Goji Berry History


The goji is a berry produced largely in China that alternative-health proponents assert has numerous medicinal properties. Its name is usually given as Lycii fructus, meaning Lycium fruit in Latin. Lycos resembles the Greek word for wolf, so its English name is Wolfberry. The Chinese name for the plant that produces goji is g'uqǐ. Zi means a berry that is a seed, hence g'uqǐzi or goji.

Earliest References

Shen Nung Ben Tsao (475-221 B.C.) is said to have noted the ability of goji berries to strengthen and replenish health. The Chinese poet Liu Yuzi (772-842) wrote of goji plants that intertwined along the sides of a well beside a monk's house. "The goji nourishes body and spirit. Drink of the well and enjoy a long life."

Ming Dynasty

In a physician's handbook written during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), Ben Cao Gang Mu wrote, "Taking in goji berry regularly may regulate the flow of vital energy and strengthen the physique, which can lead to longevity."

Ferdinand Magellan

Ferdinand Magellan is said to have mentioned the remarkable goji berry in a Portuguese expedition to the islands of Mulacca (modern day Indonesia) in 1511, although the precise reference is elusive.

Li Qing Yuen

Li Qing Yuen, born in 1677 or 1678, is said to have lived for either 252 or 256 years by eating goji berry soup every day.

Modern Popularity

In the first decade of the 21st century, alternative-health advocates began touting numerous, miraculous health benefits of the goji berry usually thought to have originated in the Himalayas. Some also say the goji berry is native to China. In truth, there are cultivars of goji berries in China, India, Nepal and Tibet. Most goji berries sold commercially in the west are grown in the fertile silt produced by the Huang He (Yellow) River as it flows through China's northern Ningxia province. The Chinese news agency Xinhau, an organ of the Chinese government, reports that the goji berries grown in Ningxia province have health benefits that are superior to other goji berries. The Chinese in Zingxia province hold an annual 2-week-long festival celebrating the numerous medicinal properties they believe it to hold. Numerous websites tout the authenticity of their Goji berries and Goji juice is fashionable in trendy bars and health food stores.

Keywords: goji berry history, about goji berries, goji berry facts

About this Author

Richard Hoyt, an internationally published author of 26 mysteries, thrillers and other novels, is a former reporter for Honolulu dailies and writer for "Newsweek" magazine. He taught nonfiction writing and journalism at the university level for 10 years. He holds a Ph.D. in American studies.