Recent years have seen the increasing popularity and consumption of goji berries in western countries such as US, Japan, Canada and Europe etc. I have done some research about goji berries, and would like to share my findings with other people.
1. General Descriptions
Goji berries are also known as wolfberries. Some people even mis-spell it as gogi berry. It is a sweet-taste, dark-red coloured dried fruit, and mainly comes from north-western part from China. It has been grown and consumed in China for a few thousand years. In the first instance, Chinese medicine believes it acts on liver and kidney channels and enriches yin. So it is a common practice in Chinese medicine to prescribe it to treat liver, kidney, or eye diseases, along with other herbs. On the other hand, Chinese people also consume it in their day-to-day lives, because they believe this red coloured berry can keep them healthy, young, and energetic. This fruit has been eaten as raw, as goji juice, as goji wine, as herbal tea (e.g. with Chrysanthemum), with yogurt, and with cereal etc etc.
2. Nutritional aspects
Goji berries are one of the most nutrient-dense foods on earth! They contain:
- the highest levels of antioxidants of any known food (10 x higher than blueberries)
- 12 times more vitamin C than kiwi fruit
- more beta-carotene than carrots
- more iron than spinach
- 18 amino acids
- Vitamins B1, B2, B6 and E
- 21 trace minerals and
- Many natural compounds that promote health and vitality.
Recent medical research has identified several powerful medicinal properties of goji berries, including: anti-aging, anti-cancer, weight loss promotion, enhancing libido and fertility, immune system boosting and much more.
To maximise the medicinal benefits of goji berries, ensure that you eat the whole berry as nature intended. There are a number of processed products on the market that include a small amount of goji berry extract. These include goji juice, goji tablets, etc. All natural foods that have been processed lose a significant amount of their nutritional properties due to the oxidation process that occurs during manufacturing.
Free radical attack on our bodies is the primary cause of aging (Packer,1999). Free radicals are unstable oxygen molecules derived from pollutants, smoking, physical exercise, eating and even breathing. Free radicals (oxidants) attack healthy cells which can lead to premature aging, cancer, hardening of arteries, heart diseases, stroke, etc.
Free radical attack is simply the oxidation process. This is the same process that causes metals to rust (deteriorate), and freshly cut apples to turn brown. This is the same process that causes our bodies to age over time and become prone to many age-related diseases.
How do we stop the destructive forces of free radicals and significantly slow the aging process? The answer is: "through the power of ANTIOXIDANTS".
Antioxidants are needed by our bodies to neutralise and destroy free radicals (oxidants). In doing so, they significantly slow the aging process and provide a protective barrier for our bodies. Antioxidants help keep our skin, hair, organs, muscles, blood, and arteries youthful.
Goji berries (Lycium barbarum) contain the highest levels of antioxidants than any other food on earth! This fact was discovered by research scientists at Tufts University, Boston (USA) where the Oxygen Radical Absorption Capacity (ORAC) test was developed. The ORAC test analyses the level of antioxidants in food.
Eating foods high in antioxidants is the best way to protect against free radical attack.
The goji berry contains unique polysaccharides (natural complex carbohydrates) that exhibit powerful anti-cancer properties. A study in 2001 showed that goji berries polysaccharides inhibited the growth of human leukemia cells. Another study in 1994 showed that goji berry polysaccharides combined with a standard cancer drug LAK/IL-2, was 254% (2.5 times) more effective at reducing tumors than using the standard cancer drug by itself.
With such promising results, it makes you wonder why the goji berries haven't been extensively trialed in cancer treatment, especially considering all the billions invested into cancer research each year. It's likely because the goji berry is a natural food product which can't be patented, and therefore it wouldn't be a profitable investment for drug companies.
Several research studies identify powerful anti-cancer properties of the goji berry (Lycium barbarum). The following medical articles are found in the United States of America, National Library of Medicine: Medical Research on the use of goji berries in cancer prevention and treatment
5. Improve immune system
Goji is the most nutrient-dense foods on the earth. The vitamins, minerals and polysaccharides provide fuel for the immune system to function efficiently. Numerous studies have shown that goji berries actually boost the immune system by increasing white 'killer' T-cells, resulting in anti-tumor responses. The following medical articles found in the United States of America, National Library of Medicine: , , and .
