What You Should Know About Goji Berries

Health Benefits, Common Uses, Tips, and More

Goji berries in a bamboo bowl and scattered on a wooden table
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Goji berries (Lycium barbarum) are a type of fruit often used to boost health. Frequently consumed as a whole food, they're said to enhance energy, stimulate the immune system, and stave off a host of health problems. Extracts of goji berries (and of the plant's root bark) are also sold in dietary supplement form.

In addition, products containing a blend of juices sourced from goji berries and from fruits such as acai, noni, mangosteen, camu camu, maqui, and tart cherries are sometimes touted for their supposedly health-promoting effects.

Goji berries grow on an evergreen shrub found in temperate and subtropical regions in China, Mongolia, and the Tibetan Himalayas. They contain compounds with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and have long been used in traditional Chinese medicine.

Uses for Goji Berries

Goji berries are said to aid in the treatment and/or prevention of a broad range of health issues, including:

Goji berries are also purported to promote weight loss, sharpen eyesight, fight cancer, lift mood, improve circulation, and slow up the aging process.

The Health Benefits of Goji Berries

Consuming goji berries on a regular basis may boost your general well-being, according to a report published in the Journal of Medicinal Food in 2012. For the report, researchers looked at four previously published clinical trials (including a total of 161 participants) that tested the effects of daily intake of juice made with goji berries.

In their analysis, the report's authors found that study members who consumed goji berry juice daily experienced significantly greater improvements in factors such as stress, sleep quality, and overall feelings of health (compared to study members given a placebo each day).

Additionally, several small studies have tested other potential health benefits of goji berries. Here's a look at some key findings from those studies:

  1. Weight Loss: A preliminary study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition ​in 2011 indicates that goji berries may support weight-loss efforts. In an experiment involving a group of overweight adults, the study's authors observed that those who consumed goji berry juice every day for two weeks experienced a greater decrease in waist size (compared to participants given a placebo for the same time period).
  2. Immune System: Goji berries may improve function, suggests a small study published in the ​Journal of Medicinal Food in 2009. For the study, 60 healthy older adults (ages 55 to 72) consumed either goji berry juice or a placebo every day for 30 days. By the study's end, those given goji berries showed a greater improvement in several markers of immune function. What's more, participants who consumed goji berry juice experienced greater improvements in fatigue, sleep quality, memory, and focus.
  3. Eyesight: Goji berries are a source of zeaxanthin, an antioxidant that may protect the eyes from high-energy light waves such as the sun's ultraviolet rays (along with the carotenoid lutein). Studies suggest that zeaxanthin and lutein in the eyes are associated with better vision and decreased the likelihood of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. Although goji berries are a source, zeaxanthin is found in many vegetables including kale, spinach, and broccoli. 

    Goji berries have a mild tangy taste that is slightly sweet and sour. The whole, dried berries have a similar shape and chewy texture as raisins.

    Other Names for Goji Berries

    Other names for goji berries are Lycium barbarum, wolfberry, gou qi zi, and Fructus lycii. In traditional Chinese medicine, goji berries are eaten raw, brewed into tea, added to Chinese soups, or made into liquid extracts.

    Goji berry juice and tea are available. The berries or juice can be used in smoothies. Whole goji berries are also an ingredient in packaged snack foods such as goji berry trail mix.

    Caveats When Taking Goji Berries

    While goji berries may not cause problems in moderation, they may trigger such side effects as nausea and stomach upset.

    Furthermore, goji berries may interact with certain medicines, such as blood thinners, blood pressure drugs, and diabetes medications. If you're currently on medication, talk to your doctor before consuming goji berries. Little is known about the safety of using goji supplements or consuming goji juice in the long-term. However, goji may lower blood sugar levels and increase the risk of bleeding.

    As with other supplements, goji berry supplements haven't been tested for safety in pregnant women, nursing mothers, children, and those with medical conditions or who are taking medications.

    Alternatives to Goji Berries

    A number of other antioxidant-rich berries may help preserve your health and protect you from illness. For instance, some research shows that following a diet high in anthocyanins may help shield you from heart disease. With their potent antioxidant effects, anthocyanins are found in the following fruits:

    Where to Find Them

    You can find whole goji berries, goji-berry-based juice, and dietary supplements containing goji berry extract in many natural-foods stores and drugstores.

    Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.