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23/03/2009

Goji Berries effects on optimal health

(NaturalNews) Goji (also gogi) berries have been known for centuries in Asia, but only recently have gained great popularity in North America, so much so that a multi-billion dollar business in goji is expected within the next two years. Also known as wolfberries, they contain at least eighteen amino acids, more iron than spinach and more beta carotene than carrots. More than one writer has dubbed goji fruit as the most powerful, natural anti-aging food available. When dried, they have a nutty flavor.

Goji berries grow on woody plants that grow between three and twelve feet tall. The flowers resemble columbine blossoms and are pale purple in color. The goji is related to the potato family. The best berries, known as "red diamonds", are grown in the Ningxia region of China located in the north central part of the country. They are so treasured that the Chinese celebrate a several-day wolfberry festival each August. Traditional growing areas are the flood plains near the Yellow River. A well-advertised marketing ploy is that the best berries are grown in the Tibetan Himalayas, but this is untrue. The Chinese harvest the red, oblong berries by shaking the plants. The most popular export products are dried or powdered berries, and in a juice. A wine product is being evaluated. Goji plants have been cultivated in England since they were introduced as a tea tree in about 1730 by the third Duke of Argyll. They are common as hedges and are still a favorite with most of England`s birds.

In a number of Asian countries, goji has a lengthy history of treating allergies, chronic liver ailments, eye conditions, tuberculosis and rashes.

In the alternative medicine field, goji is known for its positive effects on hepatitis B, because of the physalin produced by the berries. It is also used to treat heart and blood pressure conditions, as a memory enhancer, a treatment for breast and cervical cancer, an anti-inflammatory, and an antifungal, antibacterial. Both the United States and Canada have reported they are yet to prove goji has a primary benefit for most of these conditions. The few published studies that claim benefits have all been done in China.

Dried berries are usually cooked before being eaten. They are most often used in soups or served in dishes such as rice congee. Both berries and leaves are used for tea. The bark can be applied as a poultice for infected wounds. The dried berries can be eaten as is. They have a slightly tart flavor. Goji berries are known for their multiple, tiny yellow seeds. These are truly miniscule and easily digested, but people with a lot of dental work, especially caps or veneers may find that the seeds get caught in their teeth. Berries are a natural source of belladonna, which may account for the faintly bitter aftertaste noted by this writer. A handful of berries makes a healthy snack and seems to be a bit of a pick-me-up.

Sources:

Sohn, E. 2008. Superfruits, superpowers? Los Angeles Times, March 10, 2008.

Runestad, T. 2007. Functional ingredients market overview. Functional Ingredients. October 2007

"Fruitless Search for the Tibetan Goji Berry" by Simon Parry, from South China Morning Post, December 2, 2006 (obtained via PDF)

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