Wolfberry: Busting The Myths
Straight up I will tell you that the wolfberry is not a fruit that howls at the full moon.
The wolfberry - otherwise known as goji or Tibetan wolfberry - has the botanical name, lycium barbaru.
With a combination of lycium which means it is part of the nightshade family (all grow berries) and the Greek lykos meaning wolf, you can see where this berry derived its name.
Although the wolfberry, with the more common name of the goji berry, exploded onto the health scene as a modern superfood, it has been a staple culinary and health-promoting ingredient in Asian cooking for centuries. They totally knew it before it was cool.
Goji berries are susceptible to crazy cure all claims because they are a trendy fruit with a somewhat mystical background.
The round, red wolfberries are extremely tender and must be delicately shaken from the tree, rather than picked, to avoid bruising. Conjuring images of cloud stained moons and Tibetan monks gathering to ritualistically harvest the fruits.
Having said that they’re also nicknamed ‘happy berries’ due to the sense of wellbeing they’re said to induce. Geez guys, pick a name!
Wolfberries: In Vogue For All The Right Reasons
From a Traditional Chinese Medicine perspective, wolfberry is seen as a nourishing addition to the daily diet rather than something to be prescribed, like a drug.
Wolfberries have been used by the Chinese for a long time but have only come into vogue in the west in the last 10 years or so. Most people in the west who consume them do so, much as the Chinese do, as a general nutritional insurance practice as well as for immune system protection.
However, they are specifically favoured for states of weakness and debility, aches and pains, problems with balance and coordination, eye issues, cough, sexual dysfunction and to promote longevity.
Wolfberries contains many bioactive compounds to support human health. The most notable are:
Beta-carotene, an antioxidant and precursor to vitamin A, is found in many colourful foods. The beta-carotene present in wolfberry appears to be particularly bioavailable.
Zeaxanthin is one of two eye-specific carotenoids that help filter harmful blue light waves and protect the cells of the eye. Wolfberry is the richest known natural source. The human body cannot manufacture zeaxanthin, so dietary sources are extremely important.
→ Vitamin C:
Wolfberry contains an alternative type of vitamin C (ascorbic acid) that shows stability in conditions of increased heat and acidity.
→ Lycium Barbarum Polysaccharides (LBPs):
These may support immune function and are credited with the wolfberry’s anti-cancer effects.
This makes wolfberry potentially useful for:
✔ Immune regulation
Wolfberry may protect delicate immune cells from oxidative stress. LBPs also exhibit immune-enhancing effects in animal studies via an impact on the spleen, and may play a role in the immune response. This may encourage T cell production and maturation, though more human studies are needed.
By protecting against free-radical damage and the effects of oxidative stress.
✔ Cancer prevention
Wolfberry exhibits high antioxidant activity and antitumor effects. LBPs may provide significant defence against human cancer.
✔ Protecting the eyes
Recent studies show that the intake of wolfberries can potentially improve eye health. High zeaxanthin content coupled with potent antioxidant activity may decrease age-related macular degeneration. More human studies are needed but the advancements in the monitoring of macular health are on the rise.
✔ Protecting the brain
The polysaccharides in wolfberry may prevent amyloid-β (Aβ) peptide neurotoxicity, implicated in the development of Alzheimer’s disease.
✔ Cardiovascular health
By reducing homocysteine which is an amino acid and product of protein metabolism that, when present in high concentrations, has been linked to an increased risk of heart attacks and strokes.
✔ General wellbeing
After 14 days of consuming wolfberry, study participants reported increased feelings of wellbeing. The “happy berries” are earning their name.
Introducing Wolfberry Into Your Daily Diet
Wolfberry is not commonly found in the diet unless you live in China or shop at a Chinese supermarket in your country. Even so, most people can benefit from the many health attributes of the wolfberry and it can be taken at high doses with minimal risk.
The inclusion of Wolfberry in Athletic Greens isn’t just for all of the reasons previously listed, but also because it works so well in conjunction with the bilberry and grape seed extract to improve eye health.
It also marries in nicely with zinc, selenium, astragalus, reishi mushroom, shiitake mushroom and vitamins A & C, all found in our Athletic Greens formula. All these combined help to improve your overall immune system.
Wolfberry: Don’t Stop till you Get Enough
For an acute illness like the common cold, eating a lot of goji berries could potentially help you recover faster. Though taking them in an extracted form will be less time consuming and filling.
Dosages of the berrie are not supported by evidence, though 10 - 30 mg of wolfberry extract is usually recommended, with no upper limit. In its very long history of use, wolfberry has few reported adverse effects.
It is important to note that the betaine content can induce menstruation and miscarriage, so wolfberry should be added to the list along with all those other things that should be avoided by pregnant women.
There is a study suggesting a negative interaction between goji berries and the blood thinning drug Warfarin, definitely something to be aware of, though the levels in Athletic Greens are low enough that it is unlikely to cause any issues.
Wolfberry may have a slight estrogen-mimicking effect and should therefore be avoided by people with estrogen-sensitive conditions and cancers.
As well as the possible interactions with Warfarin, other medications metabolised by the cytochrome P450 pathway could be affected, so proceed with some level of caution if these are in concurrent use.
Happy Wolf Goji Berries
Wolfberry is rated among the most esteemed herbs in Traditional Chinese Medicine, thought to promote longevity, vitality and wellbeing.
Typically these health claims await further scientific research, but most evidence supports wolfberry as an herb to boost feelings of wellbeing, promote eye health and as a potential immune-enhancer and anti-cancer agent.
So by whatever name you choose to call it, adding wolfberry extract or goji berries to your diet is a smart way of staying in control of your health.