Traditional and Conventional Benefits of Goji Berries

A wooden bowl and spoon filles with goji berries.

For centuries goji berries have been used in traditional Tibetan, Mongolian and Chinese medicines as an important tonic and anti-cancer remedy. Recently, these deep-red sweet and sour berries have become a popular functional food in western countries.

Goji berries are packed with a high concentration of minerals, especially iron and calcium as well as vitamins A and C, besides a substantial protein content. The phytochemicals contained in goji include antioxidants and polysaccharides, which perform many health-promoting functions in the body.

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Traditional Uses of Goji Berries

Goji berries come from two different species of Lycium shrubs that are native to northwest China as well as Tibet. In both cultures, the Lycium fruit has long been considered a tonic for the mind and eyesight, promoting memory as well as a long and happy life.

In traditional Chinese medicine, goji berries are named Gou Qi Zi, and are regarded as one of the primary tonics for the Blood, yin qi and Essence (jing).

Originally these small berries were specially indicated for cases of weakness, cancer, and functional decline related to aging. According to the official classification of Chinese herbs (materia medica), goji berries are effective in the treatment of specific types of Blood Deficiency (xue xu) manifesting with:

  • Lumbar pain
  • Weak knees
  • Dizziness
  • Moderate abdominal pain
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Nocturnal emissions
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Blurred vision
  • Diminished visual acuity
  • Consumptive cough

In the presence of a combination of these symptoms, 15-30 grams of goji is traditionally recommended daily if taken as a single supplement. When used in combination with other supplements, the recommended quantity of goji berries is 3-12g daily.

Goji berries are also prescribed for Blood Deficiency cases in general, with symptoms like pale complexion, dry nails, hair, skin and tongue, insomnia, anxiety, and trembling limbs. 

Red meat and mussels are also indicated for Blood Deficiency patients. Goji berries are a good alternative to animal-derived foods, being suitable for vegans and vegetarians who suffer from Blood Deficiency.  

    SECTION BULLETS  

  • Goji berries have been used for centuries in traditional medicine for their health benefits, particularly as a tonic and anti-cancer remedy.
  • These berries are rich in minerals, vitamins, antioxidants, and polysaccharides, which contribute to their health-promoting properties.
  • Goji berries are traditionally used to treat various conditions related to blood deficiency, such as weakness, dizziness, erectile dysfunction, and blurred vision.

Bioactive Compounds of Goji Berries

Goji berries are a great source of macronutrients. About half of the substance of goji is carbohydrate, a quarter is dietary fiber, another quarter is protein, and approximately 1.5% of it is fat. These quantities vary according to the species and soil.

Goji berries from Tibet are said to be richer in nutrients due to the selenium-rich soil combined with a big temperature contrast between day versus night, and the intense sunlight. 

Among the micronutrients present in goji, iron has a higher concentration with an estimated quantity of 6.8 mg of iron per 100 grams of goji berries. That is enough to cover about half of the daily needs of iron of females in reproductive age. 

Other micronutrients present in goji berries in exceptionally high concentrations are:

  • Vitamin A ≈ 26800 IU/100 g
  • Vitamin C ≈ 48.4 mg/100 g
  • Calcium ≈ 190 mg/100 g
  • Sodium ≈ 298 mg/100g

Besides, studies have shown that goji berries contain riboflavin, thiamine, nicotinic acid, and minerals such as copper, manganese, magnesium, and selenium.

Finally, the therapeutic phytochemicals present in goji berries are polysaccharides, carotenoids, and phenolics. These functional elements are related to the important antioxidant, anti-diabetic, anti-cancer, and vision-protective properties of goji.

The pharmacological effects of goji berries include increasing hemopoiesis, stimulating the secretion of necessary hormones, protecting from radiation, slowing aging, preventing and fighting cancer, boosting immunity, and combating oxidation.

    SECTION BULLETS  

  • About half of the substance of goji is carbohydrate, a quarter is dietary fiber, another quarter is protein, and approximately 1.5% of it is fat.
  •  Goji berries contain riboflavin, thiamine, nicotinic acid, and minerals such as copper, manganese, magnesium, and selenium.
  • Goji berries contain high concentrations of micronutrients such as iron, vitamins A and C, calcium, and sodium.

