Goji Berries, the Wellness Warriors
BY: Kimberly Cihlar
March 5, 2022
Nourish the skin you’re in with the super, nutrient-packed, power-punch wallop of the tiny little goji berry. But what, exactly, is a goji berry, aka wolfberry, you ask?
This teeny, vibrant, red fruit is from a species of honeysuckle commonly known as the goji berry. It is a little, claret-colored dried or plumped-up piece of deliciousness from a shrub native to China. In Latin, one would refer to this berry as Lycium barbarum or Lycium Chinese, both members of the nightshade family, and similar in look and taste. In everyday existence, you’d call it the healthy wellness assist you’ve always wanted and needed!
HISTORY OF GOJI BERRIES
Historically, this ancient little powerhouse has been used as both medicine and food, including as a garnish on traditional Asian dishes. The sweet, slightly sour flavor makes a wonderful addition to any dish, but the traditional medicinal use, for over a thousand years, has been to help slow signs of aging, support eye health, and strengthen organs like the kidney, liver and lungs. It also enhances immunity, and can help ward off illness and infection. Studies show that drinking goji juice increases immune cell production, and improves feelings of well-being.
Over time, goji berries rooted themselves in modern pharmacopeias as a holistic method of treating many common health issues like high blood pressure and diabetes, as well as age-related eye problems. Goji berries, which some wellness advocates term a “superfood,” are eaten raw, cooked, or dried (like raisins) and even used in herbal teas, juices, wines, and other traditional Chinese medicine concoctions.
I first came across gojis while wending my way into wellness awareness about a decade ago. I was involved with a whole food program that was teaching us about superfoods and supplements, smoothies and sustenance, leafy greens, and go-to nutrients for optimal health and happiness. I remember feeling uncertain how to use the nutrient-rich little fruits, but quickly became enamored of their sour but delightful taste sensation. My favorite way to eat them turned out to be letting them plump-up in hot water and using their chewy goodness, and sweet and sour liquor as a medicinal sort of healing tea.
WELLNESS BENEFITS FROM THE INSIDE
There are so many great health and nutritional benefits rolled into this miniscule gem of a berry, including providing vitamins for the skin, and carotenoids and other properties for the body. For their size, nutrient-dense goji berries pack a super punch of antioxidants. Some health professionals swear they have strong cancer-fighting properties. Their antioxidant-rich and stress-relieving properties also allow for maximum skin hydration and health.
They are said to provide benefits like giving a sense of calmness or well-being, helping with athletic performance, aiding in better sleep, and all the while boosting your immune system. They’re also a good source of protein, with plenty of vitamins C and A, and fiber and iron thrown in for good measure.
Gojis are a fun grab-on-the-go snack, great to throw into smoothies, augment açaí bowls, or sprinkle on avocado mousses. If you don’t want to eat them raw, cook with them, drink their juice, or plump them up in hot water as an herbal tea. Alternatively, you can take a goji supplement in the form of zeaxanthin, which is one of the most common carotenoids found in nature, synthesized from the pigment that gives goji and other plants like saffron and paprika their vibrant hue.
I first learned about gojis from Holistic Nutritional Wellness Coach, Sacha Jones, who adorns her morning ginger, turmeric and lemon-laced heated “fire water” with gojis. She advises avoiding them if you have any sensitivity to the nightshade family, and notes that it’s important to buy organic.
I love how Jones intellectualizes goji berries: “They’re hearty plants, and can withstand drought and an array of weather conditions. I always think foods that grow in challenging conditions help us with all kinds of human challenges!”
Goji berries' anti-aging benefits stem from the antioxidants that inhibit oxidation, or deterioration, at a cellular level. Antioxidants can remove potentially damaging oxidizing agents, helping skin age slower, better and healthier. The berry also helps to stabilize blood sugar, so it might aid in balancing insulin and glucose levels in the blood. Some studies show that goji berries increase HDL levels, the good cholesterol numbers.
GOJI BERRIES ON THE OUTSIDE: SKINCARE CREAMS AND MORE
Skincare products with goji berry as an ingredient are becoming more popular. Why use goji berries for skin care? Let’s start with clearer, brighter, healthier skin. Goji berries promote good skin, the natural heavy-lifters giving your skin an antioxidant-abundant amping up, unlocking free radical fighters. Main benefits include reducing oxidative stress, promoting production of collagen and elastin, as well as reducing hyperpigmentation. Anti-inflammatory properties are key, and you will most likely notice skin tone improvement, and sun protection from UV light as other great plusses.
Products like Kat Burki Skincare’s Goji Essence, with its powerful triple threat list of superfoods, super-acids and super peptides that includes the key ingredient of gojis, gently exfoliates, aids with the cycle of skin renewal, and hydrates so that lines and wrinkles might become blurred and alleviated.
CONTRAINDICATIONS: THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND
Check with your doctor before incorporating this delightful superfood into your already healthy diet, especially if you are taking certain drugs, like blood thinners (warfarin, for example) or other medications for diabetes or high blood pressure. The same is true if you are pregnant, or experience any underlying health conditions.
Shine from the inside out, and the outside in, with this gem of a superfood berry, which should make us all want to “go, go, goji!”