Dr. Travis Clarke (TCM) here.
Goji berries are one of my favourite superfood snacks. The nutritional and medicinal power of goji’s is such that they are actually classed as a “Superior Tonic Herb” in the Chinese medical tradition. According to this tradition, regular consumption of goji is said to lead to a long, vigorous, and happy life. It is revered for it’s “adaptogenic” qualities which invigorate and strengthen the system, creating robust health and vitality, and help the body to more easily deal with the stresses of life. In the Taoist practices of Longevity, goji is an essential herb to be included daily.
Goji berries are an amazingly nutrient rich superfood. They are a complete protein source, containing 19 different amino acids, which includes all 8 of the ‘essential’ amino acids. They contain the highest amounts of beta-carotene of any food, significant amounts of vitamins B1, B2 and B6, vitamin E, as well as trace minerals zinc, iron, copper, calcium, germanium, selenium and phosphorus.
As well as this fantastic array of nutrients found in goji, they also contain some of the highest levels of antioxidants in any food. Typically, they contain up to four times the amount of antioxidants as blueberries. We all now know the importance of antioxidants in our diet as they help protect our DNA from free radical damage. We must maximise our antioxidant levels if we wish to combat the increasing levels to toxins and free radicals our systems are becoming exposed to through diet and our modern environment.
Traditionally, goji have been the premium herb of choice for treating and improving eyesight. It appears that two specific antioxidants for healthy vision, Zeaxanthin and Lutein, are contained in goji. These antioxidants concentrate at the centre of the retina of the eye and protect the eye from free radical damage and aid in repair.
Another very beneficial use for goji is to help alleviate the nausea of ‘Morning Sickness’ in pregnant women. Goji have the ability to calm the digestion and settle the stomach. They achieve this via their traditionally understood action of tonifying the digestive function and regulating blood sugar levels. I strongly recommend any woman suffering with morning sickness to give goji a go, they really do help.
Goji is famed to help maintain and enhance the immune system. Research indicates that a range of polysaccharides found in the fruit have pharmacological effects on lymphocytes and have been shown to improve immunity, by stimulating T and B lymphocyte numbers and activity. As with all ‘adaptogenic’ herbs, however, the effect on the immune response is a regulatory one, with a double directional capability. This means that if an immune system needs activation and enhancement this is achieved. However, if an over-active immune system requires sedating, or down-regulation, the goji’s adaptogenic capabilities can achieve this also. This inbuilt intelligent interaction between an adaptogenic herb and the human organism is truly an incredible synergy.
All the above information can certainly help explain why goji has enjoyed the reputation as a superior longevity herb for thousands of years. However, further research has added even more compelling evidence to explain why goji can keep you feeling healthy, vibrant and vigorous well into advancing age. It appears that goji is high in substances called sesquiterpenoids, which have anti-inflammatory properties. These substances stimulate the pituitary and pineal glands which increases the production of Human Growth Hormone. This is the master hormone hat influences the levels of all the hormones in the body. As we age, our levels of HGH decrease, which is believed to greatly contribute to the degenerative processes in the body. To combat this, we must boost and support our production of HGH. Goji berry is the only food confirmed to stimulate HGH.
There is lots of excellent research on the amazing qualities and health benefits of the goji berry. One of the great things I enjoy about this food is that it taste great. You will mostly come across goji in its dried form, looking like a small orange/red sultana or raisin. They are great to eat as is, or you can blend them into smoothies, add them to soups, drop a few into a green tea, include in a ‘trail mix’ or add to desserts. They are very sweet in flavour, and a good therapeutic dose is roughly a handful per day. Try soaking them in water to re-hydrate them as an alternative to eating dried, and drink the soaking water too, don’t waste it. They are safe for all to eat, especially the kids, with no toxicity, however like most sweet fruits, overdosing can disrupt the bowels. In Chinese herbal lore, it is said that goji should not be consumed during a fever due to infection, or when suffering with diarrhea. Best place to source goji is from a health food store, or from your healthcare clinic. I like to source the best quality organic goji, as some commercial goji you can now buy in supermarkets are mass produced using pesticides.
I hope that sheds some light on this fantastic little super tonic. Try including goji berries into your dietary regime, they taste great and their benefits are outstanding.
Travis is available at Mornington Chinese Medicine on Tuesdays.
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