Traditional Preparation of Goji Berry

Traditionally, dehydrated goji berries are cooked before being consumed in order to make them easier to digest. In China, goji is added to soups and infusions, and are also used for producing tincture, wine, and juice. The recommended cooking time of goji berries for medicinal purposes is 20 minutes.

Alternatively, the dry berries can be rehydrated by soaking them in water for 5-10 minutes. After being hydrated it is easy to add them to juices, oatmeal, smoothies, and even soups in case you want to have a full traditional Chinese experience. Dry goji berries are chewier, they may be sprinkled into salads, desserts, cereal bars, or baked in cakes.

Combinations and Synergistic Effects

The additive and synergistic advantages of a variety of medicinal ingredients from herbs and plant-based products exceed that of only one single ingredient, offering superior health benefits.

The right combination of herbal medicines and foods can offer a higher therapeutic effect than the sum of the individual ingredients due to the cumulative synergistic effect. 

Some classic combinations that are usually made with goji berries are:

Goji Berries + Flos Chrysanthemi (Ju Hua)

The combination of goji berries and Chinese chrysanthemum flower treats Blood Deficiency plus the symptoms of:

  • Tinnitus
  • Headache
  • Visual impairment

The two are usually infused together by adding first the goji berries and cooking them for about 20 minutes, and then adding the chrysanthemum flowers once the fire is off. Flos Chrysanthemi can be easily found in Chinese food shops.

Flos Chrysanthemi exhibits anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antitumorigenic, insecticidal, and antiviral properties. The traditionally recommended daily intake of chrysanthemum flowers is 9-15g.

This combination is contraindicated in the presence of symptoms of heaviness during digestion and loose stools. 

Goji Berries + Panax Ginseng (Ren Shen)

The combination of goji berries with ginseng tones Blood and qi. This combination is recommended for Blood Deficiency plus a combination of the following symptoms:

  • General weakness
  • Spontaneous sweating
  • Shortness of breath
  • Cold limbs
  • Lethargy
  • Restlessness
  • Symptoms related to diabetes mellitus
  • Forgetfulness
  • Erectile dysfunction

Ginseng is usually sold in capsules. In classic Chinese medicine the root is described as a superior tonic for chronic and convalescing patients. The stimulant effects of ginseng have made it very popular worldwide for its effects on cognitive function and sexual arousal, besides its therapeutic effects on fatigue, immunity, blood pressure, and stress management. 

When combining ginseng with goji one can take the capsules followed by the goji berries in order to get the synergistic effects. The recommended daily intake of ginseng is 1-10 grams, with the standard being 3 grams a day of dry root (not extract). 

Goji Berries + Lotus Seeds (Lian Zi)

Lotus seeds have minimal calories and are a great source of multiple vitamins and bioactive elements, which make them an interesting functional food. In Chinese medicine they are primarily employed in managing Deficiency disorders with extreme fluid depletion.

The combination of lotus seeds and goji berries becomes a rich supply of macronutrients like protein and calcium, as well as many therapeutic phytochemicals that are concentrated in those two. 

Goji berries combined with Lotus seeds can treat the symptoms of Bood Deficiency plus a combination of the following symptoms:

  • Premature ejaculation and spermatorrhea
  • Excessive uterine bleeding and vaginal discharge
  • Palpitations with anxiety and irritability associated with Blood Deficiency
  • Insomnia

In China, lotus seeds are consumed to boost the body, prevent the signs of aging, satiate hunger, and prolong life. The traditionally recommended daily intake of lotus seeds is 6-15 grams. The recommended cooking time for both goji berries and lotus seeds is 20 minutes. They can be added to a Chinese-style soup, a decoction, or a bowl with yogurt for example. If you choose to decoct them make sure you eat the berries and seeds as well.

A comprehensive scientific review on the therapeutic effects of lotus seeds by Food Science and Nutrition has confirmed that the bioactive ingredients from the seeds are linked to anti‐adipogenic, antioxidant, antitumor, hepato‐protective, anti‐inflammatory, fertility-promoting, anti‐microbial, anti‐viral, and hypoglycemic therapeutic effects of lotus seeds. 

Disclaimer

The information about the traditional uses of lycium fuit (goji berries) contained in this article are for informative purposes only. The information presented here is not meant to replace professional advice. 

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