Blackcurrants have been used to affect human health since at least the Middle Ages in Europe and have a long history in Russia and North America as well. Native American tribes used various parts of the blackcurrant plant to treat swellings as well as kidney, uterine and stomach ailments.
In the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries, European physicians intuitively recognized the benefits of blackcurrants’ high vitamin C content in preventing scurvy and as a useful tonic. During this period, blackcurrant was also indicated for various infections, including urinary tract infections, inflammation and intestinal ailments. Research surrounding the high anthocyanin content and specific polysaccharide composition of blackcurrant is now turning up evidence that may support some of these traditional uses.
The fruit has extraordinarily high vitamin C content (302% of the Daily Value per 100 grams), good levels of potassium, phosphorus, iron and vitamin B5, and a broad range of other essential nutrients.
Blackcurrants were once popular in the United States as well, but became rare in the 20th century after currant farming was banned in the early 1900s, when blackcurrants, as a vector of white pine blister rust, were considered a threat to the U.S. logging industry.
Since the American federal ban ceased currant production nationally for nearly a century, the fruit remains largely unknown in the United States, and has yet to regain its previous popularity to levels enjoyed in Europe or New Zealand.
Research shows that black currant may help with heart disease, vision problems, urinary tract infections, brain function, and kidney stones.