Black and red currant leaves (Ribes nigrum and Ribes rubrum) can be used as a tasty ingredient in the kitchen. Black currant leaves are a recognized medicinal plant that helps with mild pain in the limbs and minor urinary tract problems.
Young currant leaves are rich in protein and have a refreshing, sharp, and tangy flavor. The chopped leaves can be added to fresh salads, soups, and vegetable fillings (e.g., for dumplings and pasties). Fresh and dried currant leaves can also be used for herbal teas. Black currant leaves smell like a black currant cordial and are considered to have a more intense flavor than red currant leaves.
In the past, black currant leaves were an important substitute for black and green tea. A serviceable English “tea” may be made with crataegus, and sage, lemon balm, woodruff, and black currant leaves for flavor. If currant and sage predominate, the tea will somewhat favor Ceylon. (Dorothy Hartley, Food in England, 1954).1
Recipe for Vegan Black Currant Mousse with Mallow Blossoms:
First, pluck off the stems of 250 g black currants. Puree stems with 2 tablespoons coconut butter, 4 dates, 75 g water, and the juice of half a lemon. Transfer the green mousse to a bowl and refrigerate until the surface is slightly firm.
Puree the black currants with another 4 dates, 3 tablespoons coconut, 10 g mallow blossoms, and 75 g water. This creates a purple mousse. Pour the purple mousse over the green mousse and refrigerate for about one hour.
The mousse should be firm enough to be able to shape it into quenelles. Arrange the mousse quenelles on plates and garnish with berries and flowers. You can find the complete recipe for this raw vegan mousse here.
Recipe for Black Currant Leaf Tea:
To prepare tea from black currant leaves, pour 2–4 g (recommended daily intake = 6–12 g) of the finely chopped leaves with boiling water. Alternatively, you can add the leaves while the water is cold and then briefly bring to a boil. Cover the tea and let steep for 5–10 minutes before straining through a tea strainer. Drink one cup of black currant leaf tea several times a day.2
If you have urinary tract problems, it may be helpful to drink bladder and kidney tea (Blasen- und Nierentee) that contains a combination of medicinal plants such as orthosiphon leaves, Ononis spinosa, Solidago virgaurea (European goldenrod) birch leaves, and nettle leaves.3,4
You can also mix black currant leaves, raspberry leaves, blackberry leaves, rose hip, marigold flowers, and bitter orange peel to make homemade tea.5
Purchasing — where to shop?
Black currant leaves are often found in tea blends, including herbal tea mixes, medicinal tea, and homemade tea mixes. You may be able to find ready-to-drink blends with black currant leaves in specialty tea stores and pharmacies. You may also be able to buy the dried leaves in pharmacies or online.
Most black currant leaves sold commercially come from Poland, Hungary, and Romania.3,2
It may be difficult to find black currant leaves in major supermarkets such as Walmart, Whole Foods Markets, Kroger, and Safeway (United States); Extra Foods, Metro, and Freshmart (Canada); Asda, Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Aldi, and Lidl (Great Britain); Woolworths, Coles, Aldi, and Harris Farm (Australia).
The German Drug Codex (DAC) has set a minimum standard regarding the quality of black currant leaves.3 The European Pharmacopoeia (Ph. Eur. 9) refers to black currant leaves as Ribis nigri folium and requires a minimum content of flavonoids of 0.8 %.6
Black currant leaves can be found as a medicinal product in several forms including powder, dry extracts, or as tablets.7 The harvesting of black currant leaves is carried out during or shortly after flowering, in accordance with the requirements of the European Pharmacopoeia. They are either left to dry outside or in a drier at a maximum temperature of 60 °C.6
Black currant leaf tinctures are available in pharmacies and drugstores as Folia Ribis nigri tinctura. Clinical research and mainstream data on black currant leaves remain insufficient, meaning that there are no proprietary medicinal products with a defined medical indication on the market.2
Finding wild — season:
Black currants can occasionally be found growing wild in Central and Eastern Europe.2 Wild black currants prefer moist to wet, nutrient-rich peaty and clay soils.8 They are mainly found in humus-rich broadleaf and riparian forests, wet forests, and alder carrs.5,9,10
Black currant bushes grow to be 1–2 meters tall and don’t have thorns. They have three to five-lobed leaves with roughly serrated edges and oil glands on their underside. Black currant flowers are yellowish green with brownish-red edges and are arranged in clusters. Wild black currants are round, have a diameter of about one centimeter, and contain many small seeds.1,10
When do black currants bloom? Season: The main blooming period of black currants is from April (or early May) to the end of May. The leaves are harvested during or shortly after the blooming period, from April to June.5,6,9,10
When harvesting, be sure to only collect leaves that do not have any fungi growing on them (e.g., mildew or the rust fungus Cronartium ribicola). If leaves are infected by Cronartium ribicola, red to orange pustules may appear on the leaves. If mildew is growing on the leaves, you will notice a grayish powder on the leaves. On rare occasions, black currants are affected by leaf spot disease. If this is the case, the leaves with develop brown spots, curl up, and fall off the bush. Coral spots is another disease caused by fungi that affects red and black currant bushes. It causes orange-colored spots to grow on the stems of the bushes, and slowly causes the leaves to wither and fall.11
Dried currant leaves should be protected from light and moisture.2 Ideal storage containers include metal cans, sealable paper bags, and brown glass screw-top jars. Fresh leaves should be left to dry in a location protected from the sun.
