The Goji berry, or Wolfberry, has been known as a potent medicinal food in China for thousands of years.
Modern technology has since confirmed that not only are these wondrous fruits extremely nutrient rich, they are also powerful antioxidants with myriad health benefits and potential uses.
The number of health products containing Goji berry has exploded in recent years, due to its official status as a ‘super-fruit’.
Origin of Goji berry
The wolfberry is native to China, and comes from the same family of plants as the sweet potato, morning glory, tomato and paprika, some of which are themselves renowned for possessing antioxidant properties.
The berries themselves are bright red or orange, around one or two centimeters in diameter, and are delicious when ripe.
Goji berries are often marketed as ‘Himalayan’ or ‘Tibetan’ Goji berries after the region in which they originated, and also because the names confer a certain wisdom to those who eat the berries.
In fact, Goji berries are more likely to originate from mountains in China and Mongolia than from Tibet, though some do grow there.
Wolfberry in detail
Wolfberries do not store particularly well, so any that you find outside the immediate area of their origin are likely to be dried. Sometimes they are soft and chewy like raisins, and other times they can be tough and stubborn.
They do not require hydration before being cooked or eaten.
Conventional and modern day uses
The traditional medicinal role of Wolfberries was to protect the immune system and maintain good blood flow. They were also said to give people superior eyesight and enhanced levels of fertility, as well as protecting the liver, lungs and kidneys.
Preparations of Goji berries sometimes involved simply eating them raw, or they were squeezed to make juice, fermented into wine, or dried and brewed with the leaves and bark of the Wolfberry plant to make tea.
The Chinese believed that Goji berries were effective in the treatment of infections and inflammatory diseases.
A believe that modern science has confirmed through its discovery that the plant does in fact contain phenolic amides and glucopyranoside, which inhibit the action of many unwanted bacteria and fungi.
Goji juice is marketed as having assorted health benefits, including that as an antioxidant to fight free radicals that may otherwise attack the immune system, cardiovascular system or the liver.
The active elements in Goji juice also help to maintain good blood flow and low blood pressure.
Wolfberries also contain a crucial carotenoid called zeaxanthin, which is also an antioxidant, of particular importance to the protection of the retina, and may therefore be effective in treating age-related macular degeneration and other visual illnesses.
Future prospect and present implications
Goji berries and Goji berry extracts may also have a significant role to play in future treatments for cancer, immune system diseases and others, with many studies currently underway into the remarkable properties of these little berries.
One study in particular found that cancer patients responded better to treatment when Goji berries were made a mainstay of their daily diets.
Obviously the exact reasons for this are unknown, but scientists are doing their best to get to the truth of the matter, and already there are indications that extract of the berry can help to significantly reduce the growth rate of various types of tumor.
Other studies have shown that daily servings of Goji berry juice can have a boosting effect on the immune system, with advocates claiming decreased incidence of infections and decreased length of illness.
They may also be helpful in the treatment of certain psychological disorders, including depression.
How much to be consumed in a day?
As has been mentioned, Goji berries are surprisingly nutritionally generous for their unassuming size and appearance.
A hundred gram serving of Goji berries can provide a significant amount of a person’s recommended daily amount of many essential vitamins, minerals and amino acids, as well as a healthy dose of protein and carbohydrate.
They also contain beta-carotene, lycopene, lutein and xanthophyll, a variety of antioxidants and polysaccharides.
What does it contains?
Essential vitamins and minerals represented significantly in a portion of Goji berries include iron, zinc, vitamin C, riboflavin, potassium and calcium, over twenty minerals in all, six vitamins and eighteen amino acids.
Of particular interest is the story of the Ningxia wolfberries, near the Loess Plateau, an infamous desert region.
A nearby river known as the Yellow River picks up silt from the Loess Plateau on is way to the Goji fields, carrying with it countless minerals built up over millennia.
The silt of the river is the densest that has been measured anywhere in the world, that is how rich in different minerals it is.
Periodically, the river floods and drenches the Wolfberry crops in this nutrient-rich sediment, and it is thought that this process may be the secret behind the Goji berry’s extraordinary nutritional profile and consequent ‘super-food’ status.
Availability in the market
There are a great many Goji berry products on the market, ranging from simple dried berries to juices, teas, candy and whole meals based around the delicacy, and the famous Ningxia wolfberry producers are beginning to ferment wine using the berries that they believe will become quite special.
Products containing Goji berries and extracts of Goji berries should not be consumed by anyone who is on a course of anticoagulants, commonly known as blood thinner, as the two may react with unhelpfully.