- Family Grossulariaceae
- Ribes nigrum (Black Currant, Quinsy Berries, Squinancy Berries)
- Ribes americanum (Wild Blackcurrant)
- Do not use in the presence of cardiac or renal insufficiency.
Indigenous to Eurasian forests as far as the Himalayas, Canada, and Australia, blackcurrants are cultivated in many regions for the sour-sweet fruit. They are especially popular in Siberia and other parts of Russia. The plant is an erect deciduous shrub, growing to five feet, with serated, palm-shaped, lobed leaves, small, greenish-white flowers and clusters of small black berries. The leaves are gathered in early summer, while the berries are picked when ripe in the mid to late summer.
The Omahas made a strong tea from the root to treat kidney problems. The Winnibegos used the tea to treat uterine problems. The Mesquakies made a medicine from the root bark to expel intestinal worms. The Blackfeet ate the berries to counter constipation. The Iroquois and Shoshone ground the internal bark of the wild currant to make a poultice for swellings; and, when the skin turned yellow as a result, the poultice was judged strong enough.
Rafinesque, in his 1830 Medical Flora, stated that the wild currant bark was good in gargles; and the whole plant was used to treat cattle and humans to clear dysentery.
Its nickname of "quinsy berry" came as a result of it being used to treat an inflammatory condition of the tonsils called quinsy.
Although the berries are popular for preserves, they also play host for the white pine blister rust that can infect and decimate pine trees. Most areas, in an attempt to save their pine forests, do not allow the sale of blackcurrant plants.
- digestive aid
- stimulates adrenal glands
- volatile oil
- vitamin C
- flavonoids (including astragalin, isoquercitrin, rutin
- flavonoids (isoquercitrin, myricetin glucoside, rutin)
- vitamin C
- fruit acids (malic, citric, isocitric)
Components in the leaves of the blackcurrant increase the secretion of cortisol by the adrenal glands, thus stimulating the activity of the parasympathetic nervous system, which may prove useful in stress-related conditions.
The seeds are rich in gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), a fatty acid similar to that found in evening primrose oil and borage seed oil. GLA is thought to reduce the inflammation of arthritis, lupus, and other inflammatory diseases by increasing the body’s production of prostaglandin E-1, a hormone-like substance that reduces inflammation. It also inhibits blood clotting and thus may protect against heart attacks and strokes.
The berry skins are high in anthocyanin, a bioflavonoids that is a potent antioxidant.
The leaves and berries also contain substances that have antifungal and antibacterial properties, which may explain why it is effective in treating diarrhea caused by E. coli.
The tea and juice are rich in potassium, an essential electrolyte mineral that many pharmaceutical diruetics wash out of the body.
The juice and infusions of the dried berries are used for bladder complaints, venous insufficientcy, hemorrhoids, bruising, and petechiae. They are also effective in treating colds and the flu, in calming the digestion, and in stemming diarrhea.
The leaves are used as a diuretic that ultimately reduces blood pressure and arthritic pain and inflammation. Gargles made from the leaves are effective for sore throats and canker sores.
Compresses or poultices of freshly rubbed leaves are applied to wounds and insect bites.
The leaves, berries, and seeds are all used medicinally to ease menstrual swelling and other symptoms and to treat eczema and other skin conditions.