The "GOJI" (Western name made from a Chinese name), Lycium barbarum, is a bushy Euro-Asian plant (it grows spontaneously in France).
Lycium chinense or Chinese wolfberry is very close and is considered as the real GOJI.
Lycium europaeum or European wolfberry is endemic to the Mediterranean region (Europe and Africa) and is very close in botanical terms to the other two species.
The goji fruit or wolfberry would suppose by its name the interest of wolves for goji, but it is misleading and the result of a linguistic confusion between Lycium (ie originating in lycie a province of Asia ) and lycos or lukos (the wolf in ancient Greek).
The botanical genus Lycium is well distributed on all the continents but rare in tropical and equatorial zones (hot and humid) ( example : Lycium americanum, a South American species in the Caribbean zone).
In the subtropical zones of Africa one can meet two endemic species: Lycium afrum present in the Iberian peninsula, in the Middle East and in the north of Africa, as well as Lycium ferocissimum in the South of Africa.
These two species are thorny plants from dry areas which can become plant pests difficult to control (Lycium ferocissimum in Australia).lie).
The three lyciums mentioned or medicinal wolfberries (GOJI) are bushy shrubs with hanging branches provided with thorns, and for this very often used to make impenetrable hedges.
They are bushy plants 1 to 3 meters high, with very green lanceolate or elliptical leaves, sometimes fleshy.
The flower with typical Solanaceae characters (example: tomato, potato, eggplant) is purplish for Lycium barbarum and Lycium chinense and whitish or pink for Lycium europaeum.
The fruit or goji berry is a small rounded or oblong berry, green when it is not ripe (it is then toxic), which becomes red-orange when ripe (it is then edible), it contains seeds which ensures its dissemination (with the help of birds).
The European GOJI or LYCIET is present in Europe and may have been introduced a long time ago in Asia where it is an important and ancient medicinal plant.
A "book" of traditional Chinese medicine which probably dates from 200 years before the Christian era cites goji as one of the 120 most important medicinal plants.
It is not a traditional medicinal plant in Europe; this is partly explained by a difference in approach to the disease between traditional Chinese doctors and European doctors.
In China traditionnal medicine try to prevent the bodily imbalance which will cause troubles or painful symptoms, in Europe, traditionally we try to fight against the disease when it is declared.
It turns out that the goji berry acts more preventively (strengthening immunity, body defenses) than to treat the symptoms of a particular disease.
The GOJI or wolfberry is the main part used in herbal medicine but the leaves and root bark also have pharmacological properties.
CHEMICAL COMPOSITION AND PROPERTIES
GOJI BERRY, WOLFBERRY
Goji contains no particularly pharmacologically active substance.
It is the association of the various components (polysaccharides, zeaxanthin, provitamin C, acid-phenols, flavonoids) of goji that has an interesting action to prevent or stabilize certain chronic diseases or delay aging
These polycaccharides (frequent in the walls of bacteria) result from the association of two simple "sugars", arabinose and galactose; they are often polymers (large molecules) associated with proteins.
In goji they probably:
- strengthen IMMUNITY,
- prevent certain CANCERS or of slow their development,
- act as natural antioxidants, anti-inflammatoriy compounds.
Goji berry polysaccharides (arabino-galactans and others) promote the development of colonic flora (PRO-BIOTIC effect) which, according to recent discoveries in immunology, often increases the body's non-specific immune defense
Free or associated zeaxanthin (dipalmitate) is a carotenoid pigment present in many plants (leaves or fruits) but particularly abundant in goji berry: 1 to 2 mg per gram of dry fruit. it gives it its orange color when it is ripe.
Zeaxanthin is an antioxidant and may work to protect retina's cells.
Vitamin C or ascorbic acid is found in goji mainly in an associated form (a glucoside) which undoubtedly protects it from the oxidation to which free ascorbic acid is sensitive, thus probably ensuring its conservation in the goji fruit. including when it is dry.
This vitamin C in glucosidic form is released in the digestive tract (ascorbic acid and glucose).
Fresh goji would contain about the equivalent of 40 mg of vitamin C per gram of fruit (comparable concentration but a little lower than that of oranges or lemons).
PHENOLIC ACIDS AND FLAVONOIDS
The goji berry contains frequent phenolic acids in fruits (examples: chlorogenic, caffeic) scavengers of free radicals and therefore antioxidants which participate in the protection of body tissues (anti-aging, anti-cancer).
