Growing up, my mother prepared a hearty broth chock-full of Chinese herbs and meaty bones at least once a week. This was before bone broth became the mainstream “superfood” it is today. Goji berry was a champion ingredient that was featured in many nutrient-rich broths of my past. I never understood the benefits then; my mom would simply say “drink this, it’s good for you” and I obliged—slurping down a bowl morning and night without questioning her wisdom. She also often made tea with the goji berry seeds, which resulted in a delicious, lightly sweet, orange-coloured tea full of antioxidants. To this day, goji berry seed remains a pantry staple in modern Chinese households.
Goji berry, also known as Lycium barbarum, has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine and Chinese cuisine for well over 2000 years. Goji or as we say in Chinese “枸杞” has been documented for its impressive anti-aging and nourishment properties as early as 500 C.E. This ingredient has been very popular in the health and wellness zeitgeist as of late; healthy recipes, supplements and skincare have been bombarded with love for this hardworking berry. We use goji berry extract in our beloved Goji & Rose Balm—our soft and velvety formula is supercharged with nourishing and natural ingredients for your skin!
This vivid red fruit (and herb) packed with powerful antioxidants is often praised for being a superfood; it contains phytochemicals such as polysaccharides, beta-carotene, and phenolic compounds that are beneficial to one's health.
Scientific studies have backed the health benefits of the goji berry; it protects the eyes, provides immune system support, protects against cancer, promotes healthy skin, assists in anti-aging, stabilizes blood sugar, improves depression, and prevents liver damage.
The most important group of compounds present in goji berries is polysaccharides, which play a big role in nutrition. The polysaccharides found in goji berries are well-known for immunomodulation and antioxidant activities. A study that administered goji berry polysaccharides to aging mice found that it helped with improving immune function and increasing total antioxidant activity in the body.
Goji is loaded with beta-carotene, which is vital for eye health, bone health, skin health, and cell development. There is more beta-carotene in goji berries than in carrots! The amount of beta-carotene in goji berries is among the highest for edible plants. Zeaxanthin is one of the most common carotenoids found in goji berries, and it plays a crucial role in supporting the immune system. Researchers believe that zeaxanthin may be a potent protectant against macular degeneration and help provide vision support.
Lastly, phenolic compounds such as phenolic acids and flavonoids are abundantly high in antioxidant capacities. They prevent free radicals from damaging DNA, lipids, and proteins.
Goji berries can be baked, cooked, steamed, and processed in any way after they are rinsed with water. You can add dried goji berry to your smoothies, yoghurt, salads and oatmeal (you can treat them like dried cranberries) or you can put them in your soup and broth. My mother likes to make a hot tea with dried goji and ginger slices. If you would like to add goji berry to your diet just be cautious if you are on medication as it may affect blood thinners, blood pressure medications, and diabetes drugs. Always consult your doctor and only consume anything in moderation!
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Li, X., Ma, Y., & Liu, X. (2007). Effect of the Lycium barbarum polysaccharides on age-related oxidative stress in aged mice. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 111(3), 504–511. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2006.12.024
Ma, Z. F., Zhang, H., Teh, S. S., Wang, C. W., Zhang, Y., Hayford, F., … Zhu, Y. (2019). Goji Berries as a Potential Natural Antioxidant Medicine: An Insight into Their Molecular Mechanisms of Action. Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity, 2019, 1–9. doi: 10.1155/2019/2437397
Suica-Bunghez, I., Marius, A., Marian, N., Georgeta, R., & Ion, R.-M. (2012). Obtaining of Carotenoid Extract from Lycium Chinense and Characterization Using Spectometrical Analysis. Digest Journal of Nanomaterials and Biostructures, 7, 523-528.
Yang, R.-F., Zhao, C., Chen, X., Chan, S.-W., & Wu, J.-Y. (2015). Chemical properties and bioactivities of Goji (Lycium barbarum) polysaccharides extracted by different methods. Journal of Functional Foods, 17, 903–909. doi: 10.1016/j.jff.2015.06.045
Yao, R., Heinrich, M., & Weckerle, C. S. (2018). The genus Lycium as food and medicine: A botanical, ethnobotanical and historical review. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 212, 50–66. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2017.10.010