Have you ever eaten fresh black currants? Unless you are from Canada or Europe or Russia, chances are you probably haven’t. This little berry with a long list of extraordinary health benefits, in the fruit and seeds, was banned from being cultivated in the States(1) until about 1966 and by 2003 it was still flying under the radar.. But today, 15 years later, we can use black currant seed oil and reap all the benefits this GLA (gamma-linolenic acid) rich oil provides.
There's an intriguing reason why 99.9% of Americans have never tasted blackcurrant but Europeans love it. (2)
But why ban a fruit that can do wonders for people suffering from baldness, brain fog, arthritis, inflammation and the symptoms of inflammation? The essential fatty acids (EFA’s) in black currant seed oil could also regulate metabolism, improve imbalances in the blood like blood pressure, cholesterol, and sugar levels.(3 , 4) Even hormonal imbalances affecting the thyroid and menopause may be balanced out by taking black currant seed oil in the right dosage over a period of 1 – 6 months.
Well, it was banned in the early 1900’s in the United States because black currants carried a pathogen of fungal origin, called White Pine Blister Rust. Pine forests were at great risk from catching this disease and the threat of having entire forests wiped out is what caused the ban.
Fortunately, cultivars have been developed that are resistant to White Pine Blister Rust and it no longer poses a threat. New cultivars are available with even higher percentages of GLA in the seeds than the original, pathogen carrying, Ribes nigrum.(5)
A Powerful Combination of Essential Fatty Acids in the Seeds Make Black Currant Oil Unique
Knowing HOW something works often helps us to understand WHY it works. This was definitely the case for me when it came to learning about the essential fatty acids (EFA’s) found in the seed oil of black currants (6).
Black currant oil can be used to treat such a wide range of different problems because it contains just the right ratio of Omega 6 (linoleic) and Omega 3 (linolenic) fatty acids.
The body can actually convert linoleic acid into GLA (gamma-linolenic acid) but only if it is functioning properly and has enough vitamins c, e, b6, b3, zinc and magnesium. If your body is deficient in these or if you drink alcohol and coffee, use insulin or eat a diet high in trans fatty acids your body may not be able to do this conversion. This is where taking supplements comes in.
GLA and ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) work synergistically to
- boost the immune system
- rev up your metabolism
- reduce inflammation
- stimulate hair, skin and nail growth
- and improve your brain power
Below are 11 Properties of Black Currant Seed Oil and 8 Health Benefits that may improve your general well-being. I will explain how using black currant oil could improve certain ailments and may prevent more serious and chronic illnesses.
We will touch on some of the risks involved when taking omega-6 rich supplements and give advice on the best dosage to take for various health issues like rheumatoid arthritis and premature balding.
What is the difference between eating black currants vs using the oil?
Black currants are delicious little berries that will make your tongue purple when eaten fresh, and I’m sure you know that purple food is loaded with antioxidants that blast free radicals into neutrality. This means the risk of getting cancers and cardiovascular disease may be significantly lowered.
Of course, we don’t all have black currants growing wild so we have to opt for supplements. Fortunately there are really good quality black currant supplements available but I want to focus on black currant seed oil.
The fruit of black currants contain different compounds to that of the seeds. Bear this in mind when you read articles on the benefits of black currants. The fruit, obviously, is ingested with seeds so you will get highly effective natural antioxidant from the anthocyanins in fruit as well as the natural benefits of the EFA’s contained in the seeds.
But the seeds are removed from the fruit when they prepare to make jams and cordials. So the seed was a by-product of this process, thankfully we can now reap the good from these fruit by taking oil.
A study was done to find out what was in the seeds after extraction and it was found that the seeds alone were bursting with antioxidants in the form of tocopherols, phytosterols and EFA’s
Who will benefit most from taking black currant seed oil?
