How Can the Amazing Goji Berry Benefit Your Health?
Published | 7 min read
Goji berries have been enjoyed as a medicinal herb and food supplement for centuries. A rich antioxidant, more Americans are taking it to reap its many benefits.
Berries are antioxidant powerhouses, typically consumed as strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries. However, there are another berry species called the red goji berry (harvested from the Lycium barbarum shrub) that’s also renowned for its incredible nutritional benefits.
Goji berries have been consumed in Asian countries as a food supplement and medicinal herb for decades to treat common health ailments, such as high blood pressure, fever, diabetes, and eye-related diseases.
These berries can be eaten cooked, dried, or raw and can also be brewed in a herbal concoction alongside other herbs. Learn more about the amazing benefits of goji berries here.
What Are Goji Berries?
Considered a superfood, the goji berry, also called the Chinese wolfberry, is native to China and synonymous with the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region — famous for good quality goji berries — that tastes sweet and neutral in nature.
Besides the red goji berry, there’s also the black goji berry (from the Lycium ruthenicum plant). A study by BMC Chemistry found black goji berries have the highest phenolic, tannin, and monomeric anthocyanin content.
However, red goji berries have higher carotenoid content. Carotenoids are yellow, orange, and red plant-based antioxidants that have many positive effects on the body. In addition to the red goji berry, there’s also the black goji berry (from the Lycium ruthenicum plant).
Health Benefits of Goji Berries
Wolfberry or Goji berry is not just a staple of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) but has an array of uses in Ayurvedic and Western treatments. They are an excellent source of polysaccharides, a type of carbohydrate that helps colonize healthy bacteria in the gut to support immune, digestive, and detoxification processes.
Research shows that polysaccharides derived from goji berries also contain neuroprotective properties. Furthermore, TCM states that goji berries can nourish the Liver and Kidney while enhancing a person’s jing (essence) and vision. Here are some other health benefits of the goji berry:
1. Helps improve eyesight
Goji berries are believed to be good for the eyes. “Goji berries are a good source of vitamins and minerals. They are rich in vitamin A, which is vital for eye, bone, skin, and cell development,” says TCM physician Lim Sock Ling. “The amount of beta-carotene in goji berries is among the highest of all edible plants. With the high level of zeaxanthin, goji berries can benefit the vision and may help in age-related eye diseases.”
A study from the American Academy of Optometry found that seniors who drank goji berry juice for 90 days increased their levels zeaxanthin – a molecule found in the eyes – and antioxidant levels in the macula, which is part of the retina. There was also a significant increase in other antioxidant levels.
Another study from Drug Design, Development and Therapy found that the antioxidative component of the berries can help prevent or delay vision deterioration in people with Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP), a rare genetic disorder that cause a breakdown and loss of retina cells. Additionally, these berries can preserve retinal vasculature from retinal injury.
2. Cancer–fighting properties
Goji berries contain high levels of antioxidants. This includes vitamin C, zeaxanthin, and carotenoids that can neutralize the harmful effects of free radicals. They can help also maintain good cellular health, lower tumor growth, boost the effectiveness of cancer treatment, and reduce inflammation.
This has been studied in breast cancer where the polyphenols, antioxidant, and anti-tumor properties of goji berries can protect the body from breast cancer cells.
3. Lowers cholesterol
Goji berry extract can also help to lower cholesterol and fat levels. According to the Journal of Natural Remedies, the consumption of goji berry powdered extract yields a significant reduction in total cholesterol, triglycerides, and low-density lipoprotein-cholesterol levels.
4. Stabilizes blood sugar
Goji berries are beneficial for balancing blood sugar. Med Chem reported that goji berries help stabilize blood sugar and balance insulin levels in patients with type-2 diabetes. The study also reported an increase in good cholesterol (HDL) levels among patients.
5. Reduces depression and anxiety
Depression is a huge problem in America with 19.4 million adults reporting at least 1 major depressive episode.
A study found that people who consume goji berries every day (in the form of GoChi) reported general well-being, more energy, and improved alertness. Additionally, goji berries are capable of reducing anxiety and improving sleep quality.
A 2020 study published in the Turkish Journal of Biology showed that goji berries could reduce anxious behavior. This was also seen in anxiety related to menopause, which can be reduced by consuming goji berry fruits.