Flavonoids with medicinal properties (examples: derivatives of quercetol, kaempferol, rutin) are present: antioxidants, anti-inflammatories, vascular protectors.
GOJI LEAVES AND ROOTS
Very young leaves and wolfberry shoots are edible (after cooking).
On the other hand, well-developed leaves most often contain somewhat TOXIC substances (saponosides) and sometimes (this is controversial) alkaloids typical of solanaceae (solanine, solanidine) which make them poisonous (the presence of these substances is a defense against grazing animals).
The root bark is sometimes used in traditional medicine but there is a lack of reliable pharmacological data (probable presence of alkaloids of the atropine type).
ACCORDING TO TRADITIONAL CHINESE MEDICINE
GOJI is sometimes combined with other stimulating or adaptogenic plants (ginseng, astragalus, jujube) or to rebalance the YIN-YANG.
It is a YIN plant like many food solanaceae (examples tomato, potato, sweet pepper
GOJI FRUIT or goji berry can be used (very ripe):
- fresh like tomatoes or sweet peppers,
- or in the form of juice,
- or dried: dried fruit or powder,
- or in the form of extracts sometimes standardized in active substance.
GOJI BERRY, WOLFBERRY IN FOOD .
These ripe berries are incorporated into salads, soups, mixed vegetables.
They have no special flavor and are not "peppery" like hot peppers
They are used as food supplements.
It is better to limit consumption to a maximum of 150 gr of fresh goji berries per day per person.
GOJI AS A MEDICINAL PLANT
In Asia, the main user of goji, the fruit of the very dry goji is often used powdered.
Dried fruits or powder are consumed:
- in infusion (herbal tea),
- or incorporated into food,
- or in the form of tablets or capsules, sometimes combined with other medicinal plants.
The average dosage is 5 to 15 grams of dry goji berry 2 to 3 times per day.
To be effective, the use of goji must be spread over several weeks, in renewed cures.
INDICATIONS OF GOJI BERRY
These indications are mainly based on data from traditional Asian medicines as well as more modern uses in Asia.
As it is a plant considered to be protective of tissues and immunostimulating the indications are numerous and varied.
ALL ILLNESSES THAT CAN BE FIGHT BY STRENGTHENING IMMUNITY:
infectious diseases in general, prevention of seasonal viral infections (flu, winter viral infections), chronic skin infections.
- aging (anti-aging), senescence, cognitive decline,
- cancers in general, the metabolic syndrome that accompanies diabetes, cardiovascular disorders,
- age-related visual problems, joint pain linked to osteoarthritis.
- Physical asthenia (including male impotence), fatigue in general.
Caution should be exercised in the event of associated blood thinning medication (risk of hemorrhage), autoimmune disease, or recent transplant (increased risk of rejection).
The different species of wolfberry mentioned naturally exist in Europe and in the countries a Mediterranean climate, near rivers, and on the coasts (especially in areas with sand dunes), they are very resistant plants, sometimes invasive .
In the northern hemisphere, fruits are harvested in late summer and fall.
The common Goji, Lycium barbarum, is easy to cultivate in France, it can be propagated from the seeds present in "wild" fruits or found in garden center.
GOJI resists cold and drought thanks to its deep root system.
Goji is the subject of very extensive and intensive crops (tens of thousands of hectares) in the Chinese region of Ningxia (rather cold and arid region) near the Yellow River.
This "industrial" culture obviously uses pesticides (especially fungicides and insecticides) which are found in goji fruits in quantities that can exceed acceptable standards (certain batches from China are sometimes prohibited for sale in the USA).
In a garden, a GOJI bush does not need pesticides and the berries are thus perfectly "organic", they are harvested in late summer and autumn, they keep very well once dried.
GOJI or WOLFBERRY, TRADITIONAl EDIBLE AND MEDICINAL PLANT IN ASIA
The fruit of GOJI or WOLFBERRY is one of the plants most used in traditional Chinese medicine to "balance Yin and Yang , prevent aging, strengthen the immune system and delay the development of chronic diseases linked to age or diabetes. .
It is both a medicinal plant and a food supplement. It is cultivated over large areas in China but it is also found in Europe. It is easy to grow, resistant to cold and drought.
Copyright 2020 : Dr Jean-Michel Hurtel