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Goji Berry: Uses, Benefits, Side Effects By Dr. Rajeev Singh

By Dr Rajeev Singh +2 more

Introduction: 

Goji berries are orange-red berries with a sweet-tangy flavour. Goji berry is also called Chinese wolfberry, possibly because the Chinese observed the wolves eating goji berries. It is known as a ‘super fruit’ because of its wide range of medicinal properties. The scientific name of the goji berry is Lycium barbarum, belonging to the family Solanaceae. Goji berries are widely grown in China, Japan, Taiwan, Korea and Mongolia. China is the leading producer of goji berries and is often grown in Gansu, Shaanxi, Xinjiang and Hebei regions. Traditional Chinese medicine has used goji berry for over 2000 years due to its nutritional benefits.1 Let us look at some of the benefits of eating goji berries. 

Nutritional Value of Goji Berry: 

Goji berries may contain several bioactive compounds like dipalmitin zeaxanthin carotenoids, betaine, polysaccharides, cryptoxanthin, neoxanthin, β-carotene, fatty acids, organic acids, phenylpropanoids, flavonoids and many more.1 Additionally, goji berries may contain the following nutrients: 

goji berry benefits

Nutritional Components Value 
Energy 349 kcal 
Water 7.5 g 
Fats 0.39 g 
Protein 14.3 g 
Fibre 13 g 
Carbohydrate 77.1 g 
Total sugars 4.6 g 
Iron 6.8 mg 
Sodium 298 mg 
Calcium 190 mg 
Vitamin A (retinol) 26800 IU 
Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) 48.4 mg 
Lycine 0.233 g 
Threonine 0.358 g 
Valine 0.316 g 
Cystine 0.144 g 

Table 1: Nutritional value of goji berries2 

Researchers believe that regular consumption of Goji berry juice may result in increased vitality, focus, physical performance, mental clarity, and emotions of peace and satisfaction. Goji berries are well known for their antioxidant property which is believed to reduce oxidative stress and potentially improve the state of mind.

Dr. Siddharth Gupta, MD

Properties of Goji Berry: 

Several studies have shown that goji berries may have the following properties: 

  • It may lower blood sugar levels.1 
  • It may lower bad cholesterol levels (LDL- low-density lipoprotein).1 
  • It may boost the immune system.1 
  • It may protect against cancer.1 
  • It may be an antioxidant.1 
  • It may have properties to protect the retina in the eye.1 
  • It may have anti-ageing properties.3 
  • It may protect the liver.3 
  • It may have anti-microbial properties.3 

Potential Uses of Goji Berry for Overall Health 

Did you know Goji berry may act as an anti-ageing agent? Goji berries have proven anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that may help rejuvenate skin cells by reducing oxidative stress and free radical damage to the cells.

Dr. Rajeev Singh, BAMS

Some of the potential uses of goji berries are: 

1. Potential use of goji berry to improve the immune function 

Hsu et al., published in 2019, that a study conducted on humans showed that goji berry might improve the immune system. The mechanism was by increasing the number of lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell) and immunoglobulin G (a type of antibody).3,4 However, large-scale studies are required to check this claim. You must keep a healthy lifestyle and take steps to boost your immune system on a daily basis. Feel free to consult a healthcare provider for tips on boosting your immunity. 

2. Potential use of goji berry for cancer 

A study by Wawruszak et al. in 2016 showed that goji berry extract might be beneficial for breast cancer as it can cause the death of cancer cells (apoptosis). Additionally, a bioactive compound, betaine, in goji berry may reduce the risk of colorectal cancer.3,5 However, more studies are required to check the anti-cancer effect of goji berries. Cancer is a dangerous disease; therefore, you must take proper treatment instead of self-medicating. Please do not rely on goji berries alone for managing your condition. 

3. Potential use of goji berry for diabetes 

A study by Silva et al. in 2017 showed that goji berry might lower blood glucose levels; therefore, it may be beneficial for diabetes mellitus. In addition, bioactive polysaccharide-protein complex in goji berries may improve insulin resistance due to a bioactive polysaccharide-protein complex. Insulin is a hormone that may control the amount of sugar in the blood. With insulin resistance, the glucose might not enter the body cells and is built up in the blood. This may lead to high blood glucose levels.3,6 However, these studies were conducted on animals, and further studies on humans are yet to be done. Therefore, you must check your sugar levels regularly and consult your doctor if you have abnormal sugar levels.  

4. Potential use of goji berry for heart 

A study by Pint et al. In 2010 showed that polysaccharides in goji berries might protect the heart. Goji berries may regulate blood pressure and reduce bad cholesterol levels, thereby protecting the heart.3,7 However, more studies are yet to be done to check if goji berries may be beneficial to protect the heart. Therefore, you must consult your doctor if you have any symptoms of heart disease. 

