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7 Wolfberry Benefits You Need to Know

Because of the high concentration of nutrients, the wolfberry (goji berry) has many health benefits that are worth including in your diet. Learn more here.

A bowl of fresh wolfberries next to a bowl of dried wolfberries on a marble surface.

If herbal superfoods were celebrities, gou qi zi (枸杞子) or the Chinese wolfberry would be among the A-list stars. Though tiny, its size belies the impressive list of wolfberry benefits. This fruit was first mentioned as a powerhouse herb around 200 BCE in the Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing (神农本草经), one of the definitive texts in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).

These early reports described this fruit as a medicine typically included in mild tonics, tinctures, and powders. The berries have also been consumed as tea, juice, wine, or liqueur. 

The shrub that wolfberry grows can be found between Southeast Europe and Southwest Asia. However, the north-central and western regions of China, specifically Ningxia, Gansu, and Xinjiang, are regarded as the native home of the fruit as medicine. As word of its benefits spread, cultivation expanded outside China into other Asian countries early in the 21st century. Today, the global wolfberry market also includes Italy, Portugal, Greece, and several other European nations. 

Find out how wolfberry, also known as goji berry, can benefit your health. 

7 Wolfberry Benefits According to TCM and Western Medicine 

The following are evidence-based benefits of the fruit, which has been used as a medicinal health food for at least 2,000 years. 

1. Wolfberry is a powerful antioxidant  

In TCM, the wolfberry is considered a sweet herb with a calm nature. Thousands of years of carefully documented observation within TCM revealed that sweet herbs like wolfberry temper acute reactions within the body, ridding it of harmful free radicals. TCM believes this antioxidant activity has a tonic effect on the Liver and Kidney, replenishing qi (vital life force) and blood.

Research also confirms goji berry’s antioxidant activity. A 2015 study in the Journal of Functional Foods found that wolfberry is a “rich source of antioxidant compounds.” It is abundant in cinnamic acids, catechins (flavonoids), organic acids, lutein, zeaxanthin, vitamin A and vitamin C — all correlated to strong antioxidant properties that help fight free radicals in the body.

2. Wolfberry can help boost your immune response 

Research suggests that goji berry can help increase the efficacy of the flu vaccine among the elderly even after getting the flu, as illustrated in a study among mice. A 2013 study in The Journal of Nutrition demonstrated that aged male mice caught the virus after being fed a 5% wolfberry diet for 30 days and vaccinated against influenza afterwards had higher antibodies in their blood. These mice also had milder symptoms compared to those that were vaccinated alone.

3. It helps protect against ageing-related vision loss

Woman having her eyes examined by an optometrist.
There is evidence that wolfberry, also known as goji berry, protects from ageing-related vision loss.

Another wolfberry benefit is its ability to improve eyesight, especially in older age. Wolfberry falls in the category of tonic herbs for a Yin (passive energy) Deficiency, owing to its neutral nature and sweet flavour. This berry invigorates jing (the essence that keeps our body active) and improves vision.

In a 2021 study published in the journal Nutrients, researchers found that wolfberry increased the levels of carotenoids such as lutein and zeaxanthin in the retina. On the other hand, there was no increase in these pigments in the group that was given a commercial eye supplement. These carotenoids protect against macular degeneration, which manifests as loss of central vision.

4. It is great for the skin 

Wolfberry’s ability to fight radicals also extends to the berry’s power in wound healing and fighting ageing skin. Animal models showed that ingested wolfberry juice could protect the skin from sun damage.

Studies on human skin samples also shower that wolfberry’s bioactive compounds stimulate the production of collagen – the protein that gives your skin its youthful bounce.

5. It may help protect against Alzheimer’s 

In TCM, the Kidneys regulate the urinary system but also play a role in the reproductive system, including growth and ageing. Meanwhile, the Liver regulates the movement of qi and body fluids to balance your emotions. And because wolfberry is helpful for the Kidneys and Liver, according to TCM, it can rein in ageing processes and slow down the onset of dementia

Researchers from the Institute of Biophysics at the Chinese Academy of Sciences also found that wolfberry can break down the amyloid-beta protein plaques in the brain believed to cause Alzheimer’s disease.

6. Wolfberry can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease 

A 2017 study in Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity investigated the effects of goji berry on patients with metabolic syndrome, a combination of conditions that raises your risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, and related health problems. In this experiment, a group of patients were given 14 grams of natural goji berry on top of their healthy diet for 45 days. The patients in a control group were only given a healthy diet.

