The tiny goji berry with the taste a little like a cranberry and raisin combined has been touted by the media in the US as a super-fruit for a number of years now. Said to fight cancer, increase sex drive, and improve health and longevity, the goji berry can be purchased in its dried form, as a powder or pill, as a juice, or added to green tea, eaten in protein bars and cereals, and even covered in chocolate or yoghurt! So does it deserve all the hype it’s been getting?
Let’s start by putting the record straight. Goji berry is the commercial name for gou xi zi, Chinese wolfberry, (Lat: lycium barbarum or lycii fructus). However, the goji berry only grows in specific parts of Tibet, whereas the generic wolfberry grows in other regions of China and Asia. Both berries share the same properties, like different varieties of apples. Chinese wolfberries have been traditionally grown in the Himalayas for hundreds of years and are widely used in Asian cooking as an ingredient or garnish. In China, handfuls of the berries are often thrown into a soup to give it more flavor, and for its many medicinal properties. The old western saying “An apple a day keeps the doctor away” could be said of wolfberries in Asia. Packed with nutrients, vitamins and minerals, wolfberries contain more vitamin C than oranges, more beta carotene than carrots, and more iron than steak. That’s pretty impressive for such a small and fragile plant. Wolfberries are harvested from the vine and must be shaken off rather than picked because they are so delicate. There’s no messy peel or skin to take off and you only need to eat about half an ounce (10-15 gms) for a daily serving.
In TCM, gou xi zi is considered sweet and neutral in properties; nourishes liver, lungs and kidney yin/blood deficiency. It is used to treat diabetes, cancer, hypertension and fever. Good for poor vision, circulation, dizziness and tinnitus, and strengthens muscles and bones. Traditionally known as the longevity fruit, gou xi zi improves stamina, mood and general well-being.
Remember though, no matter how ”super” this fruit may be, like any other food it should be eaten in moderation and in as close to its natural form as possible to gain all of its benefits. A handful a day may just keep the doctor away.
Warning: studies have shown that goji berries may interact with blood thinners, such as warfarin. Ask your doctor if you intend using them.
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