The Goji Berry

Elvis Elvis

The goji berry is a berry that is indigenous to many parts of Asia and Europe but is found mainly in eastern Asia with China having the only significant commercial cultivation. It is held in high reverence in these cultures as a highly nutritious food, and is widely used for health, herbal, and medicinal purposes. Its use in traditional Chinese medicine has been documented for 1,900 years, but its undocumented use extends well beyond this as far back as 4,000 years to the First Emperor of China, Shen Nung.

In Chinese Medicine the goji berry is known as a premier adaptogen. An adaptogen is an agent that can help the body naturally adapt to changes and stress. Identified in modern medicine by Nikolai Lazarev in 1947, these substances have been used for thousands of years to promote health in the body and have only recently been studied by science in the past sixty years. Reported benefits of adaptogens include enhanced immune system function, increased energy levels, and increased mental clarity and perception. In 1968 Israel I. Brekhman, PhD, and I.V. Dardymov, after studying adaptogens, described them as having three key qualities:

- An adaptogen is nontoxic to the recipient.

- An adaptogen produces a nonspecific response in the body – an increase in the power of resistance against multiple stressors including physical, chemical, or biological agents.

- An adaptogen has a normalizing influence on physiology, irrespective of the direction of change from physiological norms caused by the stressor.

In every-day terms this would say that adaptogens are nontoxic, create a defensive response in the body against stress, and work to normalize the body. Traditional Chinese Medicine also classifies the goji berry as a supertonic, or an agent that has the ability to normalize and help many different vital organs.

Health Benefits

The ingredients responsible for the berry’s health benefits are their unique polysaccharides, not found in any other food. These complex carbohydrates are credited with working at a cellular level to improve communication between cells. This makes it so that the benefits and nutrition offered by goji berries are not limited to a single part of the body, but instead contribute to total health more completely. Enhanced cellular coherence and organization has unlimited potential for benefiting the body because it is at the base level of nutrition and can impact any given area of health Proper cellular communication is already known to be one of the most critical factors in a healthy person, and is scientifically documented to prevent or help aid the body in dealing with any number of problems.

The Goji Berry

Goji berries are also a very antioxidant-rich food. Antioxidants are molecules that have the ability to slow down or prevent the oxidation of other molecules, a damaging process that starts a chain reaction of harming many cells and has a very negative effect on the human body. Antioxidants have recently come under intense scientific study and frequent praise from nutritionalists for their ability to prevent damage to the body at a molecular level, slowing the aging process, increasing energy levels, and possibly reducing the risk of diseases such as cancer. While goji berries have a very high concentration and range of antioxidants such as beta-carotene and zeaxanthin, they also have the unique ability to improve the rate at which the body processes these antioxidants. 19 different amino acids found in the berry help the body to accept these antioxidants and increase natural antioxidant production, making the protective effect they have on the body much more potent.

Natural Health “Super Fruit”

The goji berry is the most scientifically studied natural health “super fruit” to date with over 82 studies published on pubmed.gov, a federally-established service that officially documents scientific studies from life science journals and other sources. These articles have so far confirmed many of the reported health benefits, and as such, have sparked further interest from the natural health and science community. Other independent studies have also been performed, such as Freelife International’s clinical test of their product, GoChi Juice, a product made from the berry. This study was a double-blind, placebo controlled test in which one group was administered a placebo while the other received the GoChi Juice. The test was administered over a 14 day period. The results showed that the group who received the actual product showed a statistically significant improvement in the aspects of increased energy, reduced fatigue, increased focus, mental acuity, and athletic performance, reduced stress, increased feelings of calmness and content, feeling happier, healthier and more regular, better quality of sleep, and easier ability to wake up in the morning. The placebo group, however, showed a statistically significant improvement only in the area of increased happiness. These results were obtained with a confidence level at 90%-99%.

In today’s commercial industry the goji berry is sometimes sold as a whole or sun dried berry, but is most often marketed in the form of a juice where its nutrients are better protected. The sale of goji juice has benefited greatly from the explosion in interest in natural health foods and has received a significant amount of media attention from both publicly acclaimed doctors and nutritionists to celebrities and athletes. The production and sale of goji juice has been estimated to be a one billion dollar industry by 2011, though some believe it will happen much sooner.