Goji or Wolfberry?
Getting to Know China's Ancient Herbal Treasure
Goji berries, "wolfberries", Lycium barbarum L.
Courtesy of Rich Nature Nutraceutical Labs
Have you heard of the goji berry..... or wolfberry?
Most of us on this (mainly) North American distribution list have not, but
in its native region of Asia (particularly China), the wolfberry is known as
"gouqi", pronounced "goo-chee", a Chinese national treasure.
Now, if English-speaking "ears" heard that,
might it not become "goji"? Gouqi or "goji" is Mandarin for "wolfberry".
That's not what one might believe from the internet, however.
Marketers are finding success claiming that goji berries from Tibet
are the world's premium, a distinct specie different from
Lycium barbarum L. from central China.
And by the way, does anyone really think juicy, high-nutrient berries could be grown
commercially in the 10,000 ft high altitudes of Tibet? My Chinese colleagues tell me no one in
central China where goji berries are common believes that goji can be as good as their
reputation than anywhere but the Yellow River valleys of central China.
The Autonomous Region of Ningxia, the "Garden of China", is recognized by the Chinese
government and by practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine as the premier growing
region for goji berries. Ningxia is the location of an annual festival for the wolfberry, a
research institute for developing more productive wolfberry vines, and an international
symposium for wolfberry research.
But you'll find on the internet numerous references to Tibetan goji juice or berries being
different from wolfberries (Lycium barbarum L.), the 2000+ year old healthfood
revered in China as one of Nature's most complete foods.
So I'm treating goji and wolfberry as the same.
If you have a different point of view, drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org
As we look more closely at goji berry, it is not unreasonable to propose that available
literature (and now 3 books published over the past 3 years) propose goji berry as one of
Earth's most nutrient-dense foods.
Let's consider some of its characteristics, as this topic may be valuable for the western
world to get back on track with good whole food nutrition, plentiful exercise, and a halt to
modern world scourges of obesity, lethargy and premature disease.
In August 2006, I published the following article in the Natural Products Insider
Wolfberry: Nutritious Superfood
Additional information is available at Wikipedia
Wolfberry: Nutritious Superfood?
Gouqizi (“goo-chee-zee”), the Mandarin name for wolfberry (Lycium barbarum L.), is a
red berry of the Solanaceae nightshade family that includes tomato, eggplant, chili
pepper and potato. In vernacular English, gouqizi (literally “wolf”, “energy”, “berry”) or
gouqi (the wolfberry plant) has become “goji”.
For at least 2,000 years, wolfberry has grown wild in China and been used in common recipes
and traditional Chinese medicine. Eighteenth century Chinese farmers nicknamed gouqizi
“wolfberry” when they saw wolves feasting among the berry-laden vines during summer.
The Chinese revere wolfberry as a national treasure among the most nutrient dense of the
nation’s plants. This premise has stimulated scientific investigation about its potential health
benefits and systematic cultivation, commercialization
and now increasing export to the West.
Wolfberry contains significant percentages of daily macronutrient needs, including
carbohydrates, protein, fat and dietary fiber. In fact, soybean, another ancient Chinese plant
among the world’s most complete foods, is comparable across macronutrients.
Although wolfberries and soybeans are similar for macronutrient content, wolfberries provide
a significantly higher source of calories as energy from carbohydrates. Blueberries, by
contrast, do not have as much macronutrient value.
Seeds contain the wolfberry’s main complement of polyunsaturated fats such as linoleic
(omega-6) and linolenic (omega-3) acids.
It is the diversity and high concentration of micronutrients that
brand wolfberry as an exceptional health food.
With 11 essential minerals, 22 trace minerals, seven vitamins and 18 amino acids, it has
a nutritional profile of extraordinary richness.
For example, wolfberries provide up to 10 percent of the reference dietary intake (RDI) of
calcium, and up to 24 percent RDI for potassium — twice the amount in soybeans.
It has double the zinc content of soybeans and provides close to the RDI for selenium and
riboflavin. Wolfberry’s exceptional iron content, 100-percent RDI, is twice that provided by
soybeans, often regarded as the best plant source of iron.
In addition, wolfberries contain dozens of phytochemicals
with potential health properties under scientific study.
Wolfberry’s beta-carotene content per unit weight is among the highest for edible plants,
and the berry is an extraordinary source for zeaxanthin, an important carotenoid for retinal
pigment development, light filtering capacity and antioxidant function.
Further, there is a great deal of interest in polysaccharides, long-chain sugar molecules
characteristic of many herbal medicines like mushrooms and roots.
Polysaccharides are a primary source of fermentable fiber in the intestinal system.
Upon colonic metabolism, fermentable or “soluble fibers”
yield short-chain fatty acids (e.g., butyric, acetic and propionic acids) that are
* valuable for health of the colon epithelial lining
* enhance mineral uptake
* stabilize blood glucose levels
* lower pH (increase of acidity), which may reduce colon cancer risk, and
* stimulate immune functions.
Polysaccharides are a signature constituent of wolfberries, making up 31 percent of pulp
weight in premium quality wolfberries.
Functional Food Applications
Cultivated for a variety of food and beverage applications within China, but increasingly
grown for export as dried berries and pulp or juice powders, wolfberries are prized for their
versatility of color and nut-like taste in common meals, snacks, beverages and
A major effort is underway in Ningxia, China, to process a "functional"wolfberry wine.
Despite a dearth of published clinical research, myths of wolfberry’s traditional benefits
include longevity, aphrodisiac, analgesic, anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, antiviral,
immunestimulating, muscular strength, energy and vision health.
In laboratory and preliminary human research to date, wolfberries have demonstrated
potential benefits against cardiovascular and inflammatory diseases, some forms of cancer,
diabetes, premature aging, memory deficits, glaucoma and other forms of vision
degeneration, and lung disorders, among other diseases of oxidative stress.
Micronutrient richness combined with key health phytochemicals give wolfberries
remarkable nutritional synergy, making this berry
one of the most nutritious plant foods in nature.
Dr. Paul is senior author of a 2006 book entitled "Wolfberry: Nature’s Bounty of Nutrition
and Health" (Booksurge Publishing), Amazon.com via the
The Berry Doctor