Black currant oil is is extracted from the pressed seeds of the black currant plant. As a dietary supplement, it is usually sold as a gel cap. It may have properties that help reduce inflammation, especially in the soft tissue surrounding bones and joints. For this reason, it is often used by people who suffer arthritis and related diseases.
One of the most effective compounds in black currant oil is an omega-6 fatty acid called gamma linolenic acid (GLA). The oil extracted from black currant seeds is very rich in GLA, having one of the highest contents available in any natural supplement. GLA can also be found in fish oil and egg yolks and, as an extract, in borage and primrose.
Cancer studies show that the GLA found in black currant oil may halt or reduce growth of cancer cells. It may also act as an agent that improves the effectiveness of synthetic cancer treatments. Even though these results were promising because they conducted tests on live tissue inside a laboratory rather than on actual cancer patients, they were generally considered inconclusive.
The antioxidant properties of black currant oil may also be useful in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis (RA). According to a research article published in the Oxford Journal of Medicine, RA patients in a study group who were given black currant oil did show improvement in many of their symptoms. It was decided, however, that the dosages required were too large to make it feasible, though it was considered promising. The researchers concluded it would be an adequate treatment for RA if a better means of delivery could be found.
Other medicinal uses for black currant oil include improving night vision, reducing high blood pressure, and boosting the immune system. It has also been credited with helping reduce stiffness in bones and relieving some skin disorders. For centuries, it has been used in Europe to combat fever and promoted as a natural diuretic. Some herbalists believe that when gargled with water, black currant oil can help reduce the pain and swelling of a sore throat. Scientific studies conducted to support these claims are unavailable.
Research to examine long-term use of black currant seemed to show no serious side effects. The study was conducted over a year-long period, with test subjects taking the recommended daily dosage. In a small number of the subjects, loose stools were the only side effect that was noted.