The health benefits of goji berry include its ability to strengthen the immune system, improve the eyesight, lower cholesterol levels, and control diabetes. Goji berry also provides improved liver health, cardiovascular protection, cancer prevention, and protection of brain cells and skin from UV radiations.
Table of Contents
- What is Goji Berry?
- Nutritional Value of Goji Berry
- Health Benefits of Goji Berry
- Side Effects of Goji Berries
What is Goji Berry?
Goji, or wolfberry, is used in traditional Chinese medicine and in food preparations in China. Wolfberry is actually divided into two sub-species, which are known as Lycium barbarum and Lycium chinense, both belonging to the Solanaceae family. Wolfberry is native to China but is also grown in the warmer regions around the world, including Australia, North America, the Mediterranean basin, Central Asia, and Southwest Asia. China is the biggest exporter of Wolfberry in the world.
The English name Goji is derived from the Mandarin name gouqi. The other name, wolfberry, is thought to have originated from the Greek name of the plant Lycium, from Lycos or “wolf” in Greek. Goji tree grows up to a height of about 3 meters. The berries of Goji are small, up to 2 cm, dark red or orange, and oblong shaped. These berries taste anywhere from bitter to sweet.
Goji is not only used as food and medicine in China, but also in Asian countries such as Korea, Japan, and Vietnam. The whole plant, including the berries, leaves, roots, and root bark have been used for medicinal purposes. In traditional medicine, goji berries were used to cure liver diseases, infertility, abdominal pain, dry cough, fatigue, and headaches. It was considered to be a tonic that increased longevity.
Nutritional Value of Goji Berry
Dried goji berries contain calories, carbohydrates, fat, dietary fiber, sugar, and protein. The minerals and vitamins found in goji berries include sodium, potassium, calcium, iron, zinc, selenium, vitamin C, carotene, thiamin, riboflavin, lutein, lycopene, zeaxanthin, polysaccharides, betaine, and peptidoglycans.
Health Benefits of Goji Berry
Goji berries have many important health benefits. Let us discuss them in detail below.
Diabetes has emerged as one of the major diseases in the world in modern times. Controlling or preventing diabetes is absolutely necessary, as it can lead to the development of several other diseases such as obesity, heart diseases, cardiovascular diseases, stroke, and ocular diseases. One of the major health benefits of consuming goji berries is that it can help in controlling diabetes. Recent studies suggest that the fruit extracts of goji berries possess considerable hypoglycemic properties.
Controls Cholesterol Levels
Cholesterol is one of the major reasons for the development of heart diseases. Cholesterol forms plaque-like structures inside the blood vessels and arteries that obstruct the blood flow. This, in turn, causes the heart to pump with higher force, resulting in heart weakening, which can be followed by a heart attack. For starters, cholesterol is of two types. One is HDL or high-density lipid cholesterol, which is good cholesterol, and the other is LDL or low-density lipid cholesterol, which is bad cholesterol. It is the LDL (bad) cholesterol that forms plaque and leads to heart weakening. Recent studies have shown that the intake of goji berries reduces high cholesterol levels. In particular, LDL cholesterol levels are reduced.
Free Radical Scavenging
Antioxidants, as the name suggests, are a wide range of chemicals that react and neutralize the action of free radicals produced in our body. Free radicals, if left alone, can damage our tissues, cells, cell membranes, and DNA over time, resulting in the development of various diseases. Research has suggested that the consumption of goji may help in the reduction of medical conditions related to free radicals. The antioxidants present in goji berry may also help in boosting the immune system.
Free radicals can attack the heart, just as any other organ. Although this happens over a long period of time, it is still required to take precautionary measures. Goji berry contains anti-oxidant chemicals that protect the heart from the attack of free radicals. Recent studies have noted significant free radical scavenging in the heart by goji berry extracts.
Maintains Healthy Body
The health benefits of goji berry include general well-being and a healthy body. Results of a study conducted suggest that consumption of goji berry enhance and improve gastrointestinal functions and reduces stress and fatigue. It also improves neurological and psychological performance as well.
Goji berry was not only eaten as food; the Chinese also used it to treat cancer in their traditional medicine. Scientific investigations about goji berry fruit extracts revealed various anti-cancerous properties. They were tested on human cancer cells, which showed considerable control over their growth. Apoptosis, or the sudden cell death, was observed for cancer cells when goji berry extracts were administered.
Protects Brain Cells
Free radicals can attack neurons or brain cells and the damaged brain cells can develop neurodegenerative diseases. These diseases can be effectively countered by consuming goji berry. Goji berry extracts have shown significant neuroprotective activity. The team that conducted research ascertained that goji berry possesses anti-aging effects and has suggested it as a preventive medicine.
Prevents Liver Damage
The liver is one of the most resilient organs in our body and it can protect itself from chemical, free radical, and physical damages. Goji berry has been used traditionally in Chinese medicine to treat liver diseases. The extracts of goji berry showed free radical scavenging and other protective properties in terms of maintaining liver health.
Ultraviolet radiation is one of the threats that we are all facing, due to the depletion of the ozone layer in several parts of the world. The exposure of the skin to UV radiation can result in skin damage and skin cancer in extreme cases. We can reduce this risk by consuming goji berries. Goji berry extracts can protect our skin from damage caused by UV radiation. Studies have shown that goji berries significantly reduce skin inflammation and immune suppression. The antioxidant potential in goji berries has been attributed to this action.
Improves Sleep Quality
Some of the Chinese traditional uses of goji berry were to induce sleep and to reduce stress. Research has shown that goji berry, when given to human subjects, improved their quality of sleep significantly without having any adverse effects.
Increases Semen & Sperm Quality
Goji berry has long been used in traditional Chinese medicine as an aphrodisiac. Scientific studies on goji berry’s aphrodisiac properties concluded that it can reduce the damage caused to the testes and provide protection against oxidative stress due to the presence of hydrogen peroxide in it. This can decrease semen count, as well as sperm quality.
Goji berry, due to its antioxidant properties, also helps in improving eyesight. The antioxidants protect the eye from free radicals that may cause loss of eyesight, cataracts, and other eye-related disorders.
Side Effects of Goji Berries
Although goji berry possesses many health benefits, a word of caution about the side effects of goji berry is necessary.
Allergic Reactions: Goji berries are known to be allergenic to some people, causing allergic reactions such as facial angioedema, dyspnea or shortness of breath, urticaria, itching in the mouth or ears, axilla, skin rashes, anaphylaxis, episodic rhinitis, and rhinoconjunctivitis.
Warfarin: Goji berries can also interact with drugs and may cause bleeding. Warfarin is one of the drugs that is known to be reactive with goji berries. Warfarin is used as an anticoagulant and reactions with goji berries during treatment with warfarin include induced bleeding. Patients undergoing treatment with warfarin, reported epistaxis, bruising, and rectal bleeding after taking goji berry juice. Apart from warfarin, aspirin, heparin, ibuprofen, and naproxen users also shouldn’t consume goji berries.
Other Medications: Goji berries can also react with certain antibiotics, antifungals, antivirals, anticancer drugs, antidepressant drugs, cholesterol-lowering drugs, drugs related to heart and blood vessels, hormonal drugs, immunosuppressant, and osteoporosis drugs. Users of these drugs should not take goji berries, as reactions might occur. Any medical applications of goji berries should be checked with your physician first, just to be safe!