Goji Berries: Properties and Benefits

Goji Berries

Goji berries have become very popular in recent years due to their allegedly miraculous therapeutic properties. Although many reports are unfounded, scientific research has formalized some of their benefits. Let’s see which ones


The Goji berries are the fruit of two plants belonging to the family Solanaceae, the Lycium chinense and Lycium barbarum. In Asia, especially in China, they are well known for their therapeutic  properties. Traditional Chinese medicine is believed to have been used for 2.000 years.

Goji berries: properties and benefits
Goji berries: properties and benefits

The Goji berries, also known as the fruit of longevity, grow spontaneously in the eastern regions. We find them from Mongolia to the Himalayas, Tibet and Chinese regions.

The fruit of the Goji berries is particular, has a bright red color reminiscent of that of cherries or some type of chili. The shape, rounded and elongated, recalls that of olives, the dimensions are similar to those of wild cherries. After harvesting in late summer or early autumn, the fruits are dried in the sun as dried fruit.

Index

As evidence of their beneficial properties there are some legends about monks who live in the Himalaya mountains. One of these narrates that thousands of years ago the monks consumed these fruits to promote meditation and improve their health.

In China not only the fruits are used for therapeutic purposes but also the other parts of the plant: flowers, seeds, leaves, bark and roots. The Goji berries are a very popular food in China where they are consumed almost daily by the majority of the population.

The Goji berries are fruits with high potential antioxidant that relieve oxidative stress. In this way they confer many health benefits such as the prevention of free radicals from damage to DNA, lipids and proteins.

Many pharmacological functions related to the eyes, kidneys and liver have been particularly promoted by the consumption of goji berries in populations. ( 1 )

The Goji berries have recently gained increasing popularity as a “superfruit” in North America and European countries because of their potential beneficial properties to health. For example, these fruits have been used since ancient times to increase longevity and for the benefits of the liver, kidneys and eyesight. ( 2 )

Chemical Composition

Chemical composition for 100 gr of dried Goji berries
Water g 7,50
Protein g 14,26
Fat g 0,39
Carbohydrates g 77,06
Fibers g 13
Sugars g 45,61
Minerals
Calcium mg 190
Iron mg 6,80
Sodium mg 298
Potassium mg 1134
Vitamins
Vitamin A IU 26822
Vitamin C mg 48,4

Source: USDA Database

The berries contain 18 amino acids, including 9  essential amino acids: threonine, tryptophan, lysine, isoleucine, methionine, valine, phenylalanine, histidine and leucine.

The berries also contain beta carotene, lycopene, lutein and zeaxanthin.

Linoleic acid is also present, a substance with antioxidant properties that is able to bring benefits to the immune system. Other constituents are polyphenols, flavonoids, steroids and polysaccharides.

Calories

100 grams of Goji berries have a calorie yield of 349 kcal.

Goji Berries: Properties and Benefits

The properties of the substances contained in Goji berries are many, as are the health  benefits that can be derived from their consumption. Generally 15-20 grams per day are enough.

Antioxidants

First of all, it must be emphasized that among all the fruits in the world, Goji berries are among those that contain the highest percentage of antioxidants. These substances, in addition to counteracting the activity of free radicals, slow down cellular aging.

An  American scientific test confirms their powerful antioxidant properties . The test, developed by the USDA ( United States Department of Agriculture ), measures the reaction capacity of antioxidants present in food.

The test is called O xigen R adical A bsorbance C apacity (ORAC). Based on the analyzes carried out, Goji berries rank first in this ranking. They clearly distance other types of fruit containing antioxidants (blueberries, raspberries, pomegranate etc). ( 3 )

Diabetes

The diabetes mellitus is characterized by high levels of glucose in the blood and is also known as hyperglycemia. ( 4 ) Due to the high costs and negative side effects of many oral blood glucose lowering drugs, the search for safer and more effective substitutes has become very important.

All this has led to the study of hypoglycaemic activity in other food sources such as Goji berries which have been shown to have a hypoglycaemic effect in cell and animal studies. ( 5 )

The hypoglycemic properties are supported by several studies on rats and rabbits. ( 67 )

Eye Benefits

Among the antioxidants contained in Goji berries is zeaxanthin, a carotenoid that has the ability to protect the eyes from the sun’s ultraviolet rays. It also decreases the risk of cataracts, especially if combined with another antioxidant, lutein.

