Lycium barbarum L. and L. chinense
Mill. (Family Solanaceae).
Other names: Chinese Wolfberry, Lycium Fruit, Tibetan Goji Berry
Background information: The name Tibetan Goji Berry is in
common use in the natural health food market. Berries from the Goji plant
that are claimed to have been grown in the Himalaya/Tibet region form the basis of
a very large health food market. The etymological origin of "Goji" is unclear but
it is likely a simplified spelling of "gouqizi".
Both species of Goji (Lycium barbarum and Lycium chinense) are
deciduous woody perennial plants, growing 1-3 m high. L. chinense is
grown in the south of China and tends to be somewhat shorter, while L.
barbarum is grown in the north and tends to be somewhat taller.
In addition to being cultivated in China, Goji berries also grow on extensive vines
in the sheltered valleys of the Himalayas in Tibet, and in Mongolia. The round,
red Goji berries are very tender and must be shaken from the vine rather than
picked in order to avoid spoiling. The Goji fruits are preserved by
slowly drying them in the shade. Goji has been eaten locally in the Himalayan and
Tibetan regions for centuries and is celebrated in festivals. The Goji fruit is
nicknamed the "happy berry" because of the sense of well being it is said to
Goji berries and lycium bark play important roles in traditional Chinese
medicine (TCM), where they are believed to enhance immune system function, help
eyesight, protect the liver, boost sperm production, and improve circulation and
among other effects. In TCM terms, Goji berries are sweet in taste and neutral in
nature; they act on the liver, lung, and kidney channels and enrich yin. Goji
berries can be eaten raw, brewed into a tea, or prepared as a tincture.
Goji berries are nutritionally rich, containing beta-carotene, Vitamins
C, B1, B2 and other vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and amino acids. Companies
marketing Goji claim the berries contain such nutrients as isoleucine, tryptophan, zinc, iron, copper, calcium, germanium, selenium,
phosphorus, B6, and vitamin E.
Culinary uses: As a food, dried Goji Berries may be eaten raw
or cooked. The taste is somewhat similar to that of raisins. Dried Goji Berry is
an ingredient often used in Chinese soups. Young shoots and leaves of the Lycium
bush are also grown commercially as a leaf vegetable. A wine containing Goji
Berries (called gǒuqǐ jiǔ; 枸杞酒) is also produced.
Part Used: Ripe fruit.
Properties: Yin tonic, improves vision, boost sperm
production, benefits complexion,
nourishes Liver and Kidney, replenishes vital essence (semen), powerful antioxidant, antimutagenic,
improves circulation, anti cancer properties.
Goji Berries contain many complex
phyto-nutrients and bio flavinoids:
Betaine, which is used by the liver to produce choline, a compound
that calms nervousness, enhances memory, promotes muscle growth, and
protects against fatty liver disease.
Physalin, which is active against all major types of leukemia. It has
also been used as a treatment for hepatitis B.
Solavetivone, a powerful anti-fungal and anti-bacterial compound.
Beta-Sitoserol, an anti-inflammatory agent. It has been used to treat
sexual impotence and prostate enlargement. It also has a cholesterol
Cyperone, a sesquiterpene that benefits the heart and helps maintain
normal blood pressure.
It has also been used in the treatment of cervical cancer.
The Goji Berry is being called one of the world's most powerful anti-aging
foods. Goji is highly rated on the
scale (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity), which measures the antioxidant
level in foods. It's a test developed by
USDA researchers out of Tufts
University in Boston. Foods that score high in an antioxidant analysis
called ORAC may protect cells and their components from oxidative damage,
according to ORAC studies of animals and human blood at the USDA
Agricultural Research Service's Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at
Tufts University in Boston. ARS is the chief scientific agency of the U.S.
Department of Agriculture.
One of the most well-known traditional properties of Goji berry fruit is its
ability to improve vision. This has been documented for over fifteen
centuries. Modern scientific studies have finally supplied some
substantiation to this property. It turns out Goji fruit not only contains
high amounts of b -carotene (~ 8 mg/100g) but this b -carotene is in a
highly biologically active form which is readily utilized by the body.
However, b -carotene is not the only nutrient in Goji fruit. Goji
reported to be very rich in amino acids (half in free form), other vitamins
(B1, B2, C, nicotinic acid, etc.), and polysaccharides that have antioxidant
and immuno-modulating effects in experimental animals as well as other
nutrients. Since oral administration of Goji fruit to humans in various
studies have also improved their immune functions, raised the serum levels
of superoxide dismutase (SOD) and haemoglobin but lowered the level of lipid
peroxides as well as reduced senility symptoms, the polysaccharides
obviously are an important active component of lycium fruit. Yet only about
25 years ago, scientists in America were still viewing polysaccharides only
as carbohydrates (like starch and sugars) that supply our body with energy
and that they had no other functions. They were so used to looking for
instant response in their search for fast-acting drugs from nature that they
either didn't know how to deal with anything slow-acting or did not have the
patience that is normally a characteristic of the Old World. It was only
when more and more evidence of these other properties of polysaccharides
kept emerging from Japan, China and Europe that American scientists started
to pay attention. Now, they have finally acknowledged that certain
carbohydrates (polysaccharides) play important roles in our health other
than simply supplying energy.
Another well-known and long-documented traditional property of Goji fruit
is its ability to "benefit complexion and maintain one's beauty";
Goji is also considered to have anti-aging properties. To drug-oriented American
scientists, this certainly sounds ridiculous. But various studies have shown
Goji fruit to have numerous beneficial effects, including, antioxidant,
immuno-potentiating, antimutagenic, hypoglycaemic, hypolipemic, hypotensive,
etc., all of which contribute to the slowing down of the aging process or
help us live longer.
The beautifying property of Goji fruit may have some scientific basis
after all which may justify its use in skin-care cosmetics, as recent
laboratory studies not only demonstrated its antioxidant effect but also its
ability to increase dermal hydroxyproline level in mice, indicating
increased collagen synthesis. All these effects are good for the skin.
Medicinal Use Research: - A sweet tonic decoction made from the Goji
fruit has traditionally been used to lower blood
pressure and blood cholesterol levels. Goji acts mainly on the liver and
kidneys[1, 2, 5]. Goji
fruit has traditionally been taken internally in the treatment of high
blood pressure, diabetes, poor eyesight, vertigo, lumbago, impotence and
menopausal complaints. Goji fruit is harvested when fully ripe and is
dried for later use. The Goji root bark is a bitter,
cooling, antibacterial herb that controls coughs and lowers fevers, blood
pressure and blood cholesterol levels[1, 3,
5]. It is taken internally in the
treatment of chronic fevers, internal haemorrhages, nosebleeds, tuberculosis,
coughs, asthma etc. It is applied externally to treat genital
itching. The bark is harvested in the winter and dried for later
use. Diuretic, purgative, [1, 2]. The plant has a long history of
medicinal use, both as a general, energy restoring tonic and also to cure a
wide range of ailments from skin rashes and eyesight problems to
diabetes. A tonic tea is made from the leaves. The fruit of many
members of this genus is a very rich source of vitamins and minerals,
especially in vitamins A, C and E, flavanoids and other bio-active compounds.
Goji is also a good source of essential fatty acids, which is very unusual for
a fruit. Goji is being investigated as a food that is capable of
reducing the incidence of cancer and also as a means of halting or reversing
the growth of cancers.
Since the early 21st century the dried
Goji fruit has
begun to be sold in the West as a health food (typically under the name
"Tibetan Goji Berry" and Himalayan Goji), in ever
increasing quantities and often accompanied by grossly exaggerated claims
regarding its purported health benefits. However, inflated as many of the Goji claims
are, fresh Goji berries are said to contain 2500 mg of vitamin C per 100 grams of
fruit, making it one of the world's best sources of
vitamin C behind the Australian billy-goat/kakadu plum and the South
American camu-camu. It is rated highly on the
scale (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity), which measures the antioxidant
level in foods. This means pure and unadulterated Goji berry juice is a
proven and powerful anti-oxidant full of bioflavinoids. Foods high on the
ORAC scale are scientifically proven to be very beneficial to human health.
But can you
trust what the marketing men say about their particular products?
Unfortunately for the natural health industry, Goji Berry Juice
is joining the ranks of those other
well known and common plant products
Goji, in that it is making millionaires
out of greedy and unscrupulous promoters in the United States (and many
other countries), thanks to the name recognition and to the lack of
standardized testing methods to determine the quality and safety and the amount of active
Greedy suppliers, brokers and manufacturers frequently stretch
1kg or litre
of 100% genuine Goji Berry liquid or powder into literally tens or even
hundreds of litres of finished Goji Berry "health" drink, reaping
outrageous profits. The taste of the Goji Berry "juice" or drink the
experience is mostly due to citric acid, flavours and preservatives.
Unfortunately, unscrupulous operators will add the
chemical preservative sodium benzoate to their so-called "healthy juice
drinks" thereby rendering them useless as far as good health is concerned,
due to the potential for the product to develop benzene contamination.
Research is indicating that many commercial
liquid "health" drinks have relatively high levels of benzene in them due to the interaction of
sodium benzoate and vitamin C. Insist on documentation stating the liquid
"health" drink is completely free of benzene BEFORE buying the product. The dubious
manufacturing and marketing methods employed by many of the hype merchants is starting to impact on the perception
held by members of the public when it comes to assessing the health benefits
of genuine Goji
juice. This is a shame as Goji is certainly regarded by many natural health
experts as one of the top SuperFoods in the
When assessing a health juice drink such as Goji, it is
also essential to establish just how much of the active ingredient is in the
product you are considering buying. In other words establish how many
micrograms of the active ingredient you are getting in your single serve.
You will find the vast bulk of manufacturers of liquid Goji products hide behind
"proprietary formulas" which give you absolutely no indication how many mgs
of Goji you are consuming.
The image for Goji juice is not helped by wild claims being made by
irresponsible manufacturers and distributors that Goji
juice willcure cancer as has been the case recently in New Zealand.
Representatives/distributors of companies, and also, some less than ethical
companies marketing the Goji juice drinks, often include the
completely unsupported claim that
a Chinese man named
Yuen, who was said to have consumed wolfberries daily, lived to the age of
252 years (1678-1930).
Look for brands that list on the label exactly how many
mgs of active Goji SuperFood you can expect to consume per day and work out how
much the real cost per serve actually is. You may just be very surprised
when you make proper comparisons with top brands. Make sure you also ask for
the documentation stating the product is benzene free. Play it safe and
refuse to use liquid health products with
sodium benzoate in them.
 Usher. G.A Dictionary of Plants Used by Man.
Constable 1974 ISBN 0094579202
This is one of the best books on the subject. Lists
a very extensive range of useful plants from around the world with very
brief details of the uses. Not for the casual reader.
 Yeung. Him-Che.Handbook of Chinese Herbs and Formulas.
Institute of Chinese Medicine, Los Angeles 1985
An excellent Chinese herbal giving information on over 500 species.
 Larkcom J.Oriental Vegetables John
Murray 1991 ISBN 0-7195-4781-4
 Matthews. V.The New Plantsman. Volume 1,
1994. Royal Horticultural Society 1994 ISBN 1352-4186
 Brown. D.Encyclopaedia of Herbs and their Uses.
Dorling Kindersley, London. 1995 ISBN 0-7513-020-31
A very well presented and informative book on herbs from around the globe.
Plenty in it for both the casual reader and the serious student.
 Dr Albert
Leung & Steven Foster: Encyclopedia of Common Ingredients Used in Foods,
Drugs, and Cosmetics.
Dr. Leung a world renown
scientist specializing in pharmacognosy, has been able to draw upon his
ability to read original Chinese, thus including references from dozens of
major Chinese classic works as well as numerous modem Chinese texts. In
addition, references are made to over 50 journals dealing with Chinese
traditional and herbal medicine, many of which are not translated into
English and are thus not available in many of the standard computer
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