Black currant seed oil
The black currant (Ribes nigrum), is a deciduous shrub of the Saxifragaceae family. Though all parts of the shrub are used—berries, bark, leaves, and seeds—it is the oil of the seed that is used most commonly today. Black currant seed oil is rich in essential fatty acids, which promote and maintain the body's vital functions. Essential fatty acids provide energy, regulate body temperature and metabolism, protect tissues, and insulate nerves. Approximately 17% of black currant seed oil consists of an omega-6 fatty acid, gamma-linolenic acid (GLA). Another 13% consists of an omega-3 fatty acid, alpha-linolenic acid. Evening primrose oil is primarily used for its essential fatty acid content, but it contains only about 8% gamma-linolenic acid, half of what is found in black currant seed oil. Because both omega-6 and omega-3 acids are needed in our diets, a supplement of black currant seed oil is beneficial. These essential fatty acids are broken down by the body into prostaglandins, the body's regulating substances that block pain and govern many other physical functions, especially in proper functioning of the circulatory system.
Because black currant seed oil is so high in gamma-linolenic acid, which makes prostaglandins, it is a highly effective anti-inflammatory herb. The oil is best used for chronic inflammatory conditions, cramps, and aches. It also boosts the immune system, and helps women with their menstrual cycles and menopause, while also easing discomforts associated with premenstrual syndrome. Black currant seed oil is also used to treat skin disorders.
As an anti-inflammatory agent, black currant seed oil works well in rheumatoid arthritis patients by decreasing morning stiffness in their joints. The British Journal of Rheumatology has noted that black currant seed oil may be so effective in rheumatoid arthritis patients because of a "reduction in the secretion of the inflammatory cytokines 11-1 and TNF-alpha." Cytokines are a source of inflammation. By preventing their production, black currant seed oil offers some relief.
Black currant seed oil is beneficial to patients with cardiovascular problems, as prostaglandins counteract the constriction of blood vessels. Two Canadian studies have also showed that omega-6 fatty acids lower blood pressure.
Women's health problems
Because prostaglandins regulate the menstrual cycle, black currant seed oil is helpful for women before and during menstruation. Gamma-linolenic acid produces anti-inflammatory prostaglandins, as opposed to inflammatory prostaglandins, thus lessening the severity of premenstrual cramps. Gamma-linolenic acid has also been shown to alleviate the symptoms of depression and breast tenderness associated with PMS. Menopausal women have also found black currant seed oil to be helpful.
The anti-inflammatory properties of black currant seed oil are also effective against skin irritations when taken orally. A study at the Skin Study Center in Philadelphia showed that black currant seed oil also helps with dry skin disorders, as the gamma-linolenic acid protects against the water loss that contributes to itching and other symptoms associated with dry skin.
Black currant seed oil is available in capsule form. When it is taken as a supplement, one to three 500-mg capsules should be taken daily, unless a physician recommends otherwise. The capsules usually contain black currant seed oil, vegetable glycerine and gelatin.
There are no known precautions to observe when taking black currant seed oil.
Apart from possible allergic reactions, there are no major side effects with black currant seed oil.
There are no known interactions between black currant seed oil and standard pharmaceutical preparations.
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