Michael G. Pingicer, M.S., L.Ac.
Me and Go Qi Zi down by the schoolyard
I am a member of the Park Slope Food Coop and have been for many years. Members are required to work 2.75 hours every 4 weeks in order to keep the cost of running the place to a minimum. The result is a wonderful break on food prices that are 20 - 40 percent below market price. The department that I choose work in is the food processing department. This is where multiple bulk foods are broken down into varied purchasable sizes. The foods that fall under this category are dried fruits, nuts, olives, cheese, teas, and spices. It has always been a pleasure working in this department, as I learn a lot about the varied types of these foods from NY State Tilsit cave-aged cheese to Russian caravan tea.
One day when I was working my shift, I was told that we were stocking a new item at the Coop: goji berries, a.k.a. gou qi zi/Chinese wolfberry. Being a NCCAOM Board Certified Chinese Herbalist and a professor of TCM dietetics, this addition intrigued me and was pleasantly surprising. Goji berries are a part of the traditional Chinese herbal (TCM) pharmacopeia as are many other "food-herbs," herbs that can not only be taken in herbal decoction but can also be eaten in everyday life. Goji berries are also a mainstay at Chinatown markets and apparently, they had made the crossover into a Western market or at least the Park Slope Food Coop.
|Buyer Beware: Many merchants of the versatile Goji berry are overcharging for the herb and the juice. They should retail for no more than $40 per pound. These berry products are also marketed by the following names; Chinese Wolfberries, Lycium Fruit, Matrimony Vine Fruit, Goji, Gou Ji, Gou Qi Zi, Tibetan Gou Ji, Himalayan Goji.|
The Benefits of Goji Berries
This list of benefits are based in TCM and/or Modern Scientific Research
- Enhances vision
- Reduces fatigue
- Aphrodisiac, increases libido for women, and helps male erectile dysfunction
- Boosts Immunity
- Lowers Blood Pressure
- Reduces symptoms of diabetes (especially in combination with other herbs prescribed by your TCM herbalist)
- Helps stop dry coughing
- Helps stop sweating especially for some types of menopausal sweating
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TCM and the Goji Berry
The TCM dietetics approach treats foods as medicine. Each food has a temperature (hot, warm, neutral, cold, and cool) and taste(s) (sweet, salty, bitter, sour, and acrid or spicy). These properties help the practitioner to match up the proper herb or food with the proper diagnosis of the patient. I look into the diet of each of my patients in order to eradicate disease more quickly. For example; if the patient has a heat condition I would give them a list of predominately cool foods to eat until the heat condition is healed. After that, they can eat a balance cool and warm food. The properties of the goji berry are sweet with a neutral temperature, and it is a very safe herb to use with rarely causing allergic reactions.
Gou Qi Zi is the Chinese name for the lycium fruit that is more commonly known as the Chinese wolfberry or "goji berry" on the Western markets. It is also known as matrimony vine fruit for its libido enhancing effect. In TCM, the goji berry is typically used to nourish the blood and the yin and is a very safe herb, which is why it crosses over into the food-herb category. Goji berries are used by the Chinese population at large as a longevity/anti-aging food. It is typically put into rice congee (porridge) or into soups, which is extremely tasty. Traditionally the red goji berry is collected in summer and autumn, and is dried in the shade until the skin shrinks. It is then exposed to the sun until the outer skin becomes dry and hard but the inner pulp still soft.
|How You Can Use Goji Berries!|
Always rinse your berries well before consuming them.
My suggestions are as follows:
- In your oatmeal - Use them instead of raisins!
- In chicken & vegetable soup with noodles goji berries are a yummy addition!
- Urban trail mix - carry them around the city in a varied mix with other dried fruits and nuts. Great on the go snack that is healthy.
- Drink it - the juice is a very tasty and highly concentrated dose of the goji berry. Bring 8 cups of filtered or spring water to a boil. Add 1 cup of the rinsed berries to the boiling water. Simmer over a low flame for 30 minutes. Strain the berries from the water and drink one cup per day. Eat a handful of the boiled berries each day until they are gone. This trick will save you tons of money on over-priced goji juices that are sold on the open market.
- Tincture it. Soak ½ pound of goji berries in vodka for 3 weeks. Drink a shot daily. When the tincture runs out you can add more vodka and soak the same berries again for another 3 weeks.
The West Tests The Goji Berry
The West has caught on that this is a valuable food product to put on the shelves. It is expected to be a billion dollar industry by the next decade. There have also been some more recent studies done on the fruit that have supported the ancient Chinese notions. The tiny little red berry packs a powerful punch because tests show that it is an antioxidant, it helps to reduce hypertension/high blood pressure, and strengthens immunity.
Antioxidant TestAntioxidants are substances that may protect your cells against the effects of free radicals. Free radicals are molecules produced when your body breaks down food or by environmental exposures like tobacco smoke and radiation. Free radicals can damage cells and may play a role in heart disease, cancer and other diseases. Goji berries have been tested along with other Chinese medicinals and the goji berry came out on top as the herb with the most antioxidants. The results also suggest that goji berry extract is a good source of antioxidants in the daily diet. ORAC is the standard test, adopted by the US Department of Agriculture, to measure the potency of antioxidants in food. The Dietary Reference Intake (DRI measures proper micronutrient intake) for antioxidants is 5000 ORAC units. Check out this ORAC chart (from www.gojijuices.net):
|Fruits||ORAC Score||Grams needed to reach DRI|
As you can see, the ORAC score is off the charts for goji berries, but remember that they are just part of a full, healthy diet including other fruits and vegetables. Goji berries also contain a whole host of other macro and micronutrients that are beneficial to the body. Check out a list here.
Lycium barbarum polysaccharide (LBP), one of the many chemical components of the goji berry, was extracted and tested on rats with high blood pressure. It was found that the increase of blood pressure in hypertension rats could be prevented significantly by treatment with 10% LBP. If you do have serious hypertension, please don’t just eat goji berries and hope for the best. Goji berries can be eaten as part of a regimen to prevent hypertension and to keep your circulatory system healthy. Read this for more tips on how to lower your blood pressure.
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Goji berries are traditionally thought to prevent disease by keeping the immune system fully operational. They are thought to keep the colds and flus at bay, but there has been some interest in using components of the fruit in cancer therapy. In a study that looked at our friend lycium barbarum polysaccharide (LBP), the results suggest that LBP may induce immune responses and possess potential therapeutic efficacy in cancer. In a nutshell, the LBP may not have fought the cancer itself, but a dramatic increase in activity was demonstrated in the cancer-fighting components of the immune system. This type of research is important to the continual battle against cancer and other immune-deficiency diseases.
Click here to read my article on immunity boosting with TCM.
I hope that this has shed some light on one of the many Chinese food-herbs that have begun to show up in Western markets.
We have sold goji berries at Aiyana Acupuncture & Chinese Herbs for a long time. We find them to be extremely beneficial to many patients, and they can be used with almost anyone. Ask us about them today as we have high quality goji berries for sale. Call 212-894-0767 to order.
"A few years ago I pulled a leg muscle while running and the injury didn't heal on its own despite more than six months of rest. After just a few acupuncture treatments from Juliette the leg was as good as new and I was up and running again. Juliette was extremely knowledgeable in explaining to me what caused the injury and what I could do to minimize the chance of a recurrence. I would definitely use her again."