Goji berries have been used for centuries in China and Tibet. Since their recent introduction into the world market, many health benefits claims have been made, some substantiated, and some not. One of the problems with the health claims is that some manufacturers use diluted goji juice; there is no production standardization. However, analysis of the pure berries indicates that they are high in vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and bioflavonoids.
Goji berries are very high in several vitamins and minerals, including vitamins C, B1 and B2, and they are a rich source of beta-carotene. Beta-carotene is known to enhance vision, and goji contains the highest level of beta-carotene of any plant. Goji berries contain antioxidants and essential amino acids. They are also 13 percent protein.
Goji has long been touted as an anti-aging food in Asia. The Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity scale, or ORAC, ranks goji as No. 1 in antioxidant levels. Antioxidants fight free-radicals, which are thought to play a key role in the development of diseases associated with aging such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, Alzheimer's, and Parkinson's.
Goji is used to enhance liver function. One compound in goji, betaine, is processed by the liver to produce choline. Choline guards against the development of fatty liver disease. Betaine also supports muscle growth, boosts memory and soothes nervous conditions.
Allergies and Immune System
A study published in 1992 by the Journal of the Beijing Medical University found that taking goji caused a reduction of antibodies from allergy-type reactions. The specific mechanics of this were thought to be due to goji's unique polysaccharide compound, LBP, which brought about an increase in CD8(+) T-cells and cytokine regulation. This immune-system activity is also thought to make goji an effective treatment for psoriasis.
Goji's LBP also increases the production of Interleukin-2, which is a cell protein that brings about tumor-fighting responses in several different types of cancer. It has been studied and used for some types of cancer treatment and in HIV treatment since 1983 in the United States.
In leukemia treatment, the goji compound physalin was shown to both halt the growth of HL-60 leukemia cells and kill existing cells.
Anti-inflammatory and Sexual Dysfunction
The goji compound beta-sitoserol is effective as a general anti-inflammatory against aches and joint pain. It is also the compound in goji that is effective in treating impotence and enlarged prostate. Beta-sitoserol improves sperm production and the quality of sperm, and it also enhances desire by increasing androgen levels.