6. Provides immune support
Properties in goji berries are also known for their immune-boosting benefits. This is due to its large amount of vitamins A and C that help build immunity and fight illness.
7. Promotes healthy skin
Goji berries also contain beta-carotene, a plant phytochemical known for its ability to promote skin health and collagen production, reduce acne, reduce irritation, and manage the effects of aging. Studies found that goji juice protected against damage from UVA radiation.
How to Add Goji Berries to Your Diet
You can find goji berries in most health food or online stores in various forms. Their pleasant, sweet taste makes them easy to consume too. You can find them in powder form, in teas, baked goods, supplements, smoothies, trail mixes, and more. It’s worth noting, though, that the recommended consumption of dried goji berries is about 30 grams ( 1 oz) daily.
Goji berries are safe to consume raw. You can add them to trail mixes, cereal, yogurt bowls, soups, and salads — just a handful a day is sufficient. To enjoy the full benefits of this superfood, choose organic goji berries — cultivated without any harmful pesticides and fertilizers — that are dried right after harvest.
Organic goji berries provide you with good nutrients without any bad allergic reactions from chemical substances. Nowadays, dried goji berries are also available in convenient packs, making them easier to consume when you’re out and about.
You can develop innovative recipes with this fiber-rich ingredient. You can make a goji cake, muffin, or bread.
Goji Berries are readily available as loose teas. Top with some honey and a few slices of ginger for additional benefits. You can also add them to your juices or smoothies by blending them together with other ingredients such as bananas, other berries, or your favorite milk. Today, there are also several ready-to-drink goji berry juices that make it even easier to add this herb to your day.
Goji berry supplements or gummies are available in many health food stores such as Whole Foods. A convenient tonic, this form can enhance longevity as a part of a complete wellness regime.
Who Should Avoid Goji Berries
While goji berries are safe to consume for most of the population, individuals with underlying medical conditions should consult their doctor or TCM physician. In some instances, goji berries can affect those with allergies, people taking medications (blood thinners, blood pressure medications, diabetes drugs), or pregnant women.
People with allergies
People with existing food allergies should exercise caution because it might trigger allergies in rare cases.
Physician Lim notes, “Studies have shown that individuals who are allergic to lipid transfer proteins may be allergic to goji berries.” For this reason, those with food allergies should consult their doctor or a TCM physician before consuming the berries.
People taking certain medications
Certain medications may interact with goji berries where they should consult their doctor or a TCM physician before taking them. Those who take high blood pressure, diabetes, or anticoagulation therapy (warfarin) should consult with a doctor before consumption.
Goji berries also contain betaine, a compound that might be potentially harmful to fetal health. Currently, there are no human trials with these berries and pregnant women.
Goji berries consumption should be consistent and over time to feel any benefits. Backed by scientific research and TCM practices, this berry can greatly benefit our health and well-being.
- Medical News Today. 2018. What are the health benefits of goji berries?
- Optometry and Vision Science. 2011. Goji Berry Effects on Macular Characteristics and Plasma Antioxidant Levels.
- Drug Design, Development and Therapy. 2014. An evidence-based update on the pharmacological activities and possible molecular targets of Lycium barbarum polysaccharides.
- Folia Med. 2019. Antioxidant Activity and Antiproliferative Effects of Lycium barbarum’s (Goji berry) Fractions on Breast Cancer Cell Lines.
- Med Chem. 2015. Practical Application of Antidiabetic Efficacy of Lycium barbarum Polysaccharide in Patients with Type 2 Diabetes.
- National Institute of Mental Health. 2019. Major Depression.
- Turkish Journal of Biology. 2020. Anxiolytic, antioxidant, and neuroprotective effects of goji berry polysaccharides in ovariectomized rats: experimental evidence from behavioral, biochemical, and immunohistochemical analyses.
- Pub Med. 2010. Mice drinking goji berry juice (Lycium barbarum) are protected from UV radiation-induced skin damage via antioxidant pathways.
- BMC Med. 2017. Comparative studies on phenolic profiles, antioxidant capacities and carotenoid contents of red goji berry (Lycium barbarum) and black goji berry (Lycium ruthenicum).
- Natural Product Communications. 2016. Polysaccharides in Human Health Care.
- Critical Reviews In Food Science and Nutrition. 2015. Role of polysaccharides in food, digestion, and health.
- Nature Portfolio. Polysaccharides derived from berries spark interest.
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