One of the best known properties of this fruit is its ability to improve eyesight. Recent scientific studies have provided some foundation for this virtue of Goji berries.

A 2011 study found that drinking berry juice for 90 days significantly increases the concentration of zeaxanthin and antioxidants in the blood. In this way there is a greater protection of the eyes against oxidative stress which can lead to macular degeneration. ( 8 )

Another study shows that these fruits are beneficial to the eyes by improving retinal protection. The study suggests that Goji berry antioxidants are the equivalent of a natural treatment for glaucoma. ( 9 )

The protective properties of Goji berry extracts on retinal cells have been demonstrated in the early stage of retinal degeneration in both human and animal studies. ( 10 )

These fruits have also been shown to bring benefits to the eyes in a randomized controlled trial of healthy elderly participants. ( 11 )

Anticancer

A Chinese study published in the  US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health claims that Goji berries can be helpful in treating cancers. These fruits contain a chemical compound which is called beta sitosterol. This compound, in addition to contributing to the reduction of cancer cells, can also induce their death by apoptosis. ( 12 )

A 2014 study confirms the anticancer properties of these fruits and describes their ability to inhibit the growth of various types of cancer cells. ( 13 )

These fruits have been used in traditional Chinese medicine to prevent the onset and progression of tumors thanks to their rich phytochemical and antioxidant composition. According to the researchers, some of its ingredients may have a better therapeutic effect on tumors than other foods. ( 14 )

The conjugated polysaccharides present beautiful fruits have the ability to improve the body’s defense mechanisms in order to inhibit tumor growth without side effects. ( 15 )

Other studies have established that Goji berry compounds induce apoptosis and have antiproliferative activity against cancer cells. ( 16 )

Revitalizing

Thanks to the abundance of polysaccharides and minerals, berries have properties energy, revitalizing and invigorating. They are therefore recommended in case of weakness and psycho-physical stress.

According to a study published in the Journal of Alternative and Free Medicine , drink their regularly juice increases the body’s energy levels and also improves mood. In the study, people who drank berry juice for 2 weeks saw both their mood and energy levels improve. ( 17 )

Good Mood

The relationship between mood and pathologies is an association that has now been proven. It therefore becomes increasingly important to pay attention to nutrition.

The Goji berries have a high content of vitamins of group B. These vitamins are very important for the well being of the mind. The B1 vitamin is important for the nervous system and the B3 influence in a positive mood. ( 18 )

Bacche essiccate

Immune System

They also help fight allergies, have properties anti inflammatory, anti bacterial and anti fungal natural. Thanks to their powerful antioxidant properties and the presence of linoleic acid, Goji berries strengthen the immune system. They also stimulate the metabolism and bring benefits to the digestive functions. ( 19 )

They Lower Cholesterol

The cholesterol bad ( LDL ) is a major cause of heart disease and cardiovascular disease. This substance forms plaques that deposit on the blood vessels, hindering their normal flow.

In this way, the heart is forced to pump harder, thus supporting greater effort. The effort, protracted over time, leads to its weakening which can lead to a heart attack .

Recent studies have shown that regular intake of Goji berries can lead to a lowering of LDL cholesterol levels  in the blood.

A Chinese study on rabbits suggests that crude polysaccharide extracts and fruit extracts with water have properties that help reduce cholesterol and triglycerides. ( 20 )

Weight Loss

They are a food rich in dietary fiber, minerals and proteins. Inserted in a balanced diet they contribute to weight loss.

study conducted at the University of Ningxia has demonstrated this ability of Goji berriesGoji berries were administered to a group of overweight patients in the morning and afternoon. At the end of the experiment, most people lost weight tangibly.