5. Potential use of goji berry for liver diseases 

A study by Azami et al. in 2019 showed that goji berries might contain a bioactive compound, zeaxanthin dipalmitate, which may protect the liver. Goji berries may inhibit scarring and thickening of liver tissue and reduce collagen (a protein that provides structure to the tissues) levels, which may harm the liver when in excess. Additionally, zeaxanthin dipalmitate in goji berry may lower the levels of liver enzymes like ALT (alanine transaminase) and AST (aspartate aminotransferase). High levels of these liver enzymes may indicate some liver disease.3,8 However, more studies on humans are yet to be done to check if goji berries may be beneficial for liver diseases. Therefore, you must consult your doctor if you experience any symptoms of liver disease. 

6. Potential use of goji berry for eyes 

Goji berries may contain carotenoids, zeaxanthin and lutein, which are also present in the retina of human eyes. These bioactive compounds may protect the retina from harmful free radicals, blue light damage and dry-eye disease (condition where tears are insufficient in lubrication of the eye). Zeaxanthin in goji berries may be beneficial for eye diseases like cataracts, glaucoma and retinitis pigmentosa (a genetic disorder that may cause loss of vision). Goji berries may inhibit macular degeneration (part of the retina at the back of the eye).3 However, more studies are required to check if goji berries may be beneficial for eye diseases. However, you must consult your doctor if you feel any discomfort in your eyes. 

7. Potential use of goji berry for skin 

In a study by Reeve et al. in 2009, vitamin C, lycopene, lutein, nicotinic acid and polyphenol compounds in goji berry may protect the skin from harmful UV rays. These compounds may also reduce inflammation caused by sunburns and reduce the risk of skin cancer.9 However, more studies are yet to be done to check whether goji berries may benefit the skin. Therefore, you must consult your doctor if you see any abnormality on your skin. 

8. Potential use of goji berry as a prebiotic 

A study by Liao et al. in 2017 suggested that adding goji berries to yoghurt or Sichuan pickle may maintain the viability of lactic acid bacteria (gut bacteria).3 More studies are yet to be done to check the effect of goji berry as a prebiotic. Therefore, consult a doctor to know more about taking care of your gut health and avoid self-medicating. 

Though studies show the benefits of goji berry in various conditions, these are insufficient, and there is a need for further studies to establish the true extent of the benefits of goji berry on human health. 

Also Read: What is a Huckleberry: A Detailed Look at This Unique Fruit

How to Use Goji Berry? 

Goji berries can be consumed in the following way: 

  • Goji berry can be eaten as supplements.  
  • Dried goji berries can be eaten raw or cooked before consuming them. 
  • Goji berries can be added as an ingredient in herbal teas and soups. 
  • You can consume goji berry juice.1 

You must consult a qualified doctor before taking goji berries in large quantities or any herbal supplements. Do not discontinue or replace an ongoing treatment of modern medicine with an ayurvedic/herbal preparation without consulting a qualified doctor. 

Also Read: Hawthorn Berry: Benefits, Uses, Side Effects & More 

Side Effects of Goji Berry 

Side effects of goji berry may be seen if you eat it in excess or are allergic to it. One article suggests that goji berries may cause the following side effects:1 

  • It may cause urticaria (rashes and swelling on skin) on the hand, palms and lips.  
  • It may cause oedema (swelling caused by trapped fluid).  
  • It may cause rhinitis (runny nose). 
  • It may cause dyspneoa (shortness of breath).  
  • It may cause pruritis (itching of the skin). 
  • It may cause dysphagia (difficulty in swallowing). 

You must consult your doctor if you have any side effects after consuming goji berries. 

Precautions to Take with Goji Berry 

The following precautions must be taken before consuming goji berries: 

  • Pregnant and breastfeeding mothers should be cautious before consuming goji berries.10 
  • People who are allergic to goji berries should refrain from having them. People allergic to tomato, nuts, peach or tobacco may also be allergic to goji berries.10 

It is advised to consult your doctor before consuming goji berries if you have any pre-existing diseases like diabetes and high blood pressure and you are taking medicines for the same. 

Interactions with Other Drugs: 

Goji berries may interact with the following drugs: 

  • Goji berry may interact with warfarin (a drug used to prevent blood clots).10 
  • Goji berry may interact with Flecainide (a drug used to manage irregular heart rhythm).10 
  • Goji berries may interact with hypertensives (medications used to lower high blood pressure).10 
  • It may also interact with medicines used for diabetes.10 

You must consult a doctor before consuming goji berries if you are undergoing any medical treatment. 

