionation of blackcurrant seed oil. H. Traifler, H. J. Wille, A. Studer. Journal of the American Oil Chemists Society.
7. Lipid composition of Bulgarian chokeberry,black currant and rose hip seed oils. Magdalen D Zlatanov. Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture.

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