February 28, 2009

Health Benefits of Black Currant

Black currants are very rich in many phytonutrients, antioxidants, vitamins, essential fatty acids and minerals

In particular, black currants are renowned for their high content in Vitamin C (a powerful antioxidant), GLA (Gamma-Linoleic Acid, a very rare Omega-6 essential fatty acid) and potassium. They have been shown to have twice the potassium of bananas, four times the vitamin C of oranges, and twice the antioxidants of blueberries.

Black currants contain anthocyanins, which are compounds naturally found in berries. They are very potent antioxidants and are responsible for the color of blackcurrants. Around 300 different types of anthocyanins have been discovered.

Anthocyanins inhibit the enzymes Cyclo-oxygenase 1 and 2, and reduce inflammation and the effects of arthritis in the body. The effect is similar to aspirin or ibuprofen, so many middle-aged and old people are choosing the healthier blackcurrant juice over these drugs.

Anthocyanins have been found to be heat and light sensitive, so the processing of blackcurrants is controlled very carefully to ensure they keep their nutritional properties

The fruit juice of black currant contains proanthocyanidins, anthocyanins and a polysaccharide-rich substance, cassis polysaccharide (CAPS), and has macrophage-stimulating activity. Its interleukin (IL)-1beta-inducing activity is very high, compared with other fruit juices. CAPS was found to consist of mannose, galactose, xylose, rhamnose, xylose, arabinose, and glucose. This substance has been proven to be very toxic against tumor cells, so studies are being performed to determine the anti-cancer properties of black currants

In addition, black currant seed oil contains 47% linoleic (18:2n6),14% alpha-linolenic (18:3n3), 12% gamma-linolenic (18:3n6), and 2.7% stearidonic (18:4n3) acids. Of these, gamma-linoleic is rarely found in any other natural resource, and both alpha and gamma-linoleic are essential fatty acids, which means our body cannot produce them on its own.

Overall, black currants have been proven to have health benefits including:

* Anti-Inflammatory Action
* Powerful Anti-oxidant Action
* Maybe help prevent cancer
* Reduces the effects of arthritis
(black-currant.com)

Crowberry (Empetrum nigrum)

crowberry, crowberries
crowberry fruit
General:
An evergreen ground cover.

Ecology
Grows in a variety of habitat types from dry, rocky alpine soils to open conifer forests. It is common in shrub habitats, open muskegs and shorelines and grows both on acidic soils and those with a neutral pH. Crowberry cannot tolerate wet and waterlogged soils.

Propagation

The plant forms large clumps, up to 10 inches (25 cm) tall and spreads by above ground, creeping stems. The branching stems spread along the ground and send out roots forming large, shallowly rooted mats. Wild populations of crowberry are a mixture of plants originating from seed and from creeping stems that root along the ground (natural layering).


Some crowberries (ssp. nigrum) have two separate plant types: male plants and female plants. This subspecies grows in coastal Alaska from the southeastern panhandle to the Aleutians and does not produce nearly as much fruit as the subspecies hermaphroditum which has mostly one plant type where all flowers include both male and female flower parts.

Hermaphroditum is the most common subspecies and grows throughout northern, interior, southwestern and western Alaska, and produces the mostreliable quantity of fruit from year to year. Flowers are mostly solitary in the axils of the needle-like leaves. They are pink or purplish and inconspicuous, often buried near the ground beneath spiking branches.

Flowering occurs on the previous season’s growth, so fruit is usually found singly or in small clusters along the sides of the branches rather than at the tips. Pollination by wind may be critical for fruit production, but others do not rule out insects, particularly flies. Self pollination is considered impossible or so slight that fruit yield is significantly reduced if cross pollination does not occur.

Plants may be propagated by seeds or stem cuttings. Seeds do not germinate right away, but need a cold stratification period before germinating. In natural plantings direct seeding for plant establishment does not work. Seedlings are uncommon in wild stands, and plant establishment can take decades. Leafy stem cuttings taken in mid-summer root easily in peat. Plant growth following rooting is rapid. Plants do not regenerate from root cuttings or prostrate leafless stems.

Fruit

The fruit is 0.15 to 0.40 inch (4–10 mm) in diameter and consists of a black drupe with six to nine white seeds or nutlets. Raw berries are small, mealy and often considered tasteless when eaten alone. They are often mixed with other berries or cooked into jelly or pies. In Lapland, crowberries are used as an extender for blueberry products and as a coloring agent. Crowberry is very high in vitamin C and other antioxidants and has significant medicinal properties. (ftp-fc.sc.egov.usda.gov)