What is goji?
Often presented as “superfruits“, goji berries are berries that have been used for several millennia in Chinese and Tibetan pharmacopoeia. Traditionally used for their stimulating and toning virtues, goji berries have been the subject of numerous scientific studies in recent years.
Researchers have highlighted an exceptional composition of antioxidants and vitamins. It is for this reason that these small berries are today used worldwide as natural protective and toning agents.
Mainly derived from the common lyciet (Lycium barbarum), a shrub native to Asia, goji berries are now cultivated and marketed in many parts of the world. In the West, they are offered in the form of dried whole berries, juices or dietary supplements.
Origin, habitat and cultivation
The etymological origin of the word goji comes from the term “Gou Qi Zi”, which means fruit of happiness in Chinese. Although this name was proposed in the 1970s by the North American ethnobotanist Bradley Dobos, the goji berry has actually been known for several thousand years. Native to Asia, this berry comes from a shrub called Lyciet common or Lyciet de Barbarie (Lycium barbarum).
According to some studies, goji berry could also come from another species of lyciet: the Chinese lyciet (Lycium chinense).
Nevertheless, several researchers believe that it is still too early to assert that Lycium barbarum berry and Lycium chinense berry have the same characteristics and benefits. Additional studies are underway to clarify this debate.
Goji berry, or common lyciet berry, has been part of the Asian pharmacopoeia for several millennia. It is notably used for its tonic and stimulating virtues in traditional Chinese and Tibetan medicine. The common lyciet berry is also used for therapeutic purposes in Indian Ayurvedic medicine. It was not until the 1990s that goji berry arrived in the West thanks to the discoveries of several researchers. They attributed many health benefits to it, which gave it the status of “superfruit”. Since its entry into the Western market, goji berry has become increasingly popular and has aroused the interest of many scientists.
Goji berries are traditionally grown in China, Mongolia and Tibet. With the increasing demand for goji, the small berries are now being grown in other parts of the world, particularly in Europe and North America. The berries marketed are mainly from common lyciets, whose cultivation requires a temperate climate, a good amount of sunshine and alkaline, well-drained soil.
Appearance, composition and format
When conditions are optimal, the common lyciet can grow up to 3 meters high. This shrub is said to be a twiggy shrub, i.e. it grows by forming numerous branches on which purple flowers and red-orange fruits develop. The latter are the famous goji berries, which are harvested between August and October.
Goji berries are small, oblong in shape and red-orange in colour. Goji can be eaten as fresh or dried berries.
Due to their growing popularity, these berries are now used to produce goji juice.
They can also be powdered for the production of natural food supplements based on goji berries, available in capsule form.
The goji berry owes its “superfruit” status to its exceptional composition.
These small berries contain many nutrients and antioxidants, including :
- flavonoids like rutoside or rutin
- phenolic acids such as caffeic acid and chlorogenic acid
- vitamins including vitamin C (ascorbic acid), vitamin B1 (thiamine), vitamin B2 (riboflavin), vitamin B6, vitamin B12 (riboflavin), and vitamin E (tocopherol and tocotrienol)
- 21 minerals and trace elements including iron, zinc, selenium, calcium, phosphorus and copper
- plant sterols such as beta-sitosterol
- carotenoids such as zeaxanthin, beta-cryptoxanthin, beta-carotene and neoxanthin
- 18 amino acids including 8 essential amino acids such as tryptophan and isoleucine
Properties and desired effects
Antioxidant and anti-aging activity
Goji berries are known for their high content of antioxidants including vitamins C and E, flavonoids, carotenoids and phenolic acids. All of these molecules help to fight the damage caused by free radicals induced by oxidative stress. Thanks to their anti-oxidant activity, these molecules thus participate in the prevention of premature ageing of the body. For this reason, researchers attribute to goji berries a powerful antioxidant power and anti-aging effects.
Immunostimulating and anti-fatigue action
In addition to their richness in antioxidants, goji berries are often presented as “superfuge” because of their high content of vitamins, including vitamin C. The presence of this vitamin gives goji berries anti-fatigue properties and immunostimulant effects.
According to several studies, the stimulation of the immune system is also enhanced by the presence of polysaccharides in goji berries. These molecules would be able to stimulate the proliferation of white blood cells in the spleen.
Several studies have shown that goji berries may have neuroprotective effects. In particular, researchers have highlighted the protective activity of polysaccharides. The latter would make it possible to protect neurons against the toxicity of beta-amyloid peptides, whose aggregation is responsible for the occurrence of several neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease. Some research suggests that goji polysaccharides are particularly beneficial in protecting retinal ganglion cells, which correspond to a type of neuron in the retina.
Hypoglycemic and lipid-lowering effects
According to some scientific studies, goji berries also seem to have a positive effect on blood sugar, total cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Tests have shown an improvement in glycemic and lipid parameters in cases of diabetes and hyperlipidemia. These initial positive results open up promising prospects for the overall management of diabetes, hypercholesterolemia, obesity and metabolic syndrome.
Dosage and Dosage
According to studies conducted on this subject, a daily dose of between 6 and 15 g of dried goji berries would be needed to capitalize on their antioxidant activity and stimulating effect. When using dietary supplements, this daily dose is often lower and depends on the type of extract used.
Indeed, these nutritional supplements are generally formulated from extracts standardized in active ingredients, i.e. extracts with an optimal concentration of active molecules. This is why it is advisable to refer to the dosage and dose proposed by the manufacturers.
Contraindication, danger(s) and side effect(s)
Contraindications : Before starting a cure of food supplements, pregnant or breastfeeding women are advised to seek medical advice. In case of doubt, it is always recommended to consult a health professional.
Side effects: To date, the consumption of goji berries has not revealed any major side effects. Nevertheless, some people may have an allergy or intolerance to these berries. In case of doubt, it is preferable to seek medical advice.
As a preventive measure, goji berries are not recommended for people who are taking medication based on anticoagulants such as warfarin. Interactions between these substances and goji berries could occur. Medical advice is recommended before starting a cure.
- Antioxidant: Pomegranate, black garlic, acai
- Anti-fatigue: Ginseng, ginger
- Immunostimulant: Shiitake, reishi
Given the many benefits of goji berries, they are used in the preparation of many products including food supplements and juices. For optimal effectiveness and safety, it is necessary to be vigilant about the origin and quality of these products. In particular, it is advisable to verify the absence of GMOs.
The goji berry is the subject of many scientific studies in recent years. New results may contradict or supplement the information in this fact sheet. In case of doubt, it is advisable to contact a health professional.