Nutrients — nutritional values — calories:
Black currant leaves contain 0.5–1.2 % flavonoids, in particular, derivatives of quercetin (at least 1 % as isoquercitrin and 0.8 % as hyperosides with an undefined prportion of isorhamnetin glycosides), as well as kaempferol, delphinidins, and proanthocyanidins.2,9
Black currant leaves furthermore contain precursors of tanning agents, phenolic acids (caffeic acid, chlorogenic acid, neochlorogenic acid, protocatechuic acid), essential oils, diterpenes, polyunsaturated fatty acids (omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids),2,9 and vitamin C.10
Health benefits — effects:
The Committee on Herbal Medicinal Products (HMPC) considered laboratory studies in rats and mice in making an assessment about black currant leaves. To date, no studies have been carried out on patients. The committee has nonetheless recognized its “long-standing use” as a medicinal product, meaning that the effectiveness of black currant leaf herbal medicines is plausible and there is evidence that they have been used safely in this way for at least 30 years (including at least 15 years within the EU).
The laboratory studies in rats and mice showed that black currant leaf extracts have anti-inflammatory effects, which is caused by the flavonoids they contain. They also inhibit cell and tissue "growing". Black currant leaf extract also has antiviral effects and offers protection against the influenza virus A being demonstrated by studies.2,12
Herbal preparations with black currant leaves have a weak saluretic effect (excretion of salt in urine via the kidneys), act as a diuretic, and in laboratory experiments have been shown to lower blood pressure.4
Dangers — intolerances — side effects:
At the time the Committee for Herbal Medicinal Products made its assessment, there were no known adverse reactions associated with black currant leaves or medicines containing black currant leaf extract. No case of overdose has been reported to date.4,7 If you are hypersensitive to the active substances in black currant leaf extract, you are advised not to consume it.7,13
The safety of medicinally using black currant leaf extract during pregnancy and breastfeeding has not been proven. The HMPC does not recommend consuming black currant leaves during pregnancy or breastfeeding or for children and adolescents under 18 years of age because of a lack of or insufficient data.7
Patients who should be reducing their intake of fluids should avoid drugs containing black currants, for example, in cases of severe heart and kidney disease.13
Use as a medicinal plant:
The Committee for Herbal Medicinal Products (HMPC) has classified black currant leaves as a traditional herbal medicinal product. Based on its long-standing use as a medicinal product, black currant leaves can be used for minor joint pain and minor complaints affecting the urinary tract (inflammation). Consuming black currant leaves increases urine production and flushes the urinary tract.2,3,7,13
To ensure that the blackberry leaves increase your amount of urine, you will need to drink a sufficient amount of fluids during treatment.7
If you have aching limbs, you can take a black currant leaf tea preparation three times a day. For one dose, combine 2–4 g of crushed leaves with 200 mL boiling water. The recommended maximum daily dose of black currant leaves is 6–12 g.7
If you have problems affecting the urinary tract and body aches, you can dissolve 170 mg dry extract currant leaves in water and take it as a single dose. Prepare this mixture and take it one to three times a day.
The recommended daily dose of currant leaf extract is 170–510 mg. This means you can take it three to five times a day. A single dose is a maximum of 340 mg and a daily dose a maximum of 1020 to 1700 mg.7
Following this remedy can be done without professional medical help.13 However, the HMPC recommends consulting a qualified health practitioner if symptoms persist for longer than two weeks (urinary tract infection) or four weeks (limb pain) (see “Herbal Monograph of the European Union on Ribes nigrum L., folium”).7
According to ESCOP (European Scientific Cooperative on Phytotherapy), black currant leaves can be taken to support the treatment of rheumatic conditions.2,3 Mix 20–50 g black currant leaves per liter of water and infuse for 15 minutes. Drink 250–500 mL per day. Take 5 mL of the fluid extract twice daily, before meals. Elderly people should take an adult dose of the extract.4
Traditional medicine — naturopathy:
Currants gained popularity in Northern Europe in the sixteenth century and have been used as a diuretic ever since.2 Peter Forestus was likely the first person to describe the medicinal properties of the leaves for treating urinary retention and bladder stones.1
In addition to the medicinal uses of black currant leaves outlined by HMPC and ESCOP, black currant leaves are used to treat gout, kidney stones, arthritis, dropsy, diarrhea, and in rare cases are applied externally to treat wounds. You can apply fresh or ground black currant leaves to insect bites and wounds.2,5,9
