Goji berries are hailed as a superfood and are a favourite ingredient in every food blogger’s chia pot, smoothie bowl and overnight oats. And as you probably already know, we feature goji berries in our Ombar Goji Berry chocolate bar. So what’s so special about these red berries?
Goji berries, also known as wolfberries, have been used for over 2,000 years in Asia as a medicinal herb and food supplement2, with reputed benefits for eyesight, anti-aging, immunity and living longer1, amongst others. They’re consumed as a regular part of the diet in China.1
As goji berries have taken off as a health food over here as well, modern science has been investigating these reputed health benefits. There are currently over 200 published research studies that feature goji berries. An impressive number for a humble berry!
Here are five of the potential health benefits of goji berries that have been backed up by science:
Goji berries have a special reputation in China for protecting the eyesight.1 And it seems the Chinese may be right, as goji berries are high in a carotenoid called zeaxanthin. It’s a tough word to pronounce, but basically it collects in the macula – the part of the eye that’s responsible for our sharpest vision – and helps protect it against light damage. Getting lots of zeaxanthin in our diet may even reduce our risk of macular degeneration, a leading cause of blindness.3 Zeaxanthin is found in small amounts in many vegetables and fruits, but goji is said to be our best-known natural source!1
Research has found that other substances called polysaccharides in goji may also have protective effects for the eyes, including protecting the retinal ganglion cells2 – nerve cells that transmit information from the eye to the brain; and protecting the photoreceptors in the retina4 – the rods and cones that respond to light.
2. Skin / anti-ageing
Here’s some good news if you’re concerned about keeping your youthful looks as you get older… goji berries could have protective effects for the skin, too. Studies suggest that eating these little red berries may help protect against sun damage to the skin from UV radiation5,6, probably thanks to their antioxidant effects.
3. Brain health and memory
Our brain could also benefit from goji’s anti-ageing activity. The polysaccharides in this super-berry may protect the brain against some types of damage associated with Alzheimer’s disease.8 They may even help stimulate nerve growth in the brain to support learning and memory.2 Zeaxanthin (remember this from the eye health benefits?) could also be playing a role here, as it accumulates in the brain and may have a protective effect.9
Another of goji berries’ traditional uses in China is to support immunity.7 The polysaccharides they contain are thought to ‘modulate’ the immune system.2 This means helping it to work better, both to fend off germs and infection, but also to control the immune response to prevent problems such as allergies. Goji berries are a good source of vitamin C too – an essential immune nutrient!
One study testing goji berries’ immune-enhancing effects found that elderly people who consumed a goji berry supplement had a stronger immune system response to a flu vaccine, compared to those who took a placebo.7 This research indicates that the people who consumed a goji supplement were better protected against infection.
Last, but certainly not least, goji berries could help your energy levels. One study found that volunteers who drank a goji berry juice for 14 days reported improved energy and reduced fatigue, compared to those who drank a placebo drink.10
OMBAR Goji Berry
Goji berries make a perfect partner for raw cacao, both in flavour and health benefits! Their zingy taste complements the bitterness of the cacao, and both demonstrate protective and antioxidant effects. Try them together in our Goji Berry Ombar.
- Benzie IFF, Wachtel-Galor S, editors. (2011). Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects. 2nd ed. Boca Raton: CRC Press/Taylor & Francis, Chapter 14: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects of Chinese Wolfberry.
- Cheng J et al. An evidence-based update on the pharmacological activities and possible molecular targets of Lycium barbarum polysaccharides. Drug Des Devel Ther. 2014 Dec 17;9:33-78.
- Scripsema NK et al. Lutein, Zeaxanthin, and meso-Zeaxanthin in the Clinical Management of Eye Disease. J Ophthalmol. 2015;2015:865179.
- Wang K et al. Retinal structure and function preservation by polysaccharides of wolfberry in a mouse model of retinal degeneration. Sci Rep. 2014 Dec 23;4:7601.
- Reeve VE et al. Mice drinking goji berry juice (Lycium barbarum) are protected from UV radiation-induced skin damage via antioxidant pathways. Photochem Photobiol Sci. 2010 Apr;9(4):601-7.
- Li H et al. Lycium barbarum polysaccharide protects human keratinocytes against UVB-induced photo-damage. Free Radic Res. 2017 Feb;51(2):200-210.
- Vidal K et al. Immunomodulatory effects of dietary supplementation with a milk-based wolfberry formulation in healthy elderly: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Rejuvenation Res. 2012 Feb;15(1):89-97.