Spotlight on: Goji Berries!

This post is copied from our older, original blog. Original post date 11/14/2011.

By Marcie Bower, Lic.Ac.

You may have seen dried goji berries at your local health food store or even tried goji berry tea. You also may have taken goji berries as part of your Chinese Herbal Medicine formula!

Goji berries, called Gou Qi Zi in pinyin, are a very powerful herb in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), and also a superfood that is easy to incorporate into your diet at home! Goji berries, also known as Chinese Wolfberries or Lycium fruit, are used in our medicine to tonify the energy of the blood and yin, and also support the energy of the yang. They enter the kidney, lung, and liver energetic systems, and are incredibly nourishing. Because goji berries work to strengthen both the yin and yang energies of the body, they are appropriate for anybody suffering any sort of deficiency or weakness…particularly the natural weaknesses associated with aging. Because the kidneys control the low back and knees, goji berries can be a good supplement to treatments for chronic knee and back pain. Also, because the liver system is closely tied to our sleep cycle in TCM, goji berries can be an excellent dietary treatment for chronic insomnia.

As we said, goji berries enter the lung system and nourish it. This means they can be a great treatment for a lingering dry cough, chronic dry & sore throats, and a dry cough with scanty mucus production, perhaps tinged with blood. However, note that goji berries should NOT be used to treat the acute kind of cough that comes with a cold or a flu.

Perhaps the most common use in clinical practice relates to the effect of goji berries on the eyes. Goji berries are said to “brighten the eyes” by nourishing the liver and the blood…two systems that are closely related to the health of our vision in TCM. We therefore recommend goji berries for a host of eye-related issues, particularly blurred vision, floaters in the field of vision, dull or achy eyes, dull eye pain at the end of the day, trouble focusing when tired, or itching and redness after staring at a computer screen (but goji berries are not helpful for itching and redness from seasonal allergies.)

Biochemically, goji berries are filled with powerful antioxidants that can boost your immune system, lower cholesterol, and be useful in fighting cancer and heart disease. Scientific research has shown that the Vitamin A in goji berries may protect vision function in the aging process. (Isn’t that interesting, given what the TCM practitioners understood about goji berries 2000 years ago???) Also, very preliminary research has shown that goji berries may be neuro-protective and help to avoid diseases like Alzheimer’s.

So, how should you work goji berries into your diet? If you are seeing a Chinese Herbal Medicine practitioner for any of the above-mentioned issues, ask them about including Gou Qi Zi in your formula. Also, you can eat dried goji berries as a snack, either alone or mixed with nuts and dried fruit in trailmix. It is also very easy to make goji berry tea by boiling a handful of goji berries in water for 15 minutes and then drinking the strained decoction. You can also sprinkle on dry cereal, mix with yogurt, or include in homemade granola. I also happen to think they are delicious in spinach salad.

Dried goji berries are available at most healthfood stores – I know at the Wellesley Whole Foods, they are in the Health Supplement section. You can also buy them in bulk in Chinatown.

Enjoy! – alzheimers