Also Read: Golden Berry: Health Benefits, Uses, Side Effects & More! 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): 

What are goji berries benefits? 

There are several goji benefits. Goji berries may be beneficial for diseases like cancer and diabetes. It may boost the immune system and protect the heart and the liver. It may also be used as a prebiotic. Additionally, it may be beneficial for the skin and eyes.3-9 However, you must consult your doctor instead of self-medicating if you have symptoms of any diseases. 

What are goji berries side effects? 

According to the findings of one article, goji berry may cause urticaria (rashes and swelling on the skin) on the hand, palms and lips, oedema (swelling caused by trapped fluid), rhinitis (runny nose), dyspnea (shortness of breath), pruritis (itching on the skin) and dysphagia (difficulty in swallowing).1 Side effects of goji berry may be seen if you eat it in excess or are allergic to it. You must consult your doctor if you have any side effects after consuming goji berries. 

Is there any use of goji berry for skin? 

Goji berries may protect the skin from harmful UV rays. Goji berries may also reduce inflammation caused by sunburns and reduce the risk of skin cancer.9 You must consult your doctor if you see any abnormality on your skin. 

What are the bioactive compounds in goji berry as nutrients? 

Goji berries may contain several bioactive compounds like dipalmitin zeaxanthin carotenoids, betaine, polysaccharides, cryptoxanthin, neoxanthin, β-carotene, fatty acids, organic acids, phenylpropanoids, flavonoids and many more.1 Goji berry may contain fats, proteins, fibres, carbohydrates and sugars. It may contain minerals like iron, sodium and calcium. Goji berry vitamins include vitamins A and C. Additionally, it may contain amino acids like lycine, threonine, valine, cysteine and many more.2 

Which drugs interact with goji berries? 

Goji berry may interact with warfarin (a drug used to slow blood clots), Flecainide (a drug used to maintain a heartbeat). Goji berries may also interact with hypertensives (medications used for high blood pressure) and medicines used for diabetes.10 You must consult your doctor before consuming goji berry if you are undergoing any medical treatment. 

References: 

  1. Kulczyński B, Gramza-Michałowska A. Goji berry (Lycium barbarum): composition and health effects–a review. Polish Journal of Food and Nutrition Sciences. 2016 Jun 30;66(2):67-76. Available from: http://journal.pan.olsztyn.pl/pdf-98443-31199?filename=Goji%20Berry%20_Lycium.pdf 
  1. Goji berries, dried [Internet]. Food Data Central. [cited 2022 Oct11]. Available from: https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/173032/nutrients 
  1. Skenderidis P, Leontopoulos S, Lampakis D. Goji berry: Health promoting properties. Nutraceuticals. 2022 Mar 14;2(1):32-48. Available from: https://www.mdpi.com/1661-3821/2/1/3 
  1. Hsu CH, Nance DM, Amagase H. A meta-analysis of clinical improvements of general well-being by a standardized Lycium barbarum. Journal of medicinal food. 2012 Nov 1;15(11):1006-14. Available from: https://kmbase.medric.or.kr/KMID/1161420120150111006 
  1. Wawruszak A, Czerwonka A, Okła K, Rzeski W. Anticancer effect of ethanol Lycium barbarum (Goji berry) extract on human breast cancer T47D cell line. Natural product research. 2016 Sep 1;30(17):1993-6. Available from: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/14786419.2015.1101691 
  1. Silva CS, Alves BC, Azzalis LA, Junqueira VB, Fonseca R, Fonseca AL, Fonseca FL. Goji Berry (Lycium Barbarum) in the treatment of diabetes mellitus: a systematic review. Food research. 2017. Available from: https://agris.fao.org/agris-search/search.do?recordID=DJ20210133781 
  1. Lu SP, Zhao PT. Chemical characterization of Lycium barbarum polysaccharides and their reducing myocardial injury in ischemia/reperfusion of rat heart. International Journal of Biological Macromolecules. 2010 Dec 1;47(5):681-4. Available from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0141813010002643 
  1. Bahaji Azami NL, Sun M. Zeaxanthin dipalmitate in the treatment of liver disease. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 2019 Aug 21;2019. Available from: https://www.hindawi.com/journals/ecam/2019/1475163/ 

Disclaimer: The information provided here is for educational/awareness purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical treatment by a healthcare professional and should not be relied upon to diagnose or treat any medical condition. The reader should consult a registered medical practitioner to determine the appropriateness of the information and before consuming any medication. PharmEasy does not provide any guarantee or warranty (express or implied) regarding the accuracy, adequacy, completeness, legality, reliability or usefulness of the information; and disclaims any liability arising thereof.

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