From Traditional Eastern Medicine to Western Superfood: The Goji Berry
The Goji berry, also known as the wolfberry, has had documented health benefits in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for at least 2,000 years. It is speculated through legend that a group of Chinese farmers witnessed a pack of wolves hiding behind the dense Goji berry vines – earning the name wolfberry. The Chinese are not the only people to recognize the health benefits of the Goji berry, however, as its believed that the Himalayan people were actually the first to use and cultivate Goji berries for their medicinal properties. They are also used in traditional Korean, Japanese, and Tibetan medicine. The Goji berry has since worked its way into the Western world and labeled as a “superfood”.
In TCM, the Goji berry has been used to balance “Yin” and “Yang”, specifically nourishing the kidney and liver. It is categorized as a tonic for Yin deficiency. It is also used in Chinese nutricosmetics, which are products used for the promotion of healthy skin and hair. Goji berries are not just used medicinally to treat ailments and diseases but are also included in a regular diet to promote general good health and longevity.
In addition to its longstanding use in traditional medicine, modern science has also shown that there are many benefits of including Goji berries in your diet. Goji berries contain 8 essential amino acids that the body does not synthetize on its own. They contain a high amount of the anti-oxidant Zeaxanthin which is known to help promote better eye sight and health, prevent eye diseases common with aging like glaucoma, and protect against UV rays. Goji berries are rich in vitamins A, B, and C, which are essential in supporting immune system health and fighting various ailments from the common cold to cancer. They contain beta-carotene, a plant phytochemical which has shown to protect the skin against UV rays and aging. Goji berries have been shown in scientific studies to have a positive impact on people with type 2 diabetes because they help to control the release of glucose into the blood. The combination of antioxidants and flavonoids in Goji berries are essential in protecting cells against oxidative damage. Oxidative damage is sustained when an atom has a free singular electron that then runs around the body in search of finding another free electron to pair with. Oxidative damage is a known underlying factor in many chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and various autoimmune diseases. Goji berries also contain methanol extract, which has shown to have positive effects on people suffering from anxiety and depression.
It’s no wonder that traditional eastern medicine has relied on Goji berries for thousands of years to aid in treating ailments. It’s high amount of essential amino acids, antioxidants, vitamins, and other properties make it a “superfood” in that it is a nutrient-dense food, and you can get so many good things for your body from just one fruit!
Source: Sun W, Shahrajabian MH, Cheng Q. Therapeutic Roles of Goji Berry and Ginseng in
Traditional Chinese. Journal of Nutrition and Food Security (JNFS), 2019; 4 (4293-305.)
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