According to studies, the daily ingestion of 14 g of berries for 45 days has increased protection blood antioxidant. This resulted in a significant reduction in abdominal fat. ( 21 )

An American study confirms that the consumption of these berries increases the metabolic rate and reduces the weight of the waist circumference. ( 22 )

Skin

They have a good content of beta-carotene, a compound known for its beneficial effects on the skin. A 2014 study suggests that Goji berry juice has antioxidant activity and protects against skin diseases caused by free radicals. ( 23 )

Anti Aging

Recent studies have investigated the various constituents of the berries responsible for anti-aging  properties. Among these, betaine, beta-carotene, zeaxanthin, ascorbic acid and flavonoids have been identified. ( 24 )

Increase in Fertility

With regard to male fertility there is a study that has demonstrated the effectiveness of these fruits as regards the sexual sphere. In particular, the results of the experiments reported these effects:

  • Greater quantity of spermatozoa
  • Better sexual ability
  • Increased testosterone levels

Research suggests that Goji berries could be an alternative to erectile dysfunction medications. ( 25 )

A study conducted in China suggests that Goji berries protect testicular tissues from heat-induced damage. Their consumption also increases antioxidant activity, sex hormone levels and protects testicular cells from oxidative damage. ( 26 )

These results therefore seem to confirm the properties useful for fighting infertility which are attributed to berries.

Neurological Protection

The effect protective neurologic the Goji berry has been shown in an experimental study that includes human clinical trials. Glutamate has been shown to be cytotoxic and is implicated in many neurodegenerative diseases including Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease. ( 27 ) For this reason, the reduction of glutamate toxicity is considered a therapeutic strategy for those neurodegenerative diseases.

A study in mice has shown that pre-treatment extract of berries has improved significantly neurological deficit by decreasing the size of the infarct, hemispheric swelling and water content in an experimental stroke model. ( 28 )

Recommended Doses

To obtain health benefits, it is recommended to take 20-25 gr of Goji berries dried daily. Scientific studies suggest that their intake should be for a period of at least 28 days.

In the case of juice, however, the recommended dose is 50-100 ml per day.

Are Goji Berries a Super Food?

A recent study highlighted the results of a test carried out on some volunteers who took Goji berry juice for 14 days. ( 27 ) At the end of the test these people recorded an increase in the following values:

  • Sleep quality
  • Energy availability
  • Athletic performance
  • Concentration ability
  • Relaxation

Contraindications

The Goji berries are undoubtedly many properties therapeutic. In some cases though, care must be taken before consuming them. Those taking medications for blood pressure or diabetes should seek medical advice to assess their situation and the opportunity to consume these fruits regularly.

Some complications may also occur in people with pollen allergies. Respiratory crises, nausea and urticaria could be the bad consequences of ingesting these fruits. ( 28 )

Like other foods belonging to the Solanaceae family  , if taken in excessive quantities, they can trigger intolerances. For this reason, it is good that children and pregnant or breastfeeding women stick to carefully ingesting only small quantities of these fruits.

In general, you should avoid consuming Goji berries in the following cases:

  • When taking anticoagulant medications such as Warfarin ( 29 )
  • When you have low blood sugar levels
  • Pregnant or breastfeeding  
  • In case of fruit allergies

Goji berries: properties and benefits

Curiosity

Goji berries and their  benefits are known to man since ancient times. It appears that the properties of Goji berries were known in China as early as 2600 BC

The popular tradition has long used them for the prevention of diabetes, for hepatitis, for strengthening the immune system and for treating male infertility.

In traditional Chinese medicine they are used for their anti-aging properties. Their sedative virtues and their ability to increase resistance to fatigue, both physical and mental, are also known.

In China, the annual Goji berry festival is celebrated every August. This period coincides with the harvest of the fruits.

These fruits can be considered a completely natural substitute for numerous tablet supplements. They are commercially dried, or in the form of fruit juice.

The Goji berries belong to the family Solanaceae, they belong to the same tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, peppers.

These berries can be eaten fresh or dried. In the western market they are also present in the form of juices. They are often boiled and treated like grapes for the preparation of wines.

The name Goji presumably derives from the Persian term gojeh which means, precisely, berry.

Goji Berries: Properties and Benefits

Italian language version

Disclaimer:

This is not a medical publication, the information provided on this site is for informational purposes only and is general in nature, they cannot in any way replace the prescriptions of a doctor or other health professionals authorized by law. The notions of posology, medical procedures and the description of the products on this site have an illustrative purpose and do not allow to acquire the necessary experience and manual skills for their practice or their use. If you have been prescribed medical treatment, I invite you not to interrupt or modify it, because all the suggestions you find on www.mr-loto.it  must always and in any case be compared with the opinion of your doctor.

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