Goji berries come from one of two species of the boxthorn shrub (Lycium chinense or barbarum). They contain a wide variety of nutrients and micronutrients:
With almost 50mg per 100g of fresh fruit, goji berries are an excellent source of vitamin C, one of the most important vitamins for human health. Also known as ascorbic acid, vitamin C helps to maintain the immune system, promote collagen formation and reduce fatigue, etc. (1)
Vitamin C is also a powerful antioxidant. Indeed, when it comes to antioxidants, the goji berry has more than its fair share.
Regularly referred to in magazines as a superfood, the goji berry appears to offer a veritable wealth of antioxidants, according to an increasing number of studies. In particular, it contains carotenoids and polysaccharides, which it seems are responsible for its antioxidant effects. (2) As one study commented, “the goji berry has been identified as an important source of antioxidant compounds, with properties beneficial for health”. (3)
Indeed, in traditional Chinese medicine, the goji berry has been associated with anti-aging effects, no doubt because of its antioxidant compounds which help fight the aging process. Goji berries have even been called “the fruit of eternal youth”.
Other properties are still being investigated. One recent study looked at the effects of a goji berry extract-based treatment on neuroplasticity of the prefrontal cortex and hippocampus in aged subjects. The treatment (3g of goji berries per kilo of bodyweight, for 60 days) resulted in a significant increase in dendritic morphology in these two regions of the brain, and greater immunoreactivity. (4)
The prefrontal cortex plays a decisive role in regulating mood, while the hippocampus is instrumental in the management of memory and awareness of the past. This study thus positions goji berry extract as a potential supplement for the brain.
In addition, the dendritic cells mentioned in this study are a population of leukocytes with original properties, involved in innate and acquired immunity (5). This would seem to support the use of goji berries in traditional Chinese medicine as an immunostimulant.
Another recent study evaluated the effect of a goji berry extract on abnormal breast cells. These trials not only demonstrated the extract’s absence of toxicity but also noted its ability to act against deviant cells. (6) However, there is a need for further expansion of research into goji berries. It has traditionally been associated with positive effects on vision, sexual function, cardiac health and glycaemia. (7-11)
In summary, goji berries constitute an excellent, natural health ally, with their high content of pro-immunity vitamin C, minerals and antioxidants. If you want to maximise your intake, a good option is to consume them in the form of a dietary supplement (such as Goji Berry Extract). This can be happily combined with other supplements too, including turmeric and vitamin D.