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A Delicious Fruit from Central Asia:
The Tibetan Goji Berry

Ingrid Naiman

Sometimes, I am deeply moved to support the work of a colleague whose endeavors are worthy. In this case, I have chosen to do what I can to raise awareness surrounding a marvelous little "happy berry" from the protected valleys of Central Asia where the berries are either wildcrafted or cultivated. To prevent oxidation, they are not touched by hands. Rather, the harvesters shake the large bushes so that the ripe berries fall onto mats where they are then dried in the shade.

These berries come from Inner Mongolia where pesticides have never been used. They were imported by the Tanaduk Institute of Botanical Medicine in cooperation with the Mongolian Goji Farmers Collective and the Tibetan Medicinal Plant Cultivation Program. With your purchase of Tibetan goji berries, you are buying a superb fruit and supporting valuable work in important ethnobotany and natural medicine.

Goji berries are a specific variety of lycium, one that is not endangered. I have been working with lycium for many years already. In the past, I have made liver and eye tonics out of Chinese lycium berries as well as New Mexican wolf berries, another variety. I have also made smoothies, either with just lycium berries and water or with other ingredients such as lemon or pineapple juice, coconut milk, ginger and/or galangal juice and slices or even a touch of cardamom. I have made ice cream (absolutely the best anyone has ever tasted) with lycium berries and carrot juice with a little coconut, ginger, and cardamom.

Goji Recipes

Jam made with lycium and schizandra berries is fabulous. A winter drink such as we Swedes have at Christmas but made with lycium and fruit juice, cloves stuck into oranges, cinnamon sticks, star anise, whole green cardamom. in the pods, and perhaps a handful of galangal or ginger and a few schizandra berries will not only please guests but substitute for an aperitif or digestive bitter. It will obviously become more of a tonic and less of a culinary masterpiece by adding some gentian and Oregon grape root and perhaps astragalus.

I have bottled lycium occasionally for use as a blood tonic and I've made the most outrageous fruit leather in the world by running lycium berries and sesame seeds through a Champion juicer simultaneously. If you are lazy, you can eat these little berries like raisins, straight out of the bag or mixed with granola or tossed into a muffin or pancake mix or casserole.

The Goji Berry

Lycium Berries

These little Tibetan goji berries are plumper than the Chinese ones, and they taste much better to me. I have been feasting on them for a week now, and losing about half a pound a day! The taste is a little hard to describe. It's not quite as sweet as a raisin and not as tart as a dried cranberry. They are pleasing to most people. In Tibet and Mongolia, people love these berries so much that they devote two weeks a year to celebrating the berries, probably something like wine fests in Europe in past times. The most commonly cited side effect of eating too many berries is that they might cause you to laugh more. It is said that a handful in the morning will make you happy all day.

They are a very rich source of vitamin C, having 500 times more vitamin C per ounce than oranges, actually more almost than any fruit you could name. They are also a superb source of vitamin A, not surprising because they are a really pretty red color. Goji berries also have vitamins B1, B2, B6, and E; they are becoming a famous antioxidant. They are also a rich source of both selenium and germanium and have hence been used in a number of clinical trials involving cancer patients. When given to patients undergoing chemotherapy, the berries conferred significant protection for the liver. In Oriental medicine, they are said to correct chi deficiency, meaning that people with low energy, insomnia, heart palpitations, and even anxiety are more comfortable after consuming goji berries.

The therapeutic dosage is 10-30 grams per day, and the berries may be taken at any time and in any form, from liquid to a snack food. The berries have 18 amino acids (higher than bee pollen) and 21 trace minerals, linoleic acid, and more beta carotene than carrots.

In vitro studies suggest that goji berries kill many kinds of cancer cells. The mechanism whereby this happens is believed to involve some factor that inhibits the ability of the cell to divide, thus lowering its reproductive capacity. A large study in Japan suggested that tumor growth was inhibited by 58% among the patients eating goji berries as compared to the control groups. A study in Mongolia showed that patients eating the goji berries had a significant increase in lymphocyte activity and that their blood began to resemble that of much younger persons.

Obviously, I will continue to look for studies involving the goji berries, but I am certain that anything one has determined about the medicinal properties of lycium berries would be as true of goji berries. If my enthusiasm seems a bit exaggerated and insufferable, blame it on the little berries that cause so much bliss!

I am distributing these berries as a sort of favor, kind of like selling Girl Scout cookies. I want to help the work of Tibetan medicine. Tanaduk is the realm of the Medicine Buddha, where the plants that cure the 84,000 causes of suffering prepare for their work. My own path has been closely connected with Tibet for a long time . . . besides to be happy all day is not to be underestimated.

Click for research on goji berries

Goji Tonic PDF
Download PDF file on the Tonic



Lycium Berry Smoothie


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