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History of Goji Berries: Good Things Come in Tiny Red Packages

organic goji berries

by Ariel Policano

Nowhere do you see food as medicine in such delicious form as the dynamic goji berry. This diminutive fruit packs an impressive variety of vitamins, minerals, anti-inflammatory flavonoids, cell protective antioxidants, and immune supportive long-chain sugars called polysaccharides. How’s that for a mouthful you can enjoy every day in your trail mix, a smoothie, or right out of the bag?

Also known as Lycium or wolfberry, the goji berry has a sweet and slightly tart flavor resembling a combination of cranberries and cherries. The earliest mention of the medicinal uses of the goji berry was in the first century BC. In the original Chinese pharmacopeia, Shen Nong’s Materia Medica, the goji berry was noted for its youth promoting and tonifying effects.

Traditional herbal uses of the goji berry over the past 2000 years have ranged from strengthening the liver and purifying the blood, to protecting healthy vision and revitalizing the energy stores of the body. Let’s look at some of the properties of this wonderful little powerhouse.

Goji berries on the vine

Flavonoids

The gorgeous bright reds, purples, and blues of berries inform us that flavonoids are present. It is almost as if the fruit is naturally drawing us with eye catching color to a health promoting food.

In medicine, there is something called the doctrine of signatures. Often the color or shape of food indicates its nutritional benefits. Consider the vivid red of the goji berry to reveal its potential to support the health of blood vessels, blood sugar regulation and overall circulation.

Foods high in flavonoids are also beneficial for preventing macular degeneration, helping the liver to detoxify more effectively, and supporting a healthy immune system.

Antioxidants

Antioxidants help protect our health at the cellular level from free radical damage. Simply put, free radicals are unstable molecules that cause aging and cellular damage. The benefits of a diet rich in antioxidants range from slowing the aging process to cancer prevention.

One group of powerful antioxidants is carotenoids. There are five carotenoids in the goji berry: lutein, lycopene, cryptoxanthin, zeaxanthin and the more well-known beta carotene. Consuming a variety of carotenoids targets different health benefits. For example, beta-carotene is liver protective, while lutein and zeaxanthin support eye health.  

Polysaccharides

The long-chain sugars present in goji berries, known as polysaccharides, are a very compelling aspect of this powerful little berry.

These sugars may profoundly support and balance the immune system because they act as fuel for healthy intestinal bacteria. 60% of the immune system exists in the intestines and the correct balance of healthy bacteria to crowd out the growth of yeast and fungus is crucial.

Another way that polysaccharides strengthen immunity is by binding to cell receptor sites in a sort of notification network. This can enhance the ability of the immune system to react when needed to prevent diseases both chronic and acute.

Chocolate Covered Goji Berry Recipe
Vitamins, Minerals, and Protein

As a source of complete protein, goji berries are packed with 18 amino acids, eight of which are essential. Goji berries also contain vitamins B1, B2, B6, C, and E, as well as up to 21 trace minerals, including iron, manganese, phosphorous, selenium, germanium, copper and even calcium.

Hormonal Health

One of the most amazing aspects of the goji berry is its ability to help stimulate Human Growth Hormone (HGH). Widely considered to be our internal Fountain of Youth, HGH is critical in anti-aging.

Goji berries can also support kidney yin, an important Chinese Medicine energy that translates to maintaining proper adrenal function and the healthy production of hormones.

Additionally, the goji berry’s ability to support a well functioning liver can help break down excess estrogen in the body, which often improves women’s health conditions including hormonal migraines, PMS, fibrocystic breasts and more.

How Nature Intended It to Be

Industrial agriculture has led to the prevalence of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), which are created by altering the molecular structure of food. There are currently no labeling laws requiring the disclosure of GMOs in food. However, the Non-GMO Project’s verification seal validates foods as GMO-free through independent testing. As North America’s only third party non-GMO verification and labeling source, this non-profit organization has verified Sunfood goji berries to be free of GMOs.

Enjoy the incredible health benefits of goji berries the way nature intended them to be. Try them in a sun-infused tea with vanilla powder, in smoothies, salads and even salad dressings, or on the trail with a cacao nib, goji, and cashew mix. Delicious!

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