Goji Berry Super Food
Lots of foods are super foods, in terms of anti-oxidant or anti-biotic value, like cabbage, nettles, and onions. One that has received a lot of well deserved hype are “Goji Berries” or Gou Qi Zi in Chinese Medicine and Culture.
Gou Qi Zi are packed with all kinds of phytochemicals such a beta-carotene, zeaxanthin, betaine, polysaccharides (LBPs), trace minerals, Vitamins B and C, and even linoleic acid.. They have proven anti-oxidant value.
In fact, historically, Goji Berries were classified in Chinese Medicine’s Ben Cao, or Divine Husbandman’s Classic (here the husbanding is a reference to farming–mother earth being the wife.) one of the world’s oldest herbal pharmacopeias, in the category of Superior Tonics–namely tonics that promote health, wellness, and longevity in addition to fight disease, and that can be used by most anyone with minimal restrictions (see below.)
This differentiates them from an herbs like Da Huang/Rhubarb, for example, which are used to specifically fight disease, that remove heat and purge blockage, but that have to be used with great caution and for only short periods. Once they have done their job, you stop taking them.
Gou Qi Zi, Kugi Cha in Korean, Kukoshi in Japanese, and Fructus Lycii Chinensis in pharmaceutical Latin, are in the category of medicines that “nourish the Blood.” This is a characteristic they share with hearty foods like nuts, milk, and meat.
But historically in Chinese Medicine, the specific aspect of health and wellness these delicious red berries addressed was to nourish the Liver and Kidney Qi; they were found in prescriptions that addressed chronic weakness in the back and knees, impotence, diabetes, and tuberculosis.
They also have been used where the Liver and Kidney Qi became so weak that the Jing/Essence and Xue/Blood failed to nourish the eyes. Here they were used for generally weak visual acuity, and, like carrots, for poor night vision.
When Not to Eat Goji Berry
Like any high sugar food or dried fruit, Go Ji should be eaten in moderation. In fact they are contraindicated in Chinese Medicine during periods of infectious disease characterized by heat signs such as fever or sweating (think: cold or flu or any tropical or childhood disease), and in cases of weak digestion (Spleen Xu with Dampness) in which there is chronic diarrhea, indigestion, feeling of blockage in the stomach.
This is because cases like this need to be cleansed before they can be strengthened. In the weak digestion case, the patient needs herbs that harmonize and cleanse, these are usually bitter and spicy, not sweet. Sweet foods are building, but they are cloying, and harder to digest. In the case of the febrile heat (Wind Heat) they need bitter cold herbs and herbs that relieve the surface and expel the pathogen. Tonic herbs at that point can actually make the patient worse.
How to Eat Goji Berry
A great way to use Go Ji berry is to eat a handful a day with some almonds or pumpkin seeds. Traditional they were cooked in Chicken Soup with other herbs like Huang Qi/Astragalus, or White Ginseng/RenShen. But you can use them any way you would use a raisin.
Tonic herbs in food are eaten especially in the Winter, as this is the best time to build the Kidney Qi. But something like Goji in small amount can be safely taken year round
My favorite source for Goji Berry is Ron Teagarden of Dragon’s Herbs. He is the maven when it comes to this food. I cannot say I in any way endorse the other herbs on his website, some of which are quite expensive. I think they are great herbs, but the point is you must know how to use them. They are medicine.
I do not think you can safely diagnosis yourself and treat your diseases based on the blurbs attached to his products. Over and over again I have seen patients wasting their money on products they don’t need when they get excited by well written advertising.
But I really think his Go Ji are by far the best. They come from Xin Jiang province and are grown the correct way. Give them a try. I think they might also be sold at whole foods. All Goji I have seen are about the same price, so I don’t think you will find them anywhere cheaper than his web site. Also PLEASE do not by them at the Chinese Market. They are almost always a cheaper quality that has been dyed red. God knows what the dye consists of. Thank you!
copyright eyton j. shalom, ms, lac, san diego ca may 2012 all rights reserved use with permission