Goji berry (Lycium barbarum) is a shrub that takes its name from the red berries it produces. Historically, the plant has been harvested for thousands of years in Asia, particularly in China and Tibet. It is mentioned in the ancient medicine book “Tractate for Herbs and Their Properties,” claiming that goji berries can help restore lost body liquids, calm the soul and rejuvenate the skin. In another ancient Chinese book named “Herbs and Food Healing,” the berries are said to help repair muscles and tendons, and provide protection from illnesses.1
The goji berry has been praised in Chinese literature, particularly by the poet Liu Juncy from the Tan dynasty. In a poem, he writes that the water surrounding goji berry shrubs may promote longevity.2
What Is a Goji Berry Anyway?
Goji berries are the small red fruits of the goji berry shrub. The plant is a member of the nightshade family, which includes tomatoes and peppers. They can grow up to a height of 5 feet, and spring from bright purple, funnel-shaped flowers. At first, these berries have an orange shade, but as they mature will slowly change to their well-known red color.3 Goji berries taste like very sweet cherry tomatoes when rehydrated.4
But the question is, are goji berries good for you? This shrub has been around for thousands of years, and historical evidence from Chinese and Tibetan healers have reported its healing effects on various ailments such as tuberculosis, insomnia, eye problems and skin rashes.
The reputation of the berries eventually spread to various countries. Today, scientific studies have been done on these berries to actually confirm their health benefits.5
The Health Benefits of Goji Berries
Even in small servings, goji berries are packed with nutrients that can help promote optimal health. The most well-known benefits of this shrub include:6,7
- Optimal Weight Management
Goji berries contain high levels of fiber, which can help you feel fuller for longer. As a result, it reduces the feeling of hunger, leading to fewer calories consumed.
- Healthy Vision
A recent study has found that goji berries contain zeaxanthin, an antioxidant known for helping maintain healthy vision. It’s also the compound responsible for providing the berries with their distinctive bright red color. In the same study, the researchers found that those who consumed goji berries regularly had less hypopigmentation and less drusen in their eye.8
- Increased Testosterone Levels
Goji berries may help increase men’s testosterone levels. In an animal study, researchers discovered that goji berries improved sperm quantity, recovery of testosterone levels and improved sexual ability in mice. If you’re suffering from erectile dysfunction, these berries can be a potential natural alternative to pharmaceutical solutions.
- Diabetes Management
Researchers have discovered that goji berries contain hypoglycemic properties, which can benefit diabetics. In short, consuming these berries may help control your blood sugar levels safely.
- Cancer Prevention
Goji berries contain potential anticancer benefits, according to a recent study published in Life Sciences. Researchers tested goji berry extracts on cancer cells and found out that they induced apoptosis on the cancer, effectively stopping it from spreading further.9
The Uses of Goji Berries
Goji berries are mainly added to soups and salads, but they can also be consumed as a beverage, in the form of tea or juice.
When cooking with goji berries, you can use them for sweet or savory dishes. For example, you can use them in place of raisins for cookies, oatmeal and other similar foods. They can also be blended and added to juices for additional flavor. For savory recipes, they can be added to salsa, chili or other foods that need a bit of sweetness.10
How to Eat Goji Berries
Goji berries are versatile and can be enjoyed in various ways. Below are just a few examples you can try out:11
- Raw: You can eat goji berries right away as a snack (but take note to eat them in moderation).
- Juice: Goji berries can be juiced to create a tasty beverage.
- Tea: Add goji berries in a cup of warm water for five to 10 minutes. Once they soften, enjoy a drink loaded with antioxidants.
- Smoothie: Soak goji berries for 10 minutes to soften them before adding to your favorite smoothiefor a boost in essential nutrients.
- Trail mix: Add goji berries to your favorite trail mix.
- Soup: Add goji berries to your soup for extra flavor.
However, be aware that goji berries contain fructose. If consumed too frequently, fructose could cause insulin resistance, which can be harmful to your health. Eat goji berries in moderation and try to limit their overuse in your meals.
