Herb: Red Currant

Latin name: Ribes rubrum

Synonyms: Ribes silvestre, Ribes vulgare

Family: Grossulariaceae (Currant Family)

Medicinal use of Red Currant:

The fruit is antiscorbutic, aperient, depurative, digestive, diuretic, laxative, refrigerant and sialagogue. The leaves contain the toxin hydrogen cyanide. A concoction of them is used externally to relieve rheumatic symptoms. They are also used in poultices to relieve sprains or reduce the pain of dislocations.

Description of the plant:


120 cm
(4 feet)

to May

Habitat of the herb:

Damp soils in hedges and woods, avoiding acid soils.

Edible parts of Red Currant:

Fruit - raw or cooked. A pleasant acid flavour, it can be eaten out of hand but is more often cooked in pies, jams etc. There are rather a lot of seeds in each fruit.

Other uses of the herb:

A yellow dye is obtained from the leaves. A black dye is obtained from the fruit. The fruit is used cosmetically in face-masks for firming up tired and lifeless skin.

Propagation of Red Currant:

Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in the autumn in a cold frame. Stored seed requires 3 months cold stratification at between 0 and 5C and should be sown as early in the year as possible. Under normal storage conditions the seed can remain viable for 17 years or more. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and grow them on in a cold frame for their first winter, planting them out in late spring of the following year. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, 10 - 15cm with a heel, July/August in a frame. Cuttings of mature wood of the current year's growth, preferably with a heel of the previous year's growth, November to February in a cold frame or sheltered bed outdoors.

Cultivation of the herb:

Damp soils in hedges and woods, avoiding acid soils.

Known hazards of Ribes rubrum:

The fresh leaves contain the toxin hydrogen cyanide, though details of quantities are not given. This substance is found in several foods, including almonds. In small quantities, hydrogen cyanide has been shown to stimulate respiration and improve digestion, it is also claimed to be of benefit in the treatment of cancer. In excess, however, it can cause respiratory failure and even death.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.