- Vegans – check that gel capsules are gelatin free
- Menopausal women
- People with early onset baldness due to hormonal imbalances
- People with lackluster skin tone, dull hair and brittle nails
- Sufferers of rheumatoid arthritis
- People with impaired immune function
- Cancer patients
- People with metabolic syndrome(7)
Black Currant Seed Oil Nutrition Information
1. A very rich source of antioxidants: Black currant seed oil contains high levels of tocopherols (vitamin e), phytosterols and EFA’s. Black currant seed oil contains over 34% of the very bioactive α-tocopherol (8)that is most bioactive in the body out of all the types.
2. Powerful anti-inflammatory: When the GLA from the oil is metabolized into DGLA (dihomogamma-linolenic acid) in the body it becomes a strong anti-inflammatory agent. This is one of the oil’s most beneficial properties because many diseases stem from inflammation. Fighting inflammation will reduce symptoms of many dis-eases in the body(8) and in some cases even reverse conditions.
3. Protects the heart: Black currant oil is a rich source of GLA with antioxidant properties that reduce the risk of developing precursors to heart diseases (9) such as high cholesterol levels, high blood pressure and atherosclerosis.
4. Amazing anti-allergen: Through the anti-inflammatory effects of GLA, SDA (stearidonic acid) and ALA, allergic reactions can be dramatically decreased. Symptoms of allergic reactions are all inflammatory by nature causing itching, swollen skin, rashes and swelling of the eyes and throat.
5. Immuno-stimulant: Again, the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties found in the GLA and phytosterols of the seed are part of why the immune system is able to be strengthened and repaired in order to keep the body fit and healthy.
6. Anti-dermatitis: Skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis may improve by taking black currant oil. Many studies have been done (10) on the effects of evening primrose oil, which is also high in GLA, but not as high as black currant oil. Over 20% of Americans suffer from one form or another of dermatitis.
Taking 2 grams of black currant oil daily, may reduce the inflammation and itching associated with atopic dermatitis.(11)
7. Anti-rheumatic: While GLA in black currant oil will not stop joint degeneration it may alleviate symptoms of swelling, morning stiffness and pain, associated with rheumatoid arthritis.
8. Neuroprotective: Protecting the nervous system by reducing inflammation will improve circulation and reduce pain caused by certain chronic illnesses of an inflammatory nature.(12)
9. Digestion, metabolism and detoxification are linked: Black currant oil has anti-diarrhea as well as diuretic effects so it can restore proper digestion as well as help the body with excretions that remove toxins from the system. A sluggish liver will impede the body’s ability to remove toxins which could lead to weight gain and fatigue.
10. Anti-carcinogenic: Black currant seed oil may inhibit the growth of cancerous cells thanks to its antioxidant properties.
11. Eicosanoid synthesis is key in reducing inflammation: Eicosanoids are synthesized by arachidonic acid, which is converted from GLA into DGLA. Omega 3’s and Omega 9 fatty acids also produce eicosanoids which convert to their own sets of lipid compounds. These include prostaglandins,(13) thromboxanes and leukotrienes to name but three. It is the metabolites from these compounds that do the work with energy supplied by the initial linoleic acid in the form of GLA.
The eicosanoids act as signalers and communicators between cells, as a type of endocrine agent. This is why the GLA and ALA in Black Currant Seed Oil have such profound anti-inflammatory properties. They take on the jobs of regulating crucial actions within cells that affect blood pressure, metabolic processes, inflammation and pain.
8 Health Benefits of Supplementing with Black Currant Seed Oil
1. Bye-bye Baldness! Hello New Hair and Shiny, Smooth Skin.
Black currant oil is packed with up to 20% GLA, 14% ALA, 3% SDA and contains high levels of phytosterols like tocopherol (vitamin E), (14, 15) campesterol and β-sitosterol. This combination can combat baldness and re-stimulate hair growth.
Both men and woman can suffer from baldness caused by hormonal imbalances and thyroid problems.
Taking up to 6 grams of black currant seed oil daily may boost the body’s ability to regain hormonal health and hair, skin and nails should all benefit.
2. It Stimulates the Immune System by Reducing Inflammation.
When there is inflammation anywhere in the body the immune system has to fight it to restore order to the cells. If most the energy is used doing this, other areas of the body will suffer because the immune system is over taxed. The powerful anti-inflammatory action of black currant oil will reduce inflammation allowing the immune system to keep other systems optimized.