6. Weigh loss effect
The metabolic rate is the rate at which the body converts food into energy. There are many factors that influences the metabolic rate including genetics, age, muscle-to-fat ratio, level of exercise, how often we eat and dietary nutrition.
The metabolic rate plays an important role in weight control. Faster metabolic rates burn calories more efficiently and store less as fat, while slower metabolic rates burn less calories, and readily store unused energy as fat.
Then how does eating goji berries assist in weight control?
Metabolism is controlled by hundreds of biochemical reactions. To perform metabolism efficiently, our body needs a constant supply of trace minerals and vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6 & vitamin C. Without these vitamins and minerals, metabolism becomes inefficient and sluggish.
Goji has 21 trace minerals and are high in the above vitamins. By providing a ready supply of minerals and vitamins, goji berries help keep our metabolic rate in good working order.
The weight loss benefits of wolfberries don't end there! The polysaccharides of the goji berry actually increase the metabolic rate, which can lead to reduced body weight. These same polysaccharides were trialed in an Asian anti-obesity study, in which patients were given goji berries each morning and afternoon. There were promising results with most patients losing significant weight.
The following article is contained in the United States of America, National Library of Medicine. This article provides support for the weight loss properties of the goji berry (Lycium barbarum): Medical research on weight loss promoting properties of goji berries
7. Goji. Libido and Fertility
Goji berries are used in traditional Chinese medicine as a sexual potency food of the highest order. If you think oysters can boost your sex drive, wait until you try a handful of goji berries! Taking the berry orally increases androgen levels in the blood, which increases energy levels.
An old Chinese proverb warned married men not to eat wolfberries when travelling far from home:
'He who travels one thousand miles from home should not eat goji berries.'
Goji has also traditionally been used for the treatment of infertility. Modern science is just starting to explain how some compounds in goji berries can assist fertility. There may be many complex reasons why couples can't conceive, and we make no claims that the goji berry is a cure for fertility. However, a study in 2002 showed that the polysaccharides of the goji berry actually prevented structural damage and cell death to testicular cells. The findings of this study support the traditional use of goji berries to assist in the treatment of infertility. This medical study is contained in the United States of America, National Library of Medicine.
8. My Recommendations
For all of these benefits, goji has become a well-known super fruit in the world. Nowadays it is mostly found in the market as Tibetan or Himalaya goji. You can buy it from supermarkets, healthy food stores, online retailers, or even in eBay. It is recommended to buy small packs of goji berries, because it is easier to keep the freshness, as once opened, it will suck the moisture, and become soft. A daily intake of 30 grams is recommended, though it doesn't do harm if you want to eat more because essentially it is fruit. So enjoy your goji berries.
. Inhibiting the growth of human leukemia cells by Lycium barbarum polysaccharide, published in Wei Sheng Yan Jiu. 2001 Nov;30(6):333-5.
. Effects of pure crude Lycium barbarum polysaccharides on immunopharmacology, published in Zhong Yao Cai. 1999
. Immunomodulation and antitumor activity by a polysaccharide-protein complex from Lycium barbarum, published in Int Immunopharmacol. 2004 Apr;4(4):563-9.
. Neuroprotective effects of anti-aging oriental medicine, Lycium barbarum, against beta-amyloid neurotoxicity, published in Exp Gerontol. 2005 Aug-Sep;40(8-9):716-27.
. Experimental research on the role of Lycium barbarum polysaccharide in anti-peroxidation, published in Zhongguo Zhong Yao Za Zhi. 1993 Feb;18(2):110-2, 128.
. Study on the composition of Lycium barbarum polysaccharides and its effects on the growth of weanling mice, published by Food Science Department, Huazhong Agricultural University, Wuhan 430070, China.
. Protective effect of Fructus Lycii polysaccharides against time and hyperthermia-induced damage in cultured seminiferous epithelium , published in J Ethnopharmacol. 2002 Oct;82(2-3):169-75.
Frank Wong is a senior research scientist at Wuhan University. He has done research about the nutritional aspects of goji berries for nearly 10 years.