Goji berries — are they good for you?

Goji Berries

Simply put, goji berries help to improve blood circulation and boost the immune system. Goji is one of the common and more palatable Chinese herbal medicines

that you can make a cup of tea with, and it is used by many home cooks for food therapy, a branch of Chinese traditional cooking with a particular health focus.

A little while ago, I could only find them in some corners of the Chinese stores here, but since goji was “discovered” as a super-food (after at least 4000 years of cultivation in China), I can now get goji berries from our local supermarket bulk bins, sold right next to raisins and lollies. Goji is regarded safe and unlikely to cause serious side-effects, however, as with anything therapeutic, we must remember it is a herbal medicine and can only be beneficial when consumed by the right people and in the right amount.

Goji is unlikely to give you a dramatic boost for recovery when you are sick — it doesn’t work that fast, and it doesn’t work that way. It is valued as a very gentle herbal medicine that helps to alleviate many symptoms associated with the aging process, and it takes effect over a long period of time. It’s a general consensus among most Chinese that those approaching mid-life, with a slightly weakened immune system and tend to feel tired or feel cold, but otherwise in relatively good health, would benefit from Goji the most. On the other hand, young people in perfect health and those who tend to feel hot and experience flushing may not benefit from it at all. Eating too many goji berries may even cause nose bleeding and swollen eyes, especially during hot summer days.

For those who would benefit, 20 grams of dried Goji berries daily are plenty as a health supplement. Many Chinese prefer to make tea with it rather than eating them dry (compared to the supermarket variety I’ve found in New Zealand, Goji berries commonly available in China are smaller, drier and less sweet — not so much for chewing). Use hot water and soak the berries to make a tea; You can also put Goji berries into soups, normally a very light meat soup. Here is one of my favorite soup recipes with lamb and Goji.

Don’t add goji berries to green tea, cold drinks or greasy food — they will completely wipe out any benefit a few Goji berries are supposed to offer you. In fact, give up cold drinks and greasy food with or without goji. Avoid sugary goji berry drinks too — the amount of sugar in these drinks will have a far more significant impact on your health than any amount of goji will.

Goji berry’s efficacy is unlikely to be dramatic short term, and it won’t be effective long-term either, if not combined with healthy diet and lifestyle. It’s one good but small element of a bigger picture of how we look after ourselves. As for me, a cup of goji berry tea is a lovely treat of beautiful colours and natural sweetness; any health benefit would be an absolute bonus!

goji berry tea with dates

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