Black currant oil is obtained by crushing the seeds of the black currant plant. Black currant oil has been found to contain high levels of GLA (gamma-linolenic acid) and vitamin C. Although black currant oil has been touted by alternative health experts such as Dr. Andrew Weil to aid in autoimmune disorders, hair and nail problems, and PMS, there is no scientific evidence that proves this. The true benefits of black currant oil are just beginning to be uncovered.
Immune System Booster
The USDA's HNRCA, the Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging, tested the effect of black currant seed oil in boosting the immune system of elderly patients. The results showed a small enhancement of the immune system due to the ability to lower the production of prostaglandin. The hormone-like substance called prostaglandin is produced in the body and aids in controlling blood pressure and inflammation.
Substitute For Omega-3's
The Department of Biochemistry and Food Chemistry, University of Turku, Finland, has conducted research on the use of black currant oil as a substitute for omega-3 fish oil. Rsearch was conducted by by R.L. Tahvonen, U.S. Schwab, K.M. Linderborg, H.M. Mykkänen and H.P. Kallio. During their testing it was noted that serum levels of LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol) were lower for black currant oil than fish oil.
The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, a branch of the NIH, has reported on some of the substances being tested for use in assisting those with rheumatoid arthritis. Black currant oil was one substance being tested because of its high GLA content. Although no substantial conclusions were drawn, a Cochrane Collaboration review in 2000 thought that the indications pointed toward potential relief of morning stiffness, pain reduction and relief of joint tenderness.
The American Cancer Society points out that while there may be claims about GLA and products like black currant oil fighting cancer, there just is no proof at this point in time. Research in the 1980s began the process of linking prostaglandin, GLA and oils like black currant, borage and evening primrose to possibly fighting cancer. Although dietary GLA plays a role in contributing to and regulating prostaglandin production, there is no proof to date that supplementing with black currant oil can cure the disease.
Use in Cosmetics
The Environmental Working Group notes on Skin Deep, their cosmetics database website, that black currant oil has never been tested for safety in the use of cosmetics. However, the oil is used in many products—80 are listed on the website. It is important to note that cosmetics are not required to prove safety before being sold on store shelves.