075. Ribes nigrum. Black currant.
Also see 074. Ribes rubrum. Red currant.
Synonyma. Ribes nigrum. Pharm. Lond.
Ribes nigrum vulgo dictum folio olente. J. Bauh. Hist. ii. p. 98. Raii Hist. p. 1486. Synop. p. 456.
Grossularia non spinosa fructu nigro. Bauh. Pin. p. 455.
Ribes fructu nigro. Park. Theat. p. 1562. Gerard. Emac. p. 1593.
Ribes inerme, olidum, calyce oblongo, petalis ovatis. Hall. Stirp. Helv. n. 819. Hudson Flor. Aug. p. 99. Withering. Bot. Arrang. p. 243.
Class Pentandria. Ord. Monogynia. Lin. Gen. Plant. 281.
Ess. Gen. Ch. Petala 5 et stamina calyci inserta. Stylus 2-fidus. Bacca polysperma, infera.
Spec. Char. R. inerme, racemis pilosis, floribus oblongis.
The Black Currant-tree usually rises six or seven feet in height: the old wood is covered with a dark brown or blackish bark, but that of the younger shoots is of a whitish colour: the leaves are commonly divided into three lobes, much veined, irregularly serrated, of a deep green colour, and on the under side beset with many yellowish glands, which secrete an odoriferous fluid, impregnating the whole leaf; the leaf-stalks are similarly shaped to those of the red currant: the bracteae, or floral leaves, are oval, short, and woolly: the flowers are produced in pendent bunches, upon slender pedicles, placed alternately upon the common racemus, or peduncle: the calyx is divided into five oval spreading segments, of a pale green or yellowish colour: the corolla is composed of five roundish petals: the nectarium is larger than that in the red currant, and the fruit or berries are black. In other respects, the parts of fructification correspond with the description already given of the red currant. It is a native of Britain, preferring a swampy ground, and flowers in May.
The berries of the black Currant are larger than those of the red; and we are told that in some parts of Siberia they grow to the size of an hazel nut. Besides having the properties in common with the fructus acido-dulces, these berries are also said to be peculiarly useful in sore throats, and to possess a diuretic power in a very considerable degree. From those qualities which they manifest to the organs of taste, there can be little doubt but that in cases of inflammatory angina, they may be advantageously employed to answer the same intentions as gargles: [From their efficacy in this way they acquired the name of Squinancy berries. We may observe here, that the black currant jelly in common domestic use for this purpose, is rendered less efficacious by having too much sugar in its preparation. Both the fruit of this, and of the red currant, afford a pleasant wine; and that made the former is mentioned by Haller, "Ex eo optimum vinum fieri non deterius vinis verioribus viteis, quando annuum est." l. c. Smith Nat. Hist. of Cork, p. 359.] the proofs however of their diuretic powers seem to want confirmation, as Forestus, on whose authority they rest, and who first noticed this property of the black currant, constantly prescribed it in combination with the seeds of wild carrot. [Opp. Lib. 25. Obs. 10.]
The leaves of the black Currant are extremely fragrant, and have been likewise recommended for their medicinal virtue, which Bergius states to be mundificans, pellens, diuretica. [Mat. Med. vol. i. p. 155. An infusion of these leaves is said to have the taste of green tea; and when prepared from the young leaves, is to some people peculiarly agreeable.]
The officinal preparations of the black currant berries, in the London Pharmacopoeia, are the syrupus ribis nigri, and the succus ribis nigri inspissatus.