The researchers found that the patients given goji berries had reduced waistline circumference compared to the control group. This suggests that goji berries can be used as dietary supplements for those at risk of cardiovascular diseases.

7. It can help manage diabetes 

Wolfberry has hypoglycaemic properties, as shown in a study published in the International Organization of Scientific Research Journal of Pharmacy and Biological Sciences.  

In the experiment, researchers induced diabetes among male rats. The diabetic rats that were given dry wolfberry fruit powder for four weeks had lower fasting blood glucose compared to diabetic rats fed with a normal diet.

Wolfberry also helped treat the diabetic rats’ damaged tissues in the kidneys and pancreas.

Who Shouldn’t Take Wolfberry?  

The fruit is mainly non-toxic. Only a handful of allergic reactions have been reported for the past decade. However, a 2015 study in the journal Lycium Barbarum and Human Health reports that new allergic reactions to wolfberry are becoming more frequent. These cases range from mild localised reactions in the oral cavity to anaphylactic reactions, including urticaria and rhinitis.

There are also risks of possible drug interactions, especially among those who are on blood thinners like warfarin. A 2015 study in the journal Toxicology Reports showed a possible association between high doses of gou qi zi wine and decreased blood clotting in patients on warfarin. 

Add wolfberries to your diet to reap its benefits.

The benefits of wolfberry have made it a superstar in the realm of superfoods. These berries work best when incorporated into a healthy and balanced lifestyle. Speak to a TCM physician if you want to add wolfberries to your diet for their benefits.

This is an adaptation of the article “7 Things You Should Know About Chinese Wolfberries”, which first appeared on the Eu Yan Sang website.

References

  1. Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects. 2nd edition. 2011. Chapter 14: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects of Chinese Wolfberry. [online] Available at: <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK92756/> [Accessed 17 November 2022]
  2. Multi-Disciplinary Publishing Institute (MDPI) – Antioxidants. 2022. Health Benefits and Applications of Goji Berries in Functional Food Products Development: A Review. [online] Available at: <https://www.researchgate.net/publication/358173685_Health_Benefits_and_Applications_of_Goji_Berries_in_Functional_Food_Products_Development_A_Review> [Accessed 17 November 2022]
  3. Avicenna Journal of Phytomedicine. 2021. Health benefits of wolfberry (Gou Qi Zi, Fructus barbarum L.) on the basis of ancient Chinese herbalism and Western modern medicine. [online] Available at: <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8051317/> [Accessed 17 November 2022]
  4. Science Daily. 2022. Dried goji berries may provide protection against age-related vision loss. [online] Available at: <https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2022/01/220113151356.htm> [Accessed 17 November 2022] – this is the link to the actual study quoted in Science Daily: https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/13/12/4409
  5. Lycium Barbarum and Human Health. 2015. Dermatologic Uses and Effects of Lycium [online] Available at: <https://www.researchgate.net/publication/283675901_Dermatologic_Uses_and_Effects_of_Lycium_Barbarum> [Accessed 17 November 2022]
  6. Xinhua.net. 2022. Study explores how wolfberry extract protects against Alzheimer’s. [online] Available at: <https://english.news.cn/20220122/ae27bc8d47ad47409741a50ff79211aa/c.html> [Accessed 17 November 2022]
  7. Lycium Barbarum and Human Health. 2015. Allergenic Sensitisation Mediated by Wolfberry. [online] Available at: <https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-94-017-9658-3_12> [Accessed 17 November 2022]
  8. Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity. 2017. Lycium barbarum Reduces Abdominal Fat and Improves Lipid Profile and Antioxidant Status in Patients with Metabolic Syndrome. [online] Available at: < https://www.hindawi.com/journals/omcl/2017/9763210/> [Accessed 05 December 2022]
  9. Toxicology Reports. 2015. Bleeding due to probable interaction between warfarin and Gouqizi (Lycium barbarum L.). [online] Available at: < https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2214750015300524?via%3Dihub> [Accessed 05 December 2022]
  10. International Organization of Scientific Research Journal of Pharmacy and Biological Sciences. 2017. The Hypoglycemic And Hypolipidemic Activity of Wolfberry (Lycium Barbarum) in Alloxan Induced Diabetic Male Rats. [online] Available at: < http://www.iosrjournals.org/iosr-jpbs/papers/Vol12-issue6/Version-4/G1206045564.pdf> [Accessed 05 December 2022]

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Reviews (4)

Jim DillonFeb 20 2024

I’ll add it to my cancer fighting regimen.

Jan 21 2024

Is Wolf Berry Halal ?

Oct 15 2023

Very informative. Tq

Aug 15 2023

100%

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