Whenever any of my family feel eye fatigue from staring at the computer screen for too long, reading, or just during a bout of mid-afternoon weariness, we throw a handful of goji berries, or wolfberries, into the bottom of a mug, pour hot boiling water into it, let it steep, and drink, finishing up with a bunch of interestingly texturized berries in our mouths. Soon afterwards, our eyes are relieved.
Goji berries are in the category of herbal remedies that have some immediate and noticeable effects on our bodies. As you know, preventive and alternative approaches do not regularly work as fast as mainstream, curative approaches. However, we find that our bodies – whether or not it’s bit-placebo – seem to respond more quickly to the intake of goji berries, and our eyes are immediately soothed. That is, we don’t have to wait days, weeks, or even a month, to feel the effect. In an age where you can Google and make a connection between any two phrases or words, I want to be careful that I do not force any super-power foods on anyone. Like I said, I’m just going to share with you the remedies that have worked in my personal circle of family and friends.
Also known by its Latin name, Lycium barbarum, the goji berry has been used in Chinese medicine to treat liver, kidney, and eye-related diseases. It’s also known as an energizer. Scroll down to “Who’s done the research” for summarized findings on more health benefits from goji berries.
How to make goji tea (Quick-and-dirty version): Yes, truly dirty. Toss a small handful of dried – and hopefully plump – goji berries into a mug or cup, and bring a pot of water to boil. Pour boiling water into your mug, and put a lid over it – any lid will do, even a piece of cardboard. Let it steep for two to three minutes. By the time you remove the lid, the goji berries will have floated back onto the top, even more plump with tea. And, it’s probably the perfect temperature for drinking. Don’t forget to chew up the delicious berries when you’re done. I also often leave a bit of the remaining liquid in my mug, since it seems some dirt falls away from the berries and sinks to the bottom.
Where to find it: At your local Chinese grocery store, of course. On the streets in Chinatown, they also have beautiful goji berries sitting in bins, along with a variety of other dried herbs. When picking a bag of goji berries, don’t go for the brightly orange types. Nor the fluffy, Uncle-Ben-rice-looking berries. Go for something almost a little loosely, a little stickily packed, not too dark and not too bright, just an in-between reddish color. You will see what I mean when you’ve got the choices in front of you. Those taste the most delicious. The brightly orange ones are usually too tart or the flavor has somehow escaped. The fluffy ones are also less flavorful and seem to be harder and less plump, even after they’re sitting in a cup of hot water. But don’t worry if you buy the wrong variety – it’s all trial and error.
What else: Goji berries are also known as matrimony berries, the fruits of the Matrimony Vine. I’ve only seen that label once on the packaging of a bag I bought from Chinatown. Subsequent purchases have been labeled simply, “Lycium barbarum” or “Fructus lycii.” Just my luck because I won’t ever forget my embarrassment one time, while serving the tea for a friend who asked me what I was serving. I took a look at the package and sheepishly answered, “matrimony berries.”
Who’s done the research:
- Results have shown that daily consumption of GoChi for 14 days increases subjective feelings of general well-being, and improves neurologic/psychologic performance and gastrointestinal functions. The data strongly suggest that further research is indicated to confirm and extend knowledge of the potential effects of Lycium barbarum upon human health. – Amagase H, et al. A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled, Clinical Study of the General Effects of a Standardized Lycium barbarum (Goji) Juice, GoChi(). J Altern Complement Med, 2008 Apr 30
- Lycium barbarum is well known for nourishing the liver, and in turn, improving the eyesight. However, many people have forgotten its anti-aging properties. Despite the fact that L. barbarum has been used for centuries, its beneficial effects to our bodies have not been comprehensively studied with modern technology to unravel its therapeutic effects at the biochemical level. Recently, our laboratory has demonstrated its neuroprotective effects to counter neuronal loss in neurodegenerative diseases. We have accumulated scientific evidence for its anti-aging effects that should be highlighted for modern preventive medicine. – Chang RC, et al. Use of Anti-aging Herbal Medicine, Lycium barbarum, Against Aging-associated Diseases. What Do We Know So Far? Cell Mol Neurobiol, 2007 Aug 21
- Chinese medicinal herbs have been consumed for thousands of years for the purpose of healthy aging. Lycium barbarum is valued in Chinese culture for its benefits to anti-aging, vision, kidney and liver. Recent studies showed that extracts from L. barbarum possess biological activities including anti-aging, anti-tumor, immune-stimulatory and cytoprotection. Most of these studies emphasized that the protective function of L. barbarum is due to its anti-oxidative effects. The extract from L. barbarum is not simply an anti-oxidant; it can also exhibit cytoprotective effects against reducing stress by DTT. – Yu MS, et al. Cytoprotective effects of Lycium barbarum against reducing stress on endoplasmic reticulum. Int J Mol Med 17(6):1157-61, Jun 2006
- Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a common disorder that causes irreversible loss of central vision. Increased intake of foods containing zeaxanthin may be effective in preventing AMD because the macula accumulates zeaxanthin and lutein, oxygenated carotenoids with antioxidant and blue light-absorbing properties. Lycium barbarum L. is a small red berry known as Fructus lycii and wolfberry in the West, and Kei Tze and Gou Qi Zi in Asia. Wolfberry is rich in zeaxanthin dipalmitate, and is valued in Chinese culture for being good for vision. This human supplementation trial shows that zeaxanthin in whole wolfberries is bioavailable and that intake of a modest daily amount markedly increases fasting plasma zeaxanthin levels. These new data will support further study of dietary strategies to maintain macular pigment density. – Cheng CY, et al. Fasting plasma zeaxanthin response to Fructus barbarum L. (wolfberry; Kei Tze) in a food-based human supplementation trial. Br J Nutr 93(1):123-30, Jan 2005
- We have proved our hypothesis by showing neuroprotective effects of the extract from L. barbarum. Study on anti-aging herbal medicine like L. barbarum may open a new therapeutic window for the prevention of as Alzheimer’s disease. – Yu MS, et al. Neuroprotective effects of anti-aging oriental medicine Lycium barbarum against beta-amyloid peptide neurotoxicity. Exp Gerontol 40(8-9):716-27, Aug-Sep 2005