Goji (or gogi) berries have only recently gained popularity in the West, but they’ve been known for centuries in Asia. Sometimes commonly known as “wolfberries,” goji berries contain a huge number of beneficial nutrients and vitamins in a tiny little berry package. Their scientific name is Lycium barbarum. The name “goji” comes from the popular Chinese name for the berries.
The little oblong berries are often dried into red raisins for storage and longevity. The goji berry itself grows in bunches on shrub-like trees that grow up to twelve feet high. These trees have pale purple flowers and are not actually trees. Amazingly, despite growing above ground, goji berries are closely related to potatoes.
The best berries, called “red diamonds,” originate in the Ningxia region of China. When you purchase goji berries in the store, they will most likely be dried or bottled as juice.
Goji berries are packed with eighteen amino acids, have more iron per pound than spinach, and have more beta carotene than carrots too. Truly amazing little berries!
In many Asian countries, goji has been used to treat allergies, liver and eye ailments, and more. The juice is often used to treat skin ailments like rashes by smearing it on. Western herbalists often prescribe goji to treat diabetes, hair and skin problems, to reduce signs of age, reduce wrinkles, improve oral hygiene, and more.
Goji is also known to have positive effects on Hepatitis B, memory enhancement, blood pressure problems, as an anti-inflammatory, and as an anti-fungale and bacterial killer. Of course, no Western studies have been done to prove any of these claims, but several Chinese and Tibetan studies have shown these to be true and current studies in India are being conducted to verify some of these claims.
When prescribed goji as a supplement by your herbalist or homeopathic doctor, you’ll most likely be given a juice recommendation. The juice, while tasty, is usually sold concentrated and will need to be mixed as you would most juice concentrates.
If berries are prescribed, they will likely be dried. They have a nutty flavor, but are difficult to eat straight and will likely need to be rehydrated. This is usually done by mixing the berries into some soup recipes, seeping them in hot water to make a tea (and rehydrate the berries), or chewed straight. They are somewhat tart, but very tasty—especially when mixed with other dried fruits as a snack.
Be aware that the dried berries also have tiny seeds in them that are about the size of a small sesame seed. For most people, they are not a problem, but if you have dentures or caps, you may have some difficulty with them getting caught in your appliances.
Even if you are not prescribed goji berries for an ailment, they are a great daily supplement. They are one of the most nutritionally dense foods known with the aforementioned antioxidants combined with vitamins C, B1 and B2, niacin, at least 30 trace minerals, and more.
Be aware, however, that hucksters have gotten hold of the goji craze and are promoting it to no end. No studies of Western science have proven anything about goji’s curative properties or health benefits beyond the content of the berries themselves. Only preliminary testing has thus far been conducted otherwise and no proven or published results are available to back any claims.
The next thing to understand is the difference between a goji berry, goji juice, and a dried goji berry. There are many nutrients and elements available in the berry (when whole or dried) that are not in the juice. This is mainly because the juice will not contain the skin’s value. So if you can use whole berries, you will be getting more bang for your buck.
Also be aware that, as yet, there are no organically-grown goji berries available on the market. So you will need to thoroughly wash them before eating (preferably with apple cider vinegar) or before reconstituting.
Here are some great ways to enjoy dried goji berries, once they’ve been washed:
• mix them in with a fruit smoothie, last so they’re only chopped
• party reconstitute them in hot water and mix them in with yogurt, pudding, oatmeal, hot cereal, or in vegetable soup
• put dried goji berries into your rice steamer when making rice
• mix dried berries in with nuts or trail mix
There are a lot of great ways to enjoy goji berries. How do you eat your little superfood?
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