Goji Berries Recipe:
Turkish Pilaf with Saffron and Goji Berries
Goji berries are quite easy to use in recipes. They can form the foundation for a smoothie, or can be used in gourmet dishes, such as this Turkish pilaf recipe. It contains a mixture of various ingredients that creates an exotic flavor, making it great for a weekend dinner. The use of various vegetables ensures that you have all the nutrients you need to make it a healthy meal.12
|2 large garlic cloves
||85 grams of organic brown rice
||3 celery sticks, finely chopped
||1 medium onion, halved and very thinly sliced
|A generous pinch of saffron
||½ tsp. of ground cinnamon
||1 Tbsp. of fresh thyme leaves
||100 grams of baby spinach leaves
|3 tsp. of coconut oil
||1 tsp. of vegetable bouillon
||1 Tbsp. of dried goji berries
||25 grams of flaked almonds
|200 grams of turkey thigh, diced
- Finely chop the garlic and set aside. Meanwhile, pour 2 Tbsp. of boiling water over the saffron and set aside to infuse. Heat 2 tsp. of coconut oil in a large sauté pan with a lid, then add the diced turkey and fry for 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until it starts to brown.
- Stir the rice and cinnamon into the pan, then pour in 400 milliliters of boiling water and the bouillon, and stir well. Add the celery, thyme, goji berries and lots of ground black pepper. Cover the pan tightly to prevent steam escaping, and cook over low heat for 20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, heat the remaining oil in a pan and add the onion. When it starts to soften, cover the pan for 5 minutes to steam it a little more. Take off the lid and slowly fry for 12 to 15 minutes until golden, stirring frequently.
- After the rice has cooked for 20 minutes, check the water level — if the rice is still too nutty and the liquid has all been absorbed, add up to 100 milliliters more water. Stir in the saffron, cover again and cook for 5 to 10 minutes until the rice is tender.
- Add the garlic and spinach, cook briefly to wilt the leaves, and then turn off the heat. Toss through the fried onions and almonds. Cover the pan and leave to rest for 5 minutes before serving.
Growing Goji Berries in Your Home
Growing your own goji berry plant is beneficial for you and your family, because you’ll have an instant source of protein, fiber and vitamins without having to ingest dangerous toxins into your system. As an added bonus, you get to save money as well.
The best thing about goji berries is that they’re very easy to grow, as they tolerate various types of soil. What’s important is that the soil you’ll be using should have a pH level between 6.8 and 8.1. If the level is lower than this range, you can add some lime.13
There are two ways to plant goji berries. The first one is the traditional method, which uses seeds. The other one is planting a bare root stock, which will allow you to get fruit sooner.14 Either option will serve you well.
Goji berries are versatile when it comes to where you plant them. They can grow comfortably outside in your garden bed or in a pot indoors. This is beneficial for those who live in colder climates. If you live in a location that experiences winter, it’s better for you to plant goji berries in a pot.15 This will help preserve the plant while it is growing.
Goji berry shrubs take time before they can bear fruit, around two to three years. But when they do reach maturity, they can be harvested from the late summer until the first frost. To maximize the berries you can harvest, make sure to train plants against a wall or fence by tying the lax stems onto wires.16
Goji Berries Nutritional Facts
Serving Size: 100 grams
|Calories from Fat
*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
The Side Effects of Goji Berries
Despite the growing popularity of goji berries, you should not just jump into eating them right away, especially if you’re dealing with a medical condition. For example, if you’re taking blood-thinning medications such as warfarin, it’s recommended that you avoid goji berries because they may interfere with the medicine. The berries have an effect on pancreatic and insulin function, which can lead to hazardous results.17
The blood flow benefits of goji berries can negatively affect hemophiliacs and the elderly. That’s because the increased blood flow can lead to increased bleeding whenever you sustain an injury. In addition, the atropine found in the berries can cause dizziness, nausea and blurred vision among the elderly.18
Before taking any goji berry product, always consult with a doctor to check if it’s safe to consume.