3. The Brain is Supported, Improving Memory and Perhaps Reducing Symptoms of ADHD.
Black currant oil may have the potential to prevent dementia as well as improve memory this is due, in part, to the ALA/GLA ratio. ALA converts into EPA and DHA (16) (which makes up 8% of the brain.) This is why getting the right ratios of the right fats is crucial to healthy brain development and mental acuity.
The conversion of ALA (from black currant oil) into EPA and DHA is not as effective as taking fish oil supplements. But the ratio between GLA and ALA is good.
We should be taking in a ratio of 4:1 (4 being the omega 6 and 1 the omega 3.) But Western diets sometimes have a ratio of between 10 and 50:1. That is crazy! No wonder so many of us are battling with obesity, metabolic disorders and metal health issues.
Studies have been done as to whether black currant oil can ease symptoms of ADHD (attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder)(17) but the jury is still out on this one, even though the benefits of GLA on the brain,(18) for other reasons, have been proven.
4. The Risk of Heart Disease is Reduced by Lowering Cholesterol and Reducing Blood Pressure.
Tests were done to determine how effective GLA in black currant oil was for high blood pressure and cholesterol. (19) Results showed that in some cases both diastolic and systolic blood pressure was reduced.
5. Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) and Arthritis:
Black Currant Seed Oil will not stop the degenerative effects of RA but it can ease the pain, swelling and stiffness that is caused by inflammation. RA is not like arthritis. (20)
6. GLA Reduces Nerve Pain
Many chronic illnesses lead to nerve pain as pressure from inflammation sites touch the nerves creating very painful conditions almost anywhere in the body. Disease like cancer, HIV, diabetes, heart disease, arthritis and even Alzheimer’s disease can be accompanied by nerve pain. GLA is such a potent anti-inflammatory and the GLA in black currants is especially high (20% GLA)
7. Obesity Leads to an Array of Illnesses
A study using rats (21)showed that using black currant oil as part of a healthier eating plan can aid weight loss but taking it without amending the diet will be futile. Obesity can lead to diseases like cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome and gastrointestinal disorders.
Black currant oil may regulate metabolic disorders affected by obesity.
8. Black Currant Oil for Menopause and PMS (Pre Menstrual Stress)
Evening primrose oil has been used for ages in the alleviation of menopausal symptoms and hormonal imbalances that cause hot flushes and PMS. Black currant oil is an even more potent remedy as it has higher levels of α-tocopherols and GLA.
black currant oil side effects - Precautions When Taking it
Taking too much Omega 6 can actually promote inflammation but fortunately GLA converted to DGLA reduces it. So bear in mind that not all Omega 6 FA’s are equal. There are many studies showing that Omega 3’s (especially from fish oil) can reduce inflammation more efficiently than Omega 6’s. But due to the unique combination of EFA’s in black currant oil the anti-inflammatory powers are exceedingly noteworthy.
Certain medications will work more efficiently when taking GLA and some medications may not gel so well with it. For example, blood thinning medications mixed with GLA will increase the likeliness of bleeding. So always consult your health care professional before starting any supplement program, especially if you are on allopathic medication.
- Do not take black currant oil if you are pregnant or lactating.
- Do not take if you suffer from fits or seizures.
The effects of certain antibiotic drugs and chemotherapy treatments may be enhanced if taking GLA at the same time.
How To Choose The Best Black Currant Seed Oil That Will Work For You
Try to buy an oil that is cold-pressed as this manufacturing process results in a healthier more “wholefood” version, less refined means higher nutritional values.
Buy a product that is hexane free. Hexane is a solvent used in extraction. This solvent may compromise all the phospholipids, resulting in an inferior product with not much value, health wise.
If you are a vegan make sure the soft-gel capsules are made with vegetarian gelatin. Gelatin is often bovine or porcine in origin.
Taking 2 x1000 mg capsules daily should benefit most people after 1-3 months. In some cases, like baldness, the dosage would need to be increased to 6000 mg daily.
Always consult your health care professional before starting new supplements.