Health Benefits of Goji Berry or Wolfberry
The health benefits of goji berry include the control of diabetes, the lowering of cholesterol, free radical scavenging, cardiovascular protection, possible cancer control, protection of brain cells, protection of the liver and skin protection from UV radiation. It also helps in improving eyesight, general well-being and strengthening the immune system.
Goji, or wolfberry, is used in traditional Chinese medicine and in food preparation in China. The juice of wolfberries and the berries themselves are sold for the various health benefits that it offers. 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 considered to be native to China and it also grows 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. The Goji tree grows up to a height of about 3 meters. The berries of Goji are small, up to 2cm, 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 other 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 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 Berries
Diabetes Control: Diabetes has emerged as one 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 disease, cardiovascular disease, 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 hypoglycaemic properties. Studies also indicate that using goji berries to control diabetes will yield no negative side effects.
Cholesterol Control: Cholesterol is one of the major reasons for the development of heart disease and cardiovascular disease. 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 one 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 or the 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 that are 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 studies have 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.
Cardiovascular Protection: Free radicals can also attack the heart, just as any other organ. When heart muscles are attacked, the result can be that the heart will be weakened. Although this happens over a long period of time, it is still required to take precautionary measures. Goji berry can act as a protective measure, as it contains anti-oxidant chemicals that can protect the heart from the attack of free radicals. Recent studies have noted significant free radical scavenging in the heart by goji berry extracts.
Healthy Body: The health benefits of goji berry also 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 reduce stress and fatigue. It also improves neurological and psychological performance as well.
Anti-Cancer Properties: Goji berry has not only been eaten as food; the Chinese also used it to treat cancer in their traditional medicine. Scientific investigations into goji berry fruit extracts revealed various anti-cancerous properties. They were tested on human cancer cells, which showed considerable control over the growth of cancer cells. Apoptosis, or the sudden death of cells, was observed for cancer cells when goji berry extracts were administered.
Protects Brain Cells from Damage: We have mentioned that unstable chemicals called free radicals attack our body from the inside. Sometimes, they can also attack neurons or brain cells. The damaged brain cells can develop neurodegenerative diseases. These neurodegenerative 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.
Protects Liver from 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. However, this cycle of damage and regeneration can ultimately result in liver damage. Goji berry, on the other hand, has been used traditionally in Chinese medicine to frequently treat liver diseases. The extracts of goji berry showed free radical scavenging in the liver and protective properties.
Skin protection: 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. Apart from this, easy awakening was also observed, compared to the control group.
Increases Semen and 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 provides protection against oxidative stress by hydrogen peroxide, which can decrease semen count, as well as sperm quality.
Vision Improvement: 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.
A Word of Caution Regarding Goji Berry
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 rhino conjunctivitis.
Warfarin: Goji berries can also interact with drugs and may cause bleeding. Warfarin is one of the drugs that has been 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 warfari, 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 relevant physician first, just to be safe!