Goji Berries, From Longevity To A Sharp Mind
Walk into any Chinese medicine store and you will be greeted by packages filled with dried red lozenge-shaped berries. These are the goji berry, berries used in Chinese traditional medicine for over five thousand years which are said to help people live longer and strengthen overall health.
While only a relatively recent addition to Western herbal medicine, their strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties have gained recent popularity, and now they can be found lining the shelves of popular health food stores far from Chinatown both in their dried form and as a delicious juice.
Long life, beauty, and happiness
In China, the ancient home of the goji berry, legends abound regarding the berry’s ability to grant long life. Countless Chinese herbalists recorded visits to out-of-the-way villages surrounded by goji trees, where they were greeted by residents who were all over a hundred years old.
In fact, the goji berry was said to be so potent that even drinking from a well near a goji tree would grant a long life, and poets of the early Chinese dynasties wrote poems praising this miraculous ability of the goji berry.
However, goji berries were not just associated with longevity. Chinese tradition held that goji berries would help a young woman become more beautiful, or an older woman retain her youthful beauty. Because of this, it was common for young girls to drink goji tea daily in the hope of attracting the eye of a handsome man.
That handsome man might also be drinking goji tea, as for men goji berries were supposed to help with virility. In fact, an old Chinese saying suggested that a man going on a long journey should not take goji berries with him so he could ensure that he would remain faithful to his wife at home!
Goji berries are high in chemical compounds called polysaccharides and carotenoids, which have demonstrated antioxidant activity 1. Antioxidants are fundamental for preventing and repairing oxidative damage at the cellular and DNA level, which can help contribute to anything from fatigue to cancer.
Thus, powerful antioxidants can help relieve a whole host of medical concerns, and it turns out that the antioxidants in goji berries are extraordinarily powerful! Clinical studies showed that patients drinking goji juice daily experienced a significant improvement in areas ranging from energy levels to sleep quality to concentration to gastrointestinal function 2, indicating that the antioxidants in goji berry can attack just about any ailment out there.
Studies have even begun to look into the reasons for the long association of goji berry with longevity, and are starting to find a lot of connections. For one thing, scientific research indicates that goji berry has protective effects against neurodegeneration typical of aging 3. And those protective effects aren’t just confined to the brain—goji berry has also shown protective effects against eyesight degeneration from causes like glaucoma 4.
Perhaps those Chinese herbalists were stumbling across villages filled with elders who had both sharp eyes and sharp minds?
To summarize the whole list of findings from modern scientific research, if you’re looking for a daily tonic to decrease stress, boost energy levels, improve concentration, reduce fatigue, preserve mental acuity, preserve your vision, or even just feel happier, then goji berry juice might be the drink of choice. Perhaps it’s time to update the saying—a goji a day keeps the doctor away!
1. Amagase H, Sun B, and C Borek. 2009. Lycium barbarum (goji) juice improves in vivo antioxidant biomarkers in serum of healthy adults. Nutrition Research 29(1): 19-25.
2. Amagase H and NR Farnsworth. 2011. A review of botanical characteristics, phytochemistry, clinical relevance in safety and efficacy of Lycium barbarum fruit (goji). Food Research International 44(7): 1702-1717.
3. Yu M-S, Leung S K-Y, Lai S-W, et al. 2005. Neuroprotective effects of anti-aging oriental medicine Lycium barbarum against B-amyloid peptide neurotoxicity. Experimental Gerontology 40(8-9): 716-727.
4. Chan H-C, Chang R C-C, Ip A K-C, et al. 2007. Neuroprotective effects of Lycium barbarum Lynn on protecting retinal ganglion cells in an ocular hypertension model of glaucoma. Experimental Neurology 203(1): 269-273.