Goji berry: a miracle of nature or yet another spoof?

There are apparently some foodstuffs that are incomparably more valuable than any others and which additionally have unique qualities which are believed to improve your health. Goji berries are also included in this group. Countless articles have praised their unusual properties. So, it is worth checking whether these fruits are actually so "magical" as it is commonly considered.

Goji berries - what is it?

Goji berry is in fact a trade name for Chinese wolfberry fruit (Lycium chinense), a plant species belonging to the nightshade (Solanaceae) family - like potatoes and tomatoes. Wolfberries are native to some areas of Asia, mainly in China, as well as Mongolia, Japan, Korea and Taiwan. This fruit has long been used in traditional far East medicine as condition restorer which can improve your eyesight and protect your liver, but also used as medicinal material. At this point, however, an important aspect should be stressed: in accordance with contemoprary nomenclature, there are also other fruits called goji berries, which are closely related to Chinese wolfberry, but which are its younger child: known as Lycium barbarum. These fruits, unfortunately, are not good for consumption because they contain a lot of solanine and atropine which are toxic substances. I am mentioning this because the Internet is full of entires where many people complain about strange symptoms of poisoning after consumption of goji berries. This is probably related to the fact that some deceitful distributor or manufacturer have marketed Lycium barbarum instead of Lycium chinese or at least mixes these two types (fruits of both plants are difficult to distinguish, especially when dried).

Theories circulating around goji berries

We already know that there is a chance (although very remote) that you might come across inedible fruits whien buying Goji berries, the ones which contain toxic solanine and atropine. Let's suppose, however, that the possibility of such a mistake is very narrow, and we may focus on nutrition and healthy qualities of "real" goji berries: Lycium chinese.

Type "goji berries" in any Internet browser and you will get over 800 000 entries, a vast majority of which praise these fruits to the sky. Click on a random result and this is more or less what you can find:

"Goji berries (Lycium barbarum) are the most nutritionally dense fruit on Earth. This amazing little superfruit also contains natural anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal compounds. Their powerful antioxidant properties and polysaccharides help to boost the immune system. It’s no wonder then, that in traditional Chinese medicine they are renowned for increasing strength and longevity."

"In traditional Chinese medicine, the goji is said to act on the Kidney and Liver meridians to help with lower back pain, dizziness and eyesight. They are most often consumed raw, made into a tea or extract, or as an ingredient in soups."

"Goji berries have a healing effect on cataracts, eye diseases and skin allergies. They provide innovative antidote to cancer and diabetes. "

"Goji berries also provide certain phytochemicals, called sesquiterpenes. They promote the secretion of human growth hormone in the pituitary gland. In addition, Goji berries contain the amino acids L-arginine and L-glutamine, as well as the basic mineral potassium. These three nutrients or micro nutrients also support healthy production of growth hormones.."

"Goji berries have enjoyed popularity for many years, also with regard to the treatment of sexual impotence and not allowed to prostate hyperplasia."

By the way, we can also find a few legends about the unique properties of goji berries, which suggest that those who have eaten them regularly, have lived to the age of 500. If, on top of that, you read extensive descriptions of unique nutritional values goji berries have, you will no longer wonder why these fruits enjoy such a high prestige, such popularity and... such a high price.

What is really there in goji berries?

Goji berries are actually characterized by a high content of valuable ingredients. They deliver high doses of vitamins B2, C, provitamin A, zinc, selenium, potassium and fiber, as well as beta-carotene, lycopene, zeaxanthin, lutein, cryptoxanthin, only that the content of these components is not necessarily higher than in other fruits such as raspberries, strawberries and blackcurrants (of the same weight). So, the belief that gorging on goji berries will make your body better and healthier than after eating Bilberries has no justification - other than promotional.