Although relatively new on the North American scene, goji berries have been used for almost 6,000 years by herbalists in China and other Asian countries — a very long time indeed! The reason for the goji berry’s longevity in natural health circles is primarily its antioxidant content: the berries are particularly rich in carotenoids, such as beta-carotene and zeaxanthin. You might remember that those two carotenoids are particularly important for maintaining healthy vision. One of zeaxanthin’s key roles, in fact, is to protect the retina of your eye by absorbing blue light.
Along with boosting eye health, goji berries have traditionally been used to improve sexual function, boost the immune system, improve circulation, and slow aging. Now, Australian researchers at the University of Sydney have discovered that goji berries could also protect against ultraviolet (UV) radiation.
The research team set out to investigate the potential for goji berry juice to alter the photodamage induced in the skin of mice by simulated UV radiation. When the hairless mice were given goji berry juice, the researchers found that it significantly reduced the skin’s sunburn reaction. They also found that goji berry juice protected against induced UV radiation. And — the juice protected against the suppression induced by “cis-urocanic acid,” a product activated by sunlight.
The researchers were able to determine that the immune-protecting properties of goji berry juice weren’t a result of the vitamin C content or preservatives, but a property of the goji berry itself. They noted that the antioxidant activity in the skin was evident by the significant protection against free radical damage to cells. They concluded that the results of the study suggest that consumption of goji berry juice could provide UV protection for susceptible humans.
Not sure where to find goji berries? You’ll be surprised — you just might find them alongside the other dried fruits and berries at your local grocery. In fact, most goji berries are sold in dried form in North America for obvious reasons.
The Chinese consume goji berries in many different ways: they are eaten raw; brewed into a tea; added to Chinese soups; or made into liquid extracts. If you can’t find goji berries in your neighborhood supermarket, look for them in health food stores. Also — keep an eye out for the berries in snack foods — they are more frequently being added to snack foods such as trail mix now that the health benefits of the berries are being proven by clinical trials.