If you regularly drink currant tea, you may notice that rheumatism and gout may become less frequent and less severe.10
Tea made from red currant leaves can benefit your internal organs (stomach, liver, lungs, bladder). In traditional medicine, the tea is used to cleanse the blood and to treat arteriosclerosis.9
Description — origin:
Black currants are thought to originate in the forests of northern Europe and western Asia.10 It is often impossible to distinguish between natural and feral black currants, meaning that the precise “natural habitat” of black currants can no longer be known.8
According to Wikipedia, the currant genus Ribes includes about 140 to 160 species worldwide. Currants are primarily found in temperate climates in the northern hemisphere.14 The most common region for black currants extends from Lapland (the northmost region of Finland) to Armenia and the Himalayas.5,8
Red and white currants are derived from Ribes rubrum, Ribes vulgare, Ribes petraeum, and Ribes multiflorum, while black currants are derived from Ribes nigrum.15
Cultivation in the garden or as potted plants:
Where should you grow currants? Currants are shallow rooted; they grow best in permeable, fertile, clay, and slightly acidic soil. They need a sunny to semi-shady location and protection from the wind. Before planting black currant bushes, you should enrich the upper layer of soil with compost because currant bushes have a strong need for humus and nutrients.1,15,16
Black currants are hardy shrubs, but you should protect them from cold winds and spring frosts during the bloomig period. If you want to grow black currant bushes in areas where late spring frosts are frequent, you can plant the bush in a pot and move it out of the frost.15
In autumn, remove one-third of the older (gray and black) branches from the bush. Pruning helps the bushes to grow in height and width, thus improving leaf and fruit "growing". How long does a currant bush live? You should replace the bush every ten years as it loses its vigor with time. You can use cuttings to propagate the bush.1,15
Cultivation — harvest:
Growing currants on a commercial scale is a relatively recent phenomenon. For centuries, cultivated currant bushes were hardly distinguishable from wild species. Most cultivated varieties of currants were developed by cultivators and research institutes in the wake of the Second World War as a result of food shortages.1
The main countries that cultivate currants are Poland, Hungary, Romania, France, and the Netherlands.6
Animal protection — species protection — animal welfare:
Hymenoptera tend to swarm around currant flowers. The flowers contain a lot of nectar and a moderate amount of pollen. Currants are important sources of nectar and pollen in April and May. Nectar, pollen, and honeydew are the main sources of food that insects can get from the flowers.17
A variety of fruits are of the Ribes (currant) genus, including gooseberries (Ribes uva-crispa), black currants (Ribes nigrum), and red and white currants (Ribes rubrum). Currants (Ribes) are the only genus in the gooseberry family (Grossulariaceae).8,14
Literature — sources:
Many researchers do not believe that Wikipedia is an authoritative source. One reason for this is that the information about literature cited and authors is often missing or unreliable. Our pictograms for nutritional values provide also information on calories (kcal).
- Bown D. Kräuter - Die grosse Enzyklopädie: Anbau und Verwendung. 2. Auflage. München; 2015. Dorling Kindersly Verlag GmbH.
- Blaschek Wolfgang (Herausgeber). Wichtl – Teedrogen und Phytopharmaka. Ein Handbuch für die Praxis. 6. Auflage. Stuttgart; 2016. Wissenschaftliche Verlagsgesellschaft mbH.
- koop-phyto.org Johannisbeere.
- Schilcher H., Kammerer S., Wegener T. Leitfaden Phytotherapie. 3. Auflage. München; 2007. Elsevier GmbH.
- Niederegger, Oswald; Mayr, Christoph. Heilpflanzen der Alpen. Gesundheit aus der Natur von A bis Z. Innsbruck; 2006. Tyrolia-Verlag.
- medizinalpflanzen.de Schwarze Johannisbeerblätter - Ribis nigri folium [DAC 2004].
- ema.europa.eu (European Medicines Agency). Final European Union herbal monograph on Ribes nigrum L., folium. HMPC Committee on Herbal Medicinal Products. PDF.
- Wikipedia Schwarze Johannisbeere.
- Fleischhauer SG, Guthmann J, Spiegelberger R. Enzyklopädie essbare Wildpflanzen. 1. Auflage. Aarau; 2013. AT Verlag, S. 145.
- Pahlow Pahlow, M: Das grosse Buch der Heilpflanzen. Gesund durch die Heilkräfte der Natur. 8. Auflage. Hamburg; 2019. Nikol Verlagsgesellschaft mbH & Co. KG.
- gartenlexikon.de 6 Krankheiten bei Johannisbeeren erkennen und bekämpfen.
- Erhardt C. et al. A Plant Extract of Ribes nigrum folium Possesses Anti-Influenza Virus Activity In Vitro and In Vivo by Preventing Virus Entry to Host Cells.
- ema.europa.eu (European Medicines Agency). Blackcurrant leaf: Summary for the public. PDF.
- Wikipedia Johannisbeeren.
- hortipendium.de Johannisbeere.
- awl.ch Schwarze Johannisbeere – Ribes nigrum.
- Kremer, Bruno P. Mein Garten – Ein Bienenparadies. 2. Auflage. Bern; 2018. Haupt Verlag.