The power of the goji berry is no secret in China, where the berry has been used for its many healing properties for thousands of years. According to the Ben Cao Gang Mu, a well-known Chinese herbal compiled in the late sixteenth century, “Taking in Chinese goji berry regularly may regulate the flow of vital energy and strengthen the physique, which can lead to longevity”. Recently, the goji berry has been discovered in the West, and its amazing antioxidant and health benefits are now available to all.
Modern Uses of Goji Berry
Building on ancient knowledge of the goji berry, modern scientists have extensively researched the fruits’ nutritional profile and health-promoting properties. Studies provide evidence that the goji berry fights free radicals, supports a healthy immune system, improves vision and maintains healthy blood sugar levels.
The Chinese Ministry of Public Health approved sales of the goji berry as a botanical medicine in 1983, and the Chinese State Scientific and Technological commission has declared the goji berry a national treasure.
Nutritional Benefits of the Goji Berry
According to a study conducted by the Beijing National Research Institute in 1988, goji berries contain 21 trace minerals, 18 amino acids, over 500 times more vitamins C than oranges, more beta-carotene than carrots and more calcium than spinach. An eight-ounce portion of goji berries contains 4,000 percent of the RDI (Reference Daily Intake) for vitamin B1, 1,000 percent of the RDI for vitamin B3, 190 percent of the RDI for fiber and over 100 percent of the RDI for chromium.
In addition, goji berries are full of flavonoids, the water-soluble pigments that give blueberries, peppers and oranges their vivid colors. Flavonoids are also powerful antioxidants. In January 2009, a team of researchers in Phoenix, Arizona, reported that regular consumption of goji berries could increase antioxidant markers in humans. According to the results of their double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, subjects who consumed 120 milliliters of goji juice per day for 30 days experienced a significant increase in three antioxidant markers.
Goji Berries and Your Health
Healthy Immune System Support
Goji berries provide support for a healthy immune system. Thus far, most studies on the effects of goji berries on immunity have focused on mice. However, in 2003 researchers from the Huazhong University of Science and Technology in China reported that a goji compound could be used to induce an immune response in human cells. Specifically, the researchers found that goji stimulated interleukin 2 and tumor growth necrosis factor – two compounds essential for the immune response to cancer.
Both ancient tradition and modern research suggest that goji berries can improve vision. Lutein and zeaxanthin, two pigments contained in goji berries, protect the retinal by neutralizing the free adicals from sunlight. Chinese researchers tested the effects of goji berries on the eyesight of 27 subjects and reported positive results: dark adaptation dramatically improved; physiologic scotomas (blind spots) decreased; and serum vitamin A and carotene content – indicators of eyesight acuity – increased.
Healthy Blood Sugar and Cholesterol Levels
The goji berry may support blood sugar and cholesterol levels, helping to prevent diabetes, pre-idabetic conditions and cardiovascular disease.
Researchers conducted a study of the glucose-stabilizing properties of the goji berry. According to their report, “It was found that the three Lycium barbarum [goji bery] fruit extracts / fractions could significantly reduce blood glucose levels and serum total cholesterol (TC) and triglyceride (TG) concentrations and at the same time markedly increase high density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-c) levels after ten days treatment in tested rabbits, indicating that there were substantial hypoglycemic and hypolipidemic effects. In other words, their research revealed that goji berries decreased the amount of blood sugar and total cholesterol in the blood while increasing the amount of “good” HDL cholesterol.