Joint pain, swelling, inflammation and reduced joint function are the main symptoms of arthritis. Other symptoms include weight loss, fatigue, malaise, poor sleep.
Treatment involves physical therapy, lifestyle changes, orthopaedic bracing, painkillers and disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs. Joint replacement surgery is required in some cases of arthritis. Alternative medicine is also used in treatment of arthritis.
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What is blackcurrant seed oil?
Blackcurrant is a shrub native to Europe and Asia. It has yellowish white flowers and black fruits. Blackcurrant seed oil as the name suggests is extracted from the seeds of these fruits. Jams, jellies, juices and even dietary supplements are prepared from blackcurrant.
The fruits are rich in Vitamin C, flavonoids, anthocyanins, proanthocyanidins etc. The oil contains around 15-19% fatty acids: gamma and alpha linolenic acid and stearidonic acid as well as anthocyanidins and flavonoids.
In Chinese folk medicine, blackcurrant has been used as a dieuretic, diaphoretic and anti-pyretic. Traditionally they have been used to treat cold and flu.
The leaves are used to treat diarrhoea, spasmodic cough and sore throat. Blackcurrant seed oil has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, cardioprotective, immunostimulant, skin protective properties.
Blackcurrant seed oil is found to beneficial for immune system, heart health, dry eyes, premenstrual syndrome and psoriasis.
Blackcurrant seed oil contains around 15-20g of gamma linoleic acid and 12-14g of alpha linoleic acid which have an anti-inflammatory effect. If taken in high doses, blackcurrant oil can worsen inflammation, but at small doses it works as anti-inflammatory agent.
How does blackcurrant seed oil aid in arthritis?
Blackcurrant seed oil is rich in essential fatty acids which aid in reducing inflammation in arthritis.
1. GLA in blackcurrant seed oil reduces inflammation
Polyunsaturated fats are considered healthy fat since they are beneficial for metabolic and heart health. Blackcurrant seed oil serves as a source of PUFAs which aid in treatment of inflammation.
Blackcurrant seed oil is rich in an essential fatty acid called Gamma Linolenic acid(GLA). GLA is produced in the body from linoleic acid which is further metabolized to dihomogamma linolenic acid.
This is further metabolized by inflammatory enzymes COX and LOX to anti-inflammatory chemicals called eicosanoids. GLA and its metabolites also affect various genes that control immune function and cell death. Thus GLA works as anti-inflammatory agent.
GLA supplementation is found to inhibit activation of immune cells and prevent release of inflammatory chemicals from the immune cells of rheumatoid arthritis patients.
Synovial fluid is the fluid present in joints that lubricate the joints and reduces friction. Dihomogamma linoleic acid, a metabolite of GLA is found to reduce synovial fluid inflammation in arthritis.
A 6 month clinical trial was conducted where patients with rheumatoid arthritis received 2.8g GLA per day. 14 out of 22 patients showed improvement in GLA treated group while at 12 months 16 out of 21 showed meaningful improvement.
Researchers concluded that GLA is a safe and effective treatment for rheumatoid arthritis.
Combination of omega 3 fatty acids and GLA is found to be beneficial in treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.
What does this mean?
Gamma linolenic acid is the essential fatty acid present in blackcurrant seed oil which contributes to its anti-inflammatory effect. This helps in reducing inflammation in arthritis.
2. It has anti-arthritic potential
A review examining different herbal therapies for arthritis mentions that blackcurrant seed oil does relieve symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.
Leventhal et. al conducted a clinical trial of 24 weeks where patients with rheumatoid arthritis were treated with blackcurrant seed oil capsules. Reduction in signs and symptoms were seen in group receiving blackcurrant seed oil.
However many patients withdrew from the study because it involved consuming large number of capsules.
A study was conducted where individuals suffering from rheumatoid arthritis were given dietary supplements of blackcurrant seed oil. A significant improvement in morning stiffness was observed with blackcurrant seed oil consumption.
When immune cells of these volunteers were studied, it was observed that these immune cells produced reduced amounts of inflammatory chemicals. In other words it was observed that blackcurrant seed oil supplementation reduced inflammation in rheumatoid arthritis patients.
What does this mean?
Clinical trials investigating the effect of blackcurrant seed oil in arthritis demonstrate that it can reduce symptoms of arthritis as well as inflammation on long term. It also suppresses inflammation in gout.
3. It improves metabolic health
A 2 month clinical trial on elderly individuals demonstrated that blackcurrant seed oil improves immune function.
Tahvonen et. al in their clinical trial reported that 3g of blackcurrant seed oil per day improves the blood lipid profile and reduces the level of bad cholesterol. Blackcurrant seed oil is also proven to be beneficial for blood pressure control.
What does this mean?
Blackcurrant seed oil supplementation brings about favourable change in metabolic health and also boosts immune function.
Blackcurrant seed oil is available in bottles as well as capsules. Blackcurrant seed oil can also be used topically for inflamed joints and skin irritation.
In the clinical trial blackcurrant seed oil has been used to a dose of 525 mg of gamma linolenic acid and 10.5g oil in another study. A dose of 1g of blackcurrant oil daily is recommended and found to be safe.
If taking capsules follow the dosage as prescribed by manufacturer or consult a doctor.
If taken in high doses, blackcurrant seed oil could cause side effects like headache, diarrhoea, constipation and gas. If pregnant or lactating, avoid using blackcurrant seed oil.
Blackcurrant seed oil should be avoided with anticoagulants such as warfarin, since gamma linolenic acid can increase bleeding risk. Epilepsy patients and those taking antipsychotic drugs should use blackcurrant seed oil with caution.
Blackcurrant seed oil is rich in essential fatty acid Gamma linolenic acid which is metabolised in the body to produce anti-inflammatory chemicals. This can help in reducing pain and inflammation in arthritis.
Studies mostly depict the therapeutic efficacy of blackcurrant seed oil in rheumatoid arthritis and gout, but it can be used as a complementary therapy in treating any form of arthritis.