What Are Goji Berries?

Published: 22nd January 2008
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A Brief Introduction to the Goji Berry

You've been drinking the juice already, haven't you? That Tibetan or Himalayan Goji Berry juice that you find at Whole Foods, Wild Oats, Trader Joe's or your favorite "I'll be healthier if I eat stuff from here" store. Let's go for a little historical Goji journey before I crush your spirit of sustainability and living the green life. OK, no, there will be no spirit crushing. In fact, Goji berries do possess everything that marketers have been claiming they possess, especially during their recent commercialization; however, some great questions remain.

For example: Does my Tibetan Goji Berry juice really come from Tibet? How many other cash crops are you currently aware of, that flow freely from the world region that houses the rooftop of the world? Exactly how much of this 21st century marketing campaign should you trust? If you're interested in simple truths, by all means, read on.

The Name Goji and Goji Berries

It's a great name, isn't it? Would you be terribly heartbroken to learn that it's made up? In truth, no one is certain as to where the name Goji came from in Western society. The most common name of the berry is the Wolfberry. It is widely supposed that the name Goji has been derived from the Mandarin pronunciation, "Gouqi," where the berries first gained exceptional popularity. The Wolfberry has also been known for hundreds of years by different names, including Duke of Argyll's Tea Tree in England.

The Goji Berry -- A Quick History

For nearly two thousand years it has been believed that the Goji berry, or Wolfberry, has offered numerous health benefits to those who make it a part of their diet. Native to multiple world regions, the ancient Chinese were the first to begin large efforts of cultivation, and local Chinese lore would lead you to the believe that these berries have offered the benefits of better health for nearly 3,000 years.

The berry itself ripens from a perennial deciduous plant that also boasts a purple bloom. Beautiful to look at, they're even more enjoyable to eat. By external sight, they almost look like a grape tomato, or a miniature chili pepper. Internally, they bear yet another similar resemblance, possessing small, yellowish, easily edible seeds that look very similar to their tomato relatives. In the northern hemisphere they ripen from mid to late summer, and the vast majority of commercial Goji berry cultivation takes place in the Ningxia Hui and Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Regions of China.

The Health Benefits and Exploitative Power of Goji

Now considered one of the "superfruits" from multiple world regions, the Goji is one that is rapidly gaining popularity due to its high content of antioxidants. High levels of antioxidants lead to better overall health as they fight the oxidation process in the body, helping wipe clean those nasty little free radicals that can be the beginning of poor health, and even worse, life threatening disease.

Have you ever cut an apple in half and left it on the counter for a day? That beautiful white meat, so full of life, rapidly begins to die. It's basically the same process of oxidation that breaks down our bodies internally when we feed off of poor quality foods, and especially poor quality drinks! Enter Goji juice, dried Goji berries and even "fresh" Goji berries.

Further Benefits of Goji Berries

Because of the health benefits, marketers have identified a new niche and trend in an effort to get you to lay down your hard-earned scratch. Money. Flow. Bread. Ultimately, your investment. Due to the fact that the United States has quickly turned its eyes to environmental issues, including self-sustainability, it's even easier for the marketing genius to devise campaigns that can easily exploit the effort we're making in order to "go green" -- or live a better life.

Consider Tibetan/Himalayan Goji Berry juice: After fruitful research (pun intended), it seems that the Himalayan Goji's are in fact, Mongolian Himalayan, and/or from other mountainous regions of China. I could offer educated opinion in regards to why a marketing campaign would choose to tag a product with Tibet vs. Mongolia, but you can certainly draw your own conclusions.

Here's the simple truth. If you want fresh Goji berries, they better come from a farm in the United States (which is not very likely). If you want Tibetan Goji berries, go to Tibet and search for the plant in the wild. If you want to enjoy dried Gojis as a snack, that's a great, health conscience decision. Yet it's worth knowing that often by the time these berries come to us -- the consumer -- we'd be better off enjoying the benefits of certain fresh citrus fruits, strawberries or blackcurrants, especially when chasing foods rich in antioxidants. The juice (which is a combination fruit juice) has to possess Goji content. If you enjoy it, then by all means, continue to drink it. But like a lot of potentially good things, be careful of the hype and make sure you are getting the real thing.

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