Goji berries, the fruit of longevity, are very rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, proteins, trace elements, polysaccharides etc.
This makes them useful for:
• Increasing the energy level
• Improving the feeling of general well-being
• Strengthening the immune system
• Protecting and fighting against many types of cancer
• Preventing heart disease
• Lowering cholesterol
• Maintaining healthy blood pressure levels
• Balancing blood sugar levels
• Improving eyesight
• Improving liver and kidney functions
• Strengthening skin, bones and tendons
• Strengthening the nervous system
• Preventing morning sickness during pregnancy
• Conquering cellulite
• Helping in weight loss
• Boosting the libido
• Enhancing fertility
• Delaying ageing
The Ningxia Hui region of Northern China, where goji berries are grown and eaten on a daily basis, has 16 times as many centenarians -- people 100 years old or older -- as the rest of the country. As residents of the region age, they are much more active, healthy and vibrant than their peers in Western cultures. The small, red goji berry, traditionally regarded as the "longevity fruit," is a key ingredient in their healthy diet as it was in the diet of master Li Ching-Yuen, who allegedly lived longer than 250 years.
The reason is the rich antioxidant content of the berries.
Damage to our DNA opens the door to every imaginable disease and accelerates aging. In the course of living, our DNA is damaged by free radicals generated as a byproduct of normal metabolism and by exposure to toxins.
Although our bodies are equipped to continually repair themselves, they can become overwhelmed by too many free radicals, especially as we age. This results in the premature death of healthy cells, which may contribute to a variety of degenerative diseases and mutated cells, which can lead to cancer, unless antioxidants counter the onslaught.
Vitamins, minerals and amino acids may have antioxidant properties. Here are some of the key antioxidant nutrients found in goji berries and the vital body functions they support, in addition to fighting free radicals:
Antioxidants in Goji Berries
Body Functions Supported
The health of the heart
Immunity, healthy stomach lining
Conversion of carbohydrates into fuel
Healthy skin, bone, cartilage
Wound healing, fertility, vision, immunity
Energy, hormonal function, healthy skin
Healthy liver, thyroid, immunity, cancer protection
Sources: Wolfberry: Nature's Bounty of Nutrition & Health and www.supplementinfo.org.
Promoting Human Growth Hormone Production
Levels of human growth hormone decline as we age. A 70-year-old produces only one-tenth of the amount generated by a 20-year-old. This decline parallels physical deterioration, such as lower levels of energy, muscle- wasting and a tendency to store more body fat. Boosting the natural production of growth hormone helps us feel, look and function like a more youthful person.
Goji berries help our bodies do this in two ways:
• Potassium: Goji is a rich source of the mineral, which is vital for health and longevity. Insufficient potassium interferes with the normal function of the pituitary gland, which produces growth hormone.
• Amino acids: Certain amino acids promote the production of growth hormone. Goji is a rich source of l-glutamine and l-arginine, two amino acids which may work together to boost growth hormone levels and revitalize youthful appearance and function.
Enhancing Libido and Sexual Function
Diminished sexual function is not an inevitable part of aging. A lower sex drive in both men and women can be associated with decreased production of testosterone. Goji berries can help by increasing its production.
In Asia, goji berries are traditionally regarded as a strong sexual tonic. In addition, goji acts as a general tonic to improve overall stamina, mood and well-being. It can also help to decrease stress. All of these benefits are conducive to a healthy sex life.
The goji berry is an "adaptogen," a term used in the world of medicinal plants to describe a substance with a combination of therapeutic actions. An adaptogen invigorates and strengthens the system while helping the body to deal with stress without collapsing. It also supports the healthy function of the adrenal glands, which tend to get overworked in times of stress.
Goji berries are considered to be an especially beneficial adaptogen in Asia. The goji is believed to harmonize functions of the entire body, resulting in enhanced stamina, strength and energy.
The goji berry contains two key nutrients for healthy vision: zeaxanthin and lutein. These are concentrated at the center of the retina and protect the eye from the most common causes of age-related loss of sight, including macular degeneration, cataracts and diabetic retinopathy.
Free radicals also attack the eyes, and zeaxanthin and lutein protect against such damage. Animal research in China has shown that eating goji berries can reduce damage of the retina caused by free radicals.
Controlling Cholesterol and Blood Pressure
Goji berries have the ability to combat two key factors that promote heart disease: oxidized cholesterol and elevated blood pressure.
Cholesterol becomes especially dangerous when it oxidizes as a result of free radicals, and the oxidized blood fats then attach to artery walls as plaque. Our bodies have a built-in defense system, an enzyme called superoxide dismutase (SOD). SOD produces antioxidants to prevent cholesterol from oxidizing, but levels of SOD decline as we age.
Chinese research shows that goji berries can increase our production of SOD, reducing oxidization of cholesterol. Goji berries also contain other antioxidants that decrease oxidation of cholesterol and help to control blood pressure.
Keeping Vital Organs Healthy
In addition to helping keep the heart healthy, goji berries help balance blood sugar and enhance the liver, digestive system and skin:
• Blood sugar: Goji berries have been used in Asia for the treatment of diabetes and to help regulate high blood sugar, which is a precursor to both diabetes and heart disease.
• Liver: Several types of phytonutrients in the fruit enhance the ability of the liver to detoxify and guard against the organ being damaged by carcinogens and the hepatitis virus.
• Digestion: Goji berries are helpful for all types of digestive problems and can aid in recovery from digestive illnesses, such as ulcers and irritable bowel syndrome.
• Skin: Goji berries contain fatty acids, which can stimulate collagen production and retain moisture, resulting in younger-looking skin.
Goji berries are a rich source of two nutrients that are necessary for healthful sleep:
• Thiamin (B1): The vitamin is found in the hulls of grains, but it is missing from diets that mostly contain refined grains. Thiamin also improves mood, alleviates depression and increases energy levels.
• Magnesium: The mineral reduces the time it takes to fall asleep and improves the quality of sleep.
Supporting Brain Health
In addition to antioxidants that protect against free-radical damage to the brain, goji berries fight narrowing of the arteries that deliver oxygen and nutrients to brain cells. The fruit also helps our bodies produce choline, an essential nutrient that combats free radical damage linked to Alzheimer's disease. The combined effect supports healthy brain function.
How to Get the Longevity Benefits of Goji Berries
Goji berries are available as a dried fruit, as juices, as dried powder concentrate, as dietary supplements in capsules and as an ingredient in skin creams.
For more than 2,000 years, goji berries have been a staple remedy of traditional Chinese medicine. Known as the "longevity fruit," these small red berries also have unique immune-enhancing properties.
Your Immune System
Your body's immune system keeps you healthy by stopping foreign invaders, such as bacteria, viruses and carcinogens, from causing damage. It can malfunction in two ways. It can allow pathogens to attack, such as a cold virus. Or, it can mistakenly assume that some part of the body is an invader, attacking it and causing auto-immune disorders, such as:
• multiple sclerosis
• skin rashes or blisters
• joint pain or stiffness
• thyroid malfunction that results in tiredness, weight gain, sensitivity to cold or muscle aches
• ulcerative colitis
• rheumatoid arthritis
• type 1 diabetes
• celiac disease
Disease-Resisting Compounds in Goji Berries
Goji berries contain unique compounds known as Lycium barbarum polysaccharides, most often referred to as polysaccharides. Research has shown that these compounds enhance the body's ability to resist disease. Goji's polysaccharides have a chemical structure similar to substances found in echinacea and maitake mushrooms, herbs known for their ability to support a healthy immune system.
The berries are also a rich source of vitamin C and zinc, both of which are known to protect against disease and aid in recovery. Research at Case Western Reserve University has shown that zinc can shorten the length and severity of a cold. Zinc deficiencies are more likely to occur as we age and produce less stomach acid.
Vitamin C, an antioxidant, is needed for:
• growth and repair of all human tissues
• formation of collagen in skin, scar tissue, tendons, ligaments and blood vessels
• wound healing
• healthy cartilage, bones and teeth
Zinc, also an antioxidant, is needed for:
• regulation of appetite, taste and smell
• controlling stress
• normal growth and function
• healthy reproductive function in men and women
Immune cells are like guards that constantly police our bodies, looking for harmful intruders and attacking any they find. Problems arise when the immune cells misidentify healthy cells as invaders and attack these, essentially making the body turn on itself and triggering auto-immune disease. One in five Americans suffer from an auto-immune disease. Three out of four are women.
Goji berries help the immune system to distinguish more effectively between friend and foe. The fruit's polysaccharides provide cells with special sugars that support healthy immunity and enable cells to communicate more effectively with each other.
Author and pharmacist Earl Mindell calls goji's polysaccharides "master molecules" because they "command and control many of the body's most important biochemical defense systems."
Friendly Intestinal Bacteria
Goji berries also support healthy immunity by promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria in our gastrointestinal system. The fruit's combination of fiber content and polysaccharides naturally supports the growth of healthy intestinal bacteria, known as probiotics.
Probiotics have numerous benefits, including:
• enhancing the function of the immune system
• protecting against unhealthy bacteria that cause disease
• aiding in the digestive process
• reducing symptoms of digestive disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome
• helping in recovery from respiratory infections
• reducing the risk of allergies, including respiratory symptoms and allergic skin reactions
The protein in goji berries, which makes up 16 percent of the fruit, contains two key amino acids that support the immune system: l-arginine and l-glutamine. Both of these are building blocks for healthy immunity